May 2003 Archives

Perhaps Two People Will Care


Perhaps Two People Will Care

Last night I was listening to a transcription of Scarlatti's Harpsichord music played on piano and I realized that as pleasant and appropriate as piano is for some things, we have lost a great deal with the fading popularity of the Harpsichord. So too with my other two favorite instruments--the lute and the mandolin. While the guitar is very nice, listening to Julian Bream playing guitar transcriptions of the Bach Lute Concertos was some hollow and empty. (I'm sure listening to a Lute transcription of the Aranjuez Concerti for Guitar, or parts of the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasilieras would be jolting). I've decided that in addition to drone instruments, I really like the "plucked" instrument sound. There's just about nothing so fine as the Vivaldi Concerti for Mandolin.

Also, I was listening once again to my Curved Air collection (a reference I expect about three people in the world to know) and wondered was there anything so fine, unusual, and fascinating as either "Vivaldi with Cannons" or "Ultra Vivaldi?"

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From A Plumbline in the


From A Plumbline in the Wind to the Blessed John Soreth

Found this blog and from it a series of papers of later medieval early Renaissance (depending on the part of Europe you were in) Catholicism and particularly noted the essay on the Blessed John Soreth. If you visit the blogmeister, be sure to stop by his web-page as well.

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Prayers Please

For Bill White's new-born daughter who is back in medical care.

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A Dylan Report I spoke


A Dylan Report

I spoke with Dylan last night and he is in spirits about as good as circumstances allow. He is optimistic that his stay will be shorter than predicted yesterday, but as with all such things there is no certainty. He was encouraged by the prayer support he has been receiving, and amused by the tales of blogdom--particularly my recounting of the current Limboing contest presented courtesy of Mr. da Fiesole at Disputations and other events in blogdom. If you have short messages of encouragement or something you would like to say--please feel free to comment or to send me an e-mail and I will see to it that Dylan gets the message. Gifts of poetry and prayers most welcome. And my thanks to everyone who shares in the support of one of St. Blogs own. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

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Dylan Update Courtesy of his


Dylan Update

Courtesy of his friend Heather:

On behalf of Dylan, let me extend heartfelt thanks to all of you who have been supporting him through this difficult time. For those of you who do not yet know, Dylan is in the hospital, and will probably be there for some time. I expect that he may not be leaving the hospital for at least a few months -- possibly as long as 6 months, depending on how things go.

Heather has a limited capacity to check e-mail, so while she is appreciative of all things sent for Dylan's benefit, she does ask that we try to limit our e-mail communication as it is entirely possible that e-mail will begin bouncing. I suspect that I will be writing and talking to Dylan from time to time as will a few of the rest of us. If there is something particular you would like me to convey, please let me know--I will be happy to do so. In the meantime, he has my assurances that we all think of him and pray for him regularly. Thanks to all who support Dylan in prayer.

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Excerpt from a Book I


Excerpt from a Book I need to Obtain

A book reviewed by Fr. Redemptus Valabek O.Carm. in Carmel in the World attracted my attention.

from When I Cannot Pray Fr. Rudolf D'Souza

Prayer, therefore, is an inward, inner, general, essential, radical, permanent, constant, continuous, habitual and prolonged attitude. Thus, prayer eventually becomes identical with the essential attitude of our being in front of God and neighbour, an habitual attitude of reverent worship of the divine truth, a conitnuous state of being, a constant attitude by which we walk with God and live in Him and with others.

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A Finitude of Annoyance--Perhaps Worth It

Republication of one's Archives allows direct linking to work at least for a while. I've noted that republication may be necessary on a frequent basis, but I have yet to determine how frequent. I don't know if it is daily or weekly or what. However, I will endeavor to remember to republish the archive for the week a couple of times to try to keep the direct linkages working. What a pain! If this is Google's "improvement" to the blogging system, we would all do better without it.

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One Darkest Night


The June/July Issue of First Things has a new translation of St.John of the Cross's most famous poem--here called "One Darkest Night." While the translation is in some ways a version that gives a far finer sense of the poetry of St. John than most previous translations, it has some minor flaws. The original Spanish is noted below for context. The majority of this critique will focus on the first stanza. (But this brief comment gives me the excuse to post the entire thing).

La noche oscura
St. John of the Cross

Canciones del alma que se goza de haber llegado al
alto estado de la perfección, que es la unión con Dios,
por el camino de la negación espiritual.

En una noche oscura,
con ansias en amores inflamada,
(¡oh dichosa ventura!)
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

A oscuras y segura,
por la secreta escala disfrazada,
(¡oh dichosa ventura!)
a oscuras y en celada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

En la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que nadie me veía,
ni yo miraba cosa,
sin otra luz ni guía
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Aquésta me guïaba
más cierta que la luz del mediodía,
adonde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabía,
en parte donde nadie parecía.

¡Oh noche que me guiaste!,
¡oh noche amable más que el alborada!,
¡oh noche que juntaste
amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él solo se guardaba,
allí quedó dormido,
y yo le regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.

El aire de la almena,
cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello hería,
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

Quedéme y olvidéme,
el rostro recliné sobre el amado,
cesó todo, y dejéme,
dejando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.

First, a quibble--the translation does not include the famous header that is commonly called the "argument" of the poem. This is a standard literary device present in the poems of Milton and a great many others and it assists the reader in analyzing what follows. For this poem the header reads (in Kiernan Kavanaugh's and Otilio Rodriguez's translation):

Songs of the soul that rejoices in having reached the high state of perfection, which is union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.

The header tells us two things--that there is more than one song present here and the songs are about union with God. Now Kavanaugh and Rodriguez number the stanzas, as do other translations and manuscripts of the original. This tends to give the impression that each stanza is a song unto itself, which I suppose is one possibility--rather like a leider cycle. I tend to read it somewhat differently--I see two songs here that overlap at the fifth stanza. There appears to be a change of poetic direction so that stanza five ends the first song and gives rise to the second. At least the poem is intelligible read in that way. The author of the new translation has chosen to make the translation a single song--which, in fact is not antithetical to the original poetic intent despite the header.

Let's look briefly at a couple of more serious problems with the new translation. For some reason both the title and the first line of the first stanza are rendered "One darkest night." Literally the title is "The Dark Night" and the first line of stanza one is "On a dark night." There are two problems with this translation, one minor the other major. The minor problem is the disservice done to the English language. Darkest is a superlative. There can only be one such. Thus to say "One darkest night," has the flavor of redundancy and absurdity. Admittedly a small flaw, but a small flaw that has much more profound implications.

The implications come from the commentary on the poem. In The Ascent of Mount Carmel St. John of the Cross claims to be spelling out his theory of prayer and union with God in the form of a commentary on this poem. In fact the work comments only on the first two stanzas and then abandons the original structure. However, in commenting on those two John makes the important division between the active night of the senses and the active night of the spirit. Of this second, which he says was intended by the second stanza, he says that it is the darkest night of three--sense, spirit, and God. He likens the first to night with moonlight and starlight, the second to night without moon or any light at all, and the third to night beginning to be pierced by daylight. Thus, to say of the first stanza "One darkest night" gets around the use of the poem in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. I suppose this is only troublesome if the translation is used in conjunction with its commentary--nevertheless it is a flaw that would need to be remedied in order to make the poem useful for the commentary.

Now that I've quibbled it to death, I must say that the poem is refreshing. Let me quote the first full stanza to give you a sense of the rhythm and the beauty of the translation/paraphrase:

from "One Darkest Night" translated by Rhina P. Espaillat

One darkest night I went,
aflame with love's devouring eager burning--
O fortunate event!--
no witnesses discerning,
the house now still from which my steps were turning.

Now one could fault the choice of moving the action of the poem to the first line, but I see no real problem poetically with the choice--it is not literal, but it allows the poet to use the swinging rhythm caused by the gerunds in lines 2, 4, and 5. As you might well imagine, in Spanish nearly every line has a rhyme or a half-rhyme or at least an echoic phrasing. This translation very nicely captures the essence of that. I have a little problem with "no witnesses discerning" because of the connotative load of the word discern, but it is a choice I can live with for the sake of the overall effect.

In fact, despite my many quibbles here, I really like the translation and recommend it to everyone's attention. If you get First Things turn to page six and begin reading. Quiz in one week.

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As Though You Needed to


As Though You Needed to See This

My F Score--Got in just over the line this time. Last time I was right on the border:

Your F Score is: 3.066666666666667

You are disciplined but tolerant; a true American.

However, please note, last time I scored a 3. Where then would I be on the scale. The little tag line didn't say because the owner confused it with fuzzy math:

2 to 3: A liberal airhead.

3 to 4.5: Within normal limits; an appropriate score for an American. (The overall average score for groups tested in the original study is listed in the 1950 publication as 3.84, with men averaging somewhat higher and women somewhat lower.)

Very, very sloppy to have such an ill-defined border. Obviously what must be meant is either :

2 up to and including 3


2 up to but excluding 3.

Or, more precisely:

[2, 3] or [2, 3).

Really, if we're going to rate facism, shouldn't we a trifle more disciplined about it?

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Because I Am in Need


Because I Am in Need of Diversion

From Kathy the Carmelite's blog most recently, though I may have seen this in the past.

Pegasus Banner
You're a pegasus. You're very calm and loving.
Something about you makes others want to get
close to you, whether or not you feel the same
way about them. You don't bond to others
easily, but when you do it's long-lasting. Your
alignment is *good*, but not so much that you
can't have fun.

