January 2003 Archives

Scientia Media A chance remark


Scientia Media

A chance remark in the comments box this morning spawned an entire day of thinking. (This was a day mostly dedicated to drone tasks so brain engagement was at an absolute minimum).

I have always wondered how one reconciled omniscience, presdestination, and free will. It always seemed an impossible quandary involving arcane postulations about just how much God chose to know and His manner of knowing it. Reading about scientia media provoked a thought--what if it is not such a conundrum after all--only appearing so much more difficult because we do not have to hand an essential piece of the puzzle.

What seems critical here is our hopelessly pedestrian view of time as a linear progression. The view of eternity might be quite different. Time might be like an infinitely anastomosing stream. If there are infinitely many branches representing choices, decisions, options, and events, we could consider it in this fashion. As we move down this stream, once we move past the entrance to a particular distributary, or choose to enter the distributary, the other option is closed off. Thus our choices down the line pinch off as we move along. God knows all the options and all the possible views of these streams all the way to the end of the stream in Him. All of those options remain completely open and God knows completely all of the possibilities of outcomes, thus, "knows" the end choice that is not decided until in linear time the last sidestream is passed.

This leaves open every choice, it also does not limit God's omniscience. It doesn't resolve the trickier problem of the fact that God could choose to know or does know where this may end up. But it at least is a start that takes into account what I believe may be a more reasonable look at time from an eternal viewpoint. At least it makes for a good speculative suggestion.

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On Examining this Blog I


On Examining this Blog

I had cause to return to a post from earlier in this week and concluded that I would not want to fall behind in reading this because you might just give up. Which leads me to wonder if I might not be overproducing for the audience. After all, it is to be assumed that we all have lives and we all do things other than hang around blogdom.

I'm astounded by the throughput on several sites and speculation beyond the veil of Charity leads me to ask whether people who produce sites like this have a life or whether they're slaves of the keyboard? And if the latter, wouldn't that effort be better placed doing something else?

Oh well, we go, more or less, as the Lord leads.

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Ascent of Mount Carmel II


In all humility, I offer these guiding questions for anyone for the benefit of any who can use them.

St John of the Cross
Study Guide for Ascent of Mount Carmel II

Read pages 123-122 Chapters 4-6. Be sure to annotate with your own heads. Numbers below refer to numbered sections of the text.

Chapter 4—Why you need to pass through a dark night of the senses to come to union with God.

1-2. Why are people attached to creatures unable to achieve union?
3 What does attachment to a creature cause to happen to a person?
4 John talks about being, beauty, grace and elegance, goodness, and wisdom and ability. What is his point in each case?
5 Compare and contrast the two paragraphs of this section. What must one do with human wisdom?
6-7 John continues his comparisons. Make a list of all the items John has compared and then note which of these is the cause of your greatest attachments. Which of these do you most prize?
8 What happens to souls in love with things of the world? Reflect for a while on the passages from Proverbs. Read it several times and write down what it says to you about people trying to grow close to God. Then read John’s explanation—how does it compare with yours?

Chapter 5—John offers biblical examples and further evidence for the necessity of the dark night of the senses..
1-2 John says over and over again, “Love produces equality and likeness.” Restate this in your own words. What do your attachments make you like?
3-4 What does the episode of manna in the desert mean in our lives? How are we like the Israelites? What do we need to do about it?
5-6 What is the chief lesson we are to gather from Moses on the Mount? What does it call us to do?
7 What is the purpose of ascending the mount? What must be accomplished for it to happen?
8 What happens to anything base that tries to dwell with God (for example the idol John mentions). What might be the effect in a soul of this? Would God do this to a soul? What implications does that have for us?

Chapter 6—The types of harm caused by attachments
1 What are the two forms of harm caused by attachments? (The word privative is an adjective meaning “depriving” or “causing one to lack.” What is the nature of this privative harm?
2 How can one add to an already full vessel? If something is filled to the very top, what must be done in order to add anything? If the substance being added is likely to destroy the vessel if it touches any of the previous substance, what must be done? What does this call us to?
3 How do appetites get in the way of the Lord?
4 What is more difficult for God creation or purgation? Why?
5-6 How is the soul wearing and tired by attachments and appetites? Name an example in your own life. What does this call us to?

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The Continuing Conversation I


The Continuing Conversation

I am often stunned by the wisdom, charity, and depth of spirit to be found here in blogdom. Pursuant to a few hardly original comments I made here the other day, Father Jim and Mr. Contrarian have added to the discussion in most fruitful ways. I have learned a tremendous amount from these generous-spirited posts. Go and do likewise!

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On the Jesuits


My, my, the Jesuits are getting a drubbing here and here. And I will explicitly state that this is not to take either of these two authors to task.

It is true that some Jesuits go awry. But what about the Jesuits who run Ignatius Press, Fr. Fessio, my own, very dear, very Holy Fr. O'Holohan, and countless others who have been loyal and faithful to the magisterium? All orders have their renegades and their diffiuculties: witness Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, and there are several in my own order that I will not name as it smacks of a certain disobedience. Someone has recently said that to find truth faith one must forget the old orders and look to the new. I don't think so. However, I do say that the superiors in Orders that have straying members should be called to account and perhaps removed from the seat of authority if they do not redress some of the nonsense.

It isn't Jesuits, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, or any other group--it is simply wayward people--people who need to be reminded about why they joined Holy Orders and what the purpose and meaning of vocation, humility, and obedience are.

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It Would Seem In the


It Would Seem

In the entry below I asked:

Again, can a higher loyalty override the loyalty to the state (render unto Caesar. . .) thus, in Bonhoeffer's case, does a loyalty to God override a loyalty to Hitler?

Using the mathematical guideline that a single negative instance disproves the conclusion, one can conclude that this statement can never be true in committing an action specifically prohibited by God (i.e. murder). It can be true in commiting an act prohibited by the state. For example it ALWAYS a sin to bomb an abortion clinic or to cause harm to any member of that clinic staff deliberately. It may not be sinful, and it may be righteous, in opposition to unjust laws and unjust legislation arising from the improper source, to block the entrance to an aboriton clinic (legal disclaimer: not an action I would encourage as there are other legal means toward accomplishing the same goal). So we can say that while it may be proper to attend to a higher authority when the action tends toward His will, it is never appropriate to do so when the action is in direct opposition to His stated will (let's say, the 10 commandments). This still leaves open the whole question of the definition of the situation (assassination, etc.). But the answer to the question is fairly obvious and should have been before I asked. You can never commit a sin for purposes of achieving a good. Sometimes my foggy brain suggests possiblities that are not. Oh well.

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More on Assassination The help


More on Assassination

The help received from all has been greatly appreciated and I think the crux of the issue is succinctly stated:

I guess my point is that the enormity of the victim's crimes does not turn an act of assassination into a moral act. It might be a justifying circumstance for an otherwise neutral act, but it cannot make something evil into something good.

With this I must agree--the act is objectively evil. Now we ask another question--is it necessarily a sin? It would certainly be a sin for me to either participate or to suggest this as a solution to any problem. But is it always and everywhere a sin? I think the answer to that must be "No." And this is one of those rare instances that demonstrates the flip side of the problem I was having over at Disputations a while back discussing good. Could assassination be an instance of an apparent good that while objectively evil carries with it more of the real good than many other apparent goods? Now this is dangerously close, no, it is stating the the end justifies the means--which is false. But somehow there is a calculus of the evils involved in this. Certainly one might acknowledge that the act is often evil, but there are circumstances under which it is required (a la just war) thus, acting in conscience, one might not actually commit a sin in doing something of this nature, but one would be committing an objectively evil act. (Just as in the same way a woman who procures an abortion under protest and duress commits an objectively evil act but does not sin in the course of it.) But where does such an argument lead?

I don't know why I think of this. It just puzzles {n.b.: originally bothers, see comments box} me that God would look as harshly upon one who put an end to the slaughter of millions by one death as He would upon the slaughterer.

Then there is another question--if in the course of a war or battle one person is singled out above all else--is THAT assassination or is it enemy combattant. And yet another question--if the assassination stems from one having no loyalty to the one assassinated--let's say the Hitler assassination was committed by Slovenians--is that covered in the course of war or in the course of battle? Again, can a higher loyalty override the loyalty to the state (render unto Caesar. . .) thus, in Bonhoeffer's case, does a loyalty to God override a loyalty to Hitler? What do we make of the case of Judith and Holofernes?

Oh, it is a complex issue isn't it?

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Leaving Blogger I have considered


Leaving Blogger

I have considered leaving blogger--but inertia triumphs. Finding a server installing movable type and figuring out how to tweak it. Developing my own style sheet. I'm half-overcome just thinking about it. Perhaps its because I do enough code wrangling of this sort at work, perhaps its because I have no greater purpose in doing this that requires my complete control over every circumstance. Blogger has served me well and faithfully with a few isolated outages. I think I shall rest on my laurels until I can no longer do so.

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A Question for Ethicists and


A Question for Ethicists and Theologians

As I was thinking about this Iraq situation and puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler were sore, I thought of something that is, I am certain not unique. I know that someone can clearly point the way to the answer. If there can be a just war, is it possible for there to be a "just assassination"? I am not suggesting this as a solution to this problem--but I was thinking about it in relation to the plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II. If the plotters had succeeded would they have sinned? Would Deitrich Bonhoeffer have committed a terrible sin if they had blown up Hitler? Would Hitler have been considered a combattant and thus subject to the casualties of war? If the war is just, then killing during that time must not be a sin, yes?

Anyway, anyone who knows where to find the answer, even if it is not clearly spelled out, please let me know.

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New-Klee-Are There is one word.



There is one word. It is spelled n-u-c-l-e-a-r and it is pronounced noo-klee-ahr. NOT noo-kyoo-lahr. Once someone told me that a nuclear family had a different pronunciation than nuclear energy. No. It doesn't. End sermon on pet peeve.

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Bad Blogger, Bad! Blogger was


Bad Blogger, Bad!

Blogger was very wicked this morning during my normal blogging time. Thus I was unable to post a number of things that have been swirling through my head. This evening, perhaps.

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More Joyous Dancers Before the


More Joyous Dancers Before the Lord

Or I suppose you could just think of it as exhibitionist dancers before the lord. Via the magisterial blog of Ms. Kropp these newcomers of interest:

Spiritual Pyromania

Disordered Affections (In Ignatian terminology, or for those into the Carmelite groove--attachments) No matter what terminology, I have a feeling that we'll be seeing some interesting insights from this blog.

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Comment for the Day In


Comment for the Day

In an age of Beethovens, you sometimes have to be a Debussy.

(No offense Beethoven admirers--brought to mind by the first piano concerto--blocky, chunky, and solid--quite beautiful, but not very graceful--the solid beauty of a Cleopatra's Needle--sometimes we just need filigree).

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Journey into the Heart of


Journey into the Heart of the Church

One of the things I found so impressive about Mr. Nixon's post noted yesterday is the trajectory it traces from our own willfulness toward obedience. I had resolved the issue of abortion and capital punishment before I entered the Church, and I entered partly because the Church spoke with a firm voice and with no hint of equivocation on these matters.

But as I entered, I thought that the Church was wrong in a great many of its provisions and understandings. I could not for the life of me understand why women were not priests and deacons. I could not fathom why there was such a focus on sexual teachings and why homosexual relationships were not acknowledged as loving and giving support relationships. I did my RCIA in a community associated with a University and so often these questions were not directly addressed. I moved to another state and joined and helped an RCIA director whose views approximated my own. We often had gay speakers at meetings and people pressing for married clergy and female clergy.

Through time, as I studied what the Church taught, and came to a clearer understanding of biblical revelation and teaching, some of these issues faded away. When I read the reasoning behind the question of why there are no female priests, I understood and assented. When I fully understood the Church's teaching on homosexuality, I understood, but could not quite assent. I have subsequently bowed in obedience, but still wonder about it sometimes. It puzzles me. The teaching on sexuality I have long pondered and wondered about the truthfulness thereof. I was involved for a while in a Charismatic community that saw no problem with birth-control and were highly suspicious of all manner of Marian Devotions. When I had escaped these influences and studied Humanae Vitae, Casti Connubii and Love and Responsibility I became more aware of my own pride and my own agenda driving much of what I thought.

I have great respect for those who come to the Church or belong to the church and have strong reservations about some of the teachings. I understand people who want one thing or another, but continue within the Catholic Church because that is the Church where truth resides. Sometimes it is difficult to draw the line between doctrine and discipline. This can be a source of much of the difficulty many people have. Is a celibate clergy a discipline or is it doctrine? Is it core and essential to Catholic Practice? (Those are rhetorical questions. I understand better the answers given by traditional and conservative Catholics.)

Ms. Knapp encouraged everyone some time back to have charity, compassion, and patience for all Catholic brothers and sisters, not to put up artificial "us and them" boundaries, but to accept them at their word--they are good Catholics in the sense that they adhere to all the dogma and practice of the Church. But they wish to see change that would completely alter what the Church is. We need less of division and more of strong nonconfrontational apologetics so that all will understand WHY the church teaches as it does and what the meaning of that is for each individual.

Yes, we often react in fear. There is a certain amount of fear of those who would change the very foundations of our Church. But we need to hear and understand what is being said in the way that the speaker understands it. We need to understand the most articulate proponents of views we do not hold and we need to gently but firmly respond with Church teaching. We need to continue to do this in all charity and respect engaging each individual as an individual and not as a cell in a hive-mind all focused on the utter destruction of what we love.

Perhaps we need to be proactive rather than reactive. We need to see the love that many who hold opposite views have for the Church and encourage them to explore more and seek to understand the underpinnings of the issues. We need to address dissent and disagreement, but we need to do so in a loving and logical fashion, bearing patiently with people who are struggling with the perceived injustices and flaws of the Church as She stands now.

So once more: we should all encourage each other to "stand ready to give reason for the hope that is within you." Sometimes those of us not skilled in argumentation might give simply the reason that it is church teaching and direct the person involved toward the catechism for further information and research. Those of us better equipped to discuss these things reasonably and logically should do so. But all should pray before speaking--for greater damage is done by uncharitable (but perhaps correct) apologists than by all the silent doubters in the pews in our Churches.

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One of the most difficult aspects of the spiritual life is our constant backsliding. Now while I'm sure I'm not alone in this, I do know that many who walk this road have progressed far beyond me and what I say here is largely irrelevant. But those of us who are beginning, or even who are a bit progressed find that time after time we commit the same errors or sins regardless of our desire not to do so.

The only good thing about this is that it shows we are human. St. Paul tells us concerning himself, "The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Most of us who return to sin return to a sensual sense. That is the appeal to the pleasure principle is largely responsible for much backsliding. It only makes sense. If a sin causes pain, anguish, or mental difficulty, one is unlikely to repeat it over and over again. However, if a sin gives rise to some form of pleasure, be it gustatory, sexual, or otherwise, then we will be inclined to repeat the sin, not for the sake of sinning but for the sake of pleasure.

St. John of the Cross is always regarded as a very cold and austere Saint--one who might have supported various practices of mortification. In fact, he warned his adherents against excessive mortifications, and charted a road that is a model of moderation and caution in this regard. He pointed out the value of not allowing yourself to have something you greatly desire in order not to feed the fires of the passion that can lead to sin.

Practices of penance and mortification are good in small degree (so long as they do not become obsessions) in that they train us not to seek out the pleasures in life and to accept those pleasures that come without actively seeking them. When we experience a moment of pleasure at a sunset, a concert, or in any of the various activities of life, we should appreciate it and let it go. Mortification allows us to do this to greater degree. In some sense, we train our bodies to be more grateful and more appreciative of the good things that come to us. Fasting, for example, has numerous spiritual effects, but for those of proper frame of mind and prayer, one of the benefits is that it teaches us to be detached from the sensual pleasure accompanying food. This is not to say we should not enjoy the food we have, but we should not seek it out to the exclusion of all else.

In the document "Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics" mortification is described as

radical self-denial and wholehearted giving of oneself to God that Jesus called for when he told his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mt. 16:24). More specifically, mortification is a form of ascetic discipline that involves denial of some kind of enjoyment in order to gain greater detachment from one's desire. The goal of mortification is fullness of life, not death--freedom, not enslavement.

The word itself suggest dark, medieval practices from the "bad old days" of the Ancient Church. Monks with flagelli, etc. But it need not be so, and indeed, in some cases such practices carried things to such an extreme that mortification became an end in itself.

During Lent we are often called upon to "give something up." In modern Church discipline this "negative" approach has often been replaced with "doing something good." However, the discipline of giving something up, is very beneficial, and the proper practice of it can lead to lifelong spiritual benefits. If the point of the discipline is not simply to deprive oneself of a known good in order to be deprived but to use that deprivation to move closer to the Lord Jesus, "giving something up" can be a very good discipline indeed.

The long and the short of it--if you find yourself in a recidivist cycle, consult your spiritual director. Find out how to gradually increase your detachment from the object of desire, and use the whole practice to put yourself more thoroughly into the arms of our Savior and Lord.

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A Correction Yesterday at


A Correction

Yesterday at another blog I made a statement that is technically inaccurate. I said that I have read Proust's monumental work three times. That is not true. I have read the complete work once, in English. In French I have read Á côte de chez Swann once entirely and once in part (There was a shortened version reflective, I think of a movie of some time ago). In addition I read part of A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur. Sorry for the misrepresentation--it was meant to be shorthand, but I realized that suddenly it sounded like I spent my entire life reading Proust, which definitely is not true. Now, I shall go and have my madelaines and lemon tea, thank you.

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A Mild Demurral I


A Mild Demurral

I will not second-guess our president, whom I must trust to determine the best course of action. But I do wonder what the rush is. What harm can there be in extending inspections time? It's hardly likely that while the country is being combed by these people the weapons can be readily deployed. More, I must ask myself, why this focus on Iraq when we know for a fact that North Korea is problematic?

But I do emphasize, this is the chorus that run through my head. One of the things I have learned in the course of spiritual training and life is that sometimes you must give up the right to know. Sometimes, in fact often, we must trust providence and God's grace. Sometimes we must trust the leaders who guide us, even if their own agendas differ from ours.

My solution to all this inquiry is to pray. In prayer we will find the way and in prayer we will make reparation for the wrongs that we do in ignorance and disobedience.

So, while I do have questions, I also know that I do not know everything, nor do I really want to. I trust God to guide the man who is set in charge over all of us through our own will. In God we trust.

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Thanks and more prayers My


Thanks and more prayers

My thanks to all of you who prayed for the intentions of the other day.

And a request for more prayers:

Please pray for Franklin for success at an upcoming interview.

Please pray for Kairos Guy and family.

Please pray for Gordon who is actively seeking employment.

Please pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders.

Most especially, please pray for seeking and following God's plan and wisdom in world affairs.

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Happy St. Thomas Day First


Happy St. Thomas Day

First order of business, to all our happy O.P. Bloggers out there, a blessed, joyous, fruitful, and fulfilling feast day today. I am certain that St. Thomas is praying for all of you, and prayers of such a wonderful saint will not go unfulfilled.

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A Wonderful Post on a


A Wonderful Post on a Terrible Issue

Mr. Nixon of Sursum Corda provides insight and frank reflections on the question of abortion. Fresh air, well conceived (pardon the pun) and well delivered. (I know two in a row--but better well-delivered than well-executed).

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More Wisdom--On Archiving One


More Wisdom--On Archiving

One of the most consistently sane and gentle voices in blogdom presents us with another example of wisdom stemming from something as inconsequential as a blog. Please visit Ms. Knapp and see what she has to say. Yes, even a blog can be a lesson in prayer.

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On Discussing Matters of Controversy


On Discussing Matters of Controversy

Mr. Disputations has a brief comment on "progressives" in the Church, to which this was my reply:

On all of these issues, I hold with Church teaching. However, I have far greater tolerance for difference of opinion on some of them than on others. Moreover, one of the things that often disturbs me in this whole debate is the implicit assumption that those who hold a differing opinion are operating out of ill-will. Surely, there are the Frances Kisslings of the world, who would like nothing better than to see the Catholic Church lie in a smoldering heap. But the vast majority of people who hold some or all of these views do not do so out of ill will.

I will not speculate on what does drive such people, but I will give my view of it from outside. It seems that certain of the very good aspects of modern secular culture--the desire for people to live together without strife, the desire for equality of representation, the desire for individuals to be respected, intrudes into the religious realm where all of these things are true, but the trappings differ from what looks like true equality, peace, harmony, and respect. It is in seeking to redress these perceived inequalities that we get these various agendas.

I tend to agree about the coalesence of the endpoints of these agendas. But that does not mean that one is entitled to engage people with differing viewpoints with anything less than civility, respect for their integrity, and true charity that requires gentle reproof (if speak you must) and logical demonstration of the errors of the viewpoint. As I am qualified for the first, but not particularly well qualified for the second, I spend much of my time outside the great debate reprimanding both sides when the discussion departs from the bounds of propriety and civility.

To which, I now add, that if anyone discerns that I am treating my guests less than hospitably, I would greatly appreciate the courtesy of an e-mail that provides details of the needed course correction. We all like to think that we act in charity, but more often we act in our view of Charity. Charity must always respect a person as an image of God, and must welcome Christ in that person. But Charity does not sit idly by while someone enters serious error or sinfulness. It is not charitable to sit by stirring one's cup of tea while one's companion is plagued by demons. Nor is it charity to let someone continue in sin without a word. (Not that any of the views qualify as sin--I'm simply attempting to define the limits of charity.)

