October 2003 Archives

from St Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

Ironically, in rejecting an external infallible authority we are encouraged to embrace the most fickle and fallible of all authorities--our own judgment. We then cling to our opinions like a shipwrecked man clings to a splinter of wood, and before long, our opinions are unassailable. In the end we don't have one objective, infallible authority but millions of subjective "infallible" authorities, and in this absurdity, we rejoice.

While one could read this to referto non-Christians, I find the indictment as pointed, and perhaps more so for Christians--because we ought to know better. I often act as if I am in ignorance of this critical aspect of Christian Life. Sometimes, I think my lack of obedience is due more to my thickheadedness, not understanding what is being said to me. But sometimes I wonder if I simply ignore the all-too-obvious messages that get reiterated time and again because it is convenient to me to do so. To wit--should I stop blogging. I blog because I love it, and yet the calamities of recent days, my reading, "incidental" and "accidental" posts, and any number of bits of circumstantial evidence conspire to suggest that perhaps the suggestion is something stronger than a suggestion. What then does obedience demand?

First, it would seem that obedience demands clarity. To act of suppositions, whims, distortions, and feelings is hardly a substantial basis for obedience. On the other hand, how does one properly discern the proper way to go. I honestly don't really know. I must assume that prayer will put me in the right place and short of that nothing can resolve the dilemma.

So, too, it would seem with all situations calling for obedience--discernment is often difficult, so I ask you all to pray. For several weeks, evidence has been mounting that suggests that perhaps I should remove myself from the blogging world--there is nothing here that cannot be found elsewhere in perhaps more charitable climes. Please pray as I try to figure out what these events are saying. Are they gentle nudges saying,"Clean up your act" or a forceful shove that says "Get off the stage." Obviously you can't answer that question, only God can, please pray that I hear what He is saying and can find the strength of will to act upon it.

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This site which is run by Christopher Scotese, one of the main names in the study of how Earth's contintental arrangement has changed through time. You can play with paleoglobes and explore other aspects of what I guess might best be called paleogeography. It's things like this that make me occasionally miss the world of paleo.

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Another Poem for the Day


Ms. Peony Moss offers "You, Andrew Marvell" by Archibald MacLeish, which I know I have read and which I largely remember for the title it gave to a science fiction story some time ago (I don't recall the author--perhaps Michael Bishop?) "And strange at Ecbatan the trees."

Go to her place and read it. I place it below so that I may return and savor it also in my commonplace book--thank you so much for this Ms. Moss.

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Most Important Post of the Day


Please remember the following in prayer:

For the repose of the soul of my son's teacher aid and her daughter, both found dead Wednesday Night--(Mrs. Moniz and daughter)

For the people of southern California for deliverance from fire.

For Ms. Schiavo and her family.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces who still risk their lives daily in the inhospitable wilds of Iraq and Afghanistan.

And most of all for Dylan who is going through a bad spell. He needs our constant intervention and intercession. Please make him a constant part of your prayer--even if only for a single bead of your rosary each day--Heaven must hear his name from us so that he may be returned.

Thank you.

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I don't know that I could ever fall completely silent so long as our good friend Dylan needed our prayers. I know I bring his name up too infrequently, but please remember him always.

Also, in easing the pain and perhaps anxiety of the indictment that I feel, I owe several people apologies for the hurt, pain, and confusion I have (I believe mostly inadvertantly) spread. Most particularly--Mr. Luse, who was more than a gentleman about the whole thing, Mary H., Ms. Moss (I forget which as both have chosen P-flowers--but I think Pansy) and others who may have been more than a bit bruised by my strident tones over the past couple of weeks.

