March 2003 Archives

Expect this Week To be


Expect this Week

To be a little light and much flurried. Very, very, very, very busy week ahead. Overwhelmed with what there is yet to accomplish so hunkering down to weather the storm. But there will probably be some evening activity in between preparing the next study sheet for my Carmelite Community.

However, know that you are all in my prayers, and prayers continue nonstop for peace in the Middle East.

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Speaking of Spong On the


Speaking of Spong

On the other hand, I was much dismayed by my good Quaker friends. I walked into their meeting house during the annual meeting of Friends. Of course there was much in the way of anti war paraphenalia (hardly surprising given the Friends), and also, unfortunately, on a small rack of materials for purchase, Spong's "Why the Church Must Change or Die." I don't know if this is indicative of the nature of this chapter of the Friends, but if so, let us all pray that they find their way again.

A while back, perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere, someone questioned the use of the term "Orthodox Quaker." Well, if these people follow that book, let us say they are not Orthodox anything.

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Speaking of Canterbury While in


Speaking of Canterbury

While in Philadelphia I visited, as a matter of course, Christ Church where, despite religious differences the members of the Continental Congresses worshipped together. The Church is gorgeous, vaguely reminiscent of the Old North Church in Boston, but, as was ruefully explained to me by a very nice shopkeeper, "The Old North Church has its original Pews, these are only 125 years old. However, Christ Church is the Mother Church of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Moreover, it has an absolutely gorgeous "wineglass" pulpit, one of three (I'm told) in the united states. And it has the uncomfortable and charming tradition of interring major donors and important people in the floor of the church itself. Further, they explained that the Church is now "Low Church." But I was pleased to see almost no signs of the pernicious influence of Bp. Spong and company.

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Project Canterbury Strikes Again

With a remarkable PDF of Denison's translation of De Sacra Eucharista of Adrian Saravia.

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The Schizophrenia of Christianity

At some point in the recent past T.S. O'Rama posted a link to an article about the writer/philosopher Sayyid Qtab--said to be the inspiration for the present gaggle of terrorists. On the plane home I read that article and it seemed to me that Qtab had at least one very good point--one that I have often wondered about and pondered without any real success at unraveling the conundrum. Its seems that Christianity is very conflicted about what interaction one should have with the world. "Be in the world, not of it."

To give you an example of what I mean--I'm always surprised when I think about those most devout of Jews, the Chassidim, and the fact that a great many of them have no problem with working in the diamond industry and making scads of money. I'm sure that there are some very good Christians who also have no problem with it, but often the making of money seems to run counter to the spirit of Christianity. It is often difficult to think of someone who is wealthy and saintly, without having donated their way into poverty and then living among the poor and needy.

Particularly relevant to this discussion is the peculiar, painful, sometimes abstrusely argued and tortured teachings on sexuality. I will not argue their correctness, as a matter of obedience I accept them. But I wonder, the God who revealed his covenant to the Jews is the same God who gave us Jesus. Why is it that among the Orthodox Jews we do not hear of such complicated, involved, and complex doctrines. In the third major religion concubinage and multiple marriages were perfectly acceptable up until the middle of the twentieth century or so, and yet many of these men were practicing their faith (one assumes) devoutly. Solomon had some huge number of wives, and we hear not one whisper of disapproval of this blatant sexual expression.

So, why is Christianity so conflicted about it. Yes, we claim to teach that the gift of sexuality is good, and yet. . . do not the Orthodox Jews do likewise without all of the additional ornaments, rules and measures. It seems that while we dumped the vast majority of the law, we took upon ourselves some huge new measure of it.

Just a problem, a thought, a comparison. I do find that there is much about Christianity that is at least paradoxical, and sometime downright problematic. And I do not exclude the teachers of my own order who constantly dwell upon the goodness of created things and then tell you to have little or nothing to do with them.

Is Qtab right? Is Christianity schizophrenic? If so, how do we bring the mind, spirit, and body back into one beautiful confluence? If not, how do we ease over these bumps in the road and how can we make our own system of living more coherent, more clearly integrated, more fundamental to the paths we tread. If we wish to battle the radical factions of Islam, as the reporter rightly noted, it will have to be on the battlefield of ideas first. If Qtab launched the first salvo, how do we respond to it? What are the apologetics for the apparent rift we place between mind and body. Even if none exists, too many live as though faith can be carefully stored away and not lived. Obviously not the way things should be.

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Back from Philadelphia And I


Back from Philadelphia

And I must say that it's a good thing to be back before predicted snowshowers.

However, the trip was magnificent. Didn't have time to get to the surrounding countryside but did see a good deal of the city including the Old Wannamakers (Now Lord and Taylor) department store, the Strawbridge and Clothier that W.C. Fields worked at, the magnificent Chinatown gate and much of the historic district including two trips to Indepedence hall.

Ate at the most magnificent Dim Sum place in Chinatown. The person who took us there was Chinese so we got the Chinese tea and menu--quite a treat. Also ate at some place called Avenue B--has to be the best food I've had in ages.

But the highlight as always was the historic district--more on that later. Need to talk about Reading Terminal market and the magnificent Amish/Mennonite pies/cakes/cinnamon rolls/ and cookies that would send you into a cholesterol spin like you wouldn't believe if you lived there.

Oh, and the reason I was there. The convention was good--I saw the finest presentation I've ever seen at one of these on Nanotech, light-emitting diodes, Gallium Aresenide and its solid-solution series, and the X-ray diffraction patters of DNA. Well done, splending research and utterly fascinating glimpse into the future of tech. Hope some of this comes about soon.

But it is good to be back. Much catch-up to do.

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Shameless Plugs Don't forget to


Shameless Plugs

Don't forget to stop by and participate in the Catholic Book Discussion blog. (The adjective Catholic here largely refers to them as is doing the discussing--although there is the usual smattering of writing BY Catholics that gets discussed as well.)

We (the keepers of the Chapel--Kathy, Melissa, and Steven) also invite you to stop by Our Lady of Loretto Carmelite Chapel and join us in prayers for the needs of St. Blog's Parish and the world at large.

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Two Samuel Stories As much


Two Samuel Stories

As much as I wanted to, it looks like home-schooling is not a viable option for us for any number of reasons, so I have sought out a private school where Samuel could be prepared to enter Kindergarten. Okay, now you may all gasp with horror when you hear that I finally decided on a rather strict and, it appears, wonderful Baptist preschool. It was all that we could afford and the only thing that was local. In addition, unlike the Catholic Schools near here, they have a uniform (so too the Catholic Schools) but extremely strict restrictions on other things that may be brought to school--No Barbies, G.I. Joes, Pokemons, Digimons, Scooby Doos, Bratz, etc. In addition, they DO NOT celebrate hallowe'en but they do observe individually the President's Birthdays, Martin Luther King Jr. day, Good Friday, and Columbus Day. Any way, enough of my defensiveness--this is what we needed to do and after much prayer and soul-searching, what we ended up with.

Samuel came home the first day of school with a picture representing Jesus in Heaven looking down on St. Stephen. When I asked him to tell me about the picture this was the story he told--"Some bad people threw rocks at Peter Pan and when he died he went up to heaven where Jesus was with Peter Pan." Yesterday he came home with a picture of Jesus healing the Leper. When asked what the story was there he said, "There was this man with sores and Jesus hit him and his sores were better." And finally, today, he came home with a picture of Jesus and the woman at the well. When we inquired as to what piece of wisdom he derived from this he said, "This is a man Jesus, and this is a lady Jesus." We asked about the Samaritan woman, and he said that she was not a Samaritan woman but just a regular lady Jesus.

In addition to this remarkable education, apparently they teach prayer at school. All afternoon he persuaded his mom and me to fold our hands, close our eyes and repeat after him, "Dear God, thank you for our school. Thank you for this day. Thank you for our friends. Amen." So all you out there in blogland have the sincere and beautiful prayers of a four-year old to tide you over.

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The Proper End of Knowledge


The Proper End of Knowledge

The as-always perceptive and incisive John da Fiesole (direct link not working, scroll down and look for "Entr'acte") is studying and asking questions about "necessary universalism." More interesting than the particular question is some of the issues raised when the method of study is questioned.

I wanted to address some of these issues at greater length than a comment box permits, so I drew out a comment on which I will digress for a bit.

And why was Scripture given to us, if not for us to engage in "the monumental task of completely exploring scripture for the truth"? What, the truth in this matter of universal salvation? Yes -- albeit not directly -- since this matter is intimately bound up in the questions of Who God is and who we are, the answers to which are the purpose of Revelation.

This is a most excellent question and seems to point to a key difference in the charism of the Carmelite and Dominican Orders, or perhaps to key personality differences in an approach to God. My answer to the question of "why was Scripture give to us, if not for us to engage in 'the monumental task of completely exploring scripture for the truth'?" is very simple. It was given to us to teach us to love. For many long ages a great majority of people could not read the Scriptures. What they knew of them came in the Liturgy of the Word and perhaps at various Catecheses; however, they did not sit and study scripture to discern great truths. They listened to scripture as a lover listens to a letter from the beloved. Incarnate Love came, not to lead us into the paths of speculation and theory, but to teach us to love. Anything that does not lead directly or indirectly to this goal is a waste of our energy and resources, and very possible quite dangerous. Thomas a Kempis points out several times the dangers of seeking to know for the purposes of knowing.

So my answer is that we were given Scripture so that we would know God, not know about Him, nor know about various doctrines and dogmas related to Him, but so that we would know Him as Father and as Lover of humankind. That said, pursuit of the highest truth in doctrine and dogma is one of the paths whereby we come to know and understand Him. However, it is not the only path, nor is it necessarily the highest road. It fell to Bernadette, a unlettered, nearly ignorant French peasant girl to confirm the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but this did not come from tremendous study and insight, but through obedience and love. St. Thomas Aquinas wrested great truths from the storehouse of divine Scripture, but in the end, he recognized that his efforts were as nothing. (Obviously they are not, but they are to one who is rapt in the motion of Divine Love.)

The key word, as you suggest, is "beginning." The process of understanding is unending, at least in this life (and possibly in the life to come); there is a rhythm to it, as our temporal intellects look first there, then there, then back here, all the time (ideally) growing in the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

"The process of understanding is unending,"--good so far as it goes. But understanding is not the highest goal--love is. Perhaps understanding leads to love--but again there are other routes. As St. John of the Cross points out--"To understand everything, desire to understand nothing." The via negativa the provides a poignant counterthrust to our attempts to grapple with God intellectually. We must grapple with God at the level of the heart, and for many that intellectual grappling is a fortification that keeps God away from the territory He must claim if we are to be transformed.

It is these gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the personal encounter with the Word of God that is possible when we read (or pray) Scripture, that puts a limit on your point that "no matter what you arrive at by reason, reason can readily contradict." I'm not particularly interested in arriving anywhere just by reason, but by reason enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Yes, even such reasoning can be readily contradicted by human reasoning -- and it's not always easy to tell which is which -- but that's no reason to give up on it.