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On Twain Elsewhere in the


On Twain

Elsewhere in the blogworld there has been a bit of type lavished on the unlavishable Mark Twain. Mr. Dylan frankly admits that he sees nothing admirable in the "chief claims to fame" of our venerable Mr. Twain. Plain-spokeness seems to our protagonist merely a guise for lackluster and soporific. Mr. Twain's undoubted anti-clericalism and anti-religion are certainly unappealing. His strong cynicism and later-in-life misanthropy are certainly off-putting.

Let me note that I am not a foremost Twain fan. I do recognize the value of certain works even if they are not among my favorites. For example Huckleberry Finn for many reasons is probably one of the more important novels of the nineteenth century. Looking back at it from my present venue, I can't claim to love it as many of its proponents do, but I must admit to admiring a certain sly humor that creeps into a book that is a relentless attack on the received wisdom of society.

My favorite novel, read and reread year after year is undoubtedly Tom Sawyer. It was the stuff of dreams of boyhood. I spent much time being Tom Sawyer on a raft on the Mississippi, exploring caves, etc. Youthful enthusiasm has carried over into adulthood and I read this often. The charm is not in plain-spokeness, nor is it merely in appeal to youth, but it is in the humor that permeates the whole in a way that is hard to describe. Tom Sawyer standing outside of Church purchasing tickets for memorizing Bible Verses because he wants to impress Becky. Then when quizzed to name two of the twelve apostles--well, reread it for yourself. Whitewashing the fence, observing his own funeral (how many of us as youngsters didn't think something along the lines of--"Well, when I'm dead they're certainly going to be sorry," and imagine to obsequies that would ensue?"), all of these are episodes with a certain charm.

Many of the short stories are grand, and much of the criticism including some comments on the German Language, an essay on James Fennimore Cooper, and several others are ripe with a certain irony and incisive wit. Mr. Twain also has tremendous insight into fallen humanity. The War Prayer and "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" were both of and before their time. In addition along with Charles Dudley Warner, Mr. Twain gave us the name of a particularly corrupt and unpleasant period of American History--The Gilded Age (although the novel itself is quite amusing in parts.).

Mr. Twain's enduring legacy was his humor and his sometimes uncomfortable straightforward speaking of his mind. I acknowledge his rank as among the first of nineteenth century American novelists. And this too he deserves because his influence was as profound as the influence of Joyce in the twentieth century. Some of the excesses of the prose of Cooper, Irving, Hawthorne, and Melville have been trimmed away. (By the way, I do admire the style of these three, but recognize it as a heritage of eighteenth century literature). And in trimming away, he doesn't just cut off the bush at the roots, but he provides a viable prose with which to move forward. It is sparer than that of authors delineated above, but it is not stark. (Compare any passage of Twain with any passage of Hemingway, and you'll see immediately the difference.)

No, Mr. Twain undoubtedly deserves his place in the pantheon of American Literature. Whether he deserves it for some of the reasons critics give, it is hard to say. But people today can still read and enjoy Twain in a way that they cannot access Hawthorne or other nineteenth century novelists.

However, that said, if one does not care for fiction at all, one will hardly be in a position to appreciate Twain or his influence. Now, I must admit, I'm still puzzling over not enjoying fiction--but I know enough of this type of person to acquiesce that it is not an isolated phenomenon, just one that is incomprehensible to me. I will admit to having difficulty with a great deal of nonfiction, although I do not dislike it as a category, so I suppose it may be largely a matter of taste. But my life would be tremendously poorer and much less vivid were it not for the fictional worlds in which I have engaged and learned much. (Hence a topic for a future discussion--guiding the reading of children.)

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Prayers Needed Please pray for


Prayers Needed

Please pray for Kairos Guy and family.

Please pray for Franklin and for Gordon who are both actively seeking employment.

Please pray for my colleagues and friends on this most difficult of days.

Please pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders.

Most especially, please pray for seeking and following God's plan and wisdom in world affairs.

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Request for Information--Fr. Jozo Zovko

I just received a bulletin from a group near me that makes a number of claims for which I need either verification or refutation and authoratative sources. Could anyone who knows of these matters please help?

Has Fr. Zovko been stripped of his faculties as Priest?

What is the actual standing of the apparitions at Mudjugorje? They say that the Holy See has not approved them (I believe this to be true) and that 41 of the 42 Bishops of Yugoslavia do not believe or support the apparitions. Is this so?

The reason I ask is that I know of a great many friends and acquaintances who annually attend a Mudjugorje conference here in town. I have been tossed back and forth on this issue over and over, and it would be most helpful to at least thoroughly understand the status as it is today so that I can advise or if necessary warn people about it.


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Faith Alone?

Another delightful resource from Project Canterbury. Each week this group comes up with more and more resources in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. This particular little piece relates to an ongoing discussion of justification and salvation. Go here to see the first portion of the Harmonia Apostolica.

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Praise the Lord! Two reasons


Praise the Lord!

Two reasons for praise and thanks:

Thanks to all who prayed for Carole, the birth went well and mother and daughter are fine.

And this

from Karl Schudt’s Summa Contra Mundum

I am sooooo happy that Bishop Weigand has told Gray Davis he can't go to communion anymore. May I suggest that if you are a Sacramento Catholic, in support, you write a big fat check and donate it to the diocese? Even if you aren't a Sacramento Catholic, you may wish to send some money. Then tell Bishop Weigand that you are doing it because you are so excited to see the Church's teaching so publicly proclaimed.

Here is a quote from Gray Davis's spokesman: "There are a lot of Catholics who are pro-choice. Does the bishop want all Catholics to stop receiving Holy Communion?" he asked. "Who's going to be left in church?"

I think that we have a historic opportunity to prove the forces of death wrong. I think that we have a historic opportunity to prove the forces of death wrong. I am going to send off a check tomorrow along with a letter telling Bishop Weigand how thankful I am for his courageous stand, and how I wish to donate to the good work of the diocese in order to stave off any drop in donations from pro-choice Catholics. Here's the address if you want to do the same.

Most Reverend William K. Weigand
Diocese of Sacramento
2110 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818-2541

P.S. If you think this is a good idea, feel free to link to it or copy it for your blog.

Praise the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever! Praise Him! And sincere thanks to His Minister, Bishop Weigand. And sincere thanks to Ms. vonHuben who brought this to my attention.

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An Important Commentary on All


An Important Commentary on All Variety of Futile Endeavors

While I'm upsetting my audience, I may as well do it all at once. Here's a remarkable commentary that encapsulates much of my view of economics, war efforts, and other causes held so near and dear to some hearts.



They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all there friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, 'You'll all be drowned'
They called aloud, 'Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
'O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, 'How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
'O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.


And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, 'How tall they,ve grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made with beautiful yeast;
And every one said, 'If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve, -
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Didn't Ecclesiastes tell us that "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." Isn't every pursuit outside that of increasing our love and our intimacy with God the greatest of foolishness? Isn't every endeavor apart from God going "to the sea in a sieve?" Until and unless those of us who are faithful to God make a decision for holiness, how can we hope to change the world? How can we be disciples if we ourselves are not disciplined? God wants us all to be Saints, and presently His holy churches are crowded with St. Augustines before he was saintly--"Lord make me saintly, but not yet." If not now, when? If not us, then whom? If we squander our time in futile pursuits, when do we have time for God?

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Found on "Not for Sheep":


Found on "Not for Sheep": How "peaceful" are you?

Another of those endless quizzes, based on ten questions, the validity of this is speculative; however, first my results showing me to be a "center-left" (as though that has some meaning) and highly rational (10 out of 10--though where that comes from is also speculative) and then the link to the quiz.. Enjoy.

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Sacrificed for a Mouse I


Sacrificed for a Mouse

I have refrained for a while from commenting on a decision near and dear to my heart because I feared intemperate words might fly forth on wings of wrath. Time has cooled this possibility and now I can say that the "Eldred" decision of the Supreme Court, while possibly (and only possibly) proper law, is cultural disaster. If this law had been in effect in the time of Mark Twain, his works would have entered public domain only in 1980, thus killing the possibilities of the many derivative works that Twain's work has given rise to.

But setting aside the issue of derivative works for a moment, the greater damage is done to those authors whose works are "protected" unto oblivion by this law. There are a great many authors (Thorne Smith (author of Topper and I Married a Witch), H. Rider Haggard (She and King Solomon's Mines [nearly perpetually in print, but try finding some of the others], James Gould Cozzens Castaway) whose works are only selectively in print at any given time. Presently I know of no book by Cozzens and none by Smith. Because these are not public domain, they will not be picked up by many of the low-level publishers that make their money producing inexpensive versions of public domain works. Hence, a whole field of authors whose work is simply dead. No one can publish them without the enormous effort of finding out who holds the rights, but neither will any publisher basing their revenues on the next Michael Crichton give these works a second thought. Think about your local bookstore--How many items by Francois Mauriac, Bjorn Bjornesterne, Par Lagerkvist, or Rabindranith Tagore have you seen on the shelves. All of these were Nobel Prize winning authors in their time--some, admittedly better left in the oblivion to which they have been consigned, but some (Mauriac, I think of particularly) far more worth reading that the vast majority of those who have been given the laurels in recent years. (Claude Simon? please--the average grocery list has far great readability and literary merit, Toni Morrison--talk about a sop to the pomo politically correct crowd, a very fine writer, but certainly not at her age of Nobel quality, the list does go on).

The point I make here is that much is lost to us through the shortsightedness of a congress that makes ever-increasing copyright limits on works, largely to protect trademarked products and enterprises--most notoriously, Mickey Mouse, for whom the newest copyright extension was specifically tailored.

However, as usual when the law oversteps itself, there are those already flooding the electronic wavelengths with reams of materials from these authors. In Australia, where the copyright law grants about 40 years less protection, the Australian Gutenberg project has already posted a good deal of Orwell, and now is producing much of Virginia Woolf's oeuvre.

I conclude this heady rant, more vitriolic than I normally care to be, with this caution from Maucalay's famous speech on copyright--

I am so sensible, Sir, of the kindness with which the House has listened to me, that I will not detain you longer. I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot. On which side indeed should the public sympathy be when the question is whether some book as popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the Pilgrim's Progress, shall be in every cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich for the advantage of the great-grandson of a bookseller who, a hundred years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author when in great distress?

Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living. If I saw, Sir, any probability that this bill could be so amended in the Committee that my objections might be removed, I would not divide the House in this stage. But I am so fully convinced that no alteration which would not seem insupportable to my honourable and learned friend, could render his measure supportable to me, that I must move, though with regret, that this bill be read a second time this day six months.

The trends he noted had already been prominent in the newsgroups and usenet, but I expect that frequent and flagrant violation of copyright will become more apparent and more difficult to pursue because of distributed service and other means of transmitting electronic files without a centralized server. I do not hail these efforts, but I do expect them to grow. I have noted the appearance in recent days of a great deal of material--it seemed almost as if the world had held its breath for this decision, and with its announcement, the floodgates had opened.

It is important to preserve our access to works that are not huge money makers. The present copyright act is in part responsible to the progressive restriction of what is found on the shelves of most bookstores. So bad is the trend that it is often difficult to find a book that is more than ten years old not written by some mega-blockbuster author. Check it out. See how many John Dickson Carr, A.A. Fair, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Ellery Queen novels you find on the shelves of the mystery section in your local bookstore. The loss of these treasures is an incalculable loss for literature and for genre fiction. It is an incalculable loss for all of us , and it is predicated on the protection of a mouse.

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The March for Life Please


The March for Life

Please see what The Mighty Barrister has to say regarding this event (this link et seq.). An event of some importance. Please also see what the Washington Post felt needed to be the emphasis of this March, courtesy of Mr. da Fiesole at Disputations.

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Do As I Say, Not


Do As I Say, Not as I Do

Delightful from Pepys's Diary

from The Diary of Samuel Pepys Sunday 22 January 1659/60

I went in the morning to Mr. Messum’s, where I met with W. Thurburn and sat with him in his pew. A very eloquent sermon about the duty of all to give good example in our lives and conversation, which I fear he himself was most guilty of not doing.

Ah, human nature does not change--we always seek to bend things to our own ends and to control others when we cannot control ourselves.

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Resolving a Problem One of


Resolving a Problem

One of the wonderful things about being in a community like St. Blogs is that there are so many generous, thoughtful, and tremendously helpful people who will come to your aid to work out a problem. We see this time and again in a great many blogs. Last evening, Therese came to my aid with the following answer to a question:

I think it upholds the right of self defense while pointing to a better way. He argues that one can give oneself out of great love for the salvation of the other. Yet, such an offering cannot be given out of lack of love for life or for oneself -- ie. suicidal notions). One gives one's life, as sacrifice, not be cause it is worthless but because it is infinitely precious as Gift of God. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament were of things that were precious to the owners. Jesus was most precious to the Father. One gives all that one has a spirit of union with the generosity of the Incarnation and Cross.

Thank you. That confirms how I also read it. And it resolves a tremendously difficult issue for me--even though I understand this is not infallible teaching.

You probably are aware that I have been asking whether one can be a pacifist and a good Catholic. The answer seemed to be no, because a Good Catholic acknowledges the validity of Just War teaching. It would seem impossible to acknowledge both. But once again led by intuition rather than logic, I concluded that it must in some way be possible. And this passage suggests that a Christ-like nonresistance on a personal basis is not only permissible but commendable, perhaps even righteous. Thus, while Christ allowed from his disciples and apostles to defend themselves, He himself provided no defense, in fact no resistance to his captors at all. There is a group of Mennonites who emphasize this approach to all questions of aggression, not merely not engaging in the aggressive behavior, but putting up no resistance to it at all.

The key here is that it must be following the promptings of God, and it must be an individual willing to do so and teach by example, not an evangelism of words. In other words, one must acknowledge Catholic Doctrine as the minimal standard of personal behavior. You may defend yourself. However, you may, equally, led by God, offer no resistance whatsoever to your aggressor. What you may NOT do is to tell everyone that this nonresistance is incumbent on them all in their role as Christians. Thus , the "flaw" in the Mennonite teaching is not that they may not offer themselves up, but that they preach this is necessary for all.

What this means, ultimately, I don't know, but it has helped yet another very difficult piece or block of the puzzle to slide into place for me. I can at least now pray for the strength and the temperament to be allow this grace of sacrifice IF it is God's will. Boy, is that a scary thought, and yet wonderfully liberating and freeing. So I may say to others, "Yes, it is possible that a war may be just and those fighting it are engaged in a just cause; however, it is equally possible (can't speak to probability) to offer oneself completely that God's will be done.

Don't know why this didn't just come one like a light bulb--but those of us who are sometime scrupulous need additional encouragement. Just think of us as God's "problem children" and offer up extra prayers.

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Prayers needed In addition to


Prayers needed
In addition to the requests below from yesterday, please remember Carole today as she undergoes induced labor. Pray for a safe delivery with no complications and healthy mother and child. Thanks.

For many very good friends as they await news of possible layoffs later this month.

Please especially keep in mind this intention from Kairos:

"If you would, please pray especially this week for Sally, me, and the continuing progress of our baby. the first doctor's exam is on Friday, and mystery pain continues. On this day in particular, please keep this one unborn child in mind, along with all the others. "

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Evangelium Vitae This an excerpt


Evangelium Vitae

This an excerpt found in a cogent reflection at Minute Particulars:

from Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II

Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defence out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.

My question to you all: What does it seem to mean.

I'll have to go to the source, but I may have found an answer to a bothersome question. Yes, I know this is not definitive, error-proof teaching, but it strikes me that it may at least contain the seeds of a solution to a difficult matter. Does this passage speak of pacifism at all? What does the reference to self-offering mean?

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The Sometimes Derailed Train of


The Sometimes Derailed Train of Logic

I must admit it, another sign of my lack of charity, I very much enjoyed this post at Disputations. Be certain also to read the discussion in the comments.

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A Warm Welcome To our


A Warm Welcome

To our new blogging friend at The C:Prompt. He's just getting started, so drop in and let him know that we really are a community, but we don't feel the need to talk it to death.

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Apologies and Retractions Boy did


Apologies and Retractions

Boy did this post inspire some unexpected feedback chez Kairos. Admittedly, it fails in charity in the stereotypical depictions used to typify orders--I should be more aware of these things. And I thank the commenter at Kairos's place for reminding me that words have consequences and weight associated with them. So I reprint my apology to her, just as I amplified my comments to Kairos yesterday. My mea culpa:

I'm afraid I expressed myself poorly and what was said was not intended in any way to be demeaning to Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, or any other of the Holy Orders. Many of these Orders are filled with very holy people who know God deeply and intimately, not just ABOUT God. In the context of my own experience, these Orders would not have been helpful to me because they would have appealed to my desire to know ABOUT and not to know. I'm sorry for the confusion and please accept my apologies if I have in any way offended. It certainly was not my intention and your correction is welcomed. It shows some of the shortcomings of the language in that sometimes you do not precisely express what you have in mind to say.

One must be judicious when trying to express what is in one's head. I failed here, I will fail again. Please do not hesitate to inform me when I do so--it reminds me that even when we are determined to do right, we can go woefully wrong to the detriment and harm of others.

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Prayers Needed For many very


Prayers Needed

For many very good friends as they await news of possible layoffs later this month.

Please especially keep in mind this intention from Kairos:

"If you would, please pray especially this week for Sally, me, and the continuing progress of our baby. the first doctor's exam is on Friday, and mystery pain continues. On this day in particular, please keep this one unborn child in mind, along with all the others. "

Kairos Guy, you and Mrs. Kairos have been a mainstay of my "permanent" prayer list. I will be certain to elevate your intention by several degrees. Thanks for sharing the need for prayer.

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Found them. In fact, it's more than a new order, it's a new class of echinoderms discovered in 1986 off the coast of New Zealand. Familiarly known as "sea-daisies." In order not to unduly slow the loading of the page, you can find a picture here (look for Xyloplax) and a little bit of information here. The former source states (erroneously, I think) that the Concentricycloidea are now thought to be part of the Asteroidea. (As though anyone here really cares--but it is very cool.)

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Especially for Kathy the Carmelite


Especially for Kathy the Carmelite

Yep--here they are, some of the great jewels of the ocean:


image from @sea.org

You can find out more about these amazing animals here

One of my personal favorites of recent date, a new phylum called Loricifera. There is a delicate, unearthly beauty about these that is impossible to describe. They are part of the interstitial fauna--an entire group of animals that live their entire lives in the spaces between sand-grains. The critter below is approximately 0.25 mm when fully grown--but it is not a protist! It is a full-fledged member of the Animalia!

Pliciloricus enigmatus
Image courtesy of NASA/Smithsonian

For more information and additional pictures of these lovely creature, check this site. Or google "loricifera."

I'm still looking for the echinoderm, as I have forgotten its designation. I thought it was Cyclosdiscus, but I realized that I am probably confusing it with the utterly alien, utterly creepy Laernodiscus porcelaini perhaps now known as or related to Sacculina carcini.

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And Now for Something Completely


And Now for Something Completely Different: A Theme Song

This blog already has an anthem, expressed in the title, and lovely and beautiful hymn to our lady. But I have long needed a song for the lighter side. Last evening a few of us hijacked Dylan's blog, and he very kindly entertained us as we shared our enthusiasms. The reason for this hijacking is the song Dylan wrote (well, technically, the lyrics Dylan wrote for a tune). Even though he says it is a parody, I'm certain that it is a belated Christmas Gift to me. Herewith, from Dylan's blog the official theme song of Flos Carmeli:

We Swim the Deep Lyrics by Dylan

Here, in the ocean, big squid are swimming,
Dodging the sharks and eating small fish;
Undersea depths with creatures are brimming:
Lobsters and crabs you find on your dish.
We swim the deep, the whale and the dolphin;
Divers descend, are heard from no more.
Submarine snares that you could get caught in!
Best to stay dry and safe on the shore.

(to the tune of Gather Us In)

For those interested the "big squid" of the first line are probably Architeuthis, most likely Architeuthis dux

I am greatly relieved because I was going to have to use the Spongebob theme until this came about, and that might have offended Ms. vonHuben, who undoubtedly wishes to retain it for her own blog. So, my sincere thanks to Dylan who provided a bit of light for the day and a bit of joy for Boy who likes the song very much. (Although he has already expressed his ambition to become a surfer dude. Kewl!)

One point on the original hymn--I don't know about the objection to the lyrics, Dylan's song siren-like entranced me and I was unable to move to see the original entry--but the melody is one of the loveliest I can think of. I don't mind singing the song because it has the half-lamenting minor key stuff going on, and unlike most of the "show-tune" hymnal, this is fairly easily singable by people with a limited range and little musical training.

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On Vocation--A Needed Amendment

Therese sounds a note of caution in a comment below:

"I really think being called to an order is a vocation and must be subject to a process of discernment. Going to one's weakest point may not always be God's will, nor practically possible."

This statement is important enough to require a reiteration and a definitive clarification of my purpose in making the post in the first place. First and foremost, she is correct, being called to an Order is a vocation. As a formation director and coordinator, I cannot possibly make this point strongly enough. Many well-intentioned people think that they must belong to an order to achieve holiness--but more about that later.

First, I DO NOT recommend that everyone play to their weakest point (nor do I think that Therese thought this). The point of the post below was to share something of my own process of discernment. These were things I very deliberately and very carefully thought and prayed about as I was considering the Carmelite Vocation. Taken alone, they probably would not have been decisive, but taken with the voice of St. John of the Cross, they were compelling evidence of where I needed to be.

So, please do follow Therese's advice regarding discernment if you are considering an order.

Also, please, please, please remember that not everyone is called to an order. One need not belong to any "named" group to achieve holiness. Following a rule is not the only, nor even the best way to holiness--following your heart and head and discerning the gentle lead of the Holy Spirit to God Himself is what each person is called to.