Also, it is not so much by way of apology, but by way of explanation--I have noted that I do not seem to express my thoughts very clearly. This was made crystal clear by a post I read elsewhere in blogdom earlier this week in which the poster read clearly what I had written, but I had failed to write clearly what I had intended. It is lapses like this that seem quite frequent in recent weeks that make me ponder whether I am not one of the great offenders that Ms. Paglia indicts--perhaps a greater offender for the offense of knowing better and still committing the act. A great deal may be excused by ignorance--but as Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

I will try, to the extent possible in the limited duration I give this daily exercise to be more courteous and welcoming, less controversial and confusing, and more coherent and clear in the formulations of what I say. In addition, I will refrain from comment elsewhere--not entirely, but certainly I shall not comment with the abandon I have hitherto engaged in. It is in commenting that the worst offenses against the language and other people occur. Comments are not editable for the occasional linguistic excesses and hyperbole, whereas blog entries are.

Once again please forgive my haziness over the past couple of weeks--attribute it to the solar prominences and flares. I will endeavor to do better and to walk a good deal more quietly.

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Exciting New Texts


In Welsh, with a nice introduction and translation

Y Gododin--Aneurin

(Although I would swear that I had heard this referred to as Y Gododdin)

Courtesy of Alicia

An Analytic Bibliography of On-Line Neo-Latin Texts

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While I consider carefully the particulars of my indictment yesterday by recent circumstances and only secondarily by Ms. Paglia, the final October Poem. Nothing particularly autumnal about it, but a long-time favorite and a cache of wonderful phrases. (I particularly like the "vaster than empires and more slow," when critiquing the amount of time it can take some members of my household to prepare themselves. She is always quick to remind me, "The grave's a fine and private place.")

To His Coy Mistress
Andrew Marvell

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

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

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

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T.S. O'Rama blogged this from Camille Paglia--an eccentric, egocentrical Valkyrie of a woman who, despite her lifestyle, I find myself much admiring. As I do admire her much, and as I have considered this before, I find her statements dismaying and tending to encourage me once again to silence. If blogdom is really this awful, do I do anyone a service by contributing to this surfeit of "political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric "gotcha" mentality. I find it depressing and claustrophobic."

Today, at least, I feel she is right.

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St. Bernard on Creation

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux

God creates minds to share in himself, gives them life, so that they may experience him, causes them to desire him, enlarges them to grasp him, justifies them so that they may deserve him, stirs them to zeal, ripens them to fruitiion, directs them to equity, forms them in benevolence, moderates them to make them wise, strengthens them to virtue, visits them to console, enlightens them with knowlege, sustain them to immortality, fills them with happiness, surrounds them with safety.

Blessed be the name of the Lord who makes so great a creature and who sustains it undeservedly to life within Himself.

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Quote for the Day


"The brain may devise laws for the blood,
but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree"

William Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice"

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October Poem--T.S. Eliot--Preludes


T. S. Eliot


            The winter evening settles down
            With smell of steaks in passageways.
            Six o'clock.
            The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
            And now a gusty shower wraps
            The grimy scraps
            Of withered leaves about your feet
            And newspapers from vacant lots;
            The showers beat
            On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
            And at the corner of the street
            A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
            And then the lighting of the lamps.

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A reminder about our daily, hourly, minutely, secondly, duty, privilege, responsibility, and reward. Keep praying. Pray constantly. Pray without ceasing. Pray with trust and courage knowing that God will use your fervent prayer for the good of all as He sees it.

from Treatise on Prayer

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others.

But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.
In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleadses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

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Promise for the Day

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I hereby promise not to blog any more on my obsession of the moment EXCEPT to reiterate requests for prayers, as Ms. Schaivo is not safe from our gentle justice system yet.

We now return control of your browser. . .

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Another Puritan (a sure winner in Erik's book :-), but a magnificent and much neglected poet. I've been hard-pressed to find much of his stuff on the web or in print. It's a shame. He has a series of meditations on Biblical Texts that are unmatched by just about anything from the time period. Note in the poem an extremely elaborate conceit that takes a while to settle into its proper outlines.

A couple of hints--

hasp--can mean many things but the most likely reading here is "to confine" or "to encompass."

fustian--can mean a cloth or bombastic language, so this initially threw me until I recalled that as an adjective it may also mean worthless, petty, pretentious; however, another intriguing reading is "made-up or imaginary"

Enjoy the poem--it is quite rich.

Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold
Edward Taylor

The Bear that breathes the Northern blast
Did numb, Torpedo-like,a Wasp
Whose stiffened limbs encramped, lay bathing
In Sol's warm breath and shine as saving,
Which with her hands she chafes and stands
Rubbing her Legs, Shanks, Thighs, and hands.
Her petty toes, and fingers' ends
Nipped with this breath, she out extends
Unto the Sun, in great desire
To warm her digits at that fire.
Doth hold her Temples in this state
Where pulse doth beat, and head doth ache.
Doth turn, and stretch her body small,
Doth Comb her velvet Capital.
As if her little brain pan were
A Volume of Choice precepts clear.
As if her satin jacket hot
Contained Apothecary's Shop
Of Nature's receipts, that prevails
To remedy all her sad ails,
As if her velvet helmet high
Did turret rationality.
She fans her wing up to the Wind
As if her Pettycoat were lined,
With reason's fleece, and hoists sails
And humming flies in thankful gales
Unto her dun Curled palace Hall
Her warm thanks offering for all.

Lord, clear my misted sight that I
May hence view Thy Divinity,
Some sparks whereof Thou up dost hasp
Within this little downy Wasp
In whose small Corporation we
A school and a schoolmaster see,
Where we may learn, and easily find
A nimble Spirit bravely mind
Her work in every limb: and lace
It up neat with a vital grace,
Acting each part though ne'er so small
Here of this Fustian animal,
Till I enravished Climb into
The Godhead on this Ladder do,
Where all my pipes inspired upraise
An Heavenly music furred with praise.

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As I was doing some various clean-up work (I've got a bazillion posts to categorize) I came across a reference to this wonderful poem which reminds me once more why I miss him so much. Please continue prayers for his swift return.

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Twice in recent days Mark at Minute Particulars has posted on the need for nuance. And I preface this with an apology to him if anything I say seems overly strong or harsh.

An excerpt from a recent post:

There is an understandable backlash at attempts to nuance situations that seem so utterly obvious. And, as I mentioned in the below post on partial-birth abortion, I know this backlash firsthand since I really don't see how anyone could find the doctor's words anything other than repulsive. What could possibly be nuanced here? What requires discussion? But I think such a reaction is simplistic and ultimately morally detrimental. Unless you think someone capable of this is the devil incarnate, there ought to be a way to express our moral concerns carefully and intelligently. Any hope of passing laws that will be upheld requires this; and, more to the point, any hope of converting hearts will fail without it.

And I don't have any real trouble with his point. My difficulty comes with the timing of nuancing. When we nuance someone to death we have created a far greater injustice than we can hope to rectify by our nuancing.

Nuancing has been horrendously abused by many post Vatican II reformers to support whatever the spin of the moment might happen to be. That in no way detracts from its importance; however, it does add a certain aura to the term and to the deed. Too many of us have been burned by "nuances" that have reinterpreted Church tradition and law out of existence. The Anglican Church is currently riven with nuance that basically is gutting Christian theology. Nuance has quite a disreputable patina.

Now, take this term that already has a certain weight and apply it to a situation which in itself is really not a case for a rocket scientist and the appearance you get is someone trying to justify the unjustifiable. Because I feel that I know Mark relatively well from his writing, I feel comfortable with the fact that this is not what he is trying to do. On the other hand, all of these arguments come back to us, and we find people saying, "Well Mr. Schaivo is her husband, and don't we believe in the sacramental nature of marriage." Our nuanced argument has just turned good Catholics who are fighting desperately to save a life into those who would overturn Catholic doctrine and sacraments.