These are indeed great gifts of the Holy Spirit. But I go back to La Madre and say with her--we are not called to know much but to love much. And I find it ironic that I can write those words. A few years ago I was at a meeting of the formation directors of the local Carmelite chapters and I was provoked to something akin to wrath by someone else saying almost precisely the same thing to me. I was incensed at the perceived "anti-intellectualism" that was rearing its ugly head. So perhaps my presence in the order is gradually reforming my heart to realize that it isn't anti-intellectualism, but a very careful placement of the intellect as a support function, not as the primary function in our approach to God. Will is first, and love is an act of will and more. Love may be fed by knowledge and wisdom, but we look to Solomon's case and we see that it may also be destroyed by much knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom tend to puff us up with pride. The Figure hung upon the crucifix, arms wide open, beckoning and summoning, call us to the true Wisdom which is love of the Lord.

We could say it was providential that some things were not revealed to St. Thomas until after he had written so many of his strawlike words.

I must quickly retreat and apologize if I have given the impression that I have anything other than respect (with a good deal of puzzlement) for the words of St. Thomas Aquinas. I do not consider his words straw--it was his own statement. And I am beginning to form a picture of what he meant by it. Obviously, that picture will become a good deal clearer when I stand face-to-face with God; however, my use of his words should not be taken to mean that I consider his work futile or useless. Obviously, it could not have been because it led him to such tremendous love of God. However, that same path could just as easily lead one to the perdition of self and self-importance.

My conclusion--searching the Scriptures for doctrines, ideas, notions, and proofs can be a wonderful way to come to know God more intimately and more completely. Surely many have followed this path to divine union. On the other hand, it can be a superb path to tangling merely with the self and protecting one's intimate being from true connection with God. Meditating on the word, listening carefully to what Jesus says to each of us today, and applying that with the appropriate corrective of Spiritual Guidance and Church teaching (the result of countless years of effort searching the scripture to the greater glory of God) is also a viable and noble path toward union--laced with its own dangers of pride, self-righteousness, superciliousness, and any number of other difficulties.

But when asked, "Why were the Scriptures given us?" my answer is now and shall continue to be--"To teach us to Love God as He loves us."

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I Know, Another Quiz I


I Know, Another Quiz

I found this at Fructus Ventris and really liked the entire intent of it:

The kingdom of God is within you!
The kingdom of God is within you!

What Bible verse is your life's theme song?
brought to you by Quizilla

I hope and pray this is true. I truly love the hope and joy in that verse as well as: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and "Rejoice in the Lord, always, again, I say rejoice." (Gotta love that letter to the Philippians).

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The Outer Limits Of my


The Outer Limits

Of my ability to comment intelligibly upon the present conflict in Iraq:

"Lord, bless them all and keep them from all harm. Be with them throughout the trials that they will suffer. Comfort the wounded and the frightened, accept into your arms those who are taken from us. May this conflict end quickly with the just goals designated for it. May the Iraqi people experience freedom, and may their liberation be a light to the nations around them. "

Expect little more as it weighs so heavily. Some have implied that I should rejoice in this just endeavor, but I must admit that while I see the grim necessity, I rejoice only in God's will being done and pray that it may be accomplished swiftly and perfectly.

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Why I Am Not Green


Why I Am Not Green

In many ways I find the Green Party very appealing (I know, save your rotten fruit for the end, please.) There are some obvious places that we part company (embracing abortion and the homosexual agenda); however, given the infinitely mutable nature of the party, I could simply form a splinter and make and new "National Catholic Green Party" or some such (you know, a "Popular Front of Judea").

But I find that impossible for one reason. Despite the emphasis on "small is beautiful" in politics, and the very healthy sense of home rule, the planks on which the party is erected are termite ridden. They have been sense their spiritual founder, Jean-Jacques Rousseau first articulated them. Ultimately the reforms and the goals the Green Party really wishes to obtain depend upon the belief in the perfectibility of humankind.

Now, naturally, I do believe this in the religious sense and in the individual sense. Through the grace of God individuals may be led to "perfect" lives. We are "perfected" in Christ our head, but few of us live in that perfection--there are a few, and they are notable exceptions recognized almost immediately in ever age. But the harsh reality is that, for the most part, humankind lives consistently in its fallen nature. Not only do we live there, but we nearly revel in it.

We think of excuses to justify nearly every vice, corruption, or misdeed you can conceive of. And we do it with aplomb and panache. We are all Dives, to some extent or another, simply by living in this country. (Yes, again there are some exceptions). But we dine at our wealthy tables (relatively speaking) and a third of the world goes hungry. Admittedly due to the corrupt politics in some parts of the world, we sometimes cannot relieve the suffering of the people there--consider the debacle in Somalia. But there are tremendous numbers we can help, and yet, only a handful actually make sure that food gets to where it is needed. Because that number is so small, food does not always arrive where it is most desperately required. This is only one of the sins sitting on our collective heads--and it is a result of the fallenness of humanity.

The Greens seem to think that we can fix this in an Animal Farm collective kind of redistribution of the wealth. And what happened in the book will happen also to any who try such an economic system on a national scale. Yes, small clusters can live as the apostles or as monks and nuns, sharing all they have in common, giving to those in need--and yet even in these places resentments and harshness creep in.

During Lent, we should remember these things about ourselves, and we should hold ourselves responsible for each act that has contributed to this overall attitude on our part. Do we need to buy those books, those clothes, that new DVD player. Must we drive a Lexus or Mercedes or BMW. Does our fiance or wife really need a diamond that is the equivalent of six month's salary.

We need to be redeemed, and our redemption has a price--divorce from the world to which we are too firmly attached. We must live in the world, but not be of it. And by that, we must not allow ourselves to contribute to things as they are. In this case, we must follow Wallace Stevens's "Man with the Blue Guitar" (amazing that an avowed Atheist could produce poetry that so explicitly spells out the Christian message). who when told that he did not "play things as they are" responded with "Things as they are/are changed upon the blue guitar." In Christ, we are a new creation--it's about time we acted it.

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ISP Out of Service Again


ISP Out of Service Again

Construction cut a major cable and killed our service yet again. Amazing. But I hope to have more for tomorrow. I'm thinking about honor and integrity and how these are differently valued and differently shown in various cultures.

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Business Trip Forthcoming

Later this week I'm off to Philadelphia. Any tips, hints, or advice on Restaurants, things to do/see, churches in the Downtown/Historical Area. (Naturally being a colonial/revolutionary history buff I'll be visiting the main historical sites and due to the nature of my business probably the Franklin Science Center. But other ideas are welcome. )

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Before You Go to Mass


Before You Go to Mass Today

Please check the Carmelite Chapel for prayer requests in and around St. Blog's and by Saint Blog's Parishioners. Please join us in praying for all of these requests.

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I Am Delighted to


I Am Delighted to Announce the Opening of

Our Lady of Loretto Carmelite Chapel. A place to come to request prayers and to learn more about the Carmelite way of prayer, contemplation, and life. I promise--none of my usual long-winded stuff. That will remain here. But I hope that we will post prayers, writings, meditations, and thoughts from the great Carmelite Saints, as well as be at your disposal to pray for your intentions and needs. I'm hoping that I can lure some of the other Carmelites hereabouts to contribute to this effort. But your hosts for the time being will be Steven, Kathy, and Melissa--a T. O. Carm. and two OCDS.

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Prayers Needed For Dylan for


Prayers Needed

For Dylan for rapid recovery and return to St. Blog's.

For Katherine for much needed rest and time to gather resources.

For Katherine and Franklin continuing to pray for the succcess of the present employment venture.

For Gordon who is still seeking employment.

For all the members of St. Blog's that they may continue to experience a fulfilling and uplifting Lent.

For the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States and the Coalition of the Willing that they may be preserved, protected, and guided in the pursuit of justice for the Iraqi people.

For the families of those same people that they may be comforted in the absence of their loved ones and may soon see them again, and for any financial, emotional, psychological, or physical burden they may be bearing that they receive release and respite through the persons of caring Christians and other members of the community.

For the people of Iraq that they may accept their liberation from the oppression they have experienced and that they may be protected from all harm as that liberation proceeds.

Thank you all for praying.

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The High Cost of Free


The High Cost of Free Speech

Talking with a dear friend yesterday as I was leaving work, I found myself ruminating over the conversation. I had reported that there had been a great deal of backlash against the Dixie Chicks for some ill-considered statement or another one of them had made. My friend responded, "Nothing like free speech," implying that those who were burning Dixie Chicks CDs were somehow infringing upon the right of free speech. This notion offends me--profoundly. Free speech is not entirely without restrictions or accountability. If you say something that incenses those who used to be your friends, you will experience (and depending on what is said, should experience a backlash.)

It is a liberal trope that any reaction against speech you don't like infringes on that speech. Nonsense. All "free" speech must be paid for. Some pay in blood for all, others pay personally. But I don't see anyone crying in their beer when a Ms. Schott (is that the right name? Former or present owner of a Cincinnati ball team) is fined for speaking racial slurs. Isn't speech free? Shouldn't she be allowed to say what she wants? The way I see it, the proper response to something like this would have been for all persons of color to boycott, picket, protest, and petition all ball team players to strike, or exhibit some overt protest against the statement and the intent. I personally do not care to consort with those whose notions of human dignity and value are bound up inextricably with a sense of color, creed, or sex. When people who hold these notions exercise their right to free speech--persons of sensibility rightly shun them or attempt to correct them--they do not continue to encourage them in their speech.

So too with the Dixie Chicks. It is not censorship not to buy an album. It is not censorship to burn their work. It is not censorship to advise others not to buy their albums. It is not censorship to boycott their concerts. Censorship is a governmental work that prohibits the free dissemination of ideas or facts. By the fact that the work is already published, it is clearly not censored.

If people wish to hold unpopular ideas, they must be willing to pay the price for them. Heaven knows, as Catholics we pay that price on a nearly daily basis, and I am happy to pay it. But I also don't expect the world to suddenly curtail every utterance they might make against me. I attempt to correct these mistaken notions, and when that proves impossible or unlikely, I abandon the project, avoid the person, and pray.

So, free speech isn't about an unrestricted license to say whatever one wishes and expect that all will accept it with joyful open arms. Free speech IS about saying what is on your mind in full knowledge that some will disagree with you--perhaps vehemently. That is the price we personally pay. And if it is worth saying, it is worth paying that price. Otherwise, one would do well to follow the advice in the letter of James.

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I Will Probably Have to


I Will Probably Have to Change the Template

But the Catholic Bookshelf is open for business. I'm hoping to get more interest and diversity and make this a little place to come to when you're looking for something to read. Let me know if you'd like to join us. I'm hoping to have the prayer chapel open soon. Still soliciting the assistance of a few more Carmelites--given how many hover around St. Blog's, I shouldn't have much difficulty.

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Wonderful Insights from Mr. Serafin

It should come as no surprise that Mr. Serafin has some profound things to say about the conflict in Iraq. Naturally enough, I agree with almost all that is said.

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Rejoice! Ms. Knapp is Back


Rejoice! Ms. Knapp is Back

Yes, Ms. Knapp is back. She still needs our prayers for continued recovery. But she has returned to us. Praise God!