We have a great many people seeking to join Carmel, as I am sure many third orders experience, who have no real vocation, but who see this as yet another point on the scoreboard in the sky. God does not give extra points for joining an Order, for that matter He does not give points at all, but if He did we are told that it would be for obedience--"If you love me you will heed my commands." So, anyone thinking about a vocation out there, get a spiritual director and spend a lot of time discerning. Not everyone is called and you do a disservice to yourself and to the Order by trying to wedge yourself in. Holiness is not the sole property of Catholic Orders. Many of us find a way within them, but a great many more find a way in simply living holy lives in the Church at large.

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Blog du Jour My list


Blog du Jour

My list of Blogs is getting impossibly long, but I couldn't help but add Gen X Revert, an utterly delightful, straightforward, and clear-thinking blog. I look forward to much good from this quarter and wish to thank the Blogmaster for his/her efforts thus far.

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On Finding a Catholic Order--A


On Finding a Catholic Order--A Personal Perspective

Although this entry on Kairos's blog did not directly address the question, the response it provoked did in some measure, and it also tells some part of the story that is somewhat hidden and obscure here. Perhaps the same points have been reiterated many times, but seeing what I see among many Catholics, I cannot but repeat them again. There are many orders because there were a great many Saints who found pathways to God. We are called to the particular order that God wishes for us for reasons that we may not even fully understand. So nothing I say below should be taken as warning or encouraging anyone to any particular order, it is simply my experience.

My augmented response:
And in six paragraphs you [Kairos] move from what I term the "Jesuit" view to any of the many "mystical" views. Recognizing this temptation, and also recognizing a temperament that is subject to very, very, very fine distinctions and scruples, when choosing a Third Order to join, I chose deliberately to join one that did not play to "my strength" (quotation marks, for what do we have that has not been given us from above) but to my weakness. While I find the Benedictines, Jesuits, and Domincans very, very appealing, it is for all the wrong reasons--I don't need to know more ABOUT God, I need to KNOW Him. Ultimately, these paths will also lead to union, but they present a tangled snare for those of us already too much in our heads. I prefer the stony path of conversion of my own heart. Every day, I call upon God to honor the promise made in Ezekiel and to take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. I will be with Elijah at the Wadi Cherith and wait upon the Lord, I will stay with him in the mountain fastness and let Him reveal Himself as He will. I will not trouble myself with things beyond me, but I will focus on the love I owe Him for every breath and heartbeat. All that Catholicism is, when the finery is stripped away, is a pathway for loving God completely--a system of Love instituted by the Creator for our redemption and the redemption of the fallen world.

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Current Reading and a Quotation


Current Reading and a Quotation

A Quotation from Leif Enger's Peace Like a River: "But how do you wake a man knocked cold by love?"

A skin-pricklingly beautiful thought--read the book for the context.

Also playing:
Greg Tobin Conclave because we all know that it takes an irritant to produce a pearl, and I suspect this may end up as irritating as it gets.
Karl Rahner Encounters with Silence with thanks to a blogfriend.
Concepcion Cabrera de Amida Before the Altar
St. John of the Cross Ascent of Mount Carmel
Leonard Doohan The Contemporary Challenge of St. John of the Cross

As well as continued reading of much that was on my last list. Looking forward to:

Orson Scott Card Sarah and Rebekah (Yes, I know, he's Mormon, but these are "common texts" a good place for finding common ground.)
R. Garcia y Robertson Knight Errant (time travel romance)
Michael Curtis Ford The Ten Thousand (A fictionalized account of the march of Xenophon's army after the Peloponnesian War.)
Ha Jin The Crazed
and others too numerous to list. By the time I get to even one of these, the hydra will have sprouted a hundred more heads.

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Beauty and Art Over the


Beauty and Art

Over the past few days I have had these two prevailing concepts in mind as I have written. Such interest has led to discussion elsewhere on related matters that has been both vexing and quite profitable--vexing in that it takes so long to internalize and profitable in that I have begun to understand the theory of systems. My thoughts regarding beauty and art are yet incomplete--just forming the shadow of a surface--the vaguest appearance of outline. And it seems in proper order to first make some provisional stab at defining and understanding beauty.

In recent posts here and here and here, Dylan has posited a theory of beauty that started in a very appealing fashion. His original designation defined four types of beauty corresponding to four aspects of love. This kind of resolution has a wonderful parallelism and symmetry guaranteed to appeal to a mind with the interior landscape of my own (think The Pharmacist of Ampurdan in Search of Absolutely Nothing or any of the canvases of Yves Tanguy). However, there is also a part of me deeply suspicious of any such attempt--it suggest more the pattern-finding quality of the human mind than the actual reality of the nature of beauty. In subsequent discussion, Dylan further modifies this theory--his comments are worthy of your perusal. But the discussion of types, like the questionnaire that I had somewhat earlier, doesn't really get at the heart of what beauty is in a way that satisfactorily allows one to address the question of art and its quality. All of these raise questions about beauty, but provide no resolutions. Nor, for my purposes does the general intent of St. Thomas's definition--though truth to tell I have not explored that in all of its ramifications. Thus, I do not reject what he has to say, I cannot for I do not know it well enough, but the sense of what he has to say does not allow me to answer the question I have at heart--"How does one evaluate properly a piece of art?"

What I did find most interesting and fascinating is that there were some pieces on the questionnaire on which every respondent agreed. Also, interesting that the question of beauty rarely arises in the study of modern art. Ron at The 7 Habitus has gone so far as to say that no modern masterpieces are being written. I do not know if I wholly agree, but I do sympathize to a large extent.

So, this is a new beginning to my discussion in which I will look at the results of the questionnaire, those bits and pieces of St. Thomas that I have looked into, Dylan's provisional division, and other aspects to see if there can be a satisfactory definition of beauty.

Actually, that is untrue--I suppose I should admit to what my purpose is. You've already seen signs of it on my comments on the pieces of art and music that I have laid out. I have already drawn a conclusion regarding beauty, and I am seeking a way to work backward from the conclusion to see if a logical chain can be made to a reasonable definition. If not, the conclusion must be abandoned, but if so, we have a reasonable explanation of beauty.

So here is a provisional definition of beauty--beauty consists of that which is in some way pleasing to the senses and/or intellect, which acts as a definitive signpost pointing toward God, and in which both goodness and truth predominate. (This latter part because I suppose I must believe there is some aspect of good in all creation; however, I will not be swayed by the argument that this good is enough to make something beautiful--there must be more). I think I will find much in what Dylan is saying and in other comments that is compatible with this theory. Perhaps, too, there will be much that is not. There is part of me that looks toward revelation to let us know what beauty is, and another part that seeks to better understand so that it is not merely a subjective evaluation.

Strange how much of this grew out of the claim that "Latin is objectively more beautiful than English." Never know which hammer tap will loose the artesian spring.

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Another Interesting Blog Ms. Huntley


Another Interesting Blog

Ms. Huntley attracted my attention by being the second person of my acquaintance to know of Mikrokosmos and to like it greatly. A person of such profound good taste certainly deserves our attention--visit Fructis Ventris her blogspot.

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On Music, and Eventually, on


On Music, and Eventually, on the Sublime

Now, I will attempt to explain what I think is beautiful in the following pieces:
Debussy La Mer--Yes--Some have suggested that this piece is too onomatopoeic to be truly beautiful. But I ask, does the sea really sound anything at all like what Debussy has presented to us? Is it not that the glistening slides through tonalities and the rippling work on harp and strings have some to suggest the rise and fall of the sea? What I "hear" in this piece is actually synaesthesic--I hear the sound of the light rippling from the waves, the play of the light in the water and on the surface, sparkling and dark. I see the shallow bottom of a tropical lagoon where the ripples create interference patterns that play and divide up the sparkling sand. I do not hear the sea. But that is a personal impression. Ultimately, what makes this beautiful is that it calls me beyond myself. I can get lost in it, and becoming lost, focus my attention on higher things--on things more worthy of my attention--or rather, should I say, on Persons more worthy of my attention. Thus the sheer sound sensuality of the music coupled with tonalities that do not readily resolve and come to a stop, is suggestive of eternal things--eternal as the sea is not, but come close to being.

Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire--No--The apotheosis of nearly everything that dissuades me from the "New School" (now ancient) of atonality. The singer is at odds with the music in a very predictable, mathematically dictated way (although Schönberg was actually a slouch at this compared to his student Webern.) Nothing really invites the listener in, and while it might be fun to play with it in a sort of intellectual way, there is no satisfaction for anything other than the self. There is no invitation to leave oneself and look beyond.

Schönberg Verklarte Nacht--Yes--Included to show that Schönberg was capable of composing some extremely stirring and beautiful work. The title's piece means "Transfigured Night" and in fact, in the course of the piece the night is transfigured as is the listener. Once again, the music invites, practically builds a pathway for the listener to leave the sanctuary of self and move out into the beyond, into the Transcendence of Almighty God.

Hindemith Mathis der Mahler--Yes--As above, and perhaps even more so. Okay, I have to admit that this symphony, which is drawn from an Opera by Hindemith on the subject of Mathias Grünewald, a painter, has an appeal for me that goes far beyond the music itself. The work got Hindemith thrown out of Nazi Germany, and that in itself is a profound recommendation--although whether it would make a piece beautiful or not is speculative. But it does get at one criterion. Thus far, all of the selections have been "morally neutral." That is, there is nothing in the content that is or really could be morally offensive. In this piece, morality is brought to the forefront:

The opera Mathis der Maler, the most powerful statement of Hindemith’s political feelings, tells the story of Grünewald’s renunciation of his art in 1525. The painter joined the cause of the Seligenstadt peasants in the Peasant’s War, a short-lived revolt that followed close on the heels of the Lutheran Reformation. The opera and the symphony that is drawn from it are also closely tied to what may be Grünewald’s masterpiece, the altarpiece that he executed for St. Anthony’s church in Isenheim. Mathis’s struggles—especially his realization that, however beautiful it might be, his art does nothing to alleviate the suffering he sees around him—and his turn to social activism are a clear allegory to Hindemith’s own soul-searching.

The Symphony was completed some months before opera itself, and Furtwängler conducted the premiere in March of 1934, to a ecstatic audience—according to eyewitnesses, the ovation lasted 20 minutes. By this time, however, the Nazis had officially seized power in Germany, and the Party’s Kulturkammer was able to frustrate Hindemith’s plans to produce Mathis der Maler in Berlin during the 1934-35 opera season. The opera was banned because its subject matter (peasants rising against authority) and “ultra-modern” music were objectionable—Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda and “National Enlightenment,” denounced Hindemith as an “atonal noisemaker.” This censure of Hindemith and his music led directly to Furtwängler’s resignation and his open defiance of the Kulturkammer in a now-famous article in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. By 1935, conditions were no longer bearable or safe in Germany, and Hindemith left in self-imposed exile.


A resounding recommendation if ever I saw one. So in this case, in addition to lovely music that is both pleasing and a glimpse of heaven, we have at roots a good and noble cause. The cause of the truth is not sufficient unto itself to make for beauty, but beauty can not exist in the absence of concomitant truth.

Strauss Also Sprache Zarathustra--No--For precisely the opposite reasons of the above. The piece is musically stunning--at the time, probably even shocking. But it has two points that remove it from the realm of beautiful, while still enticing. The first is the fault of the composer, the second, I admit, mere guilt by association. Richard Strauss based the music on the nihilistic and atheistic founder of the übermensch philosophy--Nietzsche. Richard Strauss was also one of the highly favored composers of the Nazi regime (guilt by association through no fault, that know of, of the composer).

Holst The Planets--Yes--Again, a piece that draws the listener out of him or herself. Quite varied, and the music from either Venus or Jupiter (I forget) is used for an absolutely stunning hymn. Others can probably better inform you on all of this, as the details have completely slipped my mind.

Webern Five Pieces for Small Orchestra Bonus question: did he really encode secrets in his music?--No--Webern's entire atonal output consists of 31 pieces totaling less than four hours in length, and were one to attempt to listen to them end-to-end as it were, one would emerge either a stark raving lunatic, or a mathematical wizard. From all reports the most seriously mathematical of the atonalists, his music has a rigorously dictated structure. So much so that one can find endless speculation on the internet about whether he used his dodecacaphony to encode messages as a spy for the Nazis.

Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta--Transcendantly yes--Explained, perhaps poorly before.

Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Paganini--Yes--Powerful, moving, and interesting. To take a work by a person who prided himself on being one to the Progeny of the Devil and convert it into the magnificent, arresting, and ultimately satisfying work both beautiful and true to form.

Vaughn Williams The Lark Ascending--Yes--A life-long agnostic knew more of God than he gave himself credit for. Nearly every piece of music reveals the beauty of God's creation in astounding ways.

One of the themes you may have noted is that beauty cannot arise from mere pleasantness or even loveliness. Beauty must be accompanied by both goodness and truth. Now, it is possible for a work about morally neutral matters can be beautiful, but a work engaging morally repugnant sentiment can never be beautiful--simply be definition. Here I will not split the Thomistic hairs over the "amount" of goodness a thing may contain. Nazi philosophy may have contained a large amount of goodness for the economically oppressed and unjustly sanctioned German people--but whatever good it might contain is vastly outweighed in the balances by the evil incorporated into its very structure.

Thus, it would be my contention that for a work to be beautiful, it must be both pleasing to the senses and rightly informed in terms of content. A work of art has three main components--content, sensual appeal, and technical execution. Without all three of these no work can ever be considered beautiful. For example, Norman Rockwell's work is not particularly beautiful because instead of sensual appeal, it relies upon sentiment or nostalgic appeal.

Now, I also recognize that all of these statements are highly subjective, and others can produce quite good reasons why, even given my criteria, some of the works I have listed here are beautiful to them. So, there is additionally, a highly subjective element that is likely never to be agreed upon by all. This element must be transcendence. If the work lifts you out of yourself into the realm of contemplation of the glory of God, it is beautiful. (This may have been the thought behind one commenter's suggestion of the sublime.) This is the element that is likely to be different for ever person--but there are three grounds on which one can decide the beauty of a subject beyond this. For this reason, while the writing of de Sade may be technically proficient, if not excellent, its sensual appeal is more a sensuous appeal, and the content is morally repugnant. It is not possible for such a work to be considered beautiful.

Now, we can set up all manner of criteria to determine whether a work is morally repugnant, but I intend to stay with a simple "rules-based" approach. If Biblical Revelation and the Holy Tradition of the Catholic Church teach that something is a sin that something is morally repugnant, otherwise, I suppose, one could assume that it is either neutral or good. I suppose from what I gathered in the conversation on "goodness" at Disputations, if there is no reprehensible element to override anything else, the object should probably be considered good--although to consider the sea "good" is rather like deciding whether a table is masculine or feminine in gender. I don't see it, but I leave it to the philosophers and dialecticians who can better understand all of these things.

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Ron Hansen--Hitler's Niece

Book:Hitler's Niece
Author: Ron Hansen
Recommendation: Not for everyone, in fact, not for very many
Let's start with the good points: as usual with Hansen the book is well-written, but full of idiosyncratic blips that may throw some readers off. You know how in every creative writing assignment you were ever given the teacher told you to "show" don't "tell." You were always advised to chop out lumps of sheer indigestible expository. Well, this book shows that the author knows how to break those rules without serious consequences. There are large lumps of sheer expository writing every time an historical figure walks on the stage. And there are lumps of blatant foreshadowing. Hansen knows you know what happened in the big picture, so there's no harm in letting you know as the story goes along.

Some of the prose is exquisitely beautiful, as in Mariette in Ecstasy. One wanted to be in some of the countryside described, and to see some of the apartments and their furnishings.

Finally, Hansen has a strong grasp of the historical material and really helps the reader to understand some of the rather confusing events in Hitler's rise to power--the Beer Hall Putsch, the Horst Kessel martyrdom, and so on. Further, so far as I could tell with my limited exposure, he painted a very true picture of between-the-wars Germany and particularly Berlin Decadence.

Therein lies the chief reason I cannot recommend this book without extremely strong reservations. One cannot expect a book about Hitler to be pleasant. And to be honest, I didn't know quite what to expect when I started reading. For the first two thirds of the book, the action of the main story is largely repellent, but not quite enough for me to warn readers away. The last third of the book sends it skyrocketing way over the top with some of the most nauseating depictions and perhaps worse, implications, of perverse sexuality. I understood the need to help the reader see why events transpire the way they do. I even can buy that this may be further propaganda in the anti-Hitler camp (I find it hard to believe that there can be a pro-Hitler camp). But something in this last 100 pages of the book really made me question what Hansen was up to and whether it was necessary. I may revisit and revise this opinion. But presently, I cannot recommend this book to anyone without grave reservations.

One of the criteria I apply to anything I read is a question: Am I a better person (closer to God) for having read this. For the most part, I am at least not further from God. (We must remember the Red Queen's advice--"we must run just as fast as we can to stay in the same place.") Some few books, profit me immensely, opening the doors to God's grace and love. And some few books send a cloudbank skittering into the path of divine light. I'm afraid that's how I feel about this. Perhaps there was a point about grace, faith, the group-mind and many other things. But I fail to see it at this point. Over the next few days, I shall reflect upon it. However, I do not expect that my view of it will change.

Plot synopsis: The story follows Hitler's rise to power and his progressive infatuation with his niece Geli. For at least part of the time Geli is strongly attracted to Hitler and to his charismatic personality. Eventually, she comes face to face with yet another repellent aspect of Hitler's character and seems to be one the way back to grace. To say more would ruin the book for those hardy souls that have not already been dissuaded by other comments.

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Will I Talk About the


Will I Talk About the Music?

One asks. And the answer--yes. It had slipped my mind in the press of other things--Dylan's definitions and all manner of thinking about beauty, truth, goodness, contemplation, attachment, detachment, you name it. Tomorrow morning or afternoon, I shall talk about the musical choices in somewhat more detail.

For those intrigued already--I will answer the query regarding Bartok. While solidly twentieth century, he uses such a rich tonal pallette, and the music is so suggestive of celestial beauty--both emptiness and a ringing fullness at the same time. There are such subtle shades in the music. Harmonies? Suggestions of non-western tonalities? I don't really know. But I do know that for all the varied sounds and mixtures in the music, it does not ever enter into downright dissonance. Everything seems to work so perfectly together to create something unheard before or since--unique in its utter strangeness and perfection. Now--that's just an opinion, and not a particularly informed one. But compare it to Alban Berg, Anton Webern or later Schoenberg, and you'll understand immediately its appeal.

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Bloggstic? So says one of



So says one of the kinder voices in blogdom. I fully expected to be under Bloggbastic--those who produce interminable ruminations about just about everything. Subject unimportant, only length matters.

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Scripture of the Day Remarked


Scripture of the Day

Remarked out because it was slowing the page to a crawl. I'll look into replacing it later today.

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Souls! Souls! Mystics, as you


Souls! Souls!

Mystics, as you all know, do not live in the realm of foggy visions and unrealistic daydreams. Recall the wonderful St. Teresa's advice to the Carmelites of her foundation, "If you think you are having visions, perhaps you should eat more." Practical, down-to-earth, and deeply in Love with God.

So too, I take from the writings of Cabrera de Armida (who by the way is not a Carmelite, but a lay member or associate of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit (or so I infer from the introduction). We should not be surprised that what she says echoes so many great saints--as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, God is simple and there is only one such God to focus on.

from Before the Altar Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

Souls! Souls!

This is the cry of my heart whenever I approach your Tabernacle, O my Jesus! It is also the echo of your divine and loving Heart which is constantly resounding in mine. O my Eucharistic Jesus! My greatest suffering is at the thought that you asked me for these souls and that I haven't a million at my disposal to offer you.

All the things that I see, that I hear and that I touch all seem to repeat the cry for souls, souls! That cry awakens me at night. O Lord of my life. I have none to offer you but one which is my own, but which is ready to offer itself in sacrifice in order that millions of others may be saved and obtain your glory.

How hard it is for the heart that love you and is full of zeal for the salvation of souls to be unable to exercise it. What a cruel martyrdom.

O grief, above all other pains, to see my Jesus outraged, forsaken, wounded and despised by those souls ransomed by him!

We hear the same refrain for every mystic I have read, and I suspect from every true mystic. The love they enjoy is something they want to shower over the entire world. Often they are confined to little works in little places, but the outwardly expanding ripples from such work build to a rogue wave that can and does shake the entire world. Witness the power of a little Carmelite Nun from an obscure town in France who spent nine years in a convent and vanished from the world at the age of twenty-four. How many call upon her for help, and how many more does she help through her constant intercession, her constant seeking of souls?

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Detachment, Once Again We do


Detachment, Once Again

We do not revel in creation for the sake of the creature, but for the image of the creator. All things point to God, the object is to leave the pointers behind and move toward God.

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Yet More on Attachment Below,


Yet More on Attachment

Below, in the comments, Tom asks if it is possible that an attachment to the Blessed Virgin can get in the way of spiritual progress. As with St. Thomas Aquinas, this is simply a matter of definitions, and I have written so much for so long that I take for granted that everyone knows the definition. While it is not formally and scholastically defined, it is generally understood to mean --"an inordinate desire for." Now, is it even possible to form an attachment to the Blessed Virgin? The answer is yes. The Blessed Virgin, as exalted as she is in Heaven, Mediatrix of Grace, Mother of God, is still a creature. If the attention that rightfully belongs to God is focused on the Blessed Virgin (if we choose saying the Rosary over going to Mass, for example) we have an inordinate desire for the Blessed Virgin, because she has superseded her creator.

Here's a way to think about attachment and to figure out if you are attached. Think of attachment as "addiction." For example, if someone passes around a box of chocolates and when it reaches you, you quietly slip it into your backpack, one might say you are attached to chocolate.