The time to nuance our discussion is when Ms. Schaivo has been delivered from the army of Satan massed against her. We need to carefully consider all of the points that are under discussion, we need to thoroughly understand Church teaching and doctrine. But what we need more than anything else right now is straightforward, clear action, based on the circumstances here and now and not on hypotheticals and nuances that could result in a person's death

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Hentoff on Charles Pickering

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Thanks to Chirp, I had the chance to read this wonderful article by Nat Hentoff. I don't know if this represents his usual clarity or thinking on matters, but I found it even-handed and remarkably free of diatribe and vitriol. Recommended.

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Father Joseph Chalmer, O. Carm. is the Prior General of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance. Some time ago, he issued the letter from which this excerpt comes--a celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Papal Bull Cum Nulla. This bull acknowledge the privilege of the Blessed John Soreth to aggregate lay people to the Carmelite Order, and so it is, for the Lay Carmelite family a sort of Birthday Celebration.

Many have asked what it means to be a lay Carmelite, what is required, what is expected. The following excerpt outlines some of that:

from the Letter--Into the Land of Carmel
Rev. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm, Prior General

45. Within this common baptismal vocation, some lay people are called to participate in the charism of a particular religious family. Profession as a member of the lay Carmelites is an intensified repetition of our baptismal promises. By entering the Order they take upon themselves the Carmelite charism, which is profoundly marked by prayer. Therefore prayer, both liturgical and personal, is a vital and integral part of the life of the lay Carmelite. Participation, daily if possible, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is the source of the spiritual life and apostolic fruitfulness. The divine office, as a share in the prayer of Christ, is encouraged for the lay Carmelite and is also a source of great help on the spiritual journey. Personal prayer is vital for the life of lay Carmelites and the traditional ways, found in Carmelite spirituality, are particularly stressed, above all lectio divina, the prayerful listening to the Word of God, which is intended to open us to an intimate relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ. Devotion to Our Lady will be a mark of the lay Carmelite because she is the Mother of Carmel.

46. Like all Carmelites, the lay Carmelite is called to some form of service, which is an integral part of the charism given to the Order by God. Lay people have the mission of transforming secular society. They can do this in many different ways according to their possibilities. The great example for prophetic action is Elijah, whose activity had its source in a profound experience of God.

For the complete letter see here.

As with every member of a relgious order, I thank God each day for the blessing of belonging to such an order. I am constantly blessed by the requirements and the expectations of being a Carmelite. I am constantly challenged. I fall and I get back up to fall again. But it is my privilege and joy to do so for the glory of God, and I pray that my falling becomes less frequent, and my periods of striding forward more. I pray that God will speak through all of my actions and all of my life, and I lay myself open to allow that to happen. I pray for the grace to be more open. And I pray for everyone here that God helps each person in his or her vocation, helps them to understand that however they may choose to identify themselves, each one is a precious child of God.

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The Three Enemies
Christina Rosetti, 1851


"Sweet, thou art pale."
"More pale to see,
Christ hung upon the cruel tree
And bore His Father's wrath for me."

"Sweet, thou art sad."
"Beneath a rod
More heavy, Christ for my sake trod
The winepress of the wrath of God."

"Sweet, thou art weary."
"Not so Christ:
Whose mighty love of me suffic'd
For Strength, Salvation, Eucharist."

"Sweet, thou art footsore."
"If I bleed,
His feet have bled; yea in my need
His Heart once bled for mine indeed."


"Sweet, thou art young."
"So He was young
Who for my sake in silence hung
Upon the Cross with Passion wrung."

"Look, thou art fair."
"He was more fair
Than men, Who deign'd for me to wear
A visage marr'd beyond compare."

"And thou hast riches."
"Daily bread:
All else is His: Who, living, dead,
For me lack'd where to lay His Head."

"And life is sweet."
"It was not so
To Him, Whose Cup did overflow
With mine unutterable woe."


"Thou drinkest deep."
"When Christ would sup
He drain'd the dregs from out my cup:
So how should I be lifted up?"

"Thou shalt win Glory."
"In the skies,
Lord Jesus, cover up mine eyes
Lest they should look on vanities."

"Thou shalt have Knowledge."
"Helpless dust!
In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust:
Answer Thou for me, Wise and Just."