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Suggestions for Two New Group


Suggestions for Two New Group Blogs

I would like to suggest two new group blogs and invite either comments here or e-mail responses. The advantages to a group blog are (1) you needn't maintain the entire thing yourself and (2) the is a enormous diversity of personality. The groups I would like to begin have (1) a relatively exclusive membership, and (2) a completely open membership.

The first group I thought might be called "Our Lady of Loretto Carmelite Prayer Chapel." This would be open to those blogging and visiting Carmelites and would consist nearly entirely of Carmelite prayers, excerpts from Carmelite writings, Carmelite reflections on scriptures, and making ourselves (Carmelites) available for the prayer needs of our online community. Membership in this group blog I would ask to be restricted to Carmelites and those undergoing formation in Carmelite communities. It's primary function would be as a chapel for all to come and reflect and share concerns. Ideally we would have at least seven members so that if we chose, we could each take a day to mind the chapel, sweep up, and attend to the prayer requests of the day.

The second blog I'd like to start would be about literature with an emphasis on Catholic Writers. And by literature, I do not mean to confine myself to Catholic Classics or any sort of classics, but it would include all reading, classic, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, etc. with a religious theme or religious elements. (Yes, this could mean talking even about Dune or A Rose for Ecclesiastes. But I'd like to talk about this things from a Catholic perspective and predominantly from a religious/spiritual perspective--elements of the stories that bring us a sense of God, etc. (although this is not a requirement). One of the reasons for such a blog is that there are so many interesting and fascinating works out there, so many people read so many things, and it would be nice to bring them all together in one place so that people can look through recommended works. I would invite any St. Blog's Parishioner to join this group to post reviews and commentary, and perhaps we can even arrange an on-line book group or guided reading of some spiritual classics/fictional classics.

If either or both of these appeal to you, please drop me a line either in the comments or by e-mail. I would run both of these blogs, but I have my hands more or less full with the management of this site and these are both stops I think very important to the fostering of a lively and holy community at St. Blog's.

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Prayers Urgently Needed Dylan of


Prayers Urgently Needed

Dylan of more last than star is in the hospital. Please pray for his rapid recovery and swift return to us.

Please pray for Karen Marie Knapp who is still recovering slowly from her recent trip to the hospital.

Please pray for the people of Iraq that the war end quickly and decisively with a minimal loss of life on all sides. Pray that this conflict brings a just and supportable peace to a land so long troubled by its rulers.

Please pray for Katherine and Franklin as they try to reach a very troubling decision in a very difficult time. Ask that God make especially clear His will for them so that their choice may be guided surely.

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Prayer Alert!! I just received


Prayer Alert!!

I just received a note from a friend of Dylan's reporting that he is in the hospital. I had been concerned with no posts Monday or this morning. Please pray for him.

Please send up several rapidfire prayers. "Since the beginning heaven has suffered violence and the violent take it by storm." Let us be violent (in a Godly sort of way) in our prayers for our blog-brother.

Also, as we're praying for those hospitalized, please do not forget Ms. Knapp, who seemed to be recovering well last I heard.

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Blogger is Evil Or that's


Blogger is Evil

Or that's my excuse. I'm convinced that the moment I turn my back blogger changes my entries. I've just fixed typos that I swore weren't there when I proofed this morning. Ah well, perhaps it is simply God's gentle reminder that I am very, very far from perfect. I am thankful that it takes so mild a course.

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Maggie, Lock the Door:Three Views

That girl has life in her
oh yes, in the sparks in those eyes.

Witness to the endless
chain of human self-calamity
her heart is held in holy love,
love that embraces in its whiteness,
that warms in its purity.
We're through with lies
and yet we live one more
asking ourselves not to see it.

One long day of noneck monsters
and moving from sterility to
futility among the enemy,

Oh, you stand there resplendent
in white, fierce heart
spoken--now the only words.


White the cross
that woman has life in her.

No, she does not,
a simple removal turns a life
into a lie
and she has seen the world
of lies and longs
to see the end of them all--

an end to pain,
a birth from pain, a promise
of deliverance
in white. Oh the putrid smell
of mendacity

fills this room, drags her
white dress and all
to the edge of who she is and
a heart stands
arrayed and open lively

and bright. Oh yes,
that body has life in it

and longs for life
as what body does not no matter
what we say?

And when our door closes
will we see what
we love or what we would destroy?

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Winter White


Winter White
suggested by a title by Zelazny and Ellison

Our snow has wings.

When in winter's worst days
the temperatures plunge to sixty
or below, and all the fields and lawns
are burnt brown from lack of sun
and water--our snowfalls.

It falls in flocks and flurries.
It falls with the whiteness of winters.
It falls in feathers and frail bird bones,
and it lands lightly as its northern brother.

It lingers in patchy whiteness,
on the ground and in the trees, and
then when spring's wanton warmth
beckons, it too dissolves and all but vanishes.

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Black heads
bobbing and swaying
now here and now
under the water.

Feathers in a disarraay
blown apart by the
mysterious storms that
seem to buffet them

as they walk. Not the bird
I would choose to be
the symbol of what I hold
dear, and yet

for all their limbs-askew
awkwardness, for their
vulture-headed hideousness
I hold these visitors

dear, nearly holy
a gift that shows me

bright and beautiful
bold and brittle
awkward and alien
Loving God made us all.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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A Fragment


Background: The Oriskany Sandstone is a huge rock formation that crops out in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. In some places it is highly fossiliferous. In Virginia these fossils consist almost entirely of "gaps" or holes in the rock called molds.

Oriskany Sandstone

This yellow once-beach rises at the crest
of an inland hill, reminder of waves
and storms reduced to grains and lines and caves
that once were living clams. These hollows pressed
tight by passing years, remind us
now of how the sea swept beaches clean and
forced the living water down through sand
that human feet had never known and rose
to swirl away again, new grains on old
each leaving traces in the lines that form
whisper-thin beds that mean years have worn
away. No shells for these fossils, these molds
are now empty, the wash of years having
wasted away.

                  We stand on the roadside
staring blankly at this beach where no wash
moves sand, no live sea thing is left to cling
to rocks against the battering assault of tide
and briny spray. And yet--these rocks do live
if you hear past hollowing years and dive
into the pulse that drives the ocean depths.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Off Line Much of Yesterday


Off Line Much of Yesterday

Due to ISP problems mentioned before. Doesn't seem to matter though.

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The Gift of Sacrifice The


The Gift of Sacrifice

The ability to sacrifice with ungrudging grace is a gift from God. Most of us practice sacrifice as an art form—we’ve not been given the natural talent or disposition required, but we are willing to work toward the goal.

Witness our approach to Lent. We sneak up on it, spring a sudden resolution that is never really meant to effect our lives in any substantial way and then wail our way through Lent having failed time and again to keep that promise. Now, this is the harsh view. What God sees are small children who, given a pair of scissors for the first time, attempt to cut out figures but can only cut out straight lines. Nevertheless, we continue cutting. And this is what God looks at--not at the failure to make a perfect razor sharp cut-out, but at our willingness to try, despite our lack of skill.

The true grace of sacrifice comes not from a Lenten promise or from a momentary thought that something may or may not be good for us. True grace comes from loving God above all else. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." When God is first in our lives, all else follows. Sacrifice is not a labor, but a wonderful opportunity to show how much we love Him.

This Lent, while we keep our momentary resolutions, let us also pray for the grace to truly sacrifice all of our petty concerns. Let us pray for the grace to truly love God above all else and to be obedient to His commands so that our lives may be transformed into the image of Him that He needs us to be in the world today.

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From Kathy the Carmelite I


From Kathy the Carmelite

I changed answers six or seven times in at least three different questions, and came up with this consistently. If one needs to be a book, I can think of worse.

You Are Romans
You are Romans.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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An Afternoon at SeaWorld We


An Afternoon at SeaWorld

We spent the morning and the early afternoon at Sea World. Temps here hovering in the low to mid eighties, and a nice overcast so that the walking was quite fine. Samuel was the highlight of the tour. At first terrified to go and see the Shark Encounter, we almost couldn't pull him away afterwards--only with the temptation of gigantic horses and other treats did he finally budge. We went and saw the Clydesdales and the Polar Bears and the Beluga Whales. What incredible feats of modern engineering that we can create in Florida an environment habitable by these creatures of the Arctic.

Samuel insisted that he wanted to go on the Kraken, which is a floorless rollercoaster that looks like a great deal of fun. He is, of course, too short for it. However, he was fine for the Atlantic ride which is a combination roller-coaster flume. We both went on it and he shrieked the entire time. He seemed to enjoy it, but insisted that now it was time for the Kraken. When he finally realized he couldn't do the Kraken, he did ask to go on Atlantis again, but as we had sat in the front of the car, we were so waterlogged, that I didn't know we would survive another dousing, so it was homeward to all the various tasks of keeping house--none of which I have done.

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A Gift from a Good


A Gift from a Good Friend

This Quiz:

I am truly passionate. Find your soul type at


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Revolutionary War Books and Articles

From Fort Klock repository. These books and articles are a treasure trove. Another of my enthusiasms.

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More by G.K.C.

Although miscategorized at Blackmask, G.K. Chesterton's A Miscellany of Men is now available there in electronic format. Those with PDAs, used Plucker, or download the mobipocket or iSilo (my preferred format) versions. Or convert the html with iSiloX (allows greater editing and formating beforehand, should you think to need it.)

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Forewarned is Forearmed Hi all.


Forewarned is Forearmed

Hi all. My wife reports that my ISP is acting up at home--may be cyberspace, may be hardware. So there's an off-chance that I may not make it back on this weekend. Hope that is not the case, but if so--no worries. I'll be back eventually.

Peace to all.

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The Selections Below


The Selections Below

I offer these poems humbly, knowing full well that they need a great deal of work. But hoping that by allowing them to breathe, the work necessary will become far more certain, more clear. Sometimes, they must be released from their spells of paper, reincarnated as it were, to be able to speak and show their flaws--and the flaws are great and many. But these children are the ones I allow out to play because they will play well with others and they can grow and change and become more functional members of poetic society. The others I cherish and care for, but do not expose to the outside world both for their benefit and the benefit of the world at large.

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Jesus Laughing

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

Do you suppose he stood away, now quiet
distant and removed? Or did Jesus tell
a joke and talk to everyone?

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Elijah It took you



It took you so long
to hear the still small
voice that had been speaking
to you from the beginning.

To travel through fire
and Earthquake
to face Ahab and worse yet
Jezebel, we know the
end of it.

When you stood before
the prophets of Ba'al
did doubt assail you?
Did you tremble
in the deep fear
of what if?

Yet you soaked that wood,
not once, nor twice
but three times,
letting it soak in--
a new lesson in trust.

You knew in your
marrow God could not
abandon those He
so loved.

Teach me.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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When I first learned of them
they were a form of poetry,
a small French song.

          Indeed, they are.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Haiku al Fresco (since I can't be)

These flags fluttering
like thick water over thin
rocks, speak with the wind.

A small miracle
heron and lizard in sun
side by side, at ease.