What mythical beast are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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A Nontheological "Argument" for Why We May Hope "That All Will Be Saved."

A recent article by Cardinal Avery Dulles has many asking "What is the population of Hell?" I am not a student of theology as such. Such understanding as I do have is remarkably crude and based on scattered reading and reflection, so I cannot pretend to offer anything that would remotely approximate a logical argument--only a series of impressions. I am certain that where these go astray, I can count upon the good members of blogdom to correct them.

The question boils down to whether theologians like Hans Urs von Balthasar and writers like Richard John Neuhaus are soft-hearted, soft-headed, or both. Many complain that modern theology tends to "soften up" God. And I wonder whether that is not also a legitimate development in our understanding of God. Christianity is a religion entering its "teen years" in many ways--perhaps it's a bit more like teens entering their twenties--but our understandings, mysteriously, are still forming. As one matures, one's notion of one's parents matures. When we are young we naturally love them, but they are a little frightening. They seem arbitrary and their rules are mysterious and ever in flux. As we mature into the teen years, they are even more arbitrary and deliberately designed to reduce our freedom and our ability to be ourselves. The twenties allow us to see parents in something approximating reality and realize that all of those actions were not so arbitrary as we would have it. Only after we have our own children do we begin to truly understand what our parents were about.

So it seems with religion. Early on our vision of God was of the Great Just Judge and Father. We love our Father, but we are frightened of the Judge that He is. One slip and we could be plunged into exile into Hell forever. Yes, we could repent and get another chance, but still and all, we constantly walk the precipice of his tolerance. And one could certainly support this view from scripture and from the words of Jesus. However, our human hearts tell us that this cannot be the truth. In our own parents, who are imperfect, justice does not trump love and compassion. They may be combined--but it is a rare parent who will permanently exile his or her child. It may become necessary for one reason or another and may happen--but it seems more likely to be a rare event. To use the tautology Jesus so aptly put--"If we who are corrupt and imperfect know how to do good things, how much more Our Father in Heaven does so."

Over time, we have become more aware of God's loving presence. It was always taught by the great saints and always offered to the church at large. However, the impression one gets of the Church through time is that it was regarded not so much as a loving steward of all that was good in faith, but as a sometimes quite strict teacher whose main interest was keeping everyone to the straight and narrow. The Church was a church of laws and rules and regulations, and mysterious, sometimes meaningless restrictions. In medieval times it was common church practice, if not church teaching to observe a relatively strict fast and abstinence during Lent, such abstinence also included marital relations and other odds and ends depending upon the local church officials.

The time of the reformation might be more correctly regarded as the beginning of the rebellious teens, in which the imperfections of the parent became glaringly obvious (the parent, in this case being the Church) and the only way to achieve any sort of autonomy was rebellion. Now, in some sense this was probably true. One cannot argue with the justice of many of the theses hammered onto the door of Wittenburg Cathedral--there were serious problems and injustices in the Church that needed to be addressed. Whether the reformation was the way to address them or not is speculative--it happened and its errors and progeny live with us today. But it does represent the maturing of faith through rebellion and reexamination.

Modern theology may be a further maturing of the Church. Yes, there may be an overemphasis in some quarters on the loving nature of God. But this may be a reaction to the near exclusion of such a nature in much that had come before. The real question comes down to the understanding one has of God. In some representations God seems more like an infinitely fickle prima donna than a loving parent. One wrong word, one wrong action, and you're out of grace--forget it buddy, you need not apply, etc. Obviously, that cannot be the case. Biblical revelation does not permit a view of God as capricious or touchy, He may be a just judge or a loving Father, but hardly finicky.

One returns to the human view--what would it take to alienate us from our own children. Surely not one ill-considered word or action. We might be miffed, but we aren't going to disown a child over that. Even a continued pattern of rebellion will try our patience and our willingness to endure, but it is unlikely to make us not love our child. To truly attain exile, the child must willfully choose it and continue in a pattern of deliberately alienating activity. Most children do not. Most return and apologize or make amends without necessarily ever admitting what was done was wrong. So too, it would seem with God. One wrong move and you're out isn't plausible. Neither is a lifetime of wrongs moves properly repented of--God is infinitely patient.

So it would seem to me that while there are some human beings strong enough to consistently insist upon their own way and to deny the loving nature of God, these would be relatively few and far between. Most of us do really stupid things and then repent even as we try to justify them. We know they are wrong and yet we cannot admit to being wrong so much of the time.

Does this say that we may hope that all will be saved? No--not really, that hope exists in addition to the argument here. All that I contend is that the ordinary nature of a human being is to return to love, and make some attempt to repair the breach. Moreover, we have Jesus' parable of the workers--those in the morning, those at noon, and those late in the evening--which seems to promise that at whatever time we come to our sense, God is there to receive us.

Two great thinkers have come to the conclusion that this hope is reasonable and valid and from what I know and understand of God, I choose this camp. Others rely upon somewhat darker scriptures that seem to promise damnation for many. But sometimes I wonder whether it isn't damnation, but an Earthly purgatory that is promised. Many point to the near certainty that Judas may be in Hell, because Jesus points out that it would be better for him had he never been born, and this could only point to damnation. But I would say that while that is possible, Jesus was also very aware of Earthly life, its shortcomings and disasters. And truly, to have lived the way Judas did in the short term after the death of Jesus was to live a hell on Earth--he could well have wished never to have been born. When Jesus says that narrow is the way and straight is the gate that leads to salvation, but the path to destruction is wide, it does not necessarily mean that everyone cannot enter by the straight gate--they must merely wander through the land of ruin for a while before they take their place in line. A narrow gate does not deny admission, but it does mean one must get into line eventually--some earlier, some later. There are other passages that suggest that others may not be present with God, and they cannot be so easily reasoned away. But was Jesus speaking of what was fact or what was potentiality? Many point to the visions of Hell at Fatima as support for the view of many entering Hell. But private revelation is not binding on the church, and who can interpret such visions clearly? I don't know what they mean, but perhaps they are along the lines of the vision in the Revelation of John--what exactly is the beast with seven heads and ten crowns?

The point is merely that while God is just, He is also loving. Balancing the two is very tricky, and often in the past it would seem that the predominant emphasis has been on His justice. And I suppose if you want to frighten "iffy" Christians into heaven, an emphasis on judgment would be salutary. For even if God is all-loving, one should not be presumptuous. One needs to return love for love, and attempt to love as one is loved. In this lies our hope that all may be saved. Humans gravitate toward love--we desire love and we are moved by love. We sometimes have a very unclear view of what constitutes love--but nevertheless, much of our lives is spent trying to define it, find it, live it and keep it.

Okay, so this hasn't turned out to be an argument so much as a special pleading based on limited human understanding. But I do contend that the perceived "gentling" of theology may be a legitimate development in theology as we come to understand better God's loving nature. Perhaps Christianity has begun to enter adulthood and now seeks true peace to live out its life. Or perhaps these theologians are simply soft-hearted and soft-headed. I do not have the wherewithal to discern the truth in this matter; however, God Himself desires that all will be saved, and in this also lies our hope. He did not make creation to damn it, but to love it into eternity. We may still choose a different path, but Grace is hard to resist, and God will constantly woo us back. Right now, my own temporal respite is this belief, and I hold to it closely.

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Church of the Masses There


Church of the Masses

There is much to admire at Ms. Nicolosi's blog. Reading very carefully, I found this particularly refreshing:

A Note to Visitors: Please share your comments! Note, however, that civility is considered a higher good than First Amendment rights here. Incivility will be uncivilly suppressed. Welcome to Our Kingdom! Enjoy your stay.

To be fearfully unoriginal: "O Frabjous day, Calloo, Callay, he chortled in his joy."

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An Urgent Request For Prayers


An Urgent Request For Prayers

I know, I'm always begging. But please pray for me and my family at this time.

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All My Words Are Straw


All My Words Are Straw

I am endlessly fascinated by this statement of one of the great scholars, intellectual leaders, and saints of the Catholic Church. And if the statement holds any truth at all for St. Thomas Aquinas, how much more true must it be for all the rest of us? I think about the energy poured out in blogging and in writing of all sorts and I wonder whether this expenditure is worthwhile. The first question must always be, "Does it serve God?"

I think St. Thomas, enraptured by the vision granted him by God, came to value his work as a human work--as nothing in the light of Glory. But somehow, I do not think God so values it and so too with our feeble efforts. Just as with every page of bug-eyed frog-people, I treasure and value the art work and the attempts of my beautiful son to express himself, so I believe God values each of our attempts to give Him glory no matter how feeble, distorting, and incomplete. When I'm led to wonder whether it is worth continuing to write and to say things, I look at the refrigerator or at the wall of my cubicle at work and say--yes, it is, isn't it?

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Prayer Requests

Please continue prayers for Dylan--he will need them for some time to come.

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A Review of Life of


A Review of Life of Pi

is available at Catholic Bookshelf

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For Those Wishing to Know


For Those Wishing to Know More About Maria de Mattias

Fr. Keyes C.PP. S. has devoted much of his blog the last few weeks to the canonizations that occurred recently. Among those canonized was Maria de Mattias--seemingly she is largely left out of the reporting about the event. Fr. Keyes's enthusiasm inspired me to look around for more about the saint. Here's one article the fruit of my present search. Here are the propers for celebrating her feast day (once again courtesy of Fr. Keyes). And here's another somewhat simpler, more condensed life of/spirituality of. Enjoy. I'll post a larger list later if I find more material. And thanks to Fr. Keyes.