One way to evaluate attachment is to look at what you do in pursuit of an object or event. Do you neglect, reschedule, or reshuffle things that are part of your normal vocation and state in life in order to obtain these things? If yes, you are attached to them--they own a piece of you. If you "cannot live" without the object or event, you are attached. Start with something innocuous--if you postpone cooking dinner, lock the children in their rooms, and shuffle your spouse off to a different location so that you can watch Dharma and Greg (no animus) you are probably attached. If you feel that in the absence of something, you simply "cannot go on," you are attached. Attachment is always unhealthy, and detachment, the proper attitude to all created things and their products.

I have pondered the question of whether you can be attached to God. And my conclusion is, probably not in normal circumstances. Some may be able to think of ways that you are attached to certain things of God, but is it possible to have an inordinate desire for the creator of all.

Another way to think about attachment is that each thing to which you are attached owns a piece of you. That dress that you've had for the last five years but have never worn and never thrown away, probably represents an attachment.

The difficulty with attachments is their progressive subtlety. It's relatively easy to recognize material things to which we are attached (achieving detachment may not be easy, but as with any such situation, recognizing the attachment is the first step.) But things become more difficult in the realm of ideas and other intangibles. For example, it is possible to become to the idea of detachment--to look at detachment as an end in itself and the supreme goal. Obviously, that is not so. Detachment is only a means to an end--Union with God. We can become attached to the consolations associated with prayer. When we pray we may feel calm and at ease, the universe may open up for us. If we begin to pray in search of that feeling, we are attached.

On the other hand, detachment isn't mere rejection of these things. The rejection of things becomes an attachment in itself. Refusing certain foods or certain ideas becomes a form of attachment.

People can become attached to very, very good things indeed. For example, when the Holy Father suggested that we might add a new set of mysteries to the recitation of the Rosary, many were out lighting the bonfires to burn the heretic. Many were upset that anyone should suggest an alteration. These many were probably attached to the Rosary, they probably felt some personal "ownership" of the prayer, and how dare anyone change it. Many who are quite vocal in their denunciation of things that have received the approval of the church (I think here of the Novus Ordo) are probably attached to the other Mass.

The important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with most of the things to which we are attached (pornography and other damaging things are exceptions), they are not bad or evil. But with respect to God, they are lesser goods--things to relinquish as we head onward toward union. Material things are not evil (although sometimes mystical language would make you think so) and we should not hate them absolutely, but relatively. That is the explanation of the mysterious statement Jesus makes that unless a man hate mother and father he is not worthy to follow me. Jesus would not violate the ten commandments calling us to Honor Mother and Father. This hatred means only that when Mother and Father choose to interfere in the pursuit of God, they must be let go, and the pursuit of God must continue. This doesn't mean that you don't talk to them or love them, but you reject the impulse that would have them control you and you move on. This "hatred" mysteriously becomes an overpowering love that urges the person moving toward union to pull others into their torrent and riptide. (See chapter 10 or 11 of Story of a Soul for St. Thérèse's marvelous analogy).

So, mystical language is often overstated--hyperbole. It doesn't aim at precision but at exhortation. It is the language of the prophets, and sometimes of the Savior Himself. It seeks not to prove, but to point the way, and so must be read in a way similar to poetry. It is challenging and quite difficult and does not lend itself to fine parsing before it falls apart and blows away.

Hopefully some of these notes will better help those who are looking into detachment and seeking to understand what it is about. As with all these matters, imperfections in the explanation are due not to the subject, but to my feeble understanding.

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Attachment and Detachment This


Attachment and Detachment

This is hastily written during a lunchbreak, and hopefully I will be able to return to it this evening and spell it out more (last night no internet service). But a quick read shows that Therese is really on track in the comments below.

Let me try to spell out attachment and detachment with an analogy.

I went out to my front yard this morning and saw six snow-white ibises strutting their way across the more-brown-than-green St. Augustine turf searching for food.

Let's first turn to attachment. Attachment says, "Oh, aren't they lovely, let me build a cage so I can always have six ibises on my front yard."

On the other hand, let us start with what detachment is NOT. It is not saying, "so what?" and then turning away and ignoring them, as it might seem to be. That is indifference, and, if not a sin, at least an imperfection. On the other hand detachment is, "Glory be to God for snow-white Ibis." And then, when they walk or soar away, we soar away with them, thankful for a brief moment, a "consolation" if you will from God, who sent us a message of the beauty of creation.

This is, admittedly, inept and rapid, please forgive me, but I will try to say more later. Though, the comments that are being made with respect to this are so profound and astute, I'm pleased to think that I probably won't need to say much.

But I do wish to further address Tom's concern in the comments below. Thanks for the great discussion everyone!

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More on Rahner Whatever the


More on Rahner

Whatever the end result of his theology, whatever his accuracy or lack thereof in speculation, a very generous, relatively quiet visitor to St. Blog's kindly enriched my life with the following:

from Encounters with Silence Chapter 6: God of My Daily Routine Karl Rahner, S.J.

I should like to bring the routine of my daily life before You, O Lord, to discuss the long days and tedious hours that are filled with everything but You.

Look at this routine, O God of Mildness. Look upon men, who are practically nothing else but routine. In Your loving mercy, look at my soul, a road crowded by a dense and endless column of bedraggled refugees, a bomb-pocked highway on whch countless trivialities, much empty talk and pointless acitivity, idle curiosity and ludicrous pretensions of importance all roll forward in a never-ending stream.

When it stands before You and Your infallible Truthfulness, doesn't my soul look just like a market place where the second-hand dealers from all corners of the globe have assembled to shell the shabby riches of this world? Isn't it just like a noisy bazaar, where I and the rest of mankind display our cheap trinkets to the restless , milling crowds?
(p. 45)

What a gem, worthy of returning to time and again. And I suspect much of the remainder of the work is likely to consist of similar material. Thank you!

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The Fascination of Diaries I


The Fascination of Diaries

I trust you are all stopping occasionally to view the Pepys Diary online. Remarkable document. Throughtout will see the phrase "and so to bed" with such frequency that it could almost serve as a subtitle for the diaries.

So too with the Diaries of William Byrd of Westover, one of the FFV, and a remarkable document in its own right--written I believe in a coded script that had been left undeciphered until the middle 1930s (though I could be mistaken in this) and approximately contemporaneous with Pepys (perhaps a few years later). There we have the phrase, "I danced my little dance" along with a great many phrases to denote amatory dalliances with the diarist's wife. The two of them make for great reading side by side--pictures of almost exact opposites--city life in England, and rural life in the New World. If you have the opportunity, enjoy Pepys--Byrd you will have to seek out on your own.

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A Joycean Jem [Yes I


A Joycean Jem

[Yes I know it is "misspelled." See Finnegan's Wake for an explanation.]

Thanks to Dylan for this link to Joyce's works online. Joyce nearly became for me the subject of the Ph.D. dissertation. And I would have taken the Wake as my subject of choice--one of the most arcane, self-involved, difficult, fascinating, disturbing, wonderful works of literature. I don't know how good it actually is, but it is completely intriguing and full of all sorts of fascinations and intricacies.

Much of the Wake was written during the time when Joyce was fuctionally blind. He dictated the work to Samuel Beckett. There is an anecdote that relates that they were involved in one of these dictation sessions and someone knocked on the door. Joyce had them enter and a brief conversation ensued. Beckett transcribed all of this and when he read it back, Joyce retained it in the work. Fascinating.

Also Ulysses, while there may be some debate about it being the "best" book of the twentieth century, there can be no doubt that it is among the most influential--affecting modern prose (and creating Modernist prose) down to its very marrow. There are remarkably few great writers post-Joyce who do not in one way or another reflect the influence of this major work--another of my favorite works despite its very negative portrayal of the Catholic Church.

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What Should We Desire? In


What Should We Desire?

In a comment on the excerpt from the Venerable Concepcion, one person said:

I can't help but think that we should desire the very best for all whom we meet. That in encountering us, their minds and hearts are lifted towards the Lord. That should we do kindness that they see the Lord. That should they respond in rudeness or even hate, that still they see the Lord. We should not rejoice in the failings of others especially if it is so that we can get our spiritual exercise.

To which my comment is--almost. The first part I think reflects what I believe to be true--we should desire what the Lord desires, we should will what the Lord wills, we should leave off self and be detached, but caring. (Some think this is an oxymoron--but it is not. The only way to truly be loving and caring is to be detached. Detachment is not distance. It is recognizing the sovereignty of the will of another and recognizing the unique relationship an individual shares with the Lord, and it is relinquishing our "rights" and "holds" over another so that the truly important, powerful relationship with the Lord can grow. Detachment is not indifference, it is powerful, overpowering love and desire for True and ultimate good. ) Detachment is necessary so that we will nothing other than what the Lord wills for the person. Now, I believe that the commenter makes the point that the Lord always wills that we turn toward Him. And if we pray for that for the individual, we must surely be in the Lord's will. Again, probably true. Of course, I haven't a road map of the Lord's will, so some thoughts must necessarily be speculative. But there certainly does not seem to be anything of attachment in praying and hoping that a person's heart always turn toward the Lord.

Where I actually disagree is the last sentence, and probably not with the intent of the last sentence but rather with its structure. I will use what amounts to a semantic difference (I believe) to make my point:

"We should not rejoice in the failings of others especially if it is so that we can get our spiritual exercise."

In fact, we should rejoice and welcome whatever it is the Lord sends us in any particular moment because that is His will for us. We should "rejoice" in the failings of others--not for their failings, but for the glimmerings of the failings that we can then recognize in ourselves--our attachments, our sinfulness, our pettiness, our selfishness. So I see this as rejoicing in the evils uncovered in us so that God may look upon them and heal them, and we may recognize our true worth with respect to His Majesty. The commenter is correct is that we should not revel in the fact that others may have sinned, or may have mistreated us (if it is possible to mistreat without sinning). But we should thank the Lord that it happened, and even be thankful to the person who inflicted it, while praying for all good for them.

I am virtually certain (the only way to be certain over the net) that the commenter was not thinking in the direction I pointed and was referring rather to egging someone on to abuse us, wishing that others might fail so that we might be strengthened. In this regard I agree. We should not encourage others to fail. However, I think of Concepcion's statement more in the light of experience. " We know there are rude, self-involved, pushy people. So send them my way to allow me to do good work for them and not receive the human reward of appreciation." Concepcion does not continue into a dangerous territory which must also be in her mind (because I doubt she would have been made Venerable otherwise), which is, and so that my service to them bring them to the Lord. Because then we get close to the borders of another attachment--an attachment to good works that brings people around.

All attachment, even to the very best things, gets in the way of progress toward the Lord. If we become attached to the notion of good works and evangelical actions, we are distancing ourselves from God. So, I suspect the meditation is treading a very fine line, and saying simply--because there are those who will ill-use people, let them come to me so that the work I do go unremarked--with the incidental benefits that they may be brought somewhat closer to the Lord and others will be shielded from their ill-will. In such a way, I can do what I do for the love of Jesus alone, and not look to mere human recompense. But if the prayer were such that it said, "Make more people nasty and snarly so I can do good spiritual things," it would be appropriate to decry and renounce such actions. We should never pray for others to do ill. And you'll note that the prayer is more reflective--not "increase the amount of ingratitude," but "send me those who are not grateful." "May I do all the good I possibly can, and yet may no one ever be grateful to me for it. " Later, there is a phrase suggestive of the problematic, but I read it in light of the previous, "render service to others and to be repaid with ingratitude." I think she is not praying for an increase in ingratitude, but rather that if there must be ingratitude, let her experience so that she may detach from expectations. It is slightly more problematic, but contextually, still on the same thought--let me not seek mere human awards and plaudits, but let what I do be done for the love of Jesus.

I will further offer that mystical language, unlike the language of philosophy, is very poetic and very vague (at times) and thus quite subject to misuse and misinterpretation. This may be part of the reason why mystical Doctors take a lot longer to confirm than those who are more known for their teaching. (Although ultimately, I believe, all true saints partake in some measure of being mystics.)

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Detachment as Seen by Concepcion


Detachment as Seen by Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

The following passage is very difficult, and it is phrased in a spirituality that like that occasionally of St. Thér&egrace;se can be off-putting. But I think the essential impulse is mostly correct.

from Before the Altar Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

Send me experiences of deception, misfortune; let me treated with indifference and ingratitude; let me be forgotten and forsaken, in your mercy, so that all that is earthly may be removed from my heart. Do this for the good of my soul which is so inclined to attach itself to creatures and which, nevertheless, desires only to belong to you, my Jesus.

May all that is evil in my heart be taken far way from me, O my adorable Jesus! May the bad seeds which lie within my heart perish, and may the first fruits of my sufferings be always for you alone.

May I do all the good I possibly can, and yet may no one ever be grateful to me for it.

Slaves are made use of, and then they are forgotten; on, how I envy them!

O my Jesus! What I want, however much pain it may bring me, is to render service to others and to be repaid with ingratitude in exchange for my kindness.

It is a glorious ideal, and I am unworthy to attain it, nevertheless I will pursue it; whatever be the cost!

In this way, with my soul detached from creatures, and purified by sacrifice and voluntary humiliations, I shall fly to you, my Jesus and you alone shall be my reward and my all.

As might once have been said, "Strong meat." But the impulse underlying all of this is true, and here is an exposition of one of those places where we all are so attached we don't even realize it. You know when you hold open a door for someone and they just barge through, completely ignoring the courtesy and nearly running you down in the process? You know how you want to just say, "You're welcome," as they hurry to whatever pressingly urgent engagement they have? These result from an attachment--an expectation that a service receives a reward. Common courtesy dictates this. However, it is so much the better for us when the service is overlooked, and yet we have done it gladly for love of Christ. Not from convention, not from expectation, not from habit, but out of the knowledge that when we do any service for any of our brothers and sisters, we are rendering that service to Christ. When anyone acknowledges that service, in a sense we have been repaid for it. And when we have come to expect that acknowledgement and receive it, we can mark the bill "Paid in Full" and expect no favor from Jesus for it, because we have done it for ourselves.

That is the impulse behind this writing--the understanding that all too often in whatever service we render, in whatever praying we do, in whatever action we take, we are preeminently self-serving. Only through detaching ourselves of the expectations associated with the service to we begin to advance. That doesn't mean that we become rude and cold, but simply that what we do is done for Christ, whether we a thanked, noticed, or remarked upon or not. Every action becomes oriented to the love of Christ and what can be a better font of courtesy and of True Love?

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Hearth and Home


Hearth and Home

After a brief sojourn in the spirited company of Mr. da Fiesole and St. Thomas at Disputations, I am glad to come home to St. John of the Cross--the familiar, the comfortable, and the comprehensible. I am in considerable awe of those who can derive more than intellectual stamina from the careful perusal of St. Thomas--it requires a makeup far different from mine. A sign of the great Grace of our Lord is the many mentors He has sent to us to serve the many different kinds of people that we are. St. Thomas, St. Francis, St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. John of the Cross, St. Gaspar, and countless others all help those who seek God.

One of the reasons I am a Carmelite is that I have always enjoyed the gentle warmth and convivial company of St. John of the Cross, even when I don't completely understand all he is trying to tell me. Still, he always strikes me as a gentle father, ever patient but ever firm, allowing no deviation along the difficult road--a good and faithful aspect when you are ascending mountain paths without guardrails.

Returning to his company last evening, I took particular consolation (I know, I know, we're not be looking for consolations--but when they come, we can accept them) in this second paragraph of the Prologue.

from "Prologue" to The Ascent of Mount Carmel St. John of the Cross 2. Therefore, in order to say a little about this dark night, I shall trust neither to experience nor to knowledge, since both may fail and deceive; but, while not omitting to make such use as I can of these two things, I shall avail myself, in all that, with the Divine favour, I have to say, or at the least, in that which is most important and dark to the understanding, of Divine Scripture; for, if we guide ourselves by this, we shall be unable to stray, since He Who speaks therein is the Holy Spirit. And if aught I stray, whether through my imperfect understanding of that which is said in it or of matters uncollected with it, it is not my intention to depart from the sound sense and doctrine of our Holy Mother the Catholic Church; for in such a case I submit and resign myself wholly, not only to her command, but to whatever better judgment she may pronounce concerning it.

There is so much in this brief paragraph it is difficult to articulate it all. But ultimately what appeals to me here is the understanding of the limitations of human reason and experience in dealing with the things of God. While both are necessary and useful in their proper place, they are insufficient to give rise to the quality necessary for union with God. In fact, they become an obstacle to that Union if they are attachments. (Of this, I may speak from personal experience--how weak I am when I rely solely upon my intellect and experience.)

Any attachment, no matter how truly good the object, no matter how worthy the activity--this can mean an attachment to saying the Rosary, for example, or an attachment to praying before the blessed Sacrament--impede the progress of the soul in prayer. They do this because they are instances of disobedience, in a sense. God draws us on or in different directions, but we stubbornly adhere to our habits and our patterns.

Also here I see the great humility of a truly great mind that bows before the correction and teaching of Holy Mother Church, as indeed all the great Saints did and all the great heretics refused to do. It is wrong to insist upon your own way in any aspect of church life. For example, it is wrong to insist that one form of Mass is necessarily more holy and more complete than another. While our subjective experience may be better at one Mass than another, and while we may "feel" better, or recognize greater artistry and aesthetic appeal, if the form of Mass has been duly instituted by the Church and duly administered by the pastor, then we are in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Word and in the Eucharist. One Mass may seem to better honor Him, but He comes to us regardless of honor, still the Lamb of God, still the servant/master, still our Brother and our Lord.

Also, I see here the reliance on Holy Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit and duly interpreted and understood in the context of the teaching of the Church, as a wonderful, salutary habit. Too often we rely upon our own resources. Even if we do not fully understand scripture (and there is no one on Earth who encompasses all the meanings and all the variations of scripture in their person) we can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and read in His presence--all redounding to our benefit--so much so, in fact, that in the general grants of plenary indulgences, the active reading of scripture for at least one-half hour is one of three activities that can merit such an indulgence. More, the Church is so certain of the value of reading scripture that such a indulgence may be received once a day.

St. John of the Cross teaches us even when the intent is not so much to teach but explain. His Prologue, intending merely to outline the path up the slopes of Mount Carmel, actually sets the stage for much of what is to come. It encourages the habits necessary for the ascent, and it begins to instill in us the real desire to make the whole trek.

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The Mighty Barrister I'm pleased


The Mighty Barrister

I'm pleased that I finally remembered to find my way to the main page of this weblog. I have long intended to add it, but each time I find a link it is usual to a specific post and truncating the URL did not deliver the proper address. So, after much idiotic fumbling around, I went chez Dylan and harvested this address.

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Something Familiar--for "Not for Sheep. . ."

The blogmistress of Not for Sheep. . . would probably find something quite familiar about the tone/content of the following words:

from "Prologue" to The Ascent of Mount Carmel St. John of the Cross

In order to expound and describe this dark night, through which the soul passes in order to attain to the Divine light of the perfect union of the love of God, as far as possible in this life, it would be necessary to have illumination of knowledge and experience other and far greater than mine; for this darkness and these trials, both spiritual and temporal, through which happy souls are wont to pass in order to be able to attain to this high estate of perfection, are so numerous and so profound that neither does human knowledge suffice for the understanding of them, nor experience for the description of them; for only he that passes this way can understand it, and even he cannot describe it.

The translation is the sometimes less than felicitous E. Allison Peers, but the point is still clear. But it is very much like what many zazen Masters have said of Zen, "He who talks about it does not know it." The experience is indescribable precisely because it is divine and human language can only approximate what pertains to the divine.

What I find interesting is that St. John of the Cross refers to the "darkness and . . . trials" that "happy souls" pass through on the way to this union. One hardly associates the words darkness and trials with "happy." (And even if the word "happy" is being used in the archaic sense of those whom chance has favored--it's difficult to associate the favoritism of chance with dark and trials). And yet these trials are trials I would willingly face if there were the certainty that I was treading the road to union, because no trial on Earth is so great that I would abandon the opportunity to attain Divine Union. However, part of those trials is very likely the uncertainty of the road. Prayer is vast and dry and yields no return--is this because of increasing perfection or innumerable venial sins interfering in the contact with the Divine? That question is one of the difficulties of the road. But what difficulties are not worth facing, if at the end of the road we can experience what St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux all experienced? And I don't refer here to visions, locutions, and consolations, but I refer to becoming as nearly as possible the perfect human vessel and spouse of Our Lord. (Obviously, being sinful, we would fail in the perfection that the Mother of God attained--but still and all we would attain the perfection that God has in mind for us.)

So, we start our Ascent of Mount Carmel with the notion that it is an ascent. Thus, it will involve work, hardship, privation, and other human sufferings in the process of purification. Perhaps tomorrow I will post something from Concepcion Cabrera de Armida that reflects on this from a non-Carmelite perspective, but presents a view quite consonant with Carmelite Spirituality.

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Our Blessings By my recent


Our Blessings

By my recent discussions with Dylan and with Mr. da Fiesole, I have been put in mind of the many blessings God bestows upon us in the course of an ordinary day. Humorously, at the end of a long chain of discussion that included Mr. Da Fiesole, Mark of Minute Particulars (another incisive, and occasionally mind-bending, brain-hurting blog--highly recommended) Kathy the presently blogless OCDS (whom I hope comes to the realization that everybody needs a blog--and thus swells the ranks of the blogging Carmelites) and Mr. Kairos, one of the correspondents wrote to say, "My brain hurts." And that is perfectly understandable. But, mine does not. It feels strangely energized and refreshed as though cobwebs have been swept from it.