We write haiku to
be flowers, edelweiss on
less than alpine slopes.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Breath of the Sea


Breath of the Sea

The hope I hang onto
as I sit here so distant
from anything natural
is the scent of the sea
the shimmer of sun
on thin water sinking
into sand, the hop
of sandpiper, the call
of gulls, the sussuration
of the waves as they
return to their watery
vault. Oh, I hope
they will not be
drowned by the still
low drone of the human
buzz. How I hope
I can hold on
and hear again
the conversation
of the sea and sky
of sand and air,
the song of salt
and wave spume.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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On Another Subject

Out-of-Focus Groups

In this small room
two circles of people
cycling endlessly
saying nothing.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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More Poetry


Bauhaus monument
to utilitarian bad taste,
buff concrete and rebar,
these block buildings
dot our landscape
boldly declaring
our independence
from all bounding
principles, making
our formal offering
to the only God
we acknowledge--
call it what we will--
liberty, equality,
beauty, personality--
it all becomes the same--

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Prayer Requests and Praise I'm


Prayer Requests and Praise

I'm pleased to report that I am at least mostly keeping my commitment to at least a "Catholic Fast" each day. Those who write to me are prayed for each day for their intentions. Now I come and ask your help for:

Gordon who is still seeking work

Katherine, Franklin, and family as they face some big decisions and a time of potentially great stress.

Praise report:

I asked your prayers for a specific need a few days ago and God delivered not only on that need but so far beyond my expectations as to be miraculous. After a couple of very stressful days, things are beginning to move much more smoothly and I am being blessed in ways unthought of. Thank you so much for prayer support.

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Poetic Offering


from 31 Poems for 31 Days

Night shattered
by the noise of the first
two bare twigs counting out
the time of the breathing

Apples, the last and first
of the season,
the taste of that last
bee-buzzed cider.

All that isn't
begins to come together
the promises of vacant days
thee abandonment of beach umbrellas

Ask where and who and why
and kick the leaves as
they die and fall and float
and drift and fill
the fields and choke the
streets with color.

I have seen the birds
fail. I do not hear
the chirp of frogs
and I know I am not home.

Turn me around and I am the end,
Read me as I am and I am the end.
Mute, imperfect, and prime as my mirror.

Full fire the color flashes
destroying all illusion
of lingering summer
the illness has come upon
the year

Clap hands, dance
and sound the tambourine,
sing your voice back
into its birth,
join in making all things new
by coming to birth

© 2002 Steven Riddle

You can see that the punctuation is still crude and the definition of some of the days not quite there--but I had dismissed this handful of trivia some time ago and was surprised at how fresh it seemed this morning.

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Unusual Untitled


Your speech, your song,
winds words breathed with arctic
breath that burns like tropic sun.

You have convicted me with the lies
I tell others and acquitted me in my
sin, freely without cost

but at such great cost I cannot
bear it--freely as water in a well
costly as a fragrant oil or

frankincense purging all
impurity left behind and asking
God to hear us all

and bate that winter's breath
that arctic tropic sun that burns
with such cold beam

O my seigneur

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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More Poetry--Can You Imagine?


Serenity Wake

The vortex that passes where she walks
unstirs the vibrations of the air,
undoes the coils of conspiracy
untwists the lies that have woven so thick
a web on lives all around.

She passes scentless, like a dream
of roses--color and light and the promise
of a gentle aroma--and yet
nothing. She is precious.

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Via Mr. O'Rama This very


Via Mr. O'Rama

This very amusing, somewhat touching, very sad exposition of the plight of the normal Iraqi soldier. Does this not suggest something about the offensiveness of the regime from which they were fleeing?

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One More Response I know


One More Response

I know I risk alienating some with another statement regarding the war, but I'm not trying to challenge the validity of the particular situation, but to answer a proposition that I believe to be false. The following is a copy of what was posted at Disputations in response to Kairos Guy (for whom I have the greatest respect, but with whom, on a single slender facet of this issue, I could not disagree more).

I couldn't disagree more:

""War is always a disaster" is the kind of thing one says to avoid having to give the choice for war serious consideration."

I would only want someone holding this opinion to make the choice for war. War is always a disaster. Lincoln did not leap into war at the first opportunity, he undertook the responsibility gravely and with full knowledge of its disaster.

You say on your site, "Why is it so much worse than all the other indicators of the fallen condition?" This seems to suggest that you regard these other indicators as something less than a disaster for humankind. All indicators of the fallen human condition are disasters of the first water stemming from that first fall. None of them are less serious than war, and indeed are a certain type of war themselves.

To say that war is always a disaster does not say that it isn't EVER necessary. On the contrary, it suggests that the exigency of war must be regarded with the greatest possible horror, and only when all recourse is exhausted should such a project be undertaken. I leave to the appropriate civil authorities (not, in my opinion a U. N. commission) the question of whether our current crisis entails war. But to say that it is always a disaster in no way suggests that it is not sometimes necessary.

If one enters into a war with any other attitude, we end up with people flying into towers declaring a glorious "war" on innocents and civilians. To suggest that war is a source of anything other than wretchedness, heartache, pain, and loss is to invite glorying in destruction. However, to suggest that people like Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mbotu (from what I'm hearing from Zimbabwe), Kim Il-Jong, should be allowed to continue their oppression and reigns of terror unchallenged suggests, perhaps, an even greater calamity for humankind.

War is always a disaster, but it is not always a crime, and certainly not the gravest of crimes in some situations.

I think a clear demarkation must be made between "War is a disaster" and "All War is evil and uncalled for." The two statements are not equivalents.

I believe the Pope and his Cardinals articulate the truth in this matter even as they make prudential judgments that may be contested. And perhaps it is the unfortunate conflation of the two that gives rise to difficulty with the centrality of the truth they wish to express.

So once again, I leave it all in God's hands. I believe our president is a man of God, I pray for him daily. I trust that he will make the correct decision (a confidence I could not have expressed with our former regent). I do not want war; neither do I want Swamp Arabs chased from their homes and massacred, untold environmental destruction, people buried alive in pavement, Kurds gassed in their homes. It is unjust not to exert some force to make this stop. Whether it is sufficiently unjust to entail a conflict I leave to those who must make the very difficult decision, and I trust God completely that He will guide them if they are willing.

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A Poetic Offering


What I See When God Looks at Me

When His pale eye searches me
a mourning light wings a little way
from heart to spirit, proud night
stars unfurled in the giant space
that perfects me, wink out and then
glare with brilliance that makes
translucent bones that throb in His
agony. That beam clarifies the eye
so that once seen blue oceans
turn under the cloudlit sky to
pale ochre, sunset rouged
and back again with jeweled
intensity that dazzles not just
the eye, but every sense is subdued
renewed, made over again so that
things without scent now writhe
with fragrance--silent spaces
are filled with the sounds of His
voice, salt-burned tongue can
taste light, sense-worn skin
wears air as bright as rainbow droplets.
What have You asked of me
for all that You are? Where have
you hidden my heart? Will the
years shyly drop away until
unclothed I stand in the center
of Your glorious eye wearing the Glory
you wreathe me in, the patina of spilled
blood so red it is white?

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Is War Always a Defeat?


Is War Always a Defeat?

A spectacularly good, articulate post on the issue. This excerpt gives the tone:

This does not mean I am against every conceivable war. This does not mean that I would not participate in any war. But it does mean that any war I thought was just, any war that I judged to be morally good because it was morally the only option I could discern with the best of my limited abilities, would still be a disaster, a failure that I would feel to the core. As Pope John Paul II recently wrote:
War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.

I cannot think of anything to add. But to make it unqualifiedly clear I do add what I have said in several places--"War is always a defeat for humanity; but sometimes to escape annhilation, we must accept defeat." There is nothing good about war except its ending--but there are things far worse than war loose in the world today and the only way to see them end may be to engage in warfare. It is truly, deeply sad. So I'm not an unqualified pacifist, nor do I regard myself as a coward, but I must add my voice to that of the blogmaster at Minute Particulars.

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Reporting My Believe-o-Matic Results
I am delighted--most particularly with 1, 2, and 4 (my favorite, favorite, favorite, branch of Protestantism).

1. Eastern Orthodox (100%)
2. Roman Catholic (100%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (94%)
4. Orthodox Quaker (88%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (86%)

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At Least a Partial Report


At Least a Partial Report

My thanks to all for prayers. The day was tedious, but not nearly so awful as I had thought it might be. Praise God, and thank you all for supporting me through it!

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Book Review: Mark Salzman--Iron and Silk

Book: Iron and Silk
Author: Mark Salzman
Recommendation: Highest

Having recently read and reread Salzman's Lying Awake for book group discussion, I took up the recommendation offered here by a couple of St. Blog's parishioners and by one of the book group members. I read Salzman's Iron and Silk. While not a particularly spiritual book, Iron and Silk is beautifully written and filled with small, exciting moments that give one a glimpse of China that would be otherwise impossible. For example, Ha Jin, a native of China, sees China with a native's eyes, and while his books are well-done, I found China a rather uninteresting, drab and dull place.

Salzman's book opens China up for the Western reader. Salzman was a Yale student who received a teaching position in Hunan for two years. He went there with an intense interest in Chinese Literature and culture, and seemed to come away not alienated, but enriched. He met the people of China on their own terms, communists, socialists, and simple people. He met martial arts teachers, teachers of calligraphy, and ordinary peasants. In the course of his book, we meet an eleven year-old runaway, a woman with whom he clearly falls into infatuation, about four martial arts teachers, at least two calligraphy teachers, and several more or less pleasant government figures and ordinary shop keepers.

The "chapters" are divided into vignettes about three to six comprising each section. One sample is a story of trying to get a cup of coffee from a very rare "coffee shop." The exposition is interesting, the end result a hjilarity of bureaucratic coldness. So too with Catching a Rat, and receiving mail from home.

The prose is lively, engaging and real. Never stumbling into the over-poetic, it is as finely balanced as his art of Tai Ch'i. Truly, a stunning, admirable work. Posbbily the second five star book I've read by this author.

High recommended.

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Please Pray For me,


Please Pray

For me,
Today, as I go through a particular arduous day at work and personally.

For some close friends as they consider God's will in their lives.

For a good friend still seeking employment.

For Karen Marie Knapp--for complete and swift recovery.


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A Puritan Poem


Today a Puritan Poem of rare loveliness. Edward Taylor has nearly completely vanished from the poetry scene in any course you might take. One leaps from Anne Bradstreet, or more likely Phillis Wheatley to Freneau and William Cullens Bryan without so much as a toe dipped into the richness of the Puritan poetic tradition, and it is a shame for such lovely lyrics to be lost because we're afraid of a bit of that "old-time religion." So without further ado:

"Prologue" from Preparatory Meditations
Edward Taylor

Lord, Can a Crumb of Dust the Earth outweigh,
     Outmatch all mountains, nay, the Crystal sky?
Embosom in't designs that shall Display
     And trace into the Boundless Deity?
     Yea, hand a Pen whose moisture doth guide o'er
     Eternal Glory with a glorious glore.

If it its Pen had of an Angel's Quill,
     And sharpened on a Precious Stone ground tight,
And dipped in liquid Gold, and moved by Skill
     In Crystal leaves should golden Letters write,
     It would but blot and blur, yea, jag, and jar
     Unless Thou mak'st the Pen, and Scrivener.