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A Blog that Cannot Be


A Blog that Cannot Be Recommended Enough

Christus Victor gives us this magnificent quote from a dying friend, "Everything this side of Hell is Grace." Christine, if you ever stop by here--thank you so much for all that you do on your blog--it is an inspiration and "Something Beautiful for God."

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From Quenta Narwenion A link


From Quenta Narwenion

A link to a new blogger with a most remarkable and worthwhile name Gaudete semper. Something we could all do with a reminder of from time to time.

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You Know Your Decision Wasn't


You Know Your Decision Wasn't a Complete Failure When. . .
Glimpses of Samuel's Last Day of School

Getting ready in the morning--always an ordeal--mom is cranky, dad is only semi-conscious (a state maintained until about noon) and Samuel vivacious and ready to go. Mom says to Samuel, "You're really making me angry. You should be doing this yourself," referring to putting on his socks. Samuel replies, "When you let anger live in your heart, you have committed murder, mommy. You should not kill."

In the classroom, the teacher is reviewing the year. She asks each student what was their favorite thing in school. We get all manner of answers: recess, writing, little books, the ten commandments. Samuel's turn comes and he responds, "Chapel." Now, if only I can get a similar enthusiasm for Mass. (Though on this point, I must admit that if he thinks I'm going to Mass alone--a very rare event--he begs, pleads and does everything he can to go. He even ended up attending both Holy Thursday and Good Friday services and was wonderful for both.)

The teacher in the last "program" of the year speaks to the parents, "At this age, if they learn their phonics, fine. If they learn their numbers, that's great too. But if they don't, they'll get that in kindergarten--it's what kindergarten is for. My job as a teacher is to help them learn to love and obey God. I told the teachers at the upper grades that I was going to teach the ten commandments, and they laughed at me, 'They're only four.' But they can do it, and they can understand it."

Just after these remarks she leads a "little catechism." Samuel is holding a card with the number 1 on it. When she comes to him he pipes up with "Love God most of all." Yes, he does get it.

At home later that evening, Samuel says, "We must love God first and most. He doesn't like us to be mean to each other."

At prayers after the usual intercessions of thanksgiving for "our school; our day; mommies, daddies, and babies" Samuel adds an intention, "And God please help Xxxx (a classmate who has some anger management problems) to be good and nice and to not have his problems."

Yes, it surely seems that God led us in the right direction and, for a change, we actually listened. Praise Him!

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From the Gospel of John


From the Gospel of John

I have been thinking about a passage from the Gospel of John every since "Good Shepherd" Sunday. Immediately after that Sunday there seemed to be a number of reflection at various places in the Parish, but none of them touched upon the single sentence that I found incredibly intriguing.

John 10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

I find this interesting because while Jesus says that they will hear his voice (and thus presumably know it) He makes no indication that they will know His name. Who are these other sheep?

Are they perhaps those who know of Jesus through the majesty of the book of nature and thus hear his voice but do not know his name? Are they those that Paul refers to who, "know not the law, but live the law in their hearts and are saved by it?" I don't know. But I derive a great deal of comfort from the thought that there are other sheep not of the fold, and that Jesus gathers them all in.

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Speaking of Wonderlands

One would do oneself a favor if one were to hie oneself over to Disputations and read ALL of the more recent posts. Mr. Da Fiesole is on a roll, and a most wonderful and grace-filled roll (not a Parker House or Crescent) it is. Seriously, he has some wonderful reflections on atonement, on the Catholic Worker movement and other items of interest. Thanks Mr. da Fiesole, and bless you for your work.

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Literary Wonderland

Ms. Lee Ann notifies me that her residence is that Mecca of Literacy--Birmingham, Alabama. Well, one knows that there's trouble when one longs for the relative literary richness of Birmingham. Perhaps I need to get out more.

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Prayers and Other Spiritual Works of Mercy Required

Dylan is in particular need of our prayers and more. For those who are capable, it might be good to offer a fast day for his health, recovery, and situation. Please remember him at mass, at morning and evening prayer, at whatever regularly observed or irregular prayers in which you may engage. I have conveyed to him already the profound good wishes and greetings from many members of St. Blog's. Once again, he needs our continuous outpouring of prayer.

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Reviews of Ron Brown Angels


Reviews of Ron Brown

Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code available this day at Catholic Bookshelf.

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Silence There is an especial



There is an especial irony in writing about silence. Surely anything said is counter to the movement itself. And yet, much needs to be said because so little of it is experienced. But what can be said of it that would entice one to experience it? Nothing.

Nada, nada, nada, nada, nada, nada, nada, nada, nada

Break away from the blog. Close your eyes--turn off whatever other distracting device is entertaining you and devote your entire self for just one minute to single-tasking. It may take a superhuman effort. But one minute of sitting quietly.

Now, try again. One minute of sitting silently, beside you the greatest friend and companion of your life, the sole Meaning of existence, the Sweetness of Life, the Lord of All. He's asked you to spend a moment with Him, not chattering about all your mutual acquaintances or all the preoccupations of your mind. Just a moment enjoying what is--silently.

Silence is more than quiet. In fact, if silence is only quiet, then it is not the silence we seek. Silence might be best described as companionable quiet. Quiet with Someone who means much and who Loves much.

Silence can only be understood by undertaking. And it can only be undertaken by the grace of God. The Eucharist is the doorway into Silence in which all that is worth hearing is heard, all that is worth seeing is seen, and all that is worth doing has its inception.

Silence is a special gift to individuals within the Church, and their grace is to spread the gift to all about them. Silence starts with one and it grows, encompassing the many--not in sterile quiet, but in loving certitude.

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Remember Margaret Drabble's Vitriol?

Well now here's a response, an excerpt of which follows:

from an article by Barbara Amiel

Countering the arguments Drabble advanced to justify her pathology is easy. The lady is a fine fiction writer, but when it comes to facts or ratiocination, she should be put in care. The sight of the faces painted on the noses of American planes bombing Iraq led her to the conclusion that "a nation that can paint those faces on death machines must be insane".

There are 26,000 entries alone on the first search engine I went to on the web for "nose art", which is what aviation art is called. It appears to have been first used by the Italians in 1913, but its golden age was the Second World War, when the Germans and British, as well as Americans, used it to keep up morale.

The key to understanding Drabble's lunatic rant is her reaction to what she says she saw on CNN celebrating the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. She describes an old, shabbily dressed Vietnamese man bartering for dollars. The horror of this moment - an "elderly, impoverished" Vietnamese man wanting that terrible currency, American dollars, for heaven's sake - just put the lid on it for Drabble. She writes: "The Vietnamese had won the war, but had lost the peace."

Well no, Miss Drabble. The Vietnamese fought the war for communism and they won communism. That, indeed, is why the old man is impoverished, shabbily dressed and bartering for dollars. In your deliberate obtuseness, you become blind to the most self-evident conclusions and an apologist for the appalling regimes that are so far removed from your ostensible values.

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Judge William Young on Richard


Judge William Young on Richard Reid

I was made aware of this remarkable little speech by an e-mail. After vetting it and reading the trial transcript, I place it here for everyone's attention. With all that I have said in recent days impugning a really very fine judicial system, this is a small way to make amends--and these words deserve to be remembered. For the time being the entire transcript is available here.

from The Sentencing Hearing of Richard Reid

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you.

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.

Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.

We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.

In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you're no big deal. You're no big deal.

What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing.

And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.

Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely.

It is for freedom's seek that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their, their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.

Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.

The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.

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A Rationale upon the Book


A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer

Another wonderful offering via Project Canterbury--Anthony Sparrow's--Rationale. A wonderful reference and reminder even for those of us who do not use the Book of Common Prayer.

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Small Annoyances and Great Mercies

Reading the blogmeister at The Literarium is occasionally a painful temptation to envy or some such sin. Apparently Ms. Morawski lives in a part of the country in which literacy is both alive and prized. I am dubious about my own part of the world sometimes. Other than the huge chain bookstores there are relatively few resources for the avid reader.

I used to live in Columbus, Ohio, and near the condominiums we occupied there was a huge supermarket of used books called "Half-Price Books." And indeed, most of the books were available for half of the cover price. In the region of the world I presently live (dominated by one large mouse) I have yet to see a used book store of any size whatsoever. Moreover, I have yet to see very many small boutique bookstores. Yes, I know the huge chains do tend to drive them into the ground--one of the strongest arguments for distributivism I am aware of.

I long for the times I could traverse a few parking lots and wind up at an emporium where I could get perhaps fifteen or twenty books for less than ten dollars. A place where people brought treasures they no longer treasured and I profited from them. More--a place I could take the cartload of books that were unwise purchases for a variety of reasons. I could really do with ready accessiblity to such resources again.

However, the price is far too high. Here I sit between beaches--within ready reach of hundreds of miles of shore on both the east and west coasts. A relatively easy drive from Sanibel Island. A quick hop to Canaveral National Seashore and the wonder of Merritt Island in general. So I have traded easy and inexpensive literacy for the glories of the ocean. Not, overall, a bad trade. I just sometimes wish I could have both.