So too with Dylan's carefully nuanced, wonderfully understated expositions of Church teaching on the Death Penalty and Pacifism. I thank God for moments like these that remind me that the world is more than my petty web of concerns--that there are great beauties in the mere open exchange of ideas, and we are tremendously blessed to exist in a society where such an exchange is both possible and frequent, even if it is not necessaily encouraged. I thank God for those courageous enough to present views that may be unpopular. And I thank Him for people who care enough to take the time to teach, to lead, and to encourage every one of us in the blogworld.

Of course there are a great many more than those listed here--my side column is filled with such people, and there are a great many others. Today and each day it would be good to remember each of the people who has helped to show us the way by saying a special prayer in their behalf. Thank you all, visitors, commentors, and blogkeepers--you have created a virtual library of inspiration and of praise to God. I cannot encourage or implore you enough to keep up the magnificent, generous work that so buoys up a great many visitors.

Shalom to all.

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Back to Beauty The webmaster


Back to Beauty

The webmaster at Disputations has been a very charitable, accommodating, and wonderful host for this discussion of beauty, will, and desire. Through his example, he has shown how it is possible to disagree and argue points without resorting to ad hominem attacks or useless side issues. In addition, this post and its queries and responses show a very socratic and restrained approach to the education of hoi polloi (among whom I must count myself in this issue). I am a mere upstart pursuing the track of a single notion with the conviction (intuition) that resides deep within me. This makes logical argument occasionally quite difficult because I am acting on intuition rather than argumentation for some of the points made. It is all to Mr. da Fiesole's credit that he draws from such an opponent a reasonable stream of thought rather than mere mumblings on "knowing it is so." By his careful ministration he has forced intuition to find supporting reasoning and assisted me in thinking through this difficult problem. Please go and see this, it is quite wonderful (not my own meanderings, but the direction pointed by the blogmaster). Mr. da Fiesole has earned my eternal (or at least temporal) gratitude. So gracious and charitable a host should be well rewarded for spending so much time with so unprofitable an endeavor, he has my prayers and thanks.

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Query for the Musically Inclined


Query for the Musically Inclined

Is anyone out there familiar with the Glagolitic Mass by Leos Janacek? I heard part of it (probably just the Introit) and it was fantastic. Is the remainder of the Mass similar? I hadn't heard anything quite so lovely in a long time.

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Some Thoughts on Beauty All


Some Thoughts on Beauty

All those who care to do so have had the opportunity to respond, and now I will try to spell out my answers and some of the reasons for the choices of pieces that I made.

1. Pablo Picasso's Guernica--No
2. Pablo Picasso's Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon--Perhaps
3. Dali The Persistence of Memory--Yes
4. Joan Miro Festival of the Harlequin--Yes
5. Georgia O'Keefe Iris--Probably not
6. Monet Impression:Sunrise--Yes
7. Courbet The Seacoast--Probably

8. Debussy La Mer--Yes
9. Schönberg PIerrot Lunaire--No
10. Schönberg Verklarte Nacht--Yes
11. Hindemith Mathis der Mahler--Yes
12. StraussAlso Sprache Zarathustra--No
13. Holst The Planets--Yes
14. Webern Five Pieces for Small Orchestra Bonus question: did he really encode secrets in his music?--No
15. Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta--Transcendantly yes
16. Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Paganini--Yes
17. Vaughn Williams The Lark Ascending--Yes

As we have all seen, tremendously subjective evaluations. I included Guernica because while it is important, powerful, and disturbing, I do not think its moral outrage is sufficient to make it beautiful.

Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon is an intriguing piece that seems to be trying to do more than simply portray the women involved. The idea gets in the way, but the canvas comes closer to capturing that elusive element of beauty than does the other work by Picasso. This may be beautiful in a distant, not-particularly-inviting way.

I think the next two works are frighteningly beautiful. They attempt to capture, and largely succeed something entirely beyond human experience, yet somehow in accord with it and impinging upon it. In that sense they aim at the Divine, and miss by a good deal, but they convey to me a sense of the artist's striving.

The Georgia O'Keefe was included as an example of something that is quite pretty, but I don't know if it qualifies as beautiful. It is certainly intimate and quite close, but I don't know that it reaches to beauty.

Impression Sunrise while not by any means my favorite Monet (probably "Woman with a Parasol" [don't mistake this with "Woman with a Parasol Turned to the Left"]or "La Japonaise") is a beautiful piece because it capture more than just the Sunrise or the artist's impression of the sunrise. It moves beyond the mere subjective in an attempt to find something about all sunrises in painting.

Once again the Courbet is pretty, but I do not know if it reaches to beautiful.

With the exception of the first, these are all paintings that if I were able to buy them at a reasonable price, I would have them in my home. Not for their monetary value, but because they are all pleasant enough to look at, and some are more.

Tomorrow I will comment on the music.

But I see that beauty is an interesting interprise and topic and I am coming to some conclusions via discussion with Mr. da Fiesole about what constitutes beauty--although knowing this is probably insufficient to begin saying why it has the effect that it does.

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Come One, Come All To


Come One, Come All

To the great and good debate on good and pleasure, hosted at Disputations. I am being very challenged (beyond the initial "being challenged" I suffer every day) to think well beyond anything I had considered in detail, and as a result am discovering what I actually believe, right down at the core. It is a genuine pleasure.

Probably not a fascinating spectator sport, but it certainly is a rewarding experience! Join in and see where you sit/stand/fall/roll/tumble/or iceskate depending on seasonal and geomorphic contingencies in your area.

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Happenings About Town Mr. O'Rama


Happenings About Town

Mr. O'Rama demonstrates a far greater capacity for the prose of Mr. MacFarlane than yours truly. (That, by the way, is a compliment, not a slight. Intolerance is not always wrong, but it is most often, even when correctly applied ugly. Tolerance is not necessarily a virtue, but in this case it is)

And Dylan or the artist formerly known as Dylan regales us and challenges us with some sharply worded, carefully considered arguments concerning the death penalty and pacifism. Start at the top and look down through Monday and Sunday.Enjoy!

Oh, and there are some about who are astounded at my quiz and apparent knowledge of art and music. While they have been very complimentary and kind, we all know that the only reason for so profound a knowledge in so impractical a matter is simply lack of a life. And then once you have lack a life long enough, it's just long habit. So while I appreciate the kind words, I am a mere dabbler in all of these things, pretending no greater or more certain knowledge than anyone out there. I just haven't done much of the kind of stuff the rest of you describe, so I lead a vivid life of mind.

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A Summary of the Discussion


A Summary of the Discussion Thus Far

Mr. Luse has contributed an important, condensed version of the discussion on beauty as it has transpired thus far. You would all do well to read it. It will give you a leg-up on the next part of the discussion--whenever and wherever that may occur.

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My Own Survey Answers Will


My Own Survey Answers

Will be published late this evening or early tomorrow to give those who have a weekend life a chance to answer before I answer. Obviously the items chosen were at random and to try to get a sense of whether or not there was among the items something that ever respondent thought was beautiful. We have yet to see. But the question of beauty is one that I find tremendously intriguing and will probably talk about on and off as I continue along in my studies. So far I have been about 1 for 3 in my speculations and thoughts on the matter--but that is good because it means that I am still learning and still capable of learning.

So, those of you who have not yet taken the plunge and answered, please do so. The more people heard from, the more interesting the final result.

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A Form of Confession


This resonated when I read it:

from Before the Altar Venerable Concepcion Carera de Armida

There are immense areas of neglect in my life: I have not always done my duty to my neighbor, or to the members of my family, nor have I fulfilled the most holy obligations of religion.

Instead of seeking God, I have sought myself, I have desired comforts, I have been vainglorious and obstinate in defending my own opinion, I have taken pleasure in worldly friendhsips, and have sought my own gratification even in my special prayer time with you!

How often have I yielded to a desire to have others approve of me, to being too easily hurt, to culpuable weaknesses!

How much self-indulgence, what excuses, what idleness, pleasure seeking, and sluggishness in the service of God; what imprudence, what vainglory, touchiness, cowardice and uncharitableness! O my Jesus, it makes me tremble when I consider that it is the end of the day a, that night is coming on, and that my heart, alas, remains full of vices, stains, and iniquities.

Have not envy, jealousy, and pride invaded even my life in religion, which should have been a life of sanctity; and angelic life, on one of self-immolation?

Where are the humility, the patience, the obedience, the gentleness, the costly victories; where the sacrifice, which was to be the very essence of my life in this community?

All of this from a mother of nine who had written approximately 148 books in her life. All of the saints record these feelings. And they record them not from a masochistic desire to chastise self, but from the true realization of all the opportunities they have missed for loving God completely. Each chance to serve, while often an exercise in humility, is also an exercise in being IN God, of living within Him and His Kingdom.

When we reflect on our omissions and sins, the reflection should be primarily one of how much we have lost by not being available to God. Certainly there are other considerations--heaven, hell, death, and judgment--but all of these seem to pale in the face of the tremendous crime of not living life as it was meant to be lived--in the joy of union with God.

These last things swing like the sword of Damocles over us--impending with threat, but they are considerations that force the sullen flesh into action. We who claim to be of Christ, who do have some vague sort of religious life (at least), do not need them to inspire us to action or to keep us on the right path--though they are always there. What we need to be more in mind of is the infinitely sad missed opportunities to be present to God and to be One with God in His service.

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On the Topic of Beauty


On the Topic of Beauty

As we're talking about beauty, I wanted to recommend a truly beautiful piece of music--Josquin des Prez (variously spelled) Missa Mater Patris. Gregorian Chant is beautiful, but so too are many of these older settings for Mass. Music does spell out the Glory of God almost better than other human activity.

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A Poll, A Query,


A Poll, A Query, Some Questions

As a matter of curiousity, and you needn't leave a name with your answer, I'd like to know which of the following you think is beautiful. Yes for beautiful, no for not beautiful along with the number would be sufficient.

1. Pablo Picasso's Guernica
2. Pablo Picasso's Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon
3. Dali The Persistence of Memory
4. Joan Miro Festival of the Harlequin
5. Georgia O'Keefe Iris
6. Monet Impression:Sunrise
7. Courbet The Seacoast

8. Debussy La Mer
9. Schönberg PIerrot Lunaire
10. Schönberg Verklarte Nacht
11. Hindemith Mathis der Mahler
12. StraussAlso Sprache Zarathustra
13. Holst The Planets
14. Webern Five Pieces for Small Orchestra Bonus question: did he really encode secrets in his music?
15. Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
16. Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Paganini
17. Vaughn Williams The Lark Ascending

Then, if you would append to any answers you decide to leave two further points of information:

What is the most beautiful painting you have ever seen (famous or otherwise) and what makes it so?
What is the most beautiful piece of Music you have ever heard?

I will answer these latter two to get us started.

For painting I will name two because one of them no one other than my family and a few visitors has ever seen.
(1) A painting by my mother of sunset over Pensacola, Fla. because it is by my mother and reflects her feelings upon my father having to leave on a six month cruise in the Mediterranean.
(2)Vermeer-Girl with a Pearl Earring--The eyes, the face, the turban, the light, the perfection of every fold. Oh let's just say all of Vermeer.
(3) Tie--Duruflé or Faure Requiem. Sublime, suggestive of the heavenly, and wholly consoling.

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Dubious Personality Quiz Okay so


Dubious Personality Quiz

Okay so now we're being identified with elemental agents. I did this seven times, trying out many different combinations of answers where I felt there were multiple possibilities and I still came up with this--but somehow don't believe it. The real problem is in the first question--my personality type isn't there.

You're wind! You are a very kind and sympathetic person. Whoever DOESN'T like you has a mental disorder, because you are a loving and caring gentle soul.

What element are you?
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Thoughts Once Again About Beauty


Thoughts Once Again About Beauty

One of the whole points of this strain of thought (and strain it is) is that we need a reasonable, logical, and consistent statement for those who tell us: (a) there is no objective beauty (John da Fiesole has already addressed this); (b) ALL judgments about beauty are necessarily cultural and subjective; (c) things that are patently ugly and (most likely immoral) are both beautiful and worthwhile. There are no arguments that do not have at their roots objective standards that can be used against the latter two. Now, it is possible that others will deny the specifics of the definitions, and thus "refute" out argument. But as the scriptures tell us we must stand ready to provide a reason for the hope that is within us. Part of this hope is made evident by beauty--if we cannot clear our minds sufficiently of the webs of modernism and postmodernism, we will miss this important consideration.

Additionally, we need to acknowledge the possibility that a thing may be beautiful and we do not see the beauty in it (Chinese Opera), but that an unbeautiful thing (elephant-dung smeared Madonnas) may indeed merely be ugly. Once again, objectivity and an objective standard is what is required. With an objective standard we can say, "That may be beautiful, but I do not care for it." Or, in a more important statement, "That is not beautiful and cannot be beautiful." The first statement allows us to acknowledge the preference of others. The second demands of us recognition of beauty and then serves as a guide as we create new works of art. We will have a certain standard to hold up against the modernist critics who will tell us that "Everything is Beautiful, in its own way."

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Is There in Truth No


Is There in Truth No Beauty?

I have always wanted to use this as a title--I love the subtle ambiguity.

Mr. da Fiesole has presented an argument from Aquinas that helps clear up some of the muddle I was getting in over the question of objective beauty, which, I held must exist, but I was uncertain how to define it. It also suggests another way around the question of objectivity, but I'm not certain what it does with all of the other concerns, because it merely reinforces that objective beauty exists.

When reading the argument, read the shorter second paragraph first. It supplies a definition that is critical for acceptance of the longer argument on objective beauty. Now, does anyone know where one might find this argument spelled out? Somewhere perhaps in the Summa, but that's rather like saying, somewhere in the ocean.

My sincere thanks to Mr. da Fiesole.

One thing this clarification DOES NOT do is give any credence to comparatives--"Latin is objectively more beautiful than English." But it does perhaps cause me to rethink some of my statements re: comments by Kairos and others. Given a workable definition of objective beauty, which actually, I think coincides closely with my fumblings, I think I may have to say that it IS proper to say that Handel is objectively beautiful. But it still does leave us with the philosophical problem of beauty. (Why in philosophy is nearly everything a "problem" or a "question?") Well, more on that later.

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Objectivity In order to better



In order to better express this and subsequent posts, it seems I must clarify my definitions, because I think we will find that there is less disagreement when I have made clear what I am saying.

That is objective which admits of no denial, it can be proven or analyzed by innumerable unbiased observers and shown to be true. Facts are objective, opinions, no matter how informed are subjective. Objectively you can show that in any numerical system base 3 and above that 1+1=2. That is objectively undeniable to anyone in his or her right mind.

So too is the statement, "Beauty exists." There may be some controversialists who for the sake of the arguement might deny the statement or "nuance" it out of existence, but everyone, regardless of their notion of beauty, is likely to concur that it exists.

Subjective statements encompass anything not objectively verifiable. "Beauty exists" is objective, "This or that thing is beautiful," is subjective--it admits of no proof other than the opinion of the individual expressing it. Someone says to me, "Beethoven's Symphony Number 9 is the most beautiful piece of music ever composed." I respond, "No, Rachmininoff's Vespers is." Who is correct? Surely you can say which is better crafted according to understandings of musicians (I can't, but there may be experts who can). But can you actually compare the beauty of the two? And if so, is it appropriate to do so?

Thus when I say that a language CANNOT be objectively beautiful, I am not saying that it is not beautiful, I am saying that there is no independent measure that can be placed against it that will tick some meter over into the "beautiful" side of the scale. When I initially wrote concerning Latin and English, it was not the beauty or lack of beauty in Latin that was the matter of contention, but the statement that "Latin is objectively more beautiful than English."

Now I suppose I must back track and wonder if I do believe in objective beauty at all. I suppose in the sense I defined, that the Divine is necessarily beautiful then in the "vault of Heaven" of Plato, beauty can have its ideal and objective form. However, I also know that many people find , Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon hideous and repugnant, and I find it, while not beautiful, endlessly interesting and arresting. My wife cannot stand The Persistance of Memory and I find it transcendant and lovely. I would not say it is objectively beautiful, but I do find it beautiful.

The question comes down to what is beauty?

But that is for another day. For this day, suffice to say that I find myself not in disagreement with much that has been commented on below, but perhaps we are talking past each other and not phrasing the arguments in the same terms.

So, when Kairos Guy says below: "I think Handel is, truly, objectively beautiful, though I cannot tell you why, or more correctly, I cannot tell you precisely what about it makes it beautiful." I have to disagree. Not that I disagree with Handel's music being beautiful, I find it transcendantly so, but that it is objectively so. A person from Singapore, a person raised always with East Asian music in his ears may find Handel abhorrent, they may be moved by it. But how many of us can truly say that we love to listen to the music of a Chinese Opera? Yet, among the Chinese surely this must be recognized as beautiful. Thus, it is not the statement of beauty that is the contention, but the statement that it is objective. Could any number of unbiased observers perform the same analysis and come to the same conclusion?

Now, it is about the second part of the statement above that I am most interested. I do have a thought about what makes it beautiful that ties in nicely with the interchange below about elephant-dung covered madonnas. I believe that beauty stems from the Creator, that which seeks the Creator and seeks to extol His work is beautiful, that which defiles, mocks, and otherwise blasphemes the creator or demeans His creation is not. Now, as with any aesthetic theory, (not philosophical aesthetics), this is preeminently subjective. I can see God's glory in Joan Miro, others do not. Some see God's genius hidden in the works of Webern or Stockhausen (unimaginable to me). So on we go with the consideration.

Why spend so much time? Because I do believe that it is important to hold to things that are Good, True, and Beautiful. In order to do so, we must be able to discern the qualities that make them so. It would be my contention that proximity to Divinity and Divine purpose is what causes something to be beautiful. A sunset over ocean water is beautiful because for a moment we are drawn out of the shell of self and upward into the Divine Melieu (not that I'm coining a phrase here).

This seems important in a world so endlessly involved with itself, so relativist and lost in a post-modernist haze. We need to move away from this and reestablish the bounds to the Good, the True and the Beautiful. And then we need to follow St. Paul's advice, "Whatsoever is good, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is beautiful, whatsoever is of good report. . .think on these things." Why? Because they are all clues, all signposts to the divine.

More later. Still quelling the (metaphorical) explosions and mopping up.

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Additional Advantages of the Latin


Additional Advantages of the Latin Lauds and Vespers

I spoke of having bought this book a little while ago. Subsequently additional advantages have accrued. I find that I never really finish Morning Prayer--at odd times of the morning I find myself going back to the psalms and prayers and reading them, puzzling through them, seeking to better understand the Latin, but immersing myself in the fountain of Grace that stems from spending time with the scriptures. I find that they grow on me, and I want to return to them again and again and again.

Surely such an occurrence is exactly what we look for in the purchase of a book to help our spiritual life. I find it difficult to close the book. Admittedly part of what I am doing is reading the English and comparing it to Latin, finding where the translation is incomplete or in some way inaccurate. But even this intellectual endeavor sharpens my desire for God because it is His word I use. Amazing the way God uses features of our personalities and proclivities to draw us ever closer.

[only tangentially related note] In my entry below re: Latin, there is some discussion of ecclesial v. classical. I have no training whatsoever in ecclesial Latin--all of my training in Latin came in classical Latin and so I use the classical pronunciations. Is anyone aware of a web site that might define the differences in pronunciation, or of a publication I could find that would give me a short key to ecclesial Latin pronunciation? I'm sure that the sounds I make in my head are poor indications of what the language sounded (s) like anyhow. But it would be nicer to have a somewhat better soundtrack.

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From the Stunning Richard Crashaw


From the Stunning Richard Crashaw

It pains me that Crashaw is often dismissed in classes on Seventeenth Century poets with a single poem, or perhaps two, and a words that he is, in fact, a minor poet. Both Vaughn and Crashaw suffer this ignominy, in my opinion, because the majority of their respective opera are religious in tone. Unlike Herrick or Donne, the religious verse is not salted through with lyrics that are just short of salacious (and sometimes not short of it). Crashaw is a Catholic Poet who has been unjustly underrated in Academia and who needs to be better appreciated by the reading public. Following in the strain of my first post this morning, I must declare that the Poetry of the Seventeenth Century is objectively more beautiful than any subsequent verse. ;-P

Two Went up into the Temple to Pray Richard Crashaw (1613-1649)

                Two went to pray? O rather say
              One went to brag, th' other to pray:

                One stands up close and treads on high,
              Where th' other dares not send his eye.

                One nearer to God's altar trod,
              The other to the altar's God.

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I've Declared a Seventeenth Century


I've Declared a Seventeenth Century Day

Fortunately for you, what I declare has little bearing on the world at large. But I wanted to offer you all this wonderful and slight poem for your delectation, delight, and edification.

Mediocrity in Love Rejected Thomas Carew

              Give me more love or more disdain;
                    The torrid, or the frozen zone,
              Bring equal ease unto my pain;
                    The temperate affords me none;
              Either extreme, of love, or hate,
              Is sweeter than a calm estate.

              Give me a storm; if it be love,
                    Like Danae in that golden show'r
              I swim in pleasure; if it prove
                  Disdain, that torrent will devour
            My vulture-hopes; and he's possess'd
            Of heaven, that's but from hell releas'd.
            Then crown my joys, or cure my pain;
            Give me more love, or more disdain.

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Continuing the Previous Strain This


Continuing the Previous Strain

This argument of the (need I say Glorious) seventeenth century:

The Excellency of the English Tongue (printed 1614) Richard Carew of Anthony (1555-1620)

Excellencie of the English tongue, by R. C. of Anthony
Esquire to W. C.