"And Might."--
"Get thee behind me. Lord,
Who hast redeem'd and not abhorr'd
My soul, oh keep it by Thy Word."

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For San Diego County and Environs


An urgent and ongoing request from my friends in San Diego County who seem to be between two of the major fires burning there--please pray for everyone in the county and for God's intervention in the control of these fires that threaten a great many homes.

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At Disputations a truly beautiful post on the meaning of human dignity and a cogent personal reflection on the issue before us all now. This reflection truly touched me and said something I strongly believe needs to be said. In the body of Christ a human being cannot be a burden and cannot be allowed to be a burden and cannot be allowed to think of themselves as a burden. Although we have no control over the thoughts of another person, we should never, never give them any reason to believe that they are burdensome.

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Life as Pregnancy

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As part of another study group, I'm reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. I understand its enormous popularity among protestants--Warren claims to have discovered what the Catholic Church has known for centuries--the purpose of life (to wit--prayer and loving God). So for the most part the book has gone without hitch. Yesterday I ran into a bit of protestant theology of the fundamentalist variety--"to become part of God's family, you must be born again." This was followed with such absurdities as "baptism is a necessary sign of this rebirth and everyone should be baptised." It often appears that our protestant brethren have lost the sense of grace.

But the encounter led me to another line of thought. I can legitimately claim to be a "born again" Christian. I had the experience, was baptised into the Baptist church and underwent some instruction there. But, I wonder--is this really what being "born again" is about.

It occurred to me that all of life is a vast pregnancy in the body of God. That is to say, we are born again only when we are born into the Kingdom, as it were. And what occurs here on Earth determines the outcome of that gestation--whether we are born to life or still-born. Not to go too far with this because it may be very far off track and I haven't yet considered it in the fullness of possible meanings--however, being born again is a life-time process that culminates only when we leave this life to emerge in the life beyond. and everything is directed toward that end. So if we fail and fumble in this life, we are as very small children--children in the womb even. And it is expected of so young that they might not progress much.

Thinking a little further in the metaphor, perhaps our saints are those who have been born into the Kingdom while still here on Earth. And what a stunning thing it is to think of them as infants and toddlers in the faith; however, it is how they always refer to themselves. Consider then what it will be like to be in heaven where we to some extent mature in Christ.

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As part of a book group I have recently read Henri Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son. Not a book I would recommend to everyone--seems to be very good for the depressives among us. However, the genesis of the book raised an interesting question that I thought I would ask of all:

If you had the leisure to spend a week or two weeks really examining and studying any one artwork, which would you choose and why? More importantly, would you spend a week or two examining just that one work? And what might be the good results of taking such time?

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Not the glorious seventeenth--but surely a highlight of the eighteenth. It's a shame so few read it these days and so few know its noble rhythms and pithy turns of phrase. In this brief excerpt for your pleasure there are no fewer than three really catchy phrases. Find the complete poem here.

from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray (1751)

            Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
                  The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
            Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
                  Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

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

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

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

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

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

            Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
                  The place of fame and elegy supply:
            And many a holy text around she strews,
                  That teach the rustic moralist to die.

            For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
                  This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
            Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
                  Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?

            On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
                  Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
            Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
                  Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

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Learning from Ms. Shaivo

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There is much to be learned from this case--much of it heart rending--and judging from public reaction, very little of it given anything more than a knee-jerk reaction. But God does allow things to happen and to come to our attention for a reason--and I don't think that the fullness of that reason resides in alerting everyone to the necessity of advance-care directives (an exceedingly dubious prospect, if the persons acting on them act as they do in Ms. Schaivo's case.)

Part of what I need to learn from this is to trust God. One way or another, His will be done. I can't fathom the deep meaning of this case. I don't understand all the particulars of the law. But I do have a deeper and fresher understanding of the arrogance of both legalism (not the law, but the strict letter of it) and the medical profession. Statements are made with no substantiation and no means of substantiation--"There's nothing there." "She died thirteen years ago," "She's not coming back." The last of these may be true, but God willing, it need not be.