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Weekend Wonders I have this


Weekend Wonders

I have this weekend reacquainted myself with some old friends as I have tried to move from vinyl (yes, I still have piles of it about decomposing) to MP3 (to preserve things no longer available through the record industry). Doing so I have listened once again to the absurd marvels of Camembert Electrique and the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, The Strawbs Hero and Heroine, Camel Snow Goose, Reichmann Wunderbar, Jade Warrior, Darryl Way's Wolf, Curved Air--including such wonderful bits as UltraVivaldi and the entire Phantasmagoria, Heldon 7 Les Soucoupes Volants Vertes, Aphrodite's Child, Christian Vander's Magma, particularly Attahk (what can you say about a guy who invented an entirely new language to sing in, and a particular favorite, The Residents Eskimo and Fingerprince being favorites.

Very likely this is of minimal interest to anyone. And in case you wonder, my success in creating MP3s has been quite limited. I don't know what to do about it because many of these things are no longer in print, no longer available. The vinyl continues its long, slow decline, and I fear the time when record players are so rare that it is impossible to find needles for them.

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The Eldred Act Or whatever


The Eldred Act

Or whatever it may be called. A great idea. Now I've complained, maybe this is something that can be done about it. The basic notion is that a copyright holder is responsible for paying a small fee, approximately one dollar to "maintain" the extension of copyright. If this fee is not paid, copyright lapses into public domain. I suppose it would be a bit of a nightmare for authors with zillions of works to keep track of, but most such authors are not likely to have to worry about it.

Anyway, I've bellyached over a couple of days, now I encourage all to write, e-mail, and otherwise bombard or blitz your senators and congressional reps. I'd do mine, but he's too busy talking about how much better than Bush he is. Good ole Bob Graham. Boy do I pick the states--from Howard Metzenbaum the would-be Dynasty Maker, to Bob Graham--next step Huey Long. No, Huey would be a significant improvement over this nonsense. Nevertheless, I shall write, phone, and e-mail.

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St. Maria de Mattias [I


St. Maria de Mattias

[I posted this earlier today, but it has vanished entirely from the page. Don't know what happened. Please visit Fr. Keyes's page for more.]

From this Saint (to be Canonized 18 May 2003) a most wonderful, thrilling prayer.

With Jesus let us think, with Jesus let us speak; let us labor with Jesus, let us rest with Jesus; with Jesus let us weep, with Jesus let us keep silence; let us pray with Jesus; with Jesus let us live, with Jesus let us die. May Jesus live in our minds. May Jesus live on our tongues. May Jesus live in our hearts. May Jesus live in our souls. May Jesus live at all times. May Jesus live in all places. May Jesus live in all hearts. Yes, let us always say: May Jesus live!"

May it be true for me and for all who visit this place! Praise God for such words and lives lived in accord with them. Praise God for all of His Saints. Praise God!

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A Brief Continuance

(Pardon the legal jargon :-))

The comment below inspired me all over again:

With respect, you are not being entirely fair to the Court. It is not their job to decide whether a law is good or bad, just or unjust, wise or foolish; it is their job to decide (perhaps discern would be a better word) whether it is Constitutional or not. Copyright law is, as far as I know, properly the responsibility of Congress. The current situation is then due to the "dubious wisdom" of Congress, and the correct remedy, as Therese pointed out in her post, is to get Congress to change the law.

While I concur wholeheartedly with the sentiment (not wishing to have a legislative court), I have several disagreements with this--

(1) It hasn't stopped them up 'til now, why stop here? (I have some suggestions as to why.)
(2) The interpretation of the Constitution is, in fact, one of the main responsibilities of the Supreme Court. As copyright law is directly addressed within the constitution and both its purpose and intent expressly stated, and there is a huge "tradition" of precedent in how the law ran up until about 1930, it would seem sufficient ground to interpret the Constitution.

Now, the purpose of copyright law is twofold--to encourage creative endeavor and to protect the rights of the producers of creative work. Therefore copyright is granted for a limited duration to ensure these rights. Up until very recently, it was quite possible for a work to slip out of copyright during an author's lifetime. In recent years, copyright laws with retroactive extension have basically placed everything after 1923 out of reach of the public domain until something like 2020 (I'm not looking this stuff up, just noting.)

The entry of work into public domain allows it to become the framework of other creative works. When that entry is denied for more than one-hundred years (as present law makes possible), the "limited time" argument becomes moot. If a work is protected for one-hundred years, then the time is not in any reasonable way limited, it cannot be touched during a human life-time. Furthermore, because the tendency has been toward a progressive increase of this time, it is not in any way substantially limited because the idiotic wording of the Supreme Court decision basically notes that protection of a work for, say 110 years, is, in fact a limit. Thus, the protection of a work for five-hundred years, would, in fact, be a limit under the present reading of the constitution. In fact, if you passed a law that allowed copyright for 10,000 years, it would still meet the definition of a limit.

However, if one looks at the wording of the Constitution and the history of copyright throughout the early history of the nation, one sees that this is a gross misrepresentation of what was intended in the wording. I tend to like to sail nearer the original intent so far as it can be discerned, and in this particular case, since the original copyright law is right in the Constitution, it is very clear to see what the writers intended.

Thus, I argue that it IS the fault of the court in not carrying out their duty in the interpretation and understanding of the Constitution.

Moreover, I further argue that it is simply not possible to get Congress to change the law. Steven Riddle v. Sony--who do you think wins when it comes to influence. The vast creative voice of America v. Disney and Polygram and . . . The point is, the copyright law sits in the hands of the corporations that fund election campaigns. I could lobby for the rest of my life, as could we all, and we would get back the letter that I have received, "Thank you for expressing your interest in this matter. The concerns of X's constituents are always welcomed and carefully investigated. " You, however are a crank and your concern does not spell reelection.

Justice is justice, and the Supreme Court supremely (as is their wont in so many cases) failed in supplying justice or equity. The Supreme Court is not about interpreting law, it is largely about concentrating power. As it stands, it tends to activism and legislation from the bench. It is nice to see a change; however, this was a case in which they would justly and reasonably have determined that the present law was indeed unconstitutional and they could have sent it back to congress with instructions to bring it into line--for example, removing the retroactive clause (no copyrights up until the twentieth century had any such provision, and it obviously flies in the face of intent.)

Anyway, as a creative artist, it disturbs me greatly, and when and if my own work is published, I have no intent of allowing it to remain in private hands forever. That will basically guarantee extinction--for example, do you suppose the novels of Mrs. Gaskell, were they still under copyright protection would ever see the light of day? How many people in the world read them? What publisher would want to produce them? I think of the richness of the literature of Spirituality from 1925 to the present and realize that we get the sampling of it that TAN Books or Sophia Instituted Press is capable of bringing to light, or that fits in with the given agenda of the publishing house.

No, I must disagree, the Supreme Court failed in a legitimate exercise of its authority. The law as written is in direct violation of precedent and of obvious intent. However, because it doesn't further the cause of executing the unborn, it is not of sufficient gravity to be considered as anything other than a trifle to be played with by those who have the money.

(Can you tell that I really get worked up about this? I think it's the fact that it will cost me something on the order of seven-hundred dollars a volume to get things like the Autobiography of H. Rider Haggard.)

Okay, Okay, I'm beating a dead horse, but sometimes it is important enough to be said, and all of my Green impulses are concentrated in this one admittedly minor issue. (But if the Supremes can invent a right to privacy, and then continually invoke the precedent of the right in insuring the protection of the right to slaughter the innocents, surely they can read what is actually written IN the document, can't they?)

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For Those Annoyed by the


For Those Annoyed by the Sonny Bono Copyright in Perpetuo Act

You might wish to see a little post title "An Apology" over at Catholic Bookshelf. I would greatly appreciate a proper outpouring of vitriol over the obnoxious and odious act that, for the sake of a mouse, restricts access to thousands or tens of thousands of books that now rightfully belong to everyone. As the Supreme Court in its dubious wisdom has ordained that the Congress has the right to extend copyright indefinitely, public domain may well be a thing of the past, and the possible rescue of texts from obscurity and proper placement of them in the digital domain may be frozen at 1923--at least for much of my life. A terrible and tremendous injustice.

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How Close this Comes to Home


Ode to the Confederate Dead
Allen Tate

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.

Autumn is desolation in the plot
Of a thousand acres where these memories grow
From the inexhaustible bodies that are not
Dead, but feed the grass row after rich row.
Think of the autumns that have come and gone!--
Ambitious November with the humors of the year,
With a particular zeal for every slab,
Staining the uncomfortable angels that rot
On the slabs, a wing chipped here, an arm there:
The brute curiosity of an angel's stare
Turns you, like them, to stone,
Transforms the heaving air
Till plunged to a heavier world below
You shift your sea-space blindly
Heaving, turning like the blind crab.

Dazed by the wind, only the wind
The leaves flying, plunge

You know who have waited by the wall
The twilight certainty of an animal,
Those midnight restitutions of the blood
You know--the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze
Of the sky, the sudden call: you know the rage,
The cold pool left by the mounting flood,
Of muted Zeno and Parmenides.
You who have waited for the angry resolution
Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow,
You know the unimportant shrift of death
And praise the vision
And praise the arrogant circumstance
Of those who fall
Rank upon rank, hurried beyond decision--
Here by the sagging gate, stopped by the wall.

Seeing, seeing only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick and fast
You will curse the setting sun.

Cursing only the leaves crying
Like an old man in a storm

You hear the shout, the crazy hemlocks point
With troubled fingers to the silence which
Smothers you, a mummy, in time.

The hound bitch
Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar
Hears the wind only.

Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea,
Seals the malignant purity of the flood,
What shall we who count our days and bow
Our heads with a commemorial woe
In the ribboned coats of grim felicity,
What shall we say of the bones, unclean,
Whose verdurous anonymity will grow?
The ragged arms, the ragged heads and eyes
Lost in these acres of the insane green?
The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
With the furious murmur of their chivalry.

We shall say only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire

We shall say only the leaves whispering
In the improbable mist of nightfall
That flies on multiple wing:
Night is the beginning and the end
And in between the ends of distraction
Waits mute speculation, the patient curse
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps
For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim.

What shall we say who have knowledge
Carried to the heart? Shall we take the act
To the grave? Shall we, more hopeful, set up the grave
In the house? The ravenous grave?

Leave now
The shut gate and the decomposing wall:
The gentle serpent, green in the mulberry bush,
Riots with his tongue through the hush--
Sentinel of the grave who counts us all!

Brought to the fore in a roundabout way by a post at Video Meliora (Look for the entry titled "Russell Kirk on Donald Davidson." From there goggled Davidson to see if there might be some poetry online and found at the American Academy of poets a magnificent tribute to this somber poem. Thus it winds up here.

An Aside: There is a very fine Russell Kirk Essay--"The Attack on Leviathan: Donald Davidson and the South's Conservatism"--available here.

Go and find a print version to savor the spacing and identation that adds to the stateliness and meaning of this magnificent work.

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Today's Prayer from Drink of


Today's Prayer

from Drink of the Stream A Prayer of Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi O Goodness, O Goodness, O Goodness. You do not want to be surpassed by the creature!. . . Such is the heart of God! It hides our heart within itself as a sponge hides water in itself; and if a person does not press the sponge, he does not see what is there.

O Jesus, more than anything, I want to hide my heart in Your own. I want Your heart to be mine and my will to follow the new heart You have given me. More than anything I want a heart to love the Father, a sacred heart to be a throne for the Holy Spirit, a heart that is a a place of rest, repose, and joy for You--and I may only have these if You give them to me. "Far off, most secret, and inviolate rose/enfold me in Your hour of hours." Let me be united to You and serving Your purpose now and in all eternity. Amen.

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Drink of the Stream--A Review


Drink of the Stream--A Review

A book compiled by Penny Hickey O.C.D.S.

I've spoken of it frequently, and now it is a constant companion--a companion I would recommend for all Carmelites and indeed for all seriously interested in the interior life. The subtitle, "Prayers of Carmelites" gives the general thrust of the spirituality--it is strongly Carmelite with the via negativa (St. John of the Cross's famous "Nada, nada, nada, nada. . .) and references to the dark night.

The book presents prayers derived from the work of some 25 Carmelite Saints, Blesseds, and Servants of God, from Elijah and Elisha to the relatively unknown St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes. (Another 20th century Saint who, like Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and St. Thérèse of Lisieux died at a very young age). These prayers are derived from the writings of St. Mary Magdalene da Pazzi, St Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and others. As such, they have the character of mediations and meditation starters. They encourage one to peer deeply into the heart of God and one's own connection with God. They demand that one face certain truths in one's own life. In short, they are preparation for the Ascent, or companions on the climb who continually urge us to the difficult path, noting that when we stop thinking of it as difficult, it becomes God's own work and path and the climb is mysteriously easier.

Each set of prayers and mediations is prefaced by a very brief biography that "sets the stage." The prayers themselves are usually quite brief, a matter of a minute or so reading, but they are incredibly powerful, sticking with you throughout the day.

As I have said, this book is now my nearly constant companion, from it I derive tremendous strength and hope in what has been and continues to be a very trying time.

For additional information about the book visit Ignatius Press.

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My Thanks to All Who


My Thanks to All Who Helped Yesterday

And most especially to a commenter named Mary who said things so clearly that what everyone else was saying finally dawned on me. Thank you.

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Another Beautiful Prayer/Meditation

Drink of the Stream has been recommended before and each subsequent passage and reading urges me to recommend it more highly. For those looking for "a balm in Gilead," for those seeking a way in the night, for those uncertain about their vocations and where to turn, these short readings help to focus, calm, and direct.

from Drink of the Stream A Prayer of St. Henry de Osso

I found my vocation. You guided me without remembering how, Star of the Sea, Morning Star, Star of Barcelona, you shone in my eyes; I followed your light; and when you showed me Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb, I said, "I will always belong to Jesus, I will be His minister, His apostle, His missionary of peace and love."

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A Query for Those More


A Query for Those More Knowledgable

I came across a commentary on an Evangelical website and found the same query repeated at a Progressive Catholic website and thought I would get some helpful feedback from everyone here. Both sites contended, with slightly different emphases, that NFP was not licit. Their arguments went something like: IF the purpose of sexual congress is twofold procreative and unitive and IF one deliberately, with malice aforethought impedes one or the other of these purposes, one cannot be said to be upholding the two-fold purpose and therefore one is committing a sin.

The notion is the contraceptive mentality, I suppose. I'd like to hear from those out there who better understand this issue. I tend to concur with the evangelical who concluded that the proper Christian could not use NFP--but that is more out of ignorance and my usual seat-of-the-pants reasoning. So, please help clarify this mystifying issue. If your response is too long for my blog, please leave me a note directing me to the response on your own. Thanks!

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An Interesting Description of the Movements of Love

In Spiritual Combat Revisited Jonathan Robinson treats us to this rather interesting description of the movements of love. As background, first one must know that the object one seeks does indeed exist and then :

from Spiritual Combat Revisited Jonathan Robinson

In the tradition with which Scupoli is working, the slaking of the man's thirst has three aspects. The thirsty man, let us call him Tom Jones, is struck, in the first place, by an experience that is partly intellectual and partly emotional, in that he badly wants a glass of beer; for the time being anyway, there exists a natural affinity between Tom Jones, who is thirsty, and the glass of beer. He is apt to say: "I would love a glass of beer." So St. Thomas says that the first effect produced in Tom Jones is love, "which is simply a feeling of an object's attractiveness." This experience gives rise to a movement toward the object that we call desire. The desire is not for an idea of the beer, but for a real drink, and so Tom has actually to get hold of the beer. Perhaps he only has to go to the refrigerator; perhaps he has to go to a nearby town; but in any case he has to go out toward the beer in the real world. As St. Thomas puts it: The desire moves toward the object "with the purpose of actually possessing it." Finally he slakes his thirst by drinking the beer, by actually uniting himself with what he desired, and so the desire finally "comes to rest in joy."

We have then three aspects or stages: Tom is struck, sometimes very sharply and in an overwhelming way, with the fact that a drink of beer is what he wants; this deep awareness, or the "experiencing of a natural affinity," as Gilson puts it, leads him to say he would love a glass of beer, and he shows he is serious about this love by actually taking steps to obtain the beer; finally he is united to the object of his love, in this case, the beer, by actually drinking it.

The love of God, even when all the proper qualifications and distinctions are made, follows this model. (p. 38-39)

A strange and wonderful thing--likening the individual's love of God to his pursuit of beer. And more wonderful and strange yet what comes next. If you've the opportunity, this might be a good book to pick up.

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Another Thought About Census

It occurs to me that another reason for a relatively declined census at any one place is that there are now so many places of interest in St. Blogs one hardly has time to visit those most loved, much less to dally anyplace that isn't very near the tops in affection. There are a great many complicating factors in all of this, and it is extremely interesting because I find fascinating all that moves people in their various directions.

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Lifetime Reading Plan

Direct linking is not working, but T.S. O'Rama has posted for us a Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan. I hope that this list will prove to be the foundation for much discussion on the issues it brings up.

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Another New Blog

Jcecil3's Progressive Catholic Reflections (you can tell from its very title that it is not everyone's cup of tea) promises to be a literate, articulate voice for viewpoints I don't hold. I would love to read John da Feisole's reflections on some of the things already posted.

Mr. Cecil has identified his blog as a place for progressive Catholics to be at home and his first post clearly identifies places of agreement and disagreement with established Catholic teaching. Reasonable, clear, fair, and agreeable dialogue, even if it will not lead to resolution and agreement puts us all in a better place to pray for brethren we disagree with with greater compassion and integrity than might otherwise be possible.

WARNING!!!!! If you are easily disturbed by disagreements with the Magisterium, if your blood boils at the thought of female altar servers, you would be well-advised to give this site a miss.

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If Your Annoyance Quotient Has Been Too Low The Past Few Days

Indulge yourself in this little piece of vitriolic vituperation from the infinitely annoying, endlessly self-important Margaret Drabble. You'll be sorry you did.

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Male or Female Brain If


Male or Female Brain

If these test results are (a) accurate and (b) meaningful and interpreted correctly, my brain is incorrectly hardwired.

E= 59
S= 26

Later Coming back to it seems that the S score is not measured by very good parameters. After all, I spent and have spent many years as a systematic paleontologist studying the taxonomy of echinoderms. Would seem that I might be very good at systematizing. Moreover, my career of choice and my first jobs were all librarian positions in all manner of systematic configurations (LOC, Dewey, and any number of private, proprietary configs). So, there's something wrong with the measure--just because I don't need to dissect frogs, worms, or car engines to discover how they work and I'm not particularly adept at DIY, I hardly think that 26 is a good reflection of my love of and ability to systematize. And Ms. Knapp was a one-time librarian if I recall correctly. If this is meant as a real diagnostic, it may need adjustment.