I am this Crumb of Dust which is designed
     To make my Pen unto Thy Praise alone,
And my dull Fancy I would gladly grind
     Unto an Edge of Zion's Precious Stone.
     And Write in Liquid Gold upon Thy Name
     My Letters till Thy glory forth doth flame.

Let not th' attempts break down my Dust, I pray,
     Nor laugh Thou them to scorn but pardon give.
Inspire this crumb of Dust till it display
     Thy Glory through't: and then Thy dust shall live.
     Its failings then Thou'lt overlook, I trust,
     They being Slips slipped from Thy Crumb of Dust.

Thy Crumb of Dust breathes two words from its breast,
     That Thou wilt guide its pen to write aright
To Prove Thou art, and that Thou art the best
     And show Thy Properties to shine most bright.
     And then Thy Works will shine as flowers on Stems
     Or as in Jewelry Shops, do gems.

c. 1682

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Out of Orders Go find


Out of Orders

Go find out what Kathy the Carmelite thinks of all the talk about contemplation, truth, beauty, and goodness, and all manner of other exciting topics.

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Start here with an arrangement of Herbert lyrics specifically selected and laid out for Lenten Reading.

Then visit the Tenebrae service accompanied by Herbert's "The Sacrifice"

And then go here for Herbertalia galore, including A Priest to the Temple and other Herbert Poems and writings. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

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Today's Offering of Poetry


From George Herbert, whom I do not like so well as some of his contemporaries, but for whom affection increases with each successive reading.

Love (I)
George Herbert

Immortal Love, author of this great frame,
Sprung from that beauty which can never fade,
How hath man parcel'd out Thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which Thou hast made,
While mortal love doth all the title gain!
Which siding with Invention, they together
Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain,
(Thy workmanship) and give Thee share in neither.
Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit;
The world is theirs, they two play out the game,
Thou standing by: and though Thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th' infernal pit,
Who sings Thy praise? Only a scarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.

Talk about the cold, closed, tight nature of the human heart--all the glory of creation around us and "Only a scarf or glove/Doth warms our hands, and make them write of love." Not love itself, which we reject by a myriad of motions and notions, but cloth which we manufacture. Love lights no fire in us and we trudge along obediently seeking to serve, but not really seeking to love.

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From Basho, Some Relief


From Basho, Some Relief

As with Poe, who when disturbed by thoughts of his terribly young cousin/wife, whom he gave the name Lenore, I too go to my books for surcease of sorrow. And in this case here is what I found:

from The Narrow Road to Oku
Matsuo Basho

Station 33 - Echigo

After lingering in Sakata for several days, I left on a long walk of a hundred and thirty miles to the capital of the province of Kaga. As I looked up at the clouds gathering around the mountains of the Hokuriku road, the thought of the great distance awaiting me almost overwhelmed my heart. Driving myself all the time, however, I entered the province of Echigo through the barrier-gate of Nezu, and arrived at the barrier-gate of Ichiburi in the province of Ecchu. During the nine days I needed for this trip, I could not write very much, what with the heat and moisture, and my old complaint that pestered me immeasurably.

The night looks different Already on July the sixth, For tomorrow, once a year The weaver meets her lover.
The great Milky Way Spans in a single arch The billow-crested sea, Falling on Sado beyond.

The whole work is available via the link in the left-hand column.

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Mood du Jour


This encapsulates it well, please pray for me.

from The Merchant of Venice Act I scene i
William Shakespeare

[Antonio speaks]
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

And just in case you were curious this is not the explanation:

"Your mind is tossing on the ocean;
There, where your argosies with portly sail,—
Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,
Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,—
Do overpeer the petty traffickers. . ."

To use Shakespearean terminology--would that I had argosies to fret over. Or to paraphrase Tevye, "Would it harm some grand eternal plan. . ."

But that's not the cause either.

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On Universalism As always, the


On Universalism

As always, the blogmaster at Disputations has some excellent and timely thoughts on the subject. The exposition is beautifully done. I may not concur with the incipient conclusion, but that is because I allow hope to prevail. And hope is only a virtue where the likelihood of the outcome is truly in doubt. (paraphrase of Chesterton).

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Another Penance I believe I


Another Penance

I believe I shall try to force my way through a biography of St. Francis of Assisi by Adrian House.

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Something a Little Lighter From


Something a Little Lighter

From the magnificent slender volume Haikus for Jews by David M. Bader. I've selected those that would work for Catholics as well.

from Haikus for Jews David M. Bader

Coroner's Report--
"The deceased, wearing no hat,
caught his death of cold."

Quietly murmured
at Saturday services
Yanks 5, Red Sox 3.

After the youngest
recites the Four Questions, the
fifth--when do we eat?

Hidden connection--
starvation in Africa,
food left on my plate.

A lovely nose ring--
excuse me while I put my
head in the oven.

Many of these are VERY Jewish referring to customs, notions, or ideas with which I have only tenuous connections. However, as you can see, these are bound to appeal to parents and people the world over. See if you can get it from the public library--very entertaining.

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Coventry Patmore has never been a favorite of mine. I started reading him when some critics mentioned that he was one of the great Catholic Poets of Victorian times. That may well be true, but if so, it speaks to the meagre production of Catholic Poets, or the generally sing-song quality of Victorian Poetry. I find Patmore sometimes to be little better than greeting card verse--rhythms too heavily sustained, rhymes to strongly regular. One would think these hardly faults, but they are when you are looking for music.

But then, I have a harsh ear when it comes to what I like, and it is often better for me to return time and again to things I have not cared for, looking at them with a careful eye for what may be there. And Patmore does have some fine work.

Magna Est Veritas Coventry Patmore

Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world's course will not fail:
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

I sat for a while with this small poem and wondered what it was all about. And it occurred to me that it might be a response, in part to Matthew Arnold's great poem of despair, "Dover Beach". And if ever a poem needed the response of ringing faith--"Dover Beach" is the one. Now, I don't know relative dates of composition, etc, so I cannot claim this as truth. However, I have noted that certain eras have a zeitgeist to which many artists direct their attention all at once. And around this central feeling much of the great art of the time may be oriented.

So I offer this small poem with the thought that it is actually a breath of faith in a wind of wondering and despair that was beginning to pervade the modern age.

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Lenten Resolutions

Our good friend Kathy the Carmelite asks "ISN'T IT A LITTLE BIT EARLY......for Lenten resolutions to go kaput?"

The answer, of course, is, it's never too early--it's always just the right time. Our resolutions are meaningless if they don't well up from a spirit of serving God. I've often wondered about this tradition of setting ourselves up for defeat by promising things that we often can't keep. And then it occurred to me... It's the perfect tradition for Lent. In the course of our daily defeats in our resolutions, we become tremendously aware of how little we are capable of alone. We strive staunchly to do this and that thing, often neglecting the whole point behind it--taking shelter in prayer.

So Lent is a perfect time of resolutions, and for being very aware of our failure to follow them. It is a good time to realize that at least part of the foundation of our houses is built on shifting sand. These little defeats are a source of profound joy, because in them we can recognize our desperate need for Jesus and we can turn to Him, not neglecting our promises, but in the shelter of our prayer and conversation to the Lord, asking Him to assume the burden for what we have promised. And, mysteriously, it will happen.

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Early Measures and What They


Early Measures and What They Tell Me

Since Ash Wednesday, I've seen a precipitous drop in both visitors and participation. Those who were wont to make comments before, still do comment, but many who have done so have reduced their comments. This tells me that many have decided to ration time on the Web (very commendable, and very wise). Futher, I suspect the drop in numbers is not a real drop, but a drop in repeat visits in the course of a day, so the present numbers are probably more representative of the actual audience in the course of a day. I would guestimate that between 15 and 30% of my visitors are people looking for something they either will not find or they will not be happy with once they do find it.

The stunning conclusion of all of this? Well, it seems that the majority of my visitors who are actually reading are St. Blog's parishioners, and that the majority of St. Blog's does stop by ocassionally.

More analysis from a mind hungry for God and numbers.

(Not so hungry however that I gave any mind to 03/03/03 at 3:33--after all, oughtn't we to be praying constantly?)

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My Lenten Practice I was


My Lenten Practice

I was afraid to say anything because I wasn't sure it would be possible, but after a couple of days it appears that it may and I would like to offer my aid in prayer and fasting to any who need it. I plan to observe a fairly strict daytime fast every day of Lent (except perhaps Sunday). Most days this will be nothing but my usual green tea in the morning. I may moderate this to a "Catholic Fast" (which one of my friends said, "That's not a fast, it's weight-watchers.") on very stressful or very busy days when I need to force a break in the day. So, please let me know how I can pray for you and offer this for the benefit of all.

Also, it appears that my circumstances have changed in such a way as I will no longer be able to attend daily Mass, and this is great hardship--appropriate, I suppose for an Lenten observance that God gives me this gift. Please pray for me as there may be a way to manage some days of attending Mass, but it is all in God's hands.

Also, I am fasting from any form of sweets other than fruit or yogurt. This invariably leads to strong mood changes--so if I bark at you, consider it chocolate deprivation--but this is a good deprivation that, with the grace of God will continue long after Lent--a necessary detachment.

So, let these small sacrifices work for you. I will be delighted to pray for anyone who needs it, just drop me a line.

Finally, I will be refraining (though not eliminating) comments in other people's comment boxes for the time of Lent. This is one of the places where the Seventeen Evidences really haunt me. So, I'm not being anti-social--in fact, I'm attempting, with God's aid, to be more charitable.

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Poetry Averse, Beware!


Please pardon the length of the following poem, but it seemed to have a really nice Lenten Theme, and I could not figure out where best to truncate it if I were to present an excerpt. Besides, the lines are short, the form is narrative, and Anne Bradstreet is always worth the investment of time.