The point here is that prayer is the key. Trusting God with everything and that means EVERYTHING is what we are called to. We do need to work and to support what we think is right. We do need to exert ourselves to the extent possible to fight the evil that has crept into our very bones. But we also must trust that God knows what He is doing and that His perfect will is accomplished in this and in all things.

Only in praying for the will of God and working for what we understand the fullness of that will to be do we find the peace that is at the center of every event ordained by Him. From great tragedy comes great learning and we are called to give all our strength and will to God's fatherly hands, trusting that the ends that are already in process will redound to the salvation of all peoples.

Please continue to pray for Ms. Schaivo--the forces of the world at large are marshalled against her, and in her marshalled against all of us when we stand at a juncture where we cannot speak for ourselves. Or even when we can speak for ourselves, but only from the ignorant darkness of the world. May God forgive and bring to right mind all of those who feel they know so well what is best for Ms. Schaivo and may all right minded people be brought closer to the heavenly throne through this time of suffering-by-proxy. May our pain ease that of those immediately surrounding Ms. Schaivo and give them strength to continue to do what is right.

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A short excerpt from one of the great creepy-poems of all time.

The context--Death and his spouse Life-in-Death are casting dice for the lives of the crew of the ship on which the Ancient Mariner served. Death wins the majority, but LIfe-in-Death takes one:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip--
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

life in death.jpg.jpg

Wonderful illustration by Gustav Doré

Find the full version of the 1834 revision of the poem here

One last note--the context of the time makes this seem eerily appropriate. If we allow Ms. Shaivo to die in the name of the separate and equal balance of power, or of any number of things people seem to argue that she should die for, we will have killed the albatross, and it shall be hung about our necks, marking us.

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From my favorite Shakespeare play

from The Tempest
Ariel's Song
William Shakespeare

Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!
The watch-dogs bark.
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

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Marvelous Prayer Advice and Guidance


To be found in The Golden Grove of Jeremy Taylor.

3. Never let any one think it an excuse to lie in bed, because he hath nothing to do when he is up: for whoever hath a Soul, and hopes to save that Soul, hath work enough to do to make his calling and election sure, to serve God, and to pray, to reade, and to meditate, to repent and to amend, to do good to others, and to keep evil from themselves. And if thou hast little to do, thou ought'st to imploy the more time in laying up for a greater Crown of Glory.

4. At your opening your eyes, enter upon the day with some act of piety.

1. Of thanksgiving for the preservation of you the night past.

2. Of the glorification of God for the works of the Creation, or any thing for the honour of God.

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From the Orthodox Church

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Story Attributed to Bishop Ignatius Byranchaninov

A brother once sorrowfully asked Sisoes the Great: "Father, what can I do? I have fallen into sin." The Staretz answered him: "Rise again." The brother said: "I rose up and fell." The Staretz answered: "Rise again." The brother answered:"How often mt I fall and rise up?" The Staretz said: "Until your death."

We often give much thought to our failures. We are desolated by them--torn apart, destroyed. But falling is part of the human condition. The Great Saints fell, though compared to us their falling is like a misstep over irregular pavement. The fact of the matter is that this will be our experience. If we think into the future it can lead to despair. But all we need to attend to is this moment--right now. The future does not exist and so it is time to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and move forward to stumble again--knowing that each time Jesus will be there to help us. Rather than a source of despair, each stumble becomes a chance to learn and to love Christ more for His infinite patience. When we look upon that patient and loving face, becoming more and more in love with Him, we are looking upon the face of the Father who loves us. So, let's all get up and move forward knowing that stumbling will occur--we are but infants--but we must not be discouraged by the feebleness of our efforts, but encouraged by the love of God the Father who cherishes each of us as though we were His only child.