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With some remarkable words of St. Raphael Kalinowski. St. Raphael Kalinowski spent many years in Siberia for participation in a rebellion. He joined Carmel after returning from Siberia. He was certain that unity of the Orthodox and Catholic churches could be attained through the devotion to Our Lady that the churches held in common.

from Drink of the Stream A Prayer of St. Raphael Kalinowski

Jesus, hope of suffering humanity, our refuge and our strength, whose light pierces the black clouds that hang over our stormy sea, enlighten our eyes so that we can direct ourselves toward You Who are our harbor. Guide our bar[que] with the rudder of the nails of Your cross, lest we drown in the storm. With the arms of this cross rescue us from the turbulent waters and draw us to Yourself, our only repose, Morning Star, Sun of Justice, for with our eyes obscured by tears, we can catch a glimpse of You there, on the shores of our heavenly homeland. Redeemed by You, we pray: Salvos nos fac propter nomen tuum--"Save us for the sake of Your holy name." And all this through Mary.

I am stunned by the remarkable consistency of the metaphor. Had John Donne composed this prayer, I would call it a metaphysical conceit (although that may be taking the matter a bit too far.) The elements all appeal, and the truth is stunningly brought home with the line "we catch a glimpse of You ther, on the shores of our heavenly homeland." Sometimes we need to be vouchsafed a glimpse of that homeland, if only to know what we steer toward. And even if only vicariously.

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A Word of Thanks To


A Word of Thanks

To all who were kind enough to leave a message yesterday--you cannot begin to know how much it means--thank you.

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Prayers for All in St.


Prayers for All in St. Blog's

A time of great trial is upon many. Again, I request and urge all to prayers for the many in St. Blog's who are facing very, very difficult times, decisions, and events in their lives. Pray for me, and pray for those others that you know are suffering.

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Oh What Can Ail, Thee,


Oh What Can Ail, Thee, Good Christian Man?

You knew it before you read the title:

La Belle Dame Sans Merci John Keats Ballad I.

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.


O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.


I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful--a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.


I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.


I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.


She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said--
"I love thee true."


She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh'd fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.


And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream'd--Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill's side.


I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried--"La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!"


I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.


And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Today, "I awoke and found me here/on the cold hill's side." And no birds sing (despite what the Beatles might have you believe).

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A Day When I Could


A Day When I Could Do With Conviviality

And I have the lowest population I've had in months (even through Lent). St. Blog's seems to be suffering a Dark Night, as many have already noticed, and my prayers go out to all those affected.

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My Quote du Jour "That


My Quote du Jour

"That transcends meaninglessness to forge brave new defintions of vacuity."

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Another Carmelite Prayer

This time from the Blessed Titus Brandsma--another sacrifice on the altar of Nazi Megalomania, an offering for the People of God. Brandsma was a subject of medical experimentation in Dachau and died by an injection of carbolic acid--one who did not seek martyrdom, but who ultimately accepted it when it happened.

Before a Picture of Jesus in My Cell by Titus Brandsma February 12-13, 1942 (About 5 months before his death)

A new awareness of Thy love
encompasses my heart:
Sweet Jesus, I in Thee and Thou
In me shall never part.

No grief shall fall my way but I
Shall see thy grief-filled eyes;
The lonely way that Thou once walked
Has made me sorrow-wise.

All trouble is a white-lit joy,
That lights my darkest day;
Thy love has turned to brightest light
This night-like way.

If I have Thee alone,
The hours will bless
With still, cold hands of love
My utter loneliness.

Stay with me, Jesus, only stay;
I shall not fear
If, reaching out my hand,
I feel thee near.

Talk about dark nights! I can't conceive of a less inviting image than "still, cold hands of love." And yet, this man of God (may he be canonized soon!) perservered to the end and lived out a life of witness--the strongest possible witness to abandoning everything to the Lord. Most of us are not called to this degree of abandonment. Most of us don't even like to think about this degree of abandonment. But the measure of our love is the degree to which we follow His commandments. One of the greatest of these took the form of an admonition rather than a direct requirement, "Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends." And so, the martyrs, Blessed Titus among them, are the greatest friends, the greatest lovers of Jesus and of God--those who have witnessed to the very end and whose courage and spirit supports the church during times of crisis and times of calm. Thank goodness of that communion of saints that gives us so much life!

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An Opportunity


Events in my life have arranged themselves in such a way as to be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered in the passage below:

from Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 1 Chapter 13 St. John of the Cross

6. Strive always to prefer, not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult;

Not that which is most delectable, but that which is most unpleasing;

Not that which gives most pleasure, but rather that which gives least;

Not that which is restful, but that which is wearisome;

Not that which is consolation, but rather that which is disconsolateness;

Not that which is greatest, but that which is least;

Not that which is loftiest and most precious, but that which is lowest and most despised;

Not that which is a desire for anything, but that which is a desire for nothing;

Strive to go about seeking not the best of temporal things, but the worst.

Strive thus to desire to enter into complete detachment and emptiness and poverty, with respect to everything that is in the world, for Christ's sake.

And I can tell you that this is a lot better in the abstract than in the concrete. Moreover, I suspect that it is a lot better voluntarily entered into rather than being offered such opportunities. However, the Lord has a plan even if it seems obscure to me, and so I can avail myself of this opportunity or not at my choice. It seems that whichever choice I make in the event will fulfill the requirements of this passage--so, that is the long way of asking for your prayers and your thoughts as I enter into the next couple of weeks.

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From Another Lesser Known Carmelite Saint

I suppose it will come as no surprise that we have about a million Saints named Teresa, Theresa, or Therese. Here's a prayer from one less well known, who died quite as young as St. Therese of Lisieux.

from Drink of the Stream

A Prayer of Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart

O my God, reflecting that You have made me to love and serve You, I am determined to renounce my own inclinations in order to follow the way it pleases You to lead me. I shall strive always to obey. May I learn from You, my God, Who made Yourself obedient for me in far more difficult circumstances.

May I also learn from the God Who made Himself obedient to the point of sweating blood and dying. There is much to be learned in the school of Love of the Lord.

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A Real Treasure for Carmelites and Others

I've excerpted prayers from Drink from the Stream. I cannot say how wonderful I am finding it. Although it is ostensibly a book of prayers, they are more than words to be recited. They are powerful words to make our own through personalization and meditation. The following excerpt from the Foreward makes the intent clear.

from Drink from the Stream "Foreward"
Kiernan Kavanaugh O.C.D.

As you take this book and begin to read, you soon become aware that the content requires much more than a mere quick reading. These prayers of Carmelite saints do not favor those of us who like to skim; rather they take hold and plunge us into deep abysses, enabling us to catch glimpses of the jewels of God's mysteries. They overwhelm with their power and theological depth. How true it is that God who is Love is only attained through love. In the words of Joh, "Love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has had knowledge of God.." (1 Jn 4:7)

These poems are a school of love. They provide insights and byways. They provide perspectives and places from which to look at our own meager accomplishments. They provide a launching pad for meditation and for growing in love. In a word, they are a "School of Love," and as such the book comes with highest recommendations. There are a great many things here that have touched my heart deeply.

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Prayers That Leads to Definition

from Drink of the Stream

Prayers of Theresa Benedicta of the Cross

I will go unto the altar of God. It is not myseld and my tiny little affairs that matter here, but the great sacrifice of atonement. I surrender myself entirely to Your divine will, O Lord. Make my heart grow greater and wider, out of itself into the Divine life.

O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new propsect will open before me and I shall meet with peace.

Abandonment, utter reliance upon the will of God, complete surrender--these are the hallmarks and necessities of a life lived in God. Anything less is not worthy of Him. He is owed all that we are and all that we have and all that we can do. Of ourselves, we are nothing--but in Him we are All. Our place in the world is to serve Him by saving souls, and by worshipping Him, by imitating Christ. Absent these things, life has little, if any, meaning. But with these things in place priorities are set and our paths are somewhat clearer. This is what Jesus was about when he told us, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."

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Another from Père Jacques

Père Jacques was a Carmelite Father and an active member of the French Resistance. He was arrested by the Nazis for this crime and for the crime of harboring Jewish children in his school. Louis Malle's Au Revoir Mes Enfants is based on his life.

from Drink of the Stream

A Prayer of Père Jacques

O my Christ,
is the mystery of Your love,
is life for souls,
is the sure salvation for those who
understand and receive It.
Therefore place in my mind
Fervent and clear thoughts,
put on my lips ardent and enlightening words,
that I may illumine all these souls,
That I may enkindle in them
Love for Your divine Sacrament;
And that in them, Your work
of transformation may be fulfilled.

(1929 Eucharistic Congress of Le Havre)

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Another Carmelite Prayer

A very brief prayer taken from the work of the Venerable Seraphina of God.

from Drink of the Stream

A Prayer of Venerable Seraphina of God

Speaking of the Trinity. . . O brightest of Truths! O bright obscurity, so apparent to the person who loves you!

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Another, Clearer Moment from the Same

Spiritual Combat Revisited is filled with much advice and many tips and hints about how to go about some of these things many of us just mill about trying to do. The following passage was a gem:

from Spiritual Combat Revisited Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory

How do we use these first principles in such a way that they will serve as a basis for our spiritual lives and affect our practice? Well, we have to consider them attentively, or meditate on them; that is, we have to think and ponder on those truths of our faith and try to see how they could affect us personally. I do not think it matters whether we call these considerations or this meditation prayer or a preparation for prayer. The important thing is actually to consider and meditate on the first principles and to do so in a regular way. We should be actively engaged, actually using our heads, and not sitting around trying to make the mind a blank in the hope of receiving some ill-defined and comforting illumination.