The Flesh and the Spirit
Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612-1672)

              In secret place where once I stood
              Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood,
              I heard two sisters reason on
              Things that are past and things to come.
              One Flesh was call'd, who had her eye
              On worldly wealth and vanity;
              The other Spirit, who did rear
              Her thoughts unto a higher sphere.
              "Sister," quoth Flesh, "what liv'st thou on
            Nothing but Meditation?
            Doth Contemplation feed thee so
            Regardlessly to let earth go?
            Can Speculation satisfy
            Notion without Reality?
            Dost dream of things beyond the Moon
            And dost thou hope to dwell there soon?
            Hast treasures there laid up in store
            That all in th' world thou count'st but poor?
            Art fancy-sick or turn'd a Sot
            To catch at shadows which are not?
            Come, come. I'll show unto thy sense,
            Industry hath its recompence.
            What canst desire, but thou maist see
            True substance in variety?
            Dost honour like? Acquire the same,
            As some to their immortal fame;
            And trophies to thy name erect
            Which wearing time shall ne'er deject.
            For riches dost thou long full sore?
            Behold enough of precious store.
            Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold
            Than eyes can see or hands can hold.
            Affects thou pleasure? Take thy fill.
            Earth hath enough of what you will.
            Then let not go what thou maist find
            For things unknown only in mind."
           "Be still, thou  unregenerate part,
           Disturb no more my settled heart,
            For I have vow'd (and so will do)
            Thee as a foe still to pursue,
            And combat with thee will and must
            Until I see thee laid in th' dust.
            Sister we are, yea twins we be,
            Yet deadly feud 'twixt thee and me,
            For from one father are we not.
            Thou by old Adam wast begot,
            But my arise is from above,
            Whence my dear father I do love.
            Thou speak'st me fair but hat'st me sore.
            Thy flatt'ring shews I'll trust no more.
            How oft thy slave hast thou me made
            When I believ'd what thou hast said
            And never had more cause of woe
            Than when I did what thou bad'st do.
            I'll stop mine ears at these thy charms
            And count them for my deadly harms.
            Thy sinful pleasures I do hate,
            Thy riches are to me no bait.
            Thine honours do, nor will I love,
            For my ambition lies above.
            My greatest honour it shall be
            When I am victor over thee,
            And Triumph shall, with laurel head,
            When thou my Captive shalt be led.
            How I do live, thou need'st not scoff,
            For I have meat thou know'st not of.
            The hidden Manna I do eat;
            The word of life, it is my meat.
            My thoughts do yield me more content
            Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.
            Nor are they shadows which I catch,
            Nor fancies vain at which I snatch
            But reach at things that are so high,
            Beyond thy dull Capacity.
            Eternal substance I do see
            With which inriched I would be.
            Mine eye doth pierce the heav'ns and see
            What is Invisible to thee.
            My garments are not silk nor gold,
            Nor such like trash which Earth doth hold,
            But Royal Robes I shall have on,
            More glorious than the glist'ring Sun.
            My Crown not Diamonds, Pearls, and gold,
            But such as Angels' heads infold.
            The City where I hope to dwell,
            There's none on Earth can parallel.
            The stately Walls both high and trong
            Are made of precious Jasper stone,
            The Gates of Pearl, both rich and clear,
            And Angels are for Porters there.
            The Streets thereof transparent gold
            Such as no Eye did e're behold.
            A Crystal River there doth run
            Which doth proceed from the Lamb's Throne.
            Of Life, there are the waters sure
            Which shall remain forever pure.
            Nor Sun nor Moon they have no need
            For glory doth from God proceed.
            No Candle there, nor yet Torch light,
          For there shall be no darksome night.
          From sickness and infirmity
          Forevermore they shall be free.
          Nor withering age shall e're come there,
          But beauty shall be bright and clear.
          This City pure is not for thee,
          For things unclean there shall not be.
          If I of Heav'n may have my fill,
          Take thou the world, and all that will."

This City pure is not for thee/for things unclean there shall not be. . . This speaks to me so profoundly because it echoes a strain of St. John of the Cross. He notes that God is simple (from Aquinas) and therefore cannot dwell with duplicity. Thus, if we set our hearts on the things of this world, we create a barrier to union with God because "you cannot love both God and Mammon." Thus the heart must be simple, set on one things alone--God as the Desire of Ages, the Heart of Hearts, the center and perfection of Love, the pinnacle of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Come to think of it, why would we desire anything less?

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Salvifici Doloris Mr. Reuter of


Salvifici Doloris

Mr. Reuter of Become What You Are is offering a Lenten reflection on suffering based on the encyclical Salvifici Doloris. Worth your attention.

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Concerted Effort--Prayers Urgently Needed

Ms. Knapp is in the hospital and according to Mr. Serafin at Catholic Blog for Lovers has been given her eighth pint of plasma. Please pray for one of St. Blog's own. Thanks.

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Self-Denial--From John Henry Newman

Part of the reflective reading for Lent--

from Parochial and Plain Sermons--Vol. 7, No. 7 John Henry Cardinal Newman

Sermon 7. The Duty of Self-denial
"Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child." Psalm cxxxi. 2.

{86} SELF-DENIAL of some kind or other is involved, as is evident, in the very notion of renewal and holy obedience. To change our hearts is to learn to love things which we do not naturally love—to unlearn the love of this world; but this involves, of course, a thwarting of our natural wishes and tastes. To be righteous and obedient implies self-command; but to possess power we must have gained it; nor can we gain it without a vigorous struggle, a persevering warfare against ourselves. The very notion of being religious implies self-denial, because by nature we do not love religion.

Self-denial, then, is a subject never out of place in Christian teaching; still more appropriate is it at a time like this, when we have entered upon the forty days of Lent, the season of the year set apart for fasting and humiliation. {87}

This indeed is not all that is meant by self-denial; but before proceeding with the subject, I would ask whether the generality of mankind go as far as this: it is plain that they do not. They do not go so far as to realize to themselves that religious obedience involves a thwarting of those wishes and inclinations which are natural to them. They do not like to be convinced, much less will they act upon the notion, that religion is difficult.

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Two Maxims from the Writings


Two Maxims from the Writings of the Blessed Henry Suso

"God wishes not to deprive us of pleasure; but He wishes to give us pleasure in its totality--that is, all pleasure."

"Wilt thou be of use to all creatures? Then turn thyself away from all creatures."

Todo y nada, the via negativa--find God where He is, not where you would like Him to be.

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Excerpt from a Letter to Lady Kenmure--February 1, 1630

I have neither tongue nor pen to express to you the happiness of such as are in Christ. When ye have sold all that ye have, and bought the field wherein this pearl is, ye will think it no bad market; for if ye be in Him, all His is yours, and ye are in Him; therefore, 'because He liveth, ye shall live also' (John 14.19). 'Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me when I am, to behold My glory that Thou hath given me' (John 17.24). Amen, dear Jesus, let it be according to that word. I wonder that ever your heart should be cast down, if ye believe this truth. I and they are not worthy at Jesus Christ, who will not suffer forty years trouble for Him, since they have such glorious promises. But we fools believe those promises as the man that read Plato's writings concerning the immortality of the soul: so long as the book was in his hand he believed all was true, and that the soul could not die; but so soon as he laid by the book, he began to imagine that the soul is but a smoke or airy vapor, that perisheth with the expiring of the breath. So we at starts do assent to the sweet and precious promises; but, laying aside God's book, we begin to call all in question. It is faith indeed to believe without a pledge, and to hold the heart constant at this work; and when we doubt, to run to the Law and to the Testimony, and stay there. Madam, hold you here: here is your Father's testament -- read it; in it He hath left you remission of sins and life everlasting. If all that you have in this world be crosses and troubles, down-castings, frequent desertions and departures of the Lord, still He purposeth to do you good at your latter end, and to give you rest from the days of adversity.

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A Prayer for Lent, a


A Prayer for Lent, a Prayer Forever

A Prayer of St. Thomas More Give me the grace, Good Lord

To set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary. Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business.

Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me.

Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help. To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.

Gladly to bear my purgatory here. To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life.

To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of Hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks.

To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness. To cut off unnecessary recreations.

Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.


Praised be Jesus Christ, Lord, Redeemer, Savior, and good friend, who with the Father through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has given us so many great and worthy models to follow. Grant that I may ever follow the path so clearly laid out by them--eyes fixed eternally on the Glory of the Crucified.


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The Fruit of Last Night's Lectio


Poor Judas

Luke 22:1-6 especially verse 3.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot who was of the number of the twelve.

Poor Judas--weak and broken vessel--most cracked in an assemblage of broken crockery. Even among those closest to the savior, Satan seemed to have his own way. Peter and Judas that we know of, James and John in the Garden, and who knows what we have not heard in the Gospel stories. But Judas worst off of all. Dante has him with Cassius and Brutus occupying the three mouths of Satan, Judas eternally head-in.

And I am so like him. My price is so low. Would I betray Christ for thirty silver pieces? A ridiculous question both in mood and tense. The answer is I have betrayed Him for far less that that. When I speak harshly to someone because my own pride is wounded, is that worth 30 silver pieces? When I ignore the plight of the poor, when I eat more than I need to live, when I lie and cheat to gain my own paltry ends, when I commit any of the hundred or thousand greater or lesser infractions of the day--am I not also rejecting the love of One who wishes more than anything for me to see what Love is? No, I am less that Judas, less than the traitor who surrendered the Lord. Driven by greed, disapppointment, confusion, and who knows what other motives--he at least once loved and listened to the Lord. And the despair of his terrible death suggests that at least he truly regretted the terrible thing he had done. More often than not, I do not regret. It takes enormous work and thought to bring me to a single moment of contrition. God has to work overtime on my hardened heart to move it a single beat closer to His own.

Poor Judas
betrayer of the Lord--
and yet I am less than the dirt
beneath his feet!
Would I ever have chosen to serve
the peripatetic Lord?
This perambulating savior?
If you, poor Judas, are in a place to do so,
please pray for me that I avoid
future instances of our terrible crime.

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Oh, Those Lenten Regulations

Father Jim writes at the end of an excellent piece on Lenten penances,"Remember, too, that Sundays don't count for Lenten penances (Sundays all being little Easters, as it were). So, you can have your sambuca and listen to your CD collection all you want on those days. And don't let any Jansenist tell you otherwise."

I've always known this, but I've never practiced it largely because I am a very unreliable person in practices. It takes at least three weeks of hard practice to make a habit. I know Lent is not about making habits, but if I break the fast every seventh day, then, reasons my unreasonable mind, why not every sixth? every fiftth? every fourth? every other? etc. So due to the frailness of my human condition, I do not take advantage of the "little Easters." They function for me, unfortunately, as little temptations to observe no practice for the season of Lent.

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My Prayer God's will first


My Prayer

God's will
in my life,
in my family,
in the world,
in all who meet me,
in all that I do.

God's will and His will alone.

With Mary,
I say,

Let it be done unto me as You have said.

God's will be done, perfectly and always.

In saecula saeculorum.

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Another Celtic Treat

Stumbled upon as I was trying to rectify the situation with the link below--a bilingual Táin Bó Cúalnge or Cattle Raid of Cooley--the epic of Cuchulain and Queen Mebd--NOT for children.

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See the Carmina Gadelica Link


See the Carmina Gadelica

Link via Dylan, a compendium of Gaelic prayers with English translations--here.

An example below:

THE GUIDING LIGHT OF ETERNITY O God, who broughtst me from the rest of last night Unto the joyous light of this day, Be Thou bringing me from the new light of this day Unto the guiding light of eternity. Oh! from the new light of this day Unto the guiding light of eternity.
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Lenten Reading Once again I


Lenten Reading

Once again I shall be reading Fr. Richard John Neuhaus's magnificent Death on a Friday Afternoon and St. Thomas More's The Sorrows of Christ as well as the Catena Aurea for the Passion Narratives in the New Edition by the IVP (comes in 4 volumes of which I believe 3 are available--I'm pretty sure I have Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Perhaps more, but unlikely.

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Reminder Today is a day



Today is a day of fasting and praying requested by the Holy Father for the intention of a just peace in the Middle East. In addition, I doubt it would cause any great tremor in heaven if we were to add to that intentions for Peace in the "far East" and peace in the hearts of each person we meet today, peace in the heart of every family, and ultimately peace in the heart of the world. But only on God's terms.