IT were most fittinge (in respect of discretion) that men
should first waye matters with Iudgement, and then
encline their affection where the greatest reason swayeth,
but ordinarilye it falleth out to the conntrarie ; for either
by nature or by Custome wee first settle our affection, and
then afterwards drawe in those arguments to approve it,
which should have foregone to perswade ourselfes. This
preposterous course, seing antiquitye from our Elders and
vniuersalitye of our neighbours doe entitle with a right,
I should my selfe the more freely warranted delirare, not
only cum Vulgo but also cum Sapientibus, in seekinge out
with what Commendacions I may attire our English
Languadge, as Stephanus hath done for the French and
diuers others for theirs.

Four pointes requisite in a Languadge.

Locutio is defined Animi sensus per vocem expressio.
On which grounde I builde these Consequences, that the
first and principall point sought in euery Languadge is
that wee maye expresse the meaning of our mindes aptlye
ech to other ; next, that we may doe it readilye without
great adoo; then fullye, so as others maye thoroughlie
conceiue vs; and, last of all, handsomely, that those to
whome we speake maye take pleasure in hearing vs: soe
as what soeuer tongue will gaine the race of perfection
must runn on those fower wheeles, Signficancye, Easynes,
Copiousnes, |&| Sweetnes, of which the two foremost importe
a necessitye, the two latter a delight. Nowe if I can
proue that our English Langwadge for all or the most is
macheable, if not preferable, before any other in vogue at
this daye, I hope the assent of any impartiall reeder will
passe on my side. And howe I endeuoure to performe
the same this short laboure shall manyfest.

All of which is merely words. Judging beauty by utility might please John Stuart Mill, but it certainly won't make the grade for the vast majority of us.

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On Latin as a Language


On Latin as a Language

Elsewhere in the blogworld I have seen the claim that "Ecclesial Latin is an objectively more beautiful language. . ." I assume the comparison was to English.

Now, this comes as news. I did not realize standards had been established and instruments developed to quantify beauty in any existing thing, much less language. Such objective standards had somehow eluded me in the course of my studies.

Beauty is difficult to describe, much less measure. Is Latin a beautiful language? I don't know--I can say that I haven't been particularly impressed with the spoken version of the language that I have had opportunity to hear, and I have been profoundly moved by the sung version. The same might be said of many languages--German, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, all of which is meaninglessly subjective. To my ears one of the loveliest of languages is Hawaiian, but I cannot quantify its beauty, nor can I suggest an objective measure for the beauty of language.

Latin may be many things--it is certainly a "fixed" language offering limited opportunity for enhancement or change, it is a language with tradition within the church, it is a "universal" language in that it does not change. It presents some difficulties. Being a fixed language, I would suspect that there are a number of modern concepts that are difficult to convey in Latin, thus it must be the work of a large committee sometimes to find the proper words for those documents promulgated in Latin. It is a language that must be translated to all others and the translations of which often involves the interpolation of numerous other words. An example from Lauds this morning: the Latin reads "radii ex manibus eius," which means, literally "rays out of his hand." The English translation "rays flashed from his hand." There is no verb in the phrase, we must provide one. Context gives us a suggested word, but we could put just about anything there and still be erroneous in our translation--rays trickled out of his hand, rays jumped from his hand, rays bounced from his hand, rays radiated from his hand--doesn't matter, there is no verb, so we must supply one.

At any rate, I belabor the point. The use of Latin in the Church is merely and entirely a preference with strong traditional backing. One cannot argue beauty or accuracy (unless one is completely fluent in Latin and understands every syllable) or any other criterion for its preference other than a personal experience. And that is enough. We need provide no more justification for Latin than the fact that we like it. I like the sound of a sung high Mass. I've never been present in a Church during one, but I suspect that it might also be very beautiful. However, there is a part of me that says as wonderful and as lovely as it might be, I suspect that the Lord values more my plain, stumbling English words in which I offer him my love and my life with a full understanding of what I do.

I guess I veiw the whole vernacular/Latin thing as largely a Mac/PC thing. In the Mac/PC debate you have partisans on either side who have remarkably good arguments for their support of a given platform. But the reality tends to be, whatever it was that you did your first major work on tends to remain your platform of preference. So, too, with Latin and Vernacular. Those raised on the Latin Mass are right to treasure that wonderful heritage. Those of us who have not been may admire the beauty from afar, but (particularly those of us with Protestant backgrounds) might have some reservations about praying in a language we do not completely understand. How can I offer God my understanding if I have none, how can I participate in Mass if I don't really know what I'm saying, and if what I'm saying is merely the recitation of words and not something that has rooted meaning for me? I can mumble the Latin with the rest of the congregation--but as with liturgical Slavonic in the Byzantine Church, I may just be saying words.

So, I enthusiastically support those who love Latin, but I refuse to be seduced by arguments that invoke "objective beauty" of a language, or which posit some sort of superiority of expression and reflection due to the fact that the language has been, for all intents and purposes dead for centuries. English is still one of the finest languages for nuances of expression and for conveying ideas and notions than almost any other. It has its shortcomings and its difficulties, but it can be a language of remarkable beauty (see the KJV psalms, or Dylan's Favorite the BCP of the early 18th Century--sorry can't remember the exact date.)

So, I'm not arguing against Latin. I would very much like for the Latin Mass to be more universally available, even though I would likely not go to it often. But I do not like to see weak arguments used in support of a notion that should not need defense. His Holiness has encouraged us in attendance at the Latin Mass and has encouraged the use of the Indult given for the Tridentine--that should be sufficient for anyone. Latin needs no defense, and it certainly deserves better than a false appeal to some form of objective beauty that cannot be measured.

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Rahner Again [warning: syntactical maelströms ahead

A very kind reader directed me toward this article on Rahner's transfinalization and transsignification. What I have determined from my brief reading is that my mind is simply not capable of grappling with the subject at all, but I have an intuition that Fr. Regis Scanlon may have misinterpreted Fr. Rahner's intent. One contention that disturbs me in the argument is that while Rahner rejected Trent's meaning of substance, he rejects the essence of the doctrine of transubstantiation. I think Rahner's rejection of substance comes from the physical reality of bread not being an essence or all of a type, but being a combination of molecules in modern understanding. Perhaps it is out of this reading/understanding of substance that Rahner felt the need to wiggle around and try to explain what happened. I would take a simpler tack and say that while substance may not mean "essence" it certainly can mean substance in the more general sense of the term, and not worry a whole lot about atoms and molecules. On the other hand, I probably don't have a clue what the real problem is and never will, so I will never know where Rahner stood (until and unless the Lord sees fit to reveal it) so I think that after this last post I will simply dismiss the whole mess and let Fr. Rahner and Jesus talk it out between themselves--they don't need my help, and the conversation simply makes my head hurt. However, I did feel the need to post this because the reader who recommended this article came late to the discussion and it would be a shame not to hear an additional voice. Thank you for this contribution, sir.

All others, be forewarned--my skull is splitting, and I am returning to the warm embrace of gentle St. John of the Cross, my director, my guide, and a man who doesn't talk in sentences with seventeen sub-sub-sub clauses. Rather than telling me the exact composition of the Lord, he simply points and says, "Love Him."

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The Paths of St. Blog's


The Paths of St. Blog's Are More Heavily Trodden

I have noted a phenomenon of numbers that I have thought much about and concluded represents something different than what I had initially posited. Starting about the end of November, beginning of December the average weekly number of hits on this blog increased dramatically, by that I mean an approximately 33% boost in readership. Now, of course I attributed this to the sterling prose and fine good sense always exhibited by the ever-modest blogmaster. However, I have concluded that this result is merely a result all are probably experiencing because the blogoverse, like the true Einsteinian Space-Time it is, is expanding due to publicity, interest, or any combination of factors. I am receiving some of the benefit of increasing overall traffic.

To understand the conclusion, you must follow my line of thought. When I started keeping track of numbers I made an assumption that the audience would slowly grow to a point where I had finally gathered all who were interested and then it would plateau. Numbers for September, October, and early November supported this contention. I assumed I had whatever would constitute my regular visitors and that would be my audience. Late November showed a large increase, and so too with December and January. My only conclusion--a large influx of visitors brought by way of articles in popular media including the Web.

All of this by way of saying, be on your best behavior, we have new visitors all the time, and their picture of Christianity may in some part be drawn from what is going on here. (Although, I must say, I doubt explorers of Christianity spend much time stumbling through blogs; however, one can never tell where the seeds one plants--be they good or bad--are likely to sprout.) As I am ALWAYS on my best behavior I consider myself exempt from my own advice. :-D!!

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As It Has Already Been


As It Has Already Been a Ranting Day--Cautions to St. Blog's

I don't know how I overlooked this wonderful post by Mr. Gil of Ibidem. Please make the time to consider this carefully. I think it has some wonderful advice for us all.

Part of my lengthy response to Mr. Gil:

I agree with all that you say and think that we need to heal division and heal the trauma done the Church by well-intentioned individuals. Ms. Knapp, some time back, posted in a similar vein asking us to accept our Catholic Brethren as brethren.

I have many disagreements with some on some issues that are fairly important in human terms, but so long as the person I am debating with says and lives that "Jesus is the center of my life and the crown of my existence," I can live with our disagreements.

I think particularly of a wonderful woman in my parish who attends Mass every day, has an obvious devotion to and love for Our Lord, and desires every bit as much as I do to carry that love out to the whole world--yet she thinks that there should be women priests and that priests should be married. She disagrees on matters of concern and importance, I will never agree or concur with her there, but I will love her and I will love the beautiful devotion to Our Lord that she shows through her prayers and through her corporal works of mercy. I doubt seriously that St. Peter or Jesus will be standing at the gates of heaven and say, "Well, I see that you fed, clothed, provided shelter for and nursed the poor of your parish, but you DID think there should be female priests--begone from here."

Thanks to Tom Abbott of Goodform for pointing it out. (You might consider going there and reading his breakfast post--very interesting and a sign of some of the good that can come out of blogging.)

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Cause for Rejoicing I rejoice


Cause for Rejoicing

I rejoice in the fact that my off-the-cuff apologia for nearly continuous logorrhia has elicited such profound and sympathetic responses. There is great material for reflection in the comments box attached to the post referenced above. Thank you all for your insights and kind words. Until God calls me to not write (as eventually He did St. Thomas Aquinas--or so one assumes), I shall continue, hopefully obedient to the small talent He has seen fit to grant me.

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On the Pursuit of Truth


On the Pursuit of Truth

Marvelous post Chez Kairos this morning , on the pursuit of truth. I was tempted to simply copy the whole thing, but that would not be respectful nor courteous. So please go and read it. I reprint my response to the post here, because I think it makes a nice diptych with the previous post.

Not looking for the Bulverism, I cannot but agree with the essential premise. One must be willing to abandon all for the Truth, because in the end the Truth is All in All. We find many little "truths" but, if they are valid, they will always be signposts for The Way, the Truth, and the Life. The point of any argument or any discussion of integrity, or indeed of any purposeful and meaningful activity on Earth is to find this Truth. Without it, all else is dross, faded finery, and ultimately flames of woe.

Aside: While we're on the subject of Kairos, I hope you are all are praying for Kairos and family as they enter this transitional time. In addition, extra prayers for Mrs. Kairos and Kairos baby are in order. I should post this every day, but my laziness and seive-like memory know no bounds.

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On the Necessity of Standards


On the Necessity of Standards

Yesterday, in a comment on my post regarding Christian writing, an anonymous commenter pointed out that there is large leeway for appreciation of literature and one need not brush aside what might well be truly entertaining and edifying work. Once again, I paraphrase, but I hope charitably, and there is much to recommend this statement. However, it is critical for the Christian to realize that we are not allowed this aesthetic distance or this removal from the arts and culture.

The case we were talking about concerned explicitly "Christian Fiction." Dylan offered two quotes that crown and summarize my ruminations of yesterday. But also provide a springboard into the discussion of standards necessary and proper to the realm of literature and the necessity for upholding those standards--strenuously if pressed.

from Dylan's Comments The relevant Merton sentence (it seems applicable to fiction as well) would be : "A Catholic poet should be an apostle by being first of all a poet, not try to be a poet by being first of all an apostle. For if he presents himself to people as a poet, he is going to be judged as a poet and if he is not a good one his apostolate will be ridiculed."

Not all that far from Oscar Wilde's dictum that there are no moral or immoral works of art, only good ones and bad ones, that is, artistic and inartistic.

The first of these quotes will be the basis of the remainder of this discussion because the second (which is a paraphrase, but does sound very much like one of the late 19th century decadents) must be regarded as erroneous. There are, of course, moral and immoral works of art. The writings of the Marquis de Sade, of Sacher-Masoch, and even of J.K. Huymans (I'm thinking here of Lá-Bas and Au Rebours) can be regarded as patently immoral in genesis, content, and consequence. There is little or nothing salutary in the works of the Marquis de Sade, although the writing itself is not bad--the impulse of the writing is immoral and the stimulation of prurient interest of a untoward sort distinctly immoral. Judged by criteria of impulse and likely result, one must conclude that a work can be immoral. So too, works can be moral. If the result of reading the Bible is a lifting of the hearts and minds to God, one must regard the work itself as a moral work. So I cast aside the first part of Wilde's assertion as the excess of his time. The second part, however, is also true. You can have very, very fine immoral works--works of profound aesthetic beauty that are corrupt at core--and these are tremendously dangerous. Nothing leaps directly to mind with this regard because most of the very fine writing I know is at least a mixed bag of things and often would come out on the side of moral work. But I do acknowledge the possibility. And you can have dreadful moral works. Indeed, the vast majority of what is trotted out for us as exemplary "moral" fiction is so aesthetically awful as to call into question the nobility of morality. One classic example of this are the works of Samuel Richardson. Even given that the novel as such was hardly a genre, beginning just to assume a form, Pamela was deemed such a wretched excess of a work that Henry Fielding was moved to write his magnificent parody Shamela.

That said, one must also acknowledge that profoundly moral works can be quite beautiful. And this is part of the point of holding up standards. I have no beef with people who choose to read Left Behind and even to recommend it to others. I suppose the work can support one's faith, and I have heard tell that it has even convinced some to return to the Church. These are good works. However, I am impelled to point out that this is not the work I want to exemplify Christianity in fiction (for my purposes from now on, I will refer to this genre as Christian Fiction, not meaning the contemporary genre of fiction written by Christians for other Christians, but fiction written by a Christian, not necessarily with the purpose of evangelization, but with a profound sense of the Christian view of the world--works exemplified by the writings of Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, and Evelyn Waugh.) One of the reasons I do not wish for this to happen is that people get the notion that Christians are incapable of producing anything worthy of our attention.

To see what I mean, look at Religious Art, Architecture, and Music from roughly 1300 to the present day. One hardly sees a vestige of the grandeur of Chartres in most modern Architecture. Where are the Raphaels, the Botticellis, the Carravagios? Our standards have declined, due in large part to the onslaught of modernism, but also tainted by relativism in recent times. "One mans dreck is another man's art." This, ultimate relativist statement is one that should not be allowed to taint the vocabulary of ideas we carry with us. There is room for legitimate disagreement about what constitutes art. But there are also standards, which when not met, exclude a work from serious consideration. One would hardly wish to compare Left Behind (which, as bad as the writing is is hardly the worst of its type) to Dorothy Sayers, much less to Shakespeare. If Left Behind had the quality of Dorothy Sayers in any of its myriad points, I would argue that it was at least first rank popular fiction, if not literature.

Another difficulty that has made discernment of quality very difficult is the phenomenon of fandom--of flocking together for the protection on one variety of writing or another against a perceived hostility from the outside world. An exhibition of this phenomenon occurred when the "Best Catholic Novel/Novelist" award recently went to Bud McFarlane. I don't wish to detract from Mr. MacFarlane's very valuable ministry, but his fiction is such to make Left Behind look like Jane Austen. From wooden writing, plot, and character, all meant to be pedagogical and evangelical in some sense, to ponderous length, Mr. MacFarlane's work leaves one aching for the days when one could look forward to Endo's next work. To award such an title to Mr. MacFarlane is simply a matter of fandom and not a matter of truly evaluating great Catholic Writing. While I have yet to read any of David Lodge, I am informed that he is a very fine writer. Ron Hansen, Jon Hassler, Muriel Spark, and Torgny Lindgren all leap to mind for contenders, and far better contenders for a "Best Catholic Novelist" award. Their works are highly literate, tightly written, and stirring. Most of them would probably not make inroads into "popular fiction," and that perhaps is what we should consider the award given to Mr. MacFarlane.

At some time in the future, I will take the time to carefully spell out just what my objections are to this writing that I find less than exemplary. But for the time being, I stand by my contention that it is necessary and salutary to evaluate even "Catholic" works, whatever they may be, by the rule one would bring to any work of literature. We do not glorify God, nor do we produce any reasonable argument or persuasion to God's way by committing literary crimes. Speaking as one who was finally led back to the Truth by the powerful words and works of Gerard Manley Hopkins and C.S. Lewis, had I first encountered works of the caliber of Left Behind I would have fled the scene immediately. One, quite unfairly, tends to associate the quality of such works with their inspiration, and from that one could only produce a picture of a God of profound and irredeemable Mediocrity. Fortunately there is sufficient evidence elsewhere that this is not the case, and it is the cause of current Catholic and Christian writers to show that the God we worship is ever a God of Glory, Beauty, and Power who is, in fact, beautiful beyond the most beautiful image we can muster, and worthy of all praise, thought, and love. If we write about a God who is anything less, we deprive others of their rightful heritage. This is not to say that all such work should be condemned, because it certainly has its purpose and its audience, but it also should not be extolled. When we write of Christian Fiction and literature, we should demand of it what we would demand of any other work of literature, coherence, beauty, power, interest, and intelligence. We must not abdicate our standards to relativist proposals. We need to support writers who write about the Christian experience and demand of them their very finest work. We owe this to the present world in disarray and to posterity that will come to treasure such works, as we treasure works of the past.

This returns us to Merton's quote above, "A Catholic poet should be an apostle by being first of all a poet, not try to be a poet by being first of all an apostle. For if he presents himself to people as a poet, he is going to be judged as a poet and if he is not a good one his apostolate will be ridiculed."

The only legitimate way to argue for the Catholic life, is to live it to the full and to allow it to infiltrate every part of our being. Then the exercise of our writing--our poems, essays, and novels--will ring out with an authentic Catholicity as well as a profound aesthetic beauty that will be all the more convincing for its appeal. Live your faith and inevitably you must write it because it becomes an inseparable part of you.

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A Liturgical Know-Nothing

That's how I think of myself. So long as Jesus is treated in a manner appropriate to Lord and King, I don't get too upset with the doodads and hangers on. Yes, I know there are arguments against holding hands during the "Our Father," against female altar servers, against kneeling or not kneeling, receiving on the tongue or not doing so--but most of that stuff is simply incidental to my participation in the Divine Presence. However, some things simply cross the line and today I saw one such.

After distributing communion the Priest and an extraordinary minister stood in the middle of the aisle and unceremoniously dumped Jesus from one serving vessel into a ciborium. I was shocked and aghast. What if they had spilled Him to the floor, if they had dropped the sacred vessels? What sense of the sacred does this convey to the congregation? Is this allowed? Is this appropriate?

I recalled my daily Masses in Northern Virginia, where the Stigmatine Priest had all sorts of special cloths and packages for the sacred vessels and the normal cloths that went with them. They took the cloth that commonly lays on the altar under the vessels that contain the Matter, and folded it carefully and placed it in a gold-embossed kind of cloth folder. Then they took a magnificent cloth-of-gold veil that the placed over the chalice--the folder was placed on the chalice and the two carried away with all due ceremony. In addition the priests spent a goodly amount of time cleaning the vessels. I had a distinct sense of the understanding of the sacred under these conditions. But what I witnessed this afternoon suggested the attitude of stock-brokers in Scrooge--a middle-of-the-street haggle.

Now, to be fair, this doesn't happen often--this is the first time I've seen it in two years. But it should not happen EVER. It seems to me that all due consideration and caution should be observed when handling the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of the Lord. I know that Jesus forgives this little slip-up, but I sometimes wonder if perhaps stricter observance to things that are not so critical might not make people more aware of the meaning of their actions. I'm sure I'm overreacting, but I was horrified, and I guess scandalized--particularly if I see fit now to comment upon it.

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Not for Sheep. . .


Not for Sheep. . .

Please visit Not for Sheep. I was fascinated at similarities to my own story.

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Reflections on Blogging It staggers


Reflections on Blogging

It staggers my imagination that anyone should want to look a second time at anything that I post here. I don't know if anyone does. But if not, that begs a question: if all of this is ephemera, why write? And once again, I'm back to the oldest of old answers, an answer that one who is not so driven cannot even begin to fathom--I cannot NOT write. There is no choice. So even if no one ever gives a single word here a second glance, I am "assured" a momentary first time audience and the writing is seen by more people than see what is present in my notebooks. Whether it does them any good or not is up to them to decide. But for me writing is the critical thing, and like prayer (should be) even when I am not writing, I am writing. It is a twenty-four/seven activity with no pause or reprieve. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now. . . to get my prayer life to function the same way.

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Dialogue of the Carmelites The


Dialogue of the Carmelites

The blogmeister at Cacciaguida has the remarkably good taste to post excerpts from Bernano's Play/Libretto to Dialogue of the Carmelites. This is the story of the Martyrs of Compèigne, also compelling told in William Bush's very fine To Quell the Terror (available from ICS publications--see left column). I've read that Bernanos based much of his work on an earlier work Song at the Scaffold by Gertrude von le Fort. I have not been able to read this latter work, but it is still in print, and, inevitably perhaps, on my list. Meanwhile, enjoy these brief excerpts of the Dialogue.

Personal Note: It takes perhaps a more refined muscial taste than my own to truly appreciate Poulenc's work--it seems much too dissonant and twelve-tonish to my untrained ears, but I could be misremembering. I do recall my initial reaction was about the same as my reaction to Alban Berg's Wozzeck but then my taste in Modern Classical Music is extremely narrow. Trust those who are better informed in these matters.