There is something very homey, and very Teresa of Avila about this down-to-Earth, unnuanced, and possibly terribly unpopular advice. The road to God is not an ethereal parkway that one drifts along, pushed by winds of the spirit. It is a rough-hewn road over which we tread, step by step. No progress is made outside of Divine help, but neither is progress made if we do not exert ourselves, exercise ourselves, and make some solid attempt to align our wills with the will of God. This was one of the great errors of the Quietists, who, as with all heresies, had some things very right and almost everything else quite wrong. We do not sit around waiting for Divine enlightenment, but we actively seek it among those things we know belong to Him. Thus, the words of scripture, the great writings of the saints, and even the words of some modern books and articles can guide us in ways to exert ourselves. I like practical, solid advice such as is offered later in this book when the author tells me--"Here think about these things, and don't just think, meditate on them. Here are some scriptures to help." It's very Ignatian, and reads much like the Spiritual Exercises in some ways. I look forward to using it properly and reporting back to everyone as to its efficacy in at least one case. But don't expect a quick report. If used properly, it may take many months to work through.

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Higher Math and Spiritual Combat Revisited

A brief comment on this passage:

from Spiritual Combat Revisited by Jonathan Robinson, based on the orginal by Lorenzo Scupoli

In the face of this neglect, or ignorance, of the first principles of the spiritual life, we have to restate what should be at the basis of any spirituality that claims to be Christian. Scupoli says that the spiritual life consists in:
1. "the knowledge of the goodness and the greatness of God, and of our nothingness and inclination to all evil";
2. "the love of him and the hatred of ourselves";
3. "subjection, not to him alone, but, for love of him, to all his creatures";
4. "entire renunciation of all will of our own, and absolute resignation to all his divine pleasure";
5. "willing and doing all this purely for the glory of God and solely to please him, and because he so wills and merits thus to be loved and served."

We see that there are four first priniciples, and none of them is, at first sight, particularly attractive. If we are to accept them as the basis for the realignment of our lives, then we will have to begin by understanding what they mean. In the first place, we are told that the spiritual life consists in knowledge about God and ourselves; then, secondly, that we are to love God and hate ourselves; thirdly, that our love for God must show itself in uniting ourselves to him by trying to do what he wants us to do; and finally, the motive for doing all this is for the glory of God and because God, just because he is who he is, deserves to be so loved and served.

Besides a quibble about the Ignatius Press house style that does not capitalize pronouns related to God ( a preference of mine), this presents one other problem. No matter how I look at it, Scupoli enunciates five first principles, the most problematic and tantilizing of which is remanded to obscurity with nary a comment. Why include it if not to comment on it? What does number 3 above mean? And is it a foundational prinicple? I am disturbed by this elision without comment.

Did Robinson wish to be complete and fair to Scupoli's teaching and then abridge it as appropriate to modern understanding? (For reference, passages further on in the book do not appear to refer back to this point.) I am intrigued by it because it is so suggestive. Are we called for love of God to be subject to all His creatures? If so, in what does this subjection consist? If not, can the statement be modified to more accurately reflect what we ARE called to? For example, are we called to be servants to all our brethren? Cursory reading of the Bible would suggest that this is exactly the role each of us is to serve.

The point here is not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but to examine carefully what the first principles of Christian Life really are. If we are to meditate upon them, as Robinson suggests, then perhaps we should give some thought to assuring that what we are examining are indeed the first principles and are worthy of the time and attention of meditation during prayer.

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Brief Assurances

At this point, I have no intention of going away, but I did want everyone to know that there is a struggle going on, so if things are not so regular or so sprightly as once before, you will know the reason. But until led otherwhere, this blog shall continue to be shepherded along.

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From a Weekend Purchase

Depuis longtemps I have considered the purchase of this book. Finally, I bought it along with another remarkable little work--Spiritual Combat Revisited.

from Drink of the Stream: Prayers of Carmelites

A Prayer of Pére Jacques de Jesus Bunel

In the twilight of this life, I shall appear before Thee with empty hands, for I do not ask Thee, Lord, to compare my works. All our justices are tainted in Thine eyes. Hence, I wish to wear the cloak of Thy justice and receive from Thy love eternal possession of Thyself. I wish no other crown or throne by Thee, my Beloved.

I never fail to be amazed and humbled by the humility expressed in prayers such as these. I could say these words, but there is part of me that resists their underlying truth. Deep down, I know that what they say is true. And yet.. . . part of me fights tooth and nail against the truth of them. It is simply too hard a truth for my present state in life. But God continues to lead, and I grudgingly follow, at once wanting more than anything in the world to race after Him, and wanting to run as fast as I can away from Him.

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A Place of Some Great


A Place of Some Great Interest

The Literarium added to the side column as a matter of intense interest. This is one person who is very interested in literature and has some very clearly defined opinions about it. Both admirable qualities. Go and visit and see what you think. The reading is eclectic, at least, and one might even call it catholic.

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The Best is Silence I


The Best is Silence

I am strongly tempted to give up this blog and blogdom altogether. Tempted, because it seems to be the wrong thing to do for several reasons. The blog can serve as a vehicle for communication amongst members of the local Carmelite Community; it can also serve to inform others about Carmelite issues.

The sources of the temptation are myriad--but not one of them provides a single good REASON for discontinuing. The only good reason to cease writing this blog would be that it had become an obstacle toward advancement toward union with God. However, so far, quite the contrary is true. By writing this I stay in contact with many people whose writing and reason continually redirect my thoughts toward God. If blogging were not here as a central treasure, I would return to my old habits of continually scouring the web for anything of interest--that is, quite simply, a waste of time.

The reason for writing this entry is unclear to me, but perhaps to state that there is a battle going on and so things might become erratic here and there, particularly as my mind tends to go completely blank under conditions similar to these. C'est la vie--or more appropriately, C'est la guerre.

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Therese seems a bit irritated at the post below called "Domincans and Carmelites," perhaps correctly so--sometimes my fumbling repetitions and articulations are aggravating; however, I am striving to come to understanding myself and to balance the words of St. John of the Cross with the understandings that others have conveyed. Many times it is imprecision in my language that is the source of the frustration. I am a better poet than I am essayist and so sometimes I do not say precisely what I mean and so I try once again. And I must thank Therese for forcing me to this labor, for only in so doing do I straighten out the crooked places in my own head and finally begin to come to a real understanding of St. John of the Cross and the radical nature of his teaching on prayer and Union.

St. John of the Cross would certainly note that prayer and reading scripture and study are all good, meritorious and fine things. But he would also note that there comes a point in devotion (I haven't reached it yet) where study, particularly, but perhaps certain aspects of the other things can become obstacles to the greatest Good. The things themselves are not obstacles, but our inordinate desire to do them in the ways we have done, stand in the way of progress toward God. That is not that study becomes bad, but it becomes an obstacle because we are not willing to change what or how, but continue in our same plodding way. Thus the DESIRE to study stands in the way of the desire for Union. We would prefer to study than to really approach the royal throne.

Many deny that this may happen. They see that all study will inevitably lead to God. (At least this is how I read some statements defending intellectual pursuit.) Therese points out rightly that St. John of the Cross would stand against "Study for Study's sake." But he would also stand against the desire to study weighed against the desire for Union, and this is where constant discernment is necessary. St. Thomas Aquinas spent much of his life in study, approaching nearer and nearer the throne of grace as his studies carried him. His famous statement "all my words are as straw," is not a statement that the study was futile. I read that as the realization that he had reached the end of where study alone could take him, he relinquished the desire to continue as he had done and crossed the threshhold to divine Union--although I am certain that he must have experienced something similar throughout his life in order to progress so far. I see St. Thomas realizing not that study is bad, but that true Union with God requires laying down everything, just as Christ did, to approach the Throne of Grace.

Perhaps I read too much into this short statement, but I truly believe that it was this experience, in part, that shaped much of John's spirituality. Study is not bad--it is a good, a positive good. However, when the desire for study outweighs the desire for union the desire becomes an obstacle. It can become an obstacle for others when they are inclined already to study more than to pray. When reading books about spirituality becomes the predominant mode of discourse rather than direct encounters with our loving God, study has gone astray. It is not bad, but our desire for it is disordered and thus an obstacle.

On a personal note: I have reached this stage relatively earlier than many because study presents a temptation for me that may be greater for me for others because others are more properly focused. As an example, in my early twenties, I took it into my head that I would become a great hiker and outdoorsman. To achieve this goal, I read every book there was about hiking and doing things in the outdoors, but never set a foot outside.

I know I am not unique. There are a great many potential Fausts out there. I know further that there are many who are not aware that study can become an end in itself--not bad, but not the highest good. And so I continually try to say--study is good. Knowing the beloved is essential, but watch that study does not replace prayer, that it does not become a desire to "dissect God" and know how He works, rather than a desire to convey to all people the workings of God. This never seemed to get out of hand with St. Thomas Aquinas, because he seemed to accept when it should end. However, if we chose to look, we would probably find a great many for whom the desire for study became the end and an obstacle to the divine union they might otherwise have achieved.

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The Next Installment of the Study Guide

Ascent of Mount Carmel V

Read pages 149-153 (Book 1, Chapters 13-15). Chapter 13 is the key chapter of the entire first book.