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Online Retreat at the New


Online Retreat at the New Gasparian

Thank God for online priests. Our own Father Keyes C PP S grants us the grace of an online retreat with reflections and meditations on some of the writing of St. Gaspar.

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Another Perspective

From The Mary Site--Marian Poetry for Lent.

Communion of Reparation (for Our Lady of Sorrows)

Great as the sea is thy sorrow
O wide expanse of lonely gray,
endless to sight
and deep beyond the sounding
of our shallow hearts,
how can we comfort thee?

Great as the sea, and silent
as a morning after storm.
O quietness
beside the shore's wild wreckage,
O grief-worn waters,
what comfort can we bring?

O great like the sea, and profound!
O great, and as the sea, so stilled!
O Sorrow of Mary,
the infinite Heart of God alone
can comfort thee.

Sr. Mary Julian Baird, R.S.M.
Catholic World - Page 21. Volume 181.
April 1955

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Another Memorial of the Day


Another Memorial of the Day

Ash Wednesday

T. S. Eliot


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Find the whole poem here

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Entering into Lent from


Entering into Lent

from Parochial and Plain Sermons John Henry Cardinal Newman

Sermon 7. The Duty of Self-denial

"Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child." Psalm cxxxi. 2.

{86} SELF-DENIAL of some kind or other is involved, as is evident, in the very notion of renewal and holy obedience. To change our hearts is to learn to love things which we do not naturally love—to unlearn the love of this world; but this involves, of course, a thwarting of our natural wishes and tastes. To be righteous and obedient implies self-command; but to possess power we must have gained it; nor can we gain it without a vigorous struggle, a persevering warfare against ourselves. The very notion of being religious implies self-denial, because by nature we do not love religion.

Self-denial, then, is a subject never out of place in Christian teaching; still more appropriate is it at a time like this, when we have entered upon the forty days of Lent, the season of the year set apart for fasting and humiliation. {87}

This indeed is not all that is meant by self-denial; but before proceeding with the subject, I would ask whether the generality of mankind go as far as this: it is plain that they do not. They do not go so far as to realize to themselves that religious obedience involves a thwarting of those wishes and inclinations which are natural to them. They do not like to be convinced, much less will they act upon the notion, that religion is difficult. You may hear men of the world say plainly, and as if in the way of argument, "that God will not punish us for indulging the passions with which we are born; that it is no praise to be unnatural; and no crime to be a man." This, however, may seem an extreme case; yet are there not a great many decent and respectable men, as far as outward character goes, who at least fix their thoughts on worldly comfort, as the greatest of goods, and who labour to place themselves in easy circumstances, under the notion that, when they can retire from the business of their temporal calling, then they may (in a quiet, unexceptionable way of course) consult their own tastes and likings, take their pleasure, and indulge themselves in self-importance and self-satisfaction, in the enjoyment of wealth, power, distinction, popularity, and credit? I am not at this moment asking whether such indulgences are in themselves allowable or not, but whether the life which centres in them does not imply the absence of any very deep views of sanctification as a process, a change, a painful toil, of {88} working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, of preparing to meet our God, and waiting for the judgment? You may go into mixed society; you will hear men conversing on their friend's prospects, openings in trade, or realized wealth, on his advantageous situation, the pleasant connexions he has formed, the land he has purchased, the house he has built; then they amuse themselves with conjecturing what this or that man's property may be, where he lost, where he gained, his shrewdness, or his rashness, or his good fortune in this or that speculation. Observe, I do not say that such conversation is wrong; I do not say that we must always have on our lips the very thoughts which are deepest in our hearts, or that it is safe to judge of individuals by such speeches; but when this sort of conversation is the customary standard conversation of the world, and when a line of conduct answering to it is the prevalent conduct of the world (and this is the case), is it not a grave question for each of us, as living in the world, to ask himself what abiding notion we have of the necessity of self-denial, and how far we are clear of the danger of resembling that evil generation which "ate and drank, which married wives, and were given in marriage, which bought and sold, planted, and builded, till it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all?" [Luke xvii. 27-29.]

Get the entire sermon here.

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Susurrat iniquitas. . . ad


Susurrat iniquitas. . .
ad impium in medio cordio eius
non est timor Dei ante oculos eius.
Quoniam blanditur ipsi in conspectu eius
ut non inveniat iniquitatem suam et oderit.

Inquity whispers deep in the heart of the wicked,
"There is no need to fear God."
He flatters himself, certain that his sin
cannot be discovered and despised.

(Not a translation--a interpretation)

Lord have Mercy.

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Some Promising News From one


Some Promising News

From one of the couples for whom we are praying for employment very promising news--it appears that God has come through. More when things are more certain as to actual disposition, but keep praying.

On the other hand, please redouble your efforts for Gordon and his family--still nothing and disaster piles on calamity for them. Please pray. Thanks.

Also please continue to pray for one couple struggling through a very difficult time and working through numerous problems. Thanks.

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Titus Brandsma on Thérèse Here


Titus Brandsma on Thérèse

Here without further ado, the Blessed Titus Brandsma on St. Thérèse.

Practice of the Presence of God

In the first place surely, comes her desire to converse with God, to lead a higher life for and through Him. She thoroughly understands that the living God who fills heaven and earth, and at the same time dwells in our innermost heart must be the object of our thoughts and love. Most striking in her life is, therefore, her living in God's presence. She may justly repeat the words of Elias the Prophet: "God lives and I stand before His face." To strengthen this in her mind she fostered the devotion to the Holy Face, called herself after it, pictured it for herself. It was an unsurpassed means, not only to see God as man, but to ascend through His Manhood to the Deity, and to live in the bosom of the Trinity as He had lived there from eternity.

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For Fans of P.G. Wodehouse--Some


For Fans of P.G. Wodehouse--Some Rarer Works in Online Editions

Including The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England. Check this index for other works.

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Another Wonderful Text Site The


Another Wonderful Text Site

The West Midlands Literary Heritage Site has a number of texts by at least one fairly prominent writer who chronicled life in the West Midlands--Arnold Bennett. Enjoy, if you are so inclined.

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Saturday sermonizers:

The first, in black is indeed Charles Kingsley as guessed by two bloggers.

The next two, in blue, are John Wesley--a marvelous expositor of some of the truths of the Bible, a thoughtful and perceptive critic, and from all accounts, a remarkably holy man. The more I learn about him, the more I am inclined to like him.

First and Last,

1. As Ms. vonHuben observed, this is the first line of Shirley Jackson's remarkable Haunting of Hill House.
2. As Dylan so rightfully noted this is Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi; or The Glass Bead Game, first line
3. First line, Stephen King, Carrie
4. Last line, Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451
5. First Line, Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy
6. Last line, Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crown
7. First Line, Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
8. Last line, Ian Fleming, Thunderball
9. First line, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
10. Last line, William Golding, Lord of the Flies

And so, to quote Prospero,

"Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,"

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Plans for Lent I have


Plans for Lent

I have read elsewhere of the plans several people have to abandon blogging for Lent. This can be commendable. I see no spiritual advantage to doing so, and therefore shall not do so this year. That is not to say that it may not happen in the future. But many times writing for the blog takes and causes a great deal of thought and prayer that I would otherwise not expend in this fashion. I look upon blogging as an additional outlet for spiritual reflection and refreshment--but then, my blog is somewhat differently oriented than those that I have read suggesting they may have a haitus. I do not dwell on news of the world, and for the the most part have no interest in it on blogs. What I am most fascinated by are the personal "takes" on news of the world--because people are endlessly fascinating, endlessly wonderful, endlessly remarkable.

Later, on further reflection: Perhaps I shall, after all, join them.

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Hints for the Sermonizers

Saturday sermon hints. The one is black is not Newman, but if you think about Newman, you'll probably figure this out. None of the three is Catholic. The ones in blue are from the 18th century and the great religious awakenings taking place then.

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One of My Heroes Whether


One of My Heroes

Whether we like it or not, the reality is that Maryland rapidly became a failed experiment in religious toleration--a mere ten years after the colony's founding, movements were already afoot to add anti-Catholic laws to the books.

The real foundation of religious freedom was set, completely and solidly in Pennsylvania upon the foundation of Quakerism and William Penn himself. He is, therefore, one of my great heroes. In addition, despite being Protestant, there are some weird similiarities between Catholics and Quakers. I tend to think of Quakers as the predominant mystical sect of Protestantism.

And now, all that mumbo-jumbo out of the way--

from Fruits of Solitude--Personal Cautions William Penn

295. Reflect without Malice but never without Need.   
  296. Despise no Body, nor no Condition; lest it come to be thine own.   
  297. Never Rail nor Taunt. The one is Rude, the other Scornful, and both Evil.   
  298. Be not provoked by Injuries, to commit them.   
  299. Upbraid only Ingratitude.   
  300. Haste makes Work which Caution prevents.   
  301. Tempt no Man; lest thou fall for it.

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Well, This Puts Not Too


Well, This Puts Not Too Fine a Point On It

LOVE'S SERVILE LOT St. Robert Southwell S. J.

LOVE, mistress is of many minds,
    Yet few know whom they serve ;
They reckon least how little Love
    Their service doth deserve.

The will she robbeth from the wit,
    The sense from reason's lore ;
She is delightful in the rind,
    Corrupted in the core.

She shroudeth vice in virtue's veil,
    Pretending good in ill ;
She offereth joy, affordeth grief,
    A kiss where she doth kill.

A honey-shower rains from her lips,
    Sweet lights shine in her face ;
She hath the blush of virgin mind,
    The mind of viper's race.

She makes thee seek, yet fear to find
    To find, but not enjoy :
In many frowns some gliding smiles
    She yields to more annoy.

She woos thee to come near her fire,
    Yet doth she draw it from thee ;
Far off she makes thy heart to fry,
    And yet to freeze within thee.

She letteth fall some luring baits
    For fools to gather up ;
Too sweet, too sour, to every taste
    She tempereth her cup.

Soft souls she binds in tender twist,
    Small flies in spinner's web ;
She sets afloat some luring streams,
    But makes them soon to ebb.

Her watery eyes have burning force ;
    Her floods and flames conspire :
Tears kindle sparks, sobs fuel are,
    And sighs do blow her fire.

May never was the month of love,
    For May is full of flowers ;
But rather April, wet by kind,
    For love is full of showers.

Like tyrant, cruel wounds she gives,
    Like surgeon, salve she lends ;
But salve and sore have equal force,
    For death is both their ends.

With soothing words enthralled souls
    She chains in servile bands ;
Her eye in silence hath a speech
    Which eye best understands.

Her little sweet hath many sours,
    Short hap immortal harms ;
Her loving looks are murd'ring darts,
    Her song bewitching charms.

Like winter rose and summer ice,
    Her joys are still untimely ;
Before her Hope, behind Remorse :
    Fair first, in fine unseemly.

Moods, passions, fancy's jealous fits
    Attend upon her train :
She yieldeth rest without repose,
    And heaven in hellish pain.

Her house is Sloth, her door Deceit,
    And slippery Hope her stairs ;
Unbashful Boldness bids her guests,
    And every vice repairs.

Her diet is of such delights
    As please till they be past ;
But then the poison kills the heart
    That did entice the taste.