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One of a sequence of seven poems, respectfully dedicated to Fr. Keyes and to all Missionaries of the Precious Blood in a belated tribute to their Founder St. Gaspar del Bufalo (October 21) and in honor of Father Keyes's upcoming anniversary of Ordination (Sunday, October 26--12th anniversary). Please pray for Father Keyes for the continued success of his mission and vocation.

from "La Corona"
John Donne

Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall—though she now be in extreme degree 
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly—be 
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul, 
And life by this death abled shall control 
Death, whom Thy death slew ; nor shall to me 
Fear of first or last death bring misery, 
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll. 
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified, 
But made that there, of which, and for which it was ; 
Nor can by other means be glorified. 
May then sin's sleep and death soon from me pass, 
That waked from both, I again risen may 
Salute the last and everlasting day. 

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Mark at Minute Particulars makes some excellent points about the sacrament of Marriage and its position in being able to make health care decisions about a disabled spouse. And for the most part I agree. But I have to say that I see very little shadow of doubt about the propriety of the action in this case because one must wonder how much of the sacrament is intact. One of the reasons little discussion has been devoted to this fact of the case, I believe, is because one must get very scrupulous and legalistic about definitions and who can decide what. After all--the sacrament does not appear to be lived out in this case, (further statement may constitute gossip and so I refrain). I think in any discussion of who makes what decisions, extenuating circumstances such as this must be considered. I give more weight to the legislative action taken in this case, not because it was necessarily right and proper, but it is up to the state to defend those who cannot speak for themselves. Under these circumstance, where it might be more convenient for the person making the decision to have someone "put out of their misery," I believe additional scrutiny is probably in order.

The sacrament of Marriage should drive who we consider the proper person to make decisions in this matter, but then, so should all the circumstances of the case and not a mere legalism.

"Don't we undermine marriage somewhat if we steamroll over the authority a husband or wife has for an incapacitated spouse?" In answer to this very legitimate question, I think the reply must be based not on speculative theory but what was right in this case or in the case under inspection. If to all exterior appearances the sacrament is being lived out fully, all due consideration must be paid to this; however, I think it is relatively easy to see that there are good reasons to suspect Mr. Shiavo's devotion to Ms. Schiavo and his dedication to her best interest. In such a case, should we close our eyes to extenuating circumstances and stand on a rather legalistic interpretation of what the sacrament is all about? My reading indicates that Mark in no way suggests this and I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that I impute this view to him; however, it is the other side, and a tremendously important side at that, of the discussion. And because it is so seamy and so filled with innuendo and the possibility of uncharitableness, it may not have gotten much play in the course of discussion. However, I don't think we can allow the view taken during the Clinton Administration that what one does in one's private life should not affect the view of public actions. As with all such discussions, this one needs to be considered as a whole--and I suspect that the question of the sacrament is somewhat less problematic in the instance.

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Thematically related to the discussion yesterday of choices made:

Links to more Patmore:

Poet's Corner

Old Poetry

The Child's Purchase

All Spirit

Complete: Angel in the House and Another, less aggravating version

Victories of Love--Gutenberg

The Toys
Coventry Patmore

            My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
            And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
            Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
            I struck him, and dismiss'd
            With hard words and unkiss'd,
            His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
            Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
            I visited his bed,
            But found him slumbering deep,
            With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
            From his late sobbing wet.
            And I, with moan,
            Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
            For, on a table drawn beside his head,
            He had put, within his reach,
            A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
            A piece of glass abraded by the beach
            And six or seven shells,
            A bottle with bluebells
            And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
            To comfort his sad heart.
            So when that night I pray'd
            To God, I wept, and said:
            Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath,
            Not vexing Thee in death,
            And Thou rememberest of what toys
            We made our joys,
            How weakly understood
            Thy great commanded good,
            Then, fatherly not less
            Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
            Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
            "I will be sorry for their childishness."

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Hymn Request--Flos Carmeli in Latin


Sr. Michael Marie below requested a printed version of the "Flos Carmeli" in Latin. The text follows. I'd have to research recordings, as I'm not immediately aware of any CDs with the hymn on it.