Chapter 13
What does the first sentence tell you about the purpose of this chapter. What is the “active way”? Why is it important? What is the “passive way”? Who initiates it? Why does John want to set our advice here?

What is the first critical element of the active night of the sense? Why is this so? Read the last sentence of section 3 again—what does this seem to require of us?

What motive is most likely to help us in the imitation of Christ? Why? Look at John’s two examples and write down two similar examples from you own experience that you can begin to act on right now.

What is the purpose of the maxims that follow?

*(6) (Key Section 1)
Choose one of the statement that being “not to” and explain it in your own words. Name two ways that you could begin to put this maxim into effect. How might you begin to put all of them into action? Pray about it and discern a reasonable plan of action.

(7) What is likely to be a major obstacle to your success in entering this first dark night and beginning the Ascent?

How does the advice here help with the advice in section 6. What is John truly saying here?

What is the path of the Ascent. (Look back at the diagram on page 110-111) Is it possible to fail in the Ascent? How? Is the most direct route the easiest? the most sure?

*(12-13) (Key Section 2)
Summarize the teaching of these sections in a sentence or two that you can write down and carry with you. What is St. John of the Cross telling us about the conduct of the spiritual life here? Jesus tells us “He who sets hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of God.” How are these statements similar?

Chapters 14-15
What is St. John’s point in these sections? How do they support the critical information in chapter 13?

How can we mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves to enter the Dark Night and thus begin our Ascent? Pray, consult with your spiritual director, and make you own plan for preparing yourself to carry out St. John’s teaching. Or perhaps you are already well along this road, what can you do to perfect your practice of it? Perhaps you are in a dry place waiting for God to take control. What practices might you implement that will sustain you through the dryness?

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St. John of the Cross, redux


The ICS translation with additional information:

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel Book I Chapter 13 St. John of the Cross

2. Though these counsels for the conquering of the appetites are brief and few in number, I believe they are as profitable and efficacious as they are concise. A person who sincerely wants to practice them will need no others since all the others are included in these.

3. First, have habitual desire to imitate Christ in all your deeds by bringing your life into conformity with his. You must then study his life in order to know how to imitate him and behave in all events as he would.

4. Second, in order to be successful in the imitation, renounce and remain empty of any sensory satisfaction that is not purely for the honor and glory of God. Do this out of love for Jesus Christ. In his life he had no other gratification, nor desire any other, than the fulfillment of his Father's will, which he called his meat and food [Jn. 4:34].

For example, if you are offered the satisfaction of hearing that that have no relation to the service and glory of God, do not desire the pleasure of the hearing of these things. When you have an opportunity for the gratification of looking upon objects that will not help you love God more, do not desire this gratification or sight. And if in speaking there is a similar opportunity, act in the same way. And so on with all the sense insofar as you can duly avoid such satisfaction. If you cannot escape the experience of this satisfaction, it will be sufficient to have o desire for it.

By this method you should endeavor, then, to leave the senses as though in darkness, mortified and empty of that satisfaction. With such vigilance you will gain a great deal in a short time.

5. Many blessings flow when the four natural passions (joy, hope, fear, and sorrow) are in harmony and at peace. The following maxims contain a complete method for mortifying and pacifying them. If put into practice these maxims will give rise to abundant merit and great virtues.

6. Endeavor to be inclined always:
not to the easiest, but to the most difficult;
not to the most delightful, but to the most distasteful;
not to the most gratifying, but to the less pleasant;
not to what means rest for you, but to hear work;
not to the consoling, but to he unconsoling;
not to the most, but to the least;
not to the highest and most precious, but to the lowest and most despised;
not to wanting something, but to wanting nothing.

Do not go about looking for the best of temporal things, but for the worst, and, for Christ, desire to enter into complete nakedness, emptiness, and poverty in everything in the world.

7. You should embrace these practices earnestly and try to overcome the repugnance of your will toward them. If you sincerely put them into practice with order and discretion, you will discover in them great delight and consolation.

Tr. by Kiernan Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez

I repeat these in the clearer translation for fear that I may have misrepresented both St. John and His teaching in the post below where I have excerpted his work. Tom asked a question that led me to believe that I must have made untoward claims for what is said here, so I'm trying to quote enough to let the passage speak clearly for itself without unduly wearying the reader.

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Dominicans and Carmelites

If you read the excerpt from St. John of the Cross below, you will have a better understanding of the ground on which John da Fiesole and I stand when we cross swords on the question of what is the purpose of study and how much should be done. I would claim to be one of the least anti-intellectual people I know, and yet, I fully follow my mentor. I seek to know all about God, and so my desire to find out myself must be subsumed to His will for me, whatever that may be. At least that is how I understand it. My desire to pursue knowledge is actually a hindrance to the kind of knowledge (Love) that I really want. Difficult to imagine, but at least that is how I understand St. John of the Cross, and thus my attempts always to temper those who hold up study as one of the highest efforts of humankind. It is, and yet, if St. John is right, it also is quite likely to get in the way.

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Don't Feed the Animals!


I actually received an e-mail that asked me a question about which I can blather endlessly, in theory. One must understand that I have not reached these exalted heights and so all that I say is a synthesis of others.

The question:

"I've heard of two dark nights--dark night of the soul and dark night of the senses. The latter I take to be a kind of depression or unhappiness, the former the true unitive dark night. Any clarification?" (This is a gross paraphrase.)

Okay--let me talk about St. John of the Cross's scheme of spiritual growth in the via negativa. The way he sees development in prayer is through two DIFFERENT dark nights. The first of these two is called "the dark night of the senses." It consists of two parts, as does the latter. The first of these parts is the active, the second passive. In the dark night of the senses we enter into a deliberate attempt not to gratify the appetites. In olden days we would say that we would practice "custody of the eyes." But in the case of this dark night, we do not seek to gratify the senses--we deprive ourselves, as a matter of discipline and out of love of the Lord of those things we strongly desire. This is more than asceticism--it is a deliberate attempt to break the chains of desire that hold us away from God. If we love any creature inordinately, we cannot love God as He deserves. With this practice we enter into the dark night. In God's good time, as He sees fit, we may enter the passive night of the senses, in which God completes the purgation begun by our own effort and perfects it.

The second dark night is called the dark night of the spirit, and it too has a passive and an active phase. The second night focuses more on the spiritual faculties--intellect, memory, and the will, not the senses. I have yet to fully understand this, as I am slowly moving through the Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul. If you'd care to read more about this from someone far more knowledgeable than I, look here. Mr. Doohan does a wonderful job of explaining what may seem like abstruse doctrine in very comprehensible terms.

I'm still working--largely unsuccessfully--on the active night of the senses. But I have great hope that God will see fit to aid me in His time and in His way.

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From Kathy's Gospel Minefield a link led me to this:

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

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St. John of the Cross considered this part of the only information a beginner or proficient in prayer needed to know to continue. Obviously, he expected a lot of his beginners. These instructions are how to enter the active night of the senses--one part of the Dark night over which we have some control.

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 1, Chapter 13 St. John of the Cross

10. To conclude these counsels and rules, it will be fitting to set down here those lines which are written in the Ascent of the Mount, which is the figure that is at the beginning of this book; the which lines are instructions for ascending to it, and thus reaching the summit of union. For, although it is true that that which is there spoken of is spiritual and interior, there is reference likewise to the spirit of imperfection according to sensual and exterior things, as may be seen by the two roads which are on either side of the path of perfection. It is in this way and according to this sense that we shall understand them here; that is to say, according to that which is sensual. Afterwards, in the second part of this night, they will be understood according to that which is spiritual.

11. The lines are these:

In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desire to possess nothing.
In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to be nothing.
In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing.
In order to arrive at that wherein thou hast no pleasure, Thou must go by a way wherein thou hast no pleasure.
In order to arrive at that which thou knowest not, Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou possessest not, Thou must go by a way that thou possessest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou art not, Thou must go through that which thou art not.
12. When thy mind dwells upon anything,

Thou art ceasing to cast thyself upon the All. For, in order to pass from the all to the All, Thou hast to deny thyself wholly in all. And, when thou comest to possess it wholly, Thou must possess it without desiring anything. For, if thou wilt have anything in having all, Thou hast not thy treasure purely in God.

This is, admittedly, the unfortunate and awkward translation of E. Allison Peers, the one which many read and which leaves them utterly mystified--with good reason. The translation fails in most cases to be good English, much less a good translation from Spanish.

So, while it is awkward, I think the sense of it shines through. The point of the instruction is to cultivate a habit of mind in which these things predominate. We are called to the via negativa--which is denial of self--but NOT denial of creation. That is all created things are good, but many serve as obstruction on the path to union with God. Many natural goods start as resting points and then become sticking points. St. John of the Cross insists that the way around this is to take pleasure in nothing less than the presence of God himself. That doesn't mean to make yourself miserable to ascend the mount--at least I don't so interpret it. I read it more in line with Plato's cave of illusions. All created things are merely shadows and images of that which truly gives pleasure--so rather than chase after the shadow--chase after that which casts the shadow to achieve true happiness in Union.

I invite other comments, questions, challenges. I am by no means expert and stand to learn a great deal from the many who often comment here. What I say is NOT definitive, it is merely an attempt to make clear what I think the great teacher is saying, and by making it clear make it more probable that I shall put it into action in the near future.

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A Barometer for the Day


A Barometer for the Day

From the Office of Readings:

Revelation 3: 14-19
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea, write this: " 'The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God's creation, says this:
"I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.

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