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A Lesser-Known Carmelite Saint I


A Lesser-Known Carmelite Saint

I do not blog lives of Saints or such things, as there are many blogs that do a far better job of it than I could do. However, I chanced upon this wonderful reference to a lesser known Carmelite Saint--Saint Peter Thomas, at Mr. Cahill's blog. Visit and learn more.

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Urgent and Ongoing Prayers Needed


Urgent and Ongoing Prayers Needed

Please pray for my very dear friends Katherine and her family as they are suffering through some significant hardships at the present time. Pray for healing and for transformation in the family and for God's grace and illumination on their path in life. Thank you.

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Being a Writer I work,


Being a Writer

I work, after a fashion, as a writer--although that is not my title. However, I have always been a writer. There are a number of us blogging--people who write, not because they like to, but because NOT writing simply isn't a possibility. Even if we were not composing weblogs, we would be writing something. Some of us have shelves full of notebooks that consist of sketches, stories, poems, and writing from all times and ages. Some of us are actually published--some of us aspire to be published in a way that actually brings in some money. But there are several, perhaps many writers in the community.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is the need to serve as your own agent for a while--the need to put forth your work. To some extent the artists of visual media have an easier time of it. You might have difficulty getting a gallery showing, but once there, people can see the merits of the work. A writer's work is a good deal more difficult to evaluate. It is an art-form that is not readily reduced to the level of visual impact, liking or disliking. As a result, relatively few writers are published. Those that are usually have a proven track record. A track record that often, as the writing continues, develops into a self-indulgent oeuvre that editors fear to touch. And there is another problem--it seems that the current crop of editors and copy editors needs some work. So much homage is paid the almighty dollar, that the most excessively self-indulgent whims of a Stephen King, or a Stephen Jay Gould are indulged in order to put the work before the public.

Sturgeon's law notes that 90% of everything is rubbish. That includes much of the writing that is in the world at large. I go to a bookstore crammed full of new releases and find vanishingly few that are really worthy of the attention that they are getting. But worse than this--I pay far more attention to these things than they are really worth. How is what I am reading affecting my relationship with God. Many of us excuse some of the most deplorable habits in reading and in viewing popular culture with the excuse that it is merely entertainment--we can't be "on" twenty-four hours a day. And I think it is in that that we err. The Saints had their recreations and without doubt did their share of reading. St Teresa of Avila even confessed to having a fondness for the courtly "novels" of her day. A fact that she rued because it took time away from what she should have been focusing on.

As a writer, I am concerned about contributing to this vast deluge of dreck. I am concerned, but not overmuch. Part of our mission is to bring Christian concerns into real writing and to bring Christ to the masses. Now, much of this is done in such an enormously heavy-handed way that no one in their right minds would consider for a moment taking any of it seriously. For those who have not yet indulged themselves, glance at the hideous prose and endless religious hammering of the Left Behind series, a series guaranteed to alienate you from Jesus if you believe that this is the kind of art and entertainment that must extol Him. We have lost a sense of the Christian novel, precisely because culturally we have lost a sense of what it means to be "in the world but not of the world." I read the "Christian" novels of John Updike and I am left wondering--what manner of Jesus does he believe in? Where is the Christian worldview that permeates each of his works (supposedly). My conclusion is merely that he represents the New York Review of Books and New York Times view of acceptable, liberal Christianity.

Those of us who write need to make our voices heard after the fashion of Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy. We need to reconstruct truly Christian novels with Christian themes that give the reader a glimpse of the majesty of Jesus, not those that drub the reader about the head and shoulders with characters that drip piety and act like everyone else in the world around them. The Christian novel used to be the norm--it was the understood understructure of every piece of writing because it was the understood platform that held up the entire western world. Not so any more. Faith itself is practically a vanished commodity. Where is does appear, it is often an enemy or an agent of intolerance and misunderstanding.

What Christian writers need to do is first to live fundamentally Christian lives, steeped in an understanding of what that really means. While we can be aware of popular culture, it is probably salutary not to indulge in much of it. We need to understand what makes great writing and what persuades people. Finally, we need to make the reality of Jesus Christ known to people. The reality that penetrates a life in Christ should be translated to the page and made real for the reader. Augusta Trobaugh comes to mind as someone whose novels are permeated with faith, belief, and the Christian Ethos, but who doesn't feel the need to have someone falling on their knees every two pages and uttering a long, rambling, and largely idiotic prayer to Jesus in Mars' drag. The reality of a faith-life is that we do not fall down on our knees every forty-five minutes (though perhaps we would be better off for doing so) and yet we can carry on a conversation and a communion with God on a fairly constant basis.

We have a number of writers here, and I (to my great shame) have not yet read much of the work. (Don't do much in the way of internet commerce since two of my friends had their entire bank accounts wiped out for a couple of months thanks to internet transactions). That is a next step. Ms. Lively ran an excellent Catholic Writing discussion group over at Yahoo in days of yore, and now maintains her own blog and a number of other sites centered around Christian and specifically Catholic writing. Those who are seriously considering Christian and Catholic Fiction writing would do well to check out some of these sites and works. Those looking to apologetics would do well to check out the finest in apologetic writing because you cannot write what you do not love. If you aren't a "fan" of serious Christian writing, you should not consider trying to write for others. If you do not care for the great classics of the faith and for the serious writing of the present day then it would do writing a better service to find a field that you do care for and work it as carefully and as exactingly as possible. We do no credit to Jesus when we write reams of junk prose extolling His virtues. Christian Writing is doubly exacting because it calls us to both the highest standards of writing and the highest standards of living. Our writing can only reflect our living--we rarely rise above ourselves--we must be lifted up and it is far better for this to happen through the Holy Spirit than through the Aesthetic spirit.

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People of the Worst Case


People of the Worst Case

We have ever been a people of the worst case. It is easy to track in our popular entertainments. In the late sixties/early seventies we had The Late Great State of California that had people buying "beach-front property" in Nevada in the expectation that California would slide off into the sea. In recent years we have had meteor impacts (Armageddon and Deep Impact, plague The Hot Zone, Twelve Monkeys and Outbreak (among others). We have this tendency to look for and expect the worst. I sometimes wonder if this isn't a spin-off of Toffler's Future Shock--the rate of change is so great that we expect everything to snowball. And of course, these things are not completely outside the realm of possibility.

But sometimes these fears are magnified, played upon, and manipulated for purposes that defy understanding at the time. And we need to be wary of that manipulation. We must always be aware of the possibility, but we must not buy into the hysteria that is a desirable commodity among those who are issuing the propaganda. I'm always a little suspicious of any message that starts with a "Don't Panic" warning. Obviously, we are being told that there is something worth panicking over. We live in uncertain times--if we spend all of our time in uncertainty, it will be deadly not only to our emotional lives but to our spiritual lives.

All of this by way of prelude. Our security is not here and now. The human tendency is to cling to the here and now--it is what we can see and what we can hold. Here and now is where we live--but it isn't the end of life because one day we shall live in eternity which is the only security. All human things shall fail--all human concerns shall pass away. They must be dealt with as they happen--and certainly there is no harm in making provision for them by way of insurance and wills. But the truth is that our knowledge is limited, our understandings not crystal clear, we do not see very far into the future, and what we do see is obscured by our own prejudices and agendas. Rather than looking to the future and to what may happen and what might be, we would do far better to look to Who Was, and Is, and Is to Come. In that Person there is assurance, security, certainty--a future we know and believe in completely. God is our Father and it is His great desire to welcome us back into the Family of His Son. With such a Father, why would we worry so about all of these human things.

The hard truth is that we will all die. We will all "lose" loved-ones. We will all suffer great hardships, such that all other ordeals seem inconsequential. And we can either do this on our own, or we can do this in complete confidence of God our Savior. We can spend our time worrying about all the possible contingencies of our age, or we can rely on God and pursue our lives in the here and now, understanding that the unexpected may happen, and like the wise Virgins, keeping the lamp stocked with the oil of prayer and spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

The times are uncertain--we do not know what lies ahead. But we do know that whatever is there, Jesus is Lord of History, Lord of Our Time and All Time. With complete confidence in Him, instilled through meditation, fasting, and prayer, we can move ahead into whatever the future holds knowing that it little matters what transpires in our brief lifetimes, "Men are like grass in bloom today, fuel for the fire tomorrow," because the real matters are matters of the spirit--matters beyond the selfish and self-involved concerns of the moment, matter of eternity.

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On the Word Irenic


On the Word Irenic

I really like the word irenic because it appears to embody a paradox. Etymologically it is completely separate from the seeming cognate that makes up the first syllable and a half. Irenic and ire have nearly opposite meanings, and yet, the one word comprises 50% of the other. If you did not know the meaning and had no dictionary to hand and someone referred to some else as irenic, you might make a conjunction with splenitic, and thus conclude that the personality involved was prone to anger.

Trivial, I know, but the kinds of things that flutter through the mind of one who really, really loves the English Language. (Though there are days that you would be hard-pressed to tell it from the quality of the entries on this blog).

We should all strive to be irenic persons. Or perhaps ironic persons. (That was my second thought on seeing the word for the first time--someone had a typo!)

Irenic and ire, all the difference in the world from their Greek and Latin (respectively) roots. Sometimes it is good to let the roots show.

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Pray Early and Pray Often


Pray Early and Pray Often

Rumors of impending difficulties have become much louder in the past few days. Many reservists are being called to active duty. These men and women and their families need our prayers and our support. For the men and women engaged in action, our constant support of prayer and fasting (we can sacrifice a little for the spiritual benefit of those who sacrifice much). For those left behind, our emotional, physical, temporal, and if necessary financial support. Some few make a tremendous sacrifice on behalf of all of us.

Most particularly, please pray for Mr. Eric Johnson, a contributor to the Catholic Light blog--a man with two probably youngish children and a third expected within five weeks. Unfortunately he will be leaving for active duty within the week and not returning, so far as he can tell, for six months or more. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

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Dejection--At Long Last, an End


Dejection--At Long Last, an End

Here's the final portion of the ode:

from Dejection: An Ode Samuel Taylor Coleridge

            Hence, viper thoughts, that coil around my mind,
                       Reality's dark dream!
            I turn from you, and listen to the wind,
                  Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream
            Of agony by torture lengthened out
            That lute sent forth! Thou Wind, that rav'st without,
                Bare crag, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree,
          Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb,
          Or lonely house, long held the witches' home,
                Methinks were fitter instruments for thee,
          Mad Lutanist! who in this month of showers,
          Of dark-brown gardens, and of peeping flowers,
          Mak'st Devils' yule, with worse than wintry song,
          The blossoms, buds, and timorous leaves among.
                Thou Actor, perfect in all tragic sounds!
          Thou mighty Poet, e'en to frenzy bold!
                     What tell'st thou now about?
                     'Tis of the rushing of an host in rout,
                With groans, of trampled men, with smarting wounds--
          At once they groan with pain, and shudder with the cold!
          But hush! there is a pause of deepest silence!
                And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd,
          With groans, and tremulous shudderings--all is over--
                It tells another tale, with sounds less deep and loud!
                     A tale of less affright,
                     And tempered with delight,
          As Otway's self had framed the tender lay,--
                     'Tis of a little child
                     Upon a lonesome wild,
          Nor far from home, but she hath lost her way:
          And now moans low in bitter grief and fear,
          And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear.
          'Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep:
          Full seldom may my friend such vigils keep!
          Visit her, gentle Sleep! with wings of healing,
                And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,
          May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,
                Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth!
                     With light heart may she rise,
                     Gay fancy, cheerful eyes,
                Joy lift her spirit, joy attune her voice;
          To her may all things live, from pole to pole,
          Their life the eddying of her living soul!
                O simple spirit, guided from above,
          Dear Lady! friend devoutest of my choice,
          Thus mayest thou ever, evermore rejoice.

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On Heresy For a markedly


On Heresy

For a markedly sane and gentle chiding of some of the recent goings-on here, please see this post. While this is an extension of some of the discussion, I would be the first to say that later error does not abrogate solid early writing (thus my defense of Merton and DeMello). But I particularly like,

In my own limited exposure to modern theologians, I've found I'm far less likely to be convinced of error than to fail, more or less entirely, to understand what I read. This contributes to a suspicion that modern heresy hunting consists in saying, "Don't read Rahner," to people who wouldn't read Rahner for a dollar a minute.

Just because God is simple and salvation is simple, it doesn't follow that theology -- much less the language of theology -- is simple. Maybe that's why there are corporeal and spiritual works of mercy, but no literary or speculative works of mercy.

Quite a salutary course correction. One is compelled to explain that as a former protestant (this one at least) one is constantly concerned that he may be straying off into the fields of heresy and inadvertantly teaching error--perhaps one of the reasons I spend much time being very cautious regarding what I read and recommend. But Mr. Da Fiesole is correct, for the vast majority of us the wells of Schillebeekx and Rahner are perhaps a trifle overdeep, and a good deal too turgid for deep draughts or even shallow sips. We need not concern ourselves with Pope's warning:

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.

As most of us are well content to leave that spring alone. Thank you Mr. da Fiesole.

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And Another An interesting and


And Another

An interesting and euphonious short poem with some slant rhyme and half rhyme nice cadence as well. From Ron, blogmeister of The 7 Habitus.

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A Lovely and Unusual Poem


A Lovely and Unusual Poem

From the blogmeister at Sainteros: nothing more to say, just read it here. My thanks to the poet for sharing it with us.

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Epiphany/Happy Birthday This is the


Epiphany/Happy Birthday

This is the day Epiphany used to be celebrated, and may still be celebrated in the Orthodox church--although I'm thrown off by the whole Gregoiran/revised Julian thing that goes on there. But it IS the anniversary of the birthday of St. Gaspar del Bufalo--my prayers and best wishes for a wonderful day to all of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and their lay affiliates. Thank you for being part of St. Blogs and contributing so heavily to the wonderful spiritual writing here!

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Fr. Rahner, continued As part


Fr. Rahner, continued

As part of my penance for introducing the topic and for any part I may have had in contributing to continuing misunderstanding of his writing and work, I will track what others have said they would offer. And I start with this post chez Father Jim recording a few remarks of Fr. Rahner on the Eucharist. I was amazed at the unusual clarity and lack of usual apparatus in the writing. (Even if there are no problems with Fr. Rahner as a theologian, his writing is often quite (forgive me Matthias) Germanic in its elaborate construction, and frequently festooned about with the technical language of the theologian, with the ultimate result that reading a single page can often require more effort than an entire chapter of Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy." (On a huge aside--there is an electronic version of the latter in preparation and when it emerges as an e-file I do plan to regale you with some of its insights). The reflection on the Eucharist is disarmingly direct and powerful. Please go and enjoy. It would seem to me that if this is truly Fr. Rahner's thoughts on the matter, no one could possibly contest his belief in what the substance of the Eucharist is. I see no indication that he regards it merely as a sign or a symbol or anything other than the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.

Many thanks to Fr. Jim for posting this.

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Actions Speak Louder than Words


Actions Speak Louder than Words

And I think that is true in the spiritual life as well. We have a number of readers who are seeking to enter the Catholic Church, and with that seeking (depending upon the background from which the people emerge) there are often difficulties with some of the teachings of the Church. Sometimes, particularly when we are uncertain of a teaching or uncertain of our own belief, we need to take positive action that would result in a positive change. Sometimes we may doubt God's mercy or His loving kindness. Our doubts come, from our experience of ourselves. We know that we are not so good and not so unalloyed. However, when we act upon something as a matter of truth, we are transformed. Sometimes we may have trouble with a doctrine or an idea put forth by the Church. If we act upon it, however mildly and place it in God's hands, we can be converted, through grace alone, to the reality of the supernatural world.

An example from my life: I was raised a Baptist and entered the Catholic Church not fully in tune with all aspects of Catholic Doctrine. Most particularly, I was virulently anti-Marian. Through time, I came to be cooly neutral but said to myself, "This is not enough." So I took up the practice of praying to God to reveal to me what He would have me know of His Mother and I bowed before her statue with an "I salute you, even if I am unsure of you." Through time the "I salute you" became, "I love you." And, of course, the other half of the phrase vanished entirely. I did nothing myself to encourage that love, but now I have an image of Mary in nearly every room of my house and feel that those places lacking Marian presence are somehow empty. I went through the outward motions--obedience, after a fashion--and God did as He would with the interior. We must act on belief and pray for the interior change that makes that out action more real. We are finite--as much as we like to think we know it all, we do not--and there is no shame in not knowing. The shame comes from insisting upon our ignorance and acting upon it in such a way as to cause scandal and division.

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Continued--Dejection I was so fond



I was so fond of the sound of the poem yesterday, that I thought I would "serilaize" in order to make it more palatable to modern audiences. Sometimes long poems are daunting. But they should not be. One need read only what one can at a sitting and one may return to it. Dejection is not so long that the whole of it cannot be read in say ten minutes or so. But our schools have so firmly entrenched in our society a fear of poetry such that if a poem should run longer than a sonnet most people run screaming. So, now on to our feature.

from Dejection:An Ode
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

        O Lady! we receive but what we give,
          And in our life alone does Nature live:
            Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!
                  And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
            Than that inanimate cold world allowed
            To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,
                  Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth
            A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
                       Enveloping the Earth--
            And from the soul itself must there be sent
                  A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
            Of all sweet sounds the life and element!

            O pure of heart! thou need'st not ask of me
            What this strong music in the soul may be!
            What, and wherein it doth exist,
            This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,
            This beautiful and beauty-making power.
                  Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne'er was given,
            Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,
            Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,
            Joy, Lady! is the spirit and the power,
            Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower
                  A new Earth and new Heaven,
            Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud--
            Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud--
                       We in ourselves rejoice!
            And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
                  All melodies the echoes of that voice,
            All colours a suffusion from that light.
            There was a time when, though my path was rough,
                  This joy within me dallied with distress,
            And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
                  Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness:
            For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
            And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.
            But now afflictions bow me down to earth:
            Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth;
                       But oh! each visitation
            Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
                  My shaping spirit of Imagination.
            For not to think of what I needs must feel,
                  But to be still and patient, all I can;
            And haply by abstruse research to steal
                  From my own nature all the natural man--
                  This was my sole resource, my only plan:
            Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
            And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.

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An Offering for a Friend


An Offering for a Friend

One of the great poets of the Romantic Age:

from Dejection: An Ode Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Dejection: An Ode

Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
With the old Moon in her arms;
And I fear, I fear, my Master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.
(Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence)


Well! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made
The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade
Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,
Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes
Upon the strings of this {AE}olian lute,
Which better far were mute.
For lo! the New-moon winter-bright!
And overspread with phantom light,
(With swimming phantom light o'erspread
But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling
The coming-on of rain and squally blast.
And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,
And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,
And sent my soul abroad,
Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live!

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear--
O Lady! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo'd,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green:
And still I gaze--and with how blank an eye!
And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give away their motion to the stars;
Those stars, that glide behind them or between,
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen:
Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;
I see them all so excellently fair
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!

My genial spirits fail;
And what can these avail
To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?
It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze for ever
On that green light that lingers in the west:
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.

How many of us actually remember that there is an emotion called dejection? A state of being that is suspended somewhere in the vicinity of depression and melancholy, but which is also different in ways difficult to describe. So, here is the beginning of one of the most famous descriptions of this state of being, and one of the loveliest poems about emotions other than love in English.

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Lauds and Vespers in Latin


Lauds and Vespers in Latin

Many who are interested may already be aware, but there are perhaps some who are not, that Lauds and Vespers in Latin have been published by Sceptre Publishers (the press that does much of the Opus Dei/Josemaria Escriva publishing). I just found it today and snapped it up. As configured it is only really good for Ordinary Time as all the seasonal antiphons and responses are missing. But for Ordinary Time and for a compact edition, it has much worthwhile.

In addition to the obvious pluses of having Latin and English, it is edited by Fr. Peter Stravinskas, whom I have come to trust on matters liturgical--he seems to be balanced in his opinions and practices (balanced, but leaning very heavily on the side of tradition.) This will likely become the edition I cart to and from work each day and that I take with me on business trips. Another plus is that the English Translation leans heavily on the RSV-CE, which means overall a more euphonious psalter.

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On Father Rahner and Other


On Father Rahner and Other Controversies

First, my thanks to those generous-spirited people who stopped by to help clear up some of the difficulties involved with Father Rahner. As with many theologians who are working largely beyond the concerns of most laymen, it can be very easy to misinterpret what he is saying. Without proper training in the use of terms and a fairly thorough understanding of the background of the matter being discussed, it would seem that one could easily misread such theologians. Fr. Balthasar, for example, has been accused of teaching universalism, when nothing I have read has made any suggestion of the sort. Others have been accused of various other modernists heresies. I sited the "Our Lady's Warrior Site" because they were one of the few that sited Fr. Rahner alone, without the entire panoply of every modern theologian.

One conclusion I have drawn from this is that the vast majority of Fr. Rahner's work is probably NOT appropriate for spiritual reading for the vast majority of those of us without degrees in theology. It is obvious that one could become confused, disoriented, and experience potentially serious disruptions in spiritual life. However, Fr. Jim has said that he may post some Eucharistic meditations. In addition, I have a book of prayers that I find good reading.