Her sleep in sin doth end in wrath,
    Remorse rings her awake ;
Death calls her up, Shame drives her out,
    Despairs her upshot make.

Plough not the seas, sow not the sands,
    Leave off your idle pain ;
Seek other mistress for your minds,
    Love's service is in vain.

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Guess Again Correct answers to


Guess Again

Correct answers to numbers one and two below. And now some hints. They are all very famous works. Except for number 6, they are all twentieth century. Numbers 3, 4, 8, and depending on how you look at it 9 come from popular fiction. Numbers 7 and 10 are by Nobel Laureates. Of course, it may be premature for hints as I've only had my Late Sunday crowd through, and that is significantly diminished numbers. I'm sure when Melissa breezes through we'll have a majority of the answers.

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Beginning or end. Author, Work,


Beginning or end.

Author, Work, and first or last line.

1. No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. (bonus, supply the last line)

2. (EASY)IT is OUR intention to preserve in these pages what scant biographical material we have been able to collect concerning Joseph Knecht, or Ludi Magister Josephus III, as he is called in the Archives of the Glass Bead Game.

3. It was reliably reported by several persons that a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky on Carlin Street in the town of Chamberlain on August 17th.

4. . . .that's the one I'll save for noon. For noon…When we reach the city.

5. Dusk--of a summer night.

And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400,000 inhabitants--such walls as in time may linger as a mere fable.

6. ‘Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.’ But since ’tis as ’tis why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks accordingly.”

7.In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.

8.Then she gave a small sigh, pulled the pillow to the edge of the bed so that it was just above him, laid her head down so that she could see him whenever she wanted to, and closed her eyes. ( A guilty pleasure)

9. IT WAS ABOUT ELEVEN O'CLOCK in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.

10. The officer, surrounded by these noises, was moved and a little embarrassed. He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.

Quite a mixed bag this. Hopefully something for everyone.

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Universalism and the Suspension of Reason

A discussion about universalism at Disputations has inspired some related thoughts.

I suppose it comes as no surprise that I used to be a heretic, and were I to follow my heart, I probably would be again. Something inside me urges me toward the belief that ALL WILL be saved, including the minions of Hell. Now, this has been roundly denounced by the Church, and I humbly accept her teachings, but it does not stop a kind of longing for it to be true nevertheless. I know it cannot be--but. . . "The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know."

I still hope that all will be saved, but I acknowledge that even that hope involves a certain suspension of reason and experience. I would like to believe that everyone walks into the light--but two points--some people are confoundedly proud, and I do believe that God is a wooer, not a rapist. He will not take anyone against their own will. If they choose not to face Him, that is a choice without recourse--God will not force them. My hope consists in the notion that if at the moment of death they are vouchsafed a glimpse, a moment of His radiant majesty and glorious holiness--no one could turn away. But I know that there are those who in sheer human cussedness would cover themselves with offal and say it smells like roses.

So my universalism requires that I continue to hope and I occasionally must kick my own head out the way. I can't think too long on the matter, because

"From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire. . . .

for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice." (Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice")

And so it is with all humans--fire and ice two ways to reject Glory.

Despite reason, or perhaps as Chesterton points out, because of it, I hope nevertheless that all ultimately are saved--but that is not a choice God makes, it is one that He allows.

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A Tremendous Gift from the


A Tremendous Gift from the Wesley Center

Amazing what one finds wandering through the web. Here's a Greek New Testament with Strong's numbers and word parsings and origins set up in frames. I had started to learn New Testament Greek, but this will probably help a great deal.

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This Is Just a Reminder


This Is Just a Reminder for Me and Anyone Else Who Cares

But I doubt that there's many in the audience who care about the difference between strict Calvinism and Arminianism. And since I'm Catholic, I suppose you wonder why I should care. And there you'll have to consult with God, because I haven't a clue, but I do find it fascinating.

The Question, "What Is an Arminian?" Answered by a Lover of Free Grace John Wesley 6. The errors charged upon these (usually termed Arminians) by their opponents, are five: (1.) That they deny original sin; (2.) That they deny justification by faith; (3.) That they deny absolute predestination; (4.) That they deny the grace of God to be irresistible; and, (5.) That they affirm, a believer may fall from grace.

With regard to the two first of these charges, they plead, Not Guilty. They are entirely false. No man that ever lived, not John Calvin himself, ever asserted either original sin, or justification by faith, in more strong, more clear and express terms, than Arminius has done. These two points, therefore, are to be set out of the question: In these both parties agree. In this respect, there is not a hair's breadth difference between Mr. Wesley and Mr. Whitefield.

7. But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, "He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:" And in order to this, "Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;" that is, for every child of Adam, since "in Adam all died."

8. The Calvinists hold, Secondly, that the saving grace of God is absolutely irresistible; that no man is any more able to resist it, than to resist the stroke of lightning. The Arminians hold, that although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved.

9. The Calvinists hold, Thirdly, that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace. The Arminians hold, that a true believer may "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;" that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish for ever.

10. Indeed, the two latter points, irresistible grace and infallible perseverance, are the natural consequence of the former, of the unconditional decree. For if God has eternally and absolutely decreed to save such and such persons, it follows, both that they cannot resist his saving grace, (else they might miss of salvation,) and that they cannot finally fall from that grace which they cannot resist. So that, in effect, the three questions come into one, "Is predestination absolute or conditional?" The Arminians believe, it is conditional; the Calvinists, that it is absolute.

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Part III: Guess the Sermonizer


Part III: Guess the Sermonizer and the Cause

Isn't the internet wonderful?

"And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered: It is. If it be, give me thine hand." 2 Kings 10:15.

1. It is allowed even by those who do not pay this great debt, that love is due to all mankind, the royal law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," carrying its own evidence to all that hear it: and that, not according to the miserable construction put upon it by the zealots of old times, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour," thy relation, acquaintance, friend, "and hate thine enemy;" not so; "I say unto you," said our Lord, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children," may appear so to all mankind, "of your Father which is in heaven; who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

2. But it is sure, there is a peculiar love which we owe to those that love God. So David: "All my delight is upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue." And so a greater than he: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35). This is that love on which the Apostle John so frequently and strongly insists: "This," saith he, "is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11). "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought," if love should call us thereto, "to lay down our lives for the brethren" (verse 16). And again: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love" (4:7, 8). "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (verses 10, 11).

3. All men approve of this; but do all men practise it? Daily experience shows the contrary. Where are even the Christians who "love one another as he hath given us commandment?" how many hindrances lie in the way! The two grand, general hindrances are, first, that they cannot all think alike and, in consequence of this, secondly, they cannot all walk alike; but in several smaller points their practice must differ in proportion to the difference of their sentiments.

4. But although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.

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Part II: Guess the Sermonizer


Part II: Guess the Sermonizer

Another interesting and delightful excerpt encountered today:

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Heb. 1:14.

1. Many of the ancient Heathens had (probably from tradition) some notion of good and evil angels. They had some conception of a superior order of beings, between men and God, whom the Greeks generally termed demons, (knowing ones,) and the Romans, genii. Some of these they supposed to be kind and benevolent, delighting in doing good; others, to be malicious and cruel, delighting in doing evil. But their conceptions both of one and the other were crude, imperfect, and confused; being only fragments of truth, partly delivered down by their forefathers, and partly borrowed from the inspired writings.

2. Of the former, the benevolent kind, seems to have been the celebrated demon of Socrates; concerning which so many and so various conjectures have been made in succeeding ages. "This gives me notice," said he, "every morning, of any evil which will befall me that day." A late writer, indeed, (I suppose one that hardly believes the existence of either angel or spirit,) has published a dissertation, wherein he labours to prove, that the demon of Socrates was only his reason. But it was not the manner of Socrates to speak in such obscure and ambiguous terms. If he had meant his reason, he would doubtless have said so. But this could not be his meaning: For it was impossible his reason should give him notice, every morning, of every evil which would befall him in that day. It does not lie within the province of reason, to give such notice of future contingencies. Neither does this odd interpretation in anywise agree with the inference which he himself draws from it. "My demon," says he, "did not give me notice this morning of any evil that was to befall me to-day. Therefore I cannot regard as any evil my being condemned to die." Undoubtedly it was some spiritual being: Probably one of these ministering spirits.

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Can You Guess the Sermonizer?


Can You Guess the Sermonizer?

EPHESIANS iv. 23, 24. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

This text is exceedingly valuable to us for it tells us the end and aim of all religion. It tells us why we are to pray, whether at home or in church; why we are to read our Bibles and good books; why we are to be what is commonly called religious.

It tells us, I say, the end and aim of all religion; namely, that we may put on 'the new man, which after God'—according to the likeness of God—'is created in righteousness and true holiness.' So says St. Paul in another place: 'Be ye therefore followers'—literally, copiers, imitators—'of God, as dear children.'

Now this is not what you will be told from too many pulpits, and in too many books, now-a-days, is the end of religion. You will be told that the end of religion is to save your soul, and go to heaven.

But experience shows, my friends, in all religions and in all ages, that those who make it their first object in life to save their souls, are but too likely to lose them; as our Lord says, He that saveth his soul, or life—for the words are the same in Scripture—shall lose it.

And experience shows that in all religions, and in all ages, those who make it their first object in life to get to heaven, are but too likely never to get there: because in their haste, they forget what heaven is, and what is the only way of arriving at it.

Good works, as they call the likeness of God and the Divine life, are in too many persons' eyes only fruits of faith, or proofs of faith, and not the very end of faith, and of religion—ay, of their very existence here on earth; and therefore they naturally begin to ask,— How few good works will be enough to prove their faith? And when a man has once set that question before himself, he is sure to find a comfortable answer, and to discover that very few good works indeed,— a very little sanctification (as it is called), a very little righteousness, and a very little holiness,—will be enough to save his soul, as far at least as he wishes his soul to be saved.

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After the Carmelite Meeting--Detachment

Detachment. Detachment. Detachment.

You hear so much about detachment, you begin to think that detachment is the point of Carmelite Spirituality.

Detachment is a railway car,
a skateboard,
a surfboard, motorcycle, autobus.
Detachment is the airplane,
the skis, the toboggan, the sled,
the snowcat.
Detachment is the boat pulling the water skier,
it is the water-slide, the conveyor belt.

Detachment is not an end in itself. If it has become an end it is useless. Detachment is the means to an end--the means,in fact, to the only end that matters. Detachment is the vehicle that helps to convey us to God. But as with all the instruments above, they must be used and they must be used properly to advance toward God. One doesn't strap on skis to go rock clilmbing, neither does one fly an airplane to get to the next-door neighbors. We match the conveyance to the length and type of the journey. So with detachment. It is a conveyance--a means to an end. Union with God is the goal, if we become attached to detachment, we remain at a distance from the God of Holiness and Might--the God who can change our lives right down to the core.

Detachment is not pleasant, but "Todo lo puedo en Christo. . ." (Sometimes have to convey some of these things to our Latino community. Speaking of that--what a tremendous blessing--their obvious love of the Lord and Our Lady and their lack of fear about showing it. We could all do with a bit more Latino in us.)

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

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