On Father DeMello--while I know that some of the later works are said to be syncretistic, I have not found this in my reading. I have found much of his writing extremely helpful, and I read the Vatican Notification as perhaps a bit over-cautious. However, given the tendency of people to go to extremes, it is probably salutary to warn those sould inclined to embrace things without reservation, that caution should be employed in approaching these works. I have read much of DeMello's early work myself, and have profited greatly from the insights provided--but I would be cautious about the ones I would suggest to others to read. I feel that to a certain extent I come with a kind of built-in protection. Having been a protestant for quite some time, I have "my antennae" up for things that do not sound orthodox. Some of these I'm inclined to dismiss as my overly suspicious mind, others are serious concerns. For example, Matthew Fox comes to mind as one who is immediately recognizable as a problem even in early works. Be that as it may, I think that many may benefit from reading Fr. DeMello so long as they bear in mind that certain tendencies might be present, particularly in later works, that could be misinterpreted. One of the difficulties with the notification on Fr. DeMello's work, if I recall, is that it was issued after he was dead, and thus not able to revise or explain what he intended by some of the "errors" noted in the notification. I have read some writings by close friends of Fr. DeMello that suggest that he may have been misinterpreted.

As in all things--caution and charity. St. Ignatius of Loyola advises us that if something can be interpreted as in-line with Church doctrine, we should do so. If it is obviously in error, then we should take care to correct the error, preferably privately, with the individual involved. Overall, a very charitable policy.

I do want to once again extend my thanks to all of those who so generously spent time and energy trying to help us understand some of the controversy surrounding Fr. Rahner. Ignorance may be worse than heresy, for at least with heresy, you have hold of part of the truth; in ignorance, you are completely blind.

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My Warmest Appreciation My thanks


My Warmest Appreciation

My thanks to all of those whose prayers helped to buoy me through what could have been a very bad day. Thank you all.

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Another Blog From One Entering


Another Blog From One Entering the Church

Y'all may want to stop in and say hello to Mr. Cuddy at The Directed Path. He has already said some very interesting things, and I expect future insights along the path will be equally illuminating. Even if you don't stop in, please remember him and Will of Mysterium Crucis, and all who are pondering the faith in your prayers.

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Spiritual Direction Once Again I


Spiritual Direction Once Again

I suppose you can't tell that I am a real enthusiast as far as Father Dubay goes. The following passage really spoke to me, and after you have a chance to read it, I'll tell you why.

from Seeking Spiritual Direction Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

Carefully moderating enthusiasm for extraordinary phenomena While religious minded people often perceive a need for guidance in their pursuit of God, perhaps the most acutely felt need occurs among those who have been converted from a life of serious sin or from mediocrity. The former are often enough confused as to where to turn and what to do, while the latter need both encouragement and enlightenment. There is a third group that decidedly needs guidance, even if they are unaware of it. I refer to men and women who feed on excitements of various types: outlandish liturgies, for example; or claims that this seer or that one is in contact with heaven, usually in the person of Our Lady. Not only do these 'seers' need direction, but so do those who flock to them, who avidly read everything about alleged locutions and vision, who build their spiritual lives on the latest reports of what the Mother of Jesus is supposed to have said.

Part of the problem here is that many of these people tend either not to seek guidance about the alleged phenomena or to disregard the advice if it runs counter to their personal convictions. Most likely this type of situation is precisely why St. John of the Cross seems to come down so hard on those who think they have supernatural visitations and either make much of them or refuse to let go of them when instructed to do so. There are likely to believe almost any claim to a supernatural intervention, whether is be a message or a cure or some other miracle. What they resist believing is that just possibly they may be mistaken. (p. 58-59)

Now, this is in no way to detract from legitimate, Church-approved apparitions, etc. However, for every approved apparation there must be dozens and dozens that have no approval. A recent example threatened one Carmelite Community in our area. They invited a speaker to come in and talk about the visions of a woman named Deborah in Australia. They started talking about something called the "Magnificat Meal movement," or something of the sort. They spread this infection into the community and indoctrinated any number of people, who then went to other communities with the message. Shortly thereafter the Bishops of Australia issued a strong condemnation of this visionary's teachings, and we had to intervene in several communities to prevent people from continuing because, of course, the visionary was reporting the Lord's words (or Our Lady's) and a bishop is, after all, only a bishop.

I know that I do not espouse a popular sentiment when I state that I will await the Church's FINAL determination on any vision, locution, or private devotion. When it has been through all approved channels, and if the Lord speaks to me strongly through another person or supernatural means about following this, then I will do it. Until then, there are too many temptations to human vanity, to many appeals to human credulity, too many opportunities to go astray. The spiritual wealth of the Catholic Church is so great that were I to begin exploring every legitimate channel and expression right now, I could continue for a great many lifetimes and not begin to exhaust them all. These new things may be for us, they may be for the future. Just as when the Rosary was first proposed, it may have excited some at the time, but it has become a prayer for all time. I do not need the novelties, though I will not eschew them if the Lord invites.

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On Karl Rahner


Back when I was asking for recommendations for reading, I mentioned Early Karl Rahner and was asked why. When I responded I was told that I was completely wrong about Fr. Rahner, wrong about Fr. DeMello, and an ignorant newbie whose benighted continuation of this calumny was a sign of all that was wrong with newcomers to the Church. I overstate the case, but not the tone of the reply. In a partial reply, I posted a link to the "notification" concern Anthony DeMello, which may have been retracted at this point, but I saw no evidence of it. Now I approach the question of Fr. Rahner. From Our Lady's Warriors (I don't vouch for the accuracy of the source) this statement concerning Rahner's teaching:

From Our Lady's Warriors Website On Karl Rahner Karl Rahner--Proposes a "transfinalization" or "transignification" which claims the "meaning" of the bread changes after Consecration - a symbol - rather than the Bread really and truly changing into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This heresy is specifically condemned in the Pope Paul VI Eucharistic Encyclical Mysterium Fidei.

Now, the analysis above may be a misreading of what Fr. Rahner wrote. However, it may also be true--if true, it would suggest that Fr. Rahner did stumble into error later in life. If not, the charge should be answered and laid to rest. I do not like to report unsubstantiated rumor as fact, and it took me a while to find where I had read this and what the particular difficulty was.

Now, I would say that this means that Fr. Rahner stumbled into a serious theological error (if indeed it is so stated in his works) and I have no idea whether he responded with due humility or outright defiance. Fr. François Fenelon also stumbled into error, but submitted his works to the correction of the Church. Much has to do with the attitude of the one in error. Theologians--all theologians make mistakes--they do not speak with magisterial authority. Theology, in some ways, is an experimental science. The experiments take the form of thoughts and propositions that must be tested against church understandings. The humble theologian recognizes the potential for error or misstatement in his work and submits it to the teaching authority of the church.

I have found sufficient additional, reliable questionings of Fr. Rahner's later work to give me pause before plunging into it. Admittedly, I have also found innumberable Feeneyite slurs and "traditionalist" (in the SSPX sense) aspersions, to give me reason to doubt the accusations made against him. What is the agenda; what is the authority. Nevertheless, when this type of controversy swirls around a figure, it seems most wise to stand back from the area of controvery and not to indulge oneself with the thought that "I can find the truth in this matter." I do not know if I can, in fact I doubt my ability to do so. Therefore, my caution remains firmly in place. Even more firmly when I see the good editors of America, that bastion of Catholic Orthodoxy, running to Fr. Rahner's defense with Fr. Häring and Fr. (?) Schillebeckx in tow.

I do not like controversy, no more do I like off-hand ad hominem remarks that impugn the integrity of a great many people in one fell swoop. One may say what they wish about me, and they may well be right--but when uttering remarks about a large group of people, one should be very, very cautious. Such judgements do not weigh lightly.

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Blogspot The servers at Blogspot



The servers at Blogspot are giving some interesting results once again. If you act now, you may find yourself sent to a random site by clicking any one of the links to the left. Try you luck on the wheel of Fortune--never can tell where you might wind up.

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On the Necessity of


On the Necessity of Spiritual Direction

From Fr. Thomas Dubay--

from Seeking Spiritual Direction

Detecting mediocrity or inner weakness Were it a knowing being, lukewarm water would hardly perceive that it is "neither hot nor cold" (Rv 3:15). So also in human affairs progress cannot be ascertained except in terms of some norm of excellence. Whether it be tennis or basketball, scholarship or medicine, music or law, philosophy or theology, performance is evaluated in terms of the best. In matters religious, the Incarnate Word of the Father is the supreme norm.

Yet, there are more than a few people in our churches on Sunday morning who are quite satisfied with their moral and religious behavior. Polls report high percentages of the general population who feel they are clearly on the path to heaven, and few who fear the possibility of hell. These people may be well-mannered and respectable and decent in their conduct. But they regard thirsting after God and the holiness of the saints as visionary, high-flown, romantic, perhaps even fanatic, and certainly not required of themselves. Newman wrote of these men and women, "They have a certain definite and clear view of their duties; they think that the summit of perfection is to be decent and respectable in their calling, to enjoy moderately the pleasures of life, to eat and drink, marry and give in marriage, and buy and sell, and plant and build, and to take care that religion does not engross them.

One may say that their standard of concern with God and their own eternal destiny is a refined mediocrity, surely nothing resembling and absorbing pursuit of God as "The one thing necessary." (pp. 55-56)

Too true (for me) to be entirely comfortable. I like to think that I am ardent in my pursuit of God, but if I use any measuring stick--for example, am I further along the path to union today than I was last year at this time, I'm afraid I fall terribly short. I feel the Holy Spirit, Hound of Heaven, straining at that interior leash and occasionally pulling me along, or pulling my spiritual shoulder out of joint, and my primary reaction (though unwilled) is to say, "Bad dog, heel." But thank goodness for the yearning, because it is the only thing that comes close to keeping me on track.

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The Best Way to Learn


The Best Way to Learn

Last night, casting about for a way to organize my future reading, I happened upon a statement of St. Francis de Sales, which I must necessarily paraphrase at this point. He said something to the effect that reading and talking were good ways to learn, study and examination were better ways, but the very best way to learn something was to teach it. This I can speak to from experience. In order to teach anything, you must crawl inside of it and really get to know how it works. A superficial knowledge is untenable because what you will then convey to your students will be a mass of confusion without focus. Better still, if you both practice and teach, but the necessity of teaching requires an intimate knowledge of your subject matter.

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And One More From the


And One More

From the aforementioned extremely long poem

from In Memoriam, A. H. H. LXXVIII Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Again at Christmas did we weave
        The holly round the Christmas hearth;
        The silent snow possess'd the earth,
    And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

    The yule-log sparkled keen with frost,
        No wing of wind the region swept,
        But over all things brooding slept
    The quiet sense of something lost.

    As in the winters left behind,
      Again our ancient games had place,
      The mimic picture's breathing grace,
  And dance and song and hoodman-blind.

  Who show'd a token of distress?
      No single tear, no mark of pain:
      O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
  O grief, can grief be changed to less?

  O last regret, regret can die!
      No--mixt with all this mystic frame,
      Her deep relations are the same,
  But with long use her tears are dry.

Dedicated with love to MSR--choirs of angels sing thee to thy rest.

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A Classic, but It


A Classic, but It Serves the Purpose

From the pen of Tennyson, who wrote one extremely long poem in a similar vein:

Break, Break, Break Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Break, break, break,
        On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
    And I would that my tongue could utter
        The thoughts that arise in me.

    O, well for the fisherman's boy,
        That he shouts with his sister at play!
    O, well for the sailor lad,
        That he sings in his boat on the bay!

    And the stately ships go on
      To their haven under the hill;
  But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
      And the sound of a voice that is still!

  Break, break, break
      At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
  But the tender grace of a day that is dead
      Will never come back to me.

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Study Guide for The Ascent


Study Guide for The Ascent of Mount Carmel

It is with not a little trepidation that I make this available to all. No matter how one goes about it, there is a certain amount of presumption in producing such a guide.

I don't know its worth as it is untested material. Please send any feedback you, or anyone you know how may use it, may have. It would be nice to have the series of these available to any who hope to study The Ascent of Mount Carmel in the future.

A few caveats. The edition used for this study is the Complete Works of St. John of the Cross from ICS publications. I do not pretend to be expert in these matters--I am not. I am a student as anyone who choses to undertake these readings. As a result, expect limitations. Also, the audience I am writing for needs direction not just in the esoterica but also in the basic flow and connection of the ideas. Much of the study guide is aimed in that direction. I can assure you that I will endeavor to improve the quality of this work as it continues; however, feedback would be most helpful.

Anyone who wishes to is welcome to use this. If you have a study group or other group that needs to use them, please feel free to make copies for them--but include my name and contact information so that I can use any feedback to improve them. If you have need of it, write to me at my email address, and I can send you a Word-formatted doc so that the whole thing looks a bit better.

Without further ado, here it is:

Study Guide for The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Assignment 1: p. 114-123—Prologue, Book I—Chapters 1, 2, 3. Read through the assigned pages at least twice. The first time get an overall sense of what is being said. The second time you may want to pencil in “subheads” for each section or small groups of sections. For example, a subhead for the Prologue sections 5-7 might read: On Spiritual Direction. (Sections are numbered in the text)

Study Questions
Section 2
What is to be St. John’s primary help in discussing “this dark night”? Why?

Section 3
Why do soul not advance toward union with the divine? Which of these is most likely in your own case? Take this consideration with you to prayer and/or adoration.

Sections 4-5
For whom is this book written? For what purpose? What does St. John of the Cross have to say about spiritual directors? What should you be looking for in a spiritual director?

Sections 6-7
Note at least three cautions St. John gives regarding spiritual direction and directors.

Section 8
Why will some have difficulty with this doctrine? (Ignore St. John’s explanation of his own inadequacy.)

Section 9
What essential quality does St. John demand of all those for whom the book is intended?

Book 1 Chapter 1

Sections 1-3
What and how many are the “nights” a soul passes through? What is the ultimate goal? At what points should one expect these nights?

Section 4-5
What does St. John of the Cross tell us about ridding ourselves of appetites?

Book 1 Chapter 2
Section 1
What are three reasons for calling the journey toward union a dark night?

Sections 2-5
Where does St. John say the dark night is represented in Scripture? Read these scriptures. How does St. John interpret the instructions of the Angel?

Chapter 3
Read this chapter several times—it is extremely difficult at first and only becomes clear with additional reading and prayer. Pay particular attention to section 4. Paragraph 2 of section 4 is a critical key to this portion of the reading. Note the first sentence. What is the difference between “lacking” and “nakedness?” Write an example using John’s analogy of the sense of one that lacks and one that is naked. What is another word for this nakedness? How does one attain it?

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Request for Prayers Hate to


Request for Prayers

Hate to be selfish, but really must--please pray for me today--the day, unbidden, weighs very heavily on mind and heart. Thanks.

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Translation Engines I am astounded


Translation Engines

I am astounded by the work of many translation engines. While they are hardly perfect for any language, many times one can piece together a basic sense of what is being said using the translation and a rudimentary understanding of the language. But what amazes me is that the language family from which English supposedly derives is amongst the poorest in actual translation into English. German must be a highly inflected language, for here is an example of a translation from an engine from Credo ut intelligam:

Marvelous BabelFish translation

Mysterium Crucis because the in this country normal catholic usually desperately of the church and because its orthodoxer with catholic despairs of his normal with catholics, a Web log does such as Mysterium Crucis well: There one discovers the truth, not only well oekumenisch irenisch interreligioes dialogisch its own, in the catholic church but the truth of the world. Thanks A plumb bob, wants. God bless you.

Here's the original:

Original from Credo ut intelligam Mysterium Crucis Weil hierzulande der normale Katholik meist an der Kirche verzweifelt und weil sein orthodoxer Mit-Katholik an seinen normalen Mit-Katholiken verzweifelt, tut ein Weblog wie Mysterium Crucis gut: Da entdeckt einer in der katholischen Kirche die Wahrheit, und zwar nicht nur gut ökumenisch-irenisch-interreligiös-dialogisch seine eigene, sondern die Wahrheit der Welt. Thanks a lot, Will. God bless you.

I am a cripple polyglot with only French (modern and Old), minimal Latin, and Welsh in my bag of language tricks--as a result I can puzzle out much Spanish (although probably with ludicrous errors in some simple matters). I read some Academic German, which is largely a matter of stringing together English cognates and looking up the verbs. But I would probably do better at attempting to make some sense of the message than relying upon the engine which says absolutely nothing to me at all. I'm particularly intrigued by the hyphenated string (which of course is completely untranslated) does it come out to something like, "ecumenical-irenic(peace seeking)-interreligious-dialogue?"

Oh well, it looks like I will just have to rely upon the occasional communication of M. Matthias, blogmeister of Credo ut intelligam. But those who read/understand German, please go to his site. It looks like there is a well of worthwhile material there.

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On St. John of the


On St. John of the Cross and Detachment

Mr. O'Rama is evidently enjoying the works of one of the great Carmelite thinkers. One of the points St. John brings up over and over again is the question of attachment to things, even to good, wholesome spiritual things. Mr. O'Rama notes it in this passage:

from Dark Night of the Soul St. John of the Cross

Many can never have enough of listening to counsels and learning spiritual precepts, and of possessing and reading many books which treat this matter, and they spend their time on all these things rather than on works of mortification.

And that is the human way--we spend our time swirling about the center of the matter but never progressing toward it. This may be a problem that speaks loudly to those inclined to blog. St. John consistently teaches about detachment--when a bad or even a very good thing impedes our progress toward an important goal (unity with God) that thing must be discarded. Not literally, but one must develop true detachment from it. This work of detachment seems to be two-fold--we must begin it with an act of will that firmly states that we wish to be detached from it, but then, through the work of prayer, we must seek the grace to be truly detached from it. Only the work of grace will do this because seeking to become detached from a thing is rather like tar baby, the more we seek to extricate ourselves, the more enmeshed we find ourselves. To use a timely example, when we seek detachment on our own, we are rather like Bilbo Baggins giving up the one ring. While we may surrender it, our minds turn upon it and in odd ways continue to seek it and it continues to dwell on our minds and within us. We may be detached from the physical object, but we are not detached from the thing itself. That work, that freedom from bondage, was purchased for us by Jesus Christ, and it is only through the grace of God that final detachment comes. However, that doesn't mean we can roll around in our materialist delights and wait for God to one day decide we will be detached from these things. Nor does it mean that we can continue to pursue such things as "spiritual reading" or other ways of hiding from God and wait for Him to peek through. We must take steps, will an end to such attachments, and read only what He would have us read, either for enlightenment or recreation (it's important to remember that even in the Carmelite Foundations of St. Teresa of Avila, recreation was considered an extremely important part of a well-rounded approach to God.)

This is one of the reasons why a good spiritual director is so crucial to our advancement. While we can get some notion of the way to go through prayer, scripture, and discernment, we are also capable of tremendous self-deception. A spiritual director can actually assist us in finding direction, guide our reading, and assist us in organizing a prayer life. This is also the reason why one must be most careful in finding a proper spiritual director--one who is holy, who has experienced deep prayer with the Lord or union itself, and who is courageous enough to actually direct rather than subject one to the Rogerian--"How do YOU feel about that?" "What do YOU think of that?" form of directionless directing.

Detachment is NOT easy, but it IS absolutely necessary. One of the things I have said to my Carmelite group to startle them into the reality of detachment is that we must be detached even from those we love most. Perhaps especially from those we love most. St. John points out that this is the only way love can increase. There are two points I would like to make regarding this--one the continuation of what I point out to my group, the other an example from C. S. Lewis.

I usually continue to say that detachment is not indifference--it is, in fact the opposite. Detachment means that you recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Other (assuming of course that they are of age for appropriate independence) and that by detaching yourself from them, you are floating them in the ocean of God's merciful love, rather than leaving them in the dry-dock of mutual codependence. Often our "love" carries with it a tremendous psychological and physical price. Detachment allows us to love, completely, passionately, entirely, and yet not attempt micromanagement of another's life. It allows us the distance to pray and to bring this person constantly before God, but the intimacy also to be available when that person begins floundering his or her way toward grace.

The second point comes from a moment in C.S. Lewis's magnificent work, The Great Divorce. There we see a mother who loved her son more than anything on Earth. Encountering him in this strange space (likely purgatory) she attempts to bring him once again under her "loving reign." She attempts to get him to understand how much she sacrificed for him, how her whole life was centered about him, etc. As she continues, we see the picture move from loving mother to matriarchal tyrant. That is what we become when our life is centered on anything other than God, and if we are not detached from loved ones, we cannot be attached to God. God is holy and singular, He is simple (see, I do know a bit of Aquinas!) and demands fidelity and simplicity from us. If we intend attachment to God and then spend all of our time fussing about other things, we are not simple or single in mind, we are duplicitous. "You cannot worship God and mammon."

So I use the radical example of loved ones to examine the true necessity for detachment. Now, before I continue, I must say that I'm a better evangelist than practitioner. I KNOW all of this, but it has yet to find its way to a place of action. (Isn't it amazing the way sloth obtrudes its poisonous head into nearly everything?) Knowledge must become action or all is lost. But I do know the path and I do see what is required, which means I've taken one step. Now it's time to start taking the others. And I do pray, and I do make feeble motions of the will. It's one of the reasons why St. Thérèse of Lisieux speaks so loudly to me--if I recognize my infancy in the Lord, I have a better chance of turning toward His grace and allowing it to work.

I've gone on far too long at this point. But St. John of the Cross is much on my mind these days, and perhaps 2003 can become a better year through true application of his teaching rather than following my own way for yet another year. Please pray for me.

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Once Again, Happy New Year,


Once Again, Happy New Year, Blessed Solemnity!

And my entry for the day: Reading Hitler's Niece I stumbled across an explanation of the name of the city of Munich: in German München. According to one of the characters, München is a corruption of a phrase including the word Mönchen, meaning "The Place of the Monks," so named because 12th or 13th century Franciscans founded the town and a number of breweries there. Don't know the veracity or historical accuracy of this, but quite interesting if true--a light on the past otherwise unshed.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2002 is the previous archive.

February 2003 is the next archive.

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