In addition, here are two resources for Latin Hymns and Marian Hymns.

Marian Hymns
Latin Hymns

Flos Carmeli

Fos Carmeli,
vitis florigera,
splendor caeli,
virgo puerpera

Mater mitis
sed viri nescia
esto propitia
stella maris.

Radix Jesse
germinans flosculum
Nos ad esse
tecum in saeculum

Inter spinas
quae crescis lilium
Serva puras
mentes fragiluim

Fortis Pugnantium
Furunt bella
tende praesidium

Per incerta
prudens consilium
Per adversa
iugie solatium

Mater dulcis
Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam
reple laetitia
qua bearis.

clavis et ianua,
fac nos duci
quo, Mater, gloria

Following is a complete English translation of the hymn:

Flower of Carmel

FLOWER of Carmel,
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Childbearing yet maiden.
None equals thee.

Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favors bestow.
Star of the Sea.

Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.

Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.

Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle,
Hard press'd in the fight,
we call to thee.

Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
Unfailing counsel
You give to those
who turn to thee.

O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.

Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.

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A New Parishioner

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Or so I guess, Ms. Mary H stopped by here recently and has quite a fine blog of her own. Stop by and say hello.

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The Unraveling Continued

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This is a terrible sign of where the Episcopalian communion is headed. Children no longer receiving religious preparation and the Bishop asked to forego his annual visit for the conferral of confirmation. I know that there are parts of St. Blog's that are nearly ecstatic over this sad division, but I can't muster up much of any enthusiasm for yet another rending of the body of Christ. It is another sad wound that may bring some into the Catholic Church but is more likely to alienate a great many from going to church altogether. Even if the communion is imperfect, it is still part of the Body of Christ and this is a wrenching and terrible spectacle.

However, even so, one must recognize that God has permitted this for whatever reason. We must pray for the good that can come out of it.

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Today's Quotation


It just amused me as I was reading, so I thought I'd share:


Is that any thing now?


Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two
grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you
shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you
have them, they are not worth the search.

"The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene I" --William Shakespeare

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October Poem--Milton--Sonnet XXIII


A finer, more eloquent lamentation and heartfelt expression of grief is hard to imagine. This belongs with Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband" as one of the great love poems (particularly considering it comes from Milton's hand).

Sonnet XXIII: Methought I Saw my Late Espoused Saint
John Milton

            Methought I saw my late espoused saint
                 Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
                 Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
                 Rescu'd from death by force, though pale and faint.
            Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint
                 Purification in the old Law did save,
                 And such as yet once more I trust to have
                 Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
            Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
                 Her face was veil'd, yet to my fancied sight
                 Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
            So clear as in no face with more delight.
                 But Oh! as to embrace me she inclin'd,
                 I wak'd, she fled, and day brought back my night.

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Our Choices Matter

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Following from yesterday's note that there is purpose to everything, a corollary is that our choices matter. Most orthodox Christians seem to understand this intuitively in the big issues--to sin or refrain from occasion of sin, to support life or to oppose it.

However, where we seem to let it go is in the smaller choices that matter every bit as much. For example, in our choice of entertainment. There is nothing wrong with leisure time, however, it seems that if everything has a purpose, then our choices should also be purposeful. If we choose to entertain ourselves with things that are not worthy of us, we are not doing ourselves any favors. There is nothing wrong with reading the occasional Grisham or Wodehouse as a sort of intellectual palate-cleansing; however, a complete diet of either must be detrimental because we are filling time otherwise better occupied in more edifying pursuits.

Moreover, and this is where it gets sticky, we need to make choices that reduce recreation time. Recreation is supposed to be a break, not the majority of time that we are not at work. Many parents have no problem with this--modern schedules of carting kids to activities, maintaining house and home, participating even minimally in various parish activities--all tend to fill up our time. And yet the average family finds times for 4-6 hours of television a day. There is something wrong with this.

We need to choose as often as possible things that will help us lead Christian lives. So our entertainment, our recreation, and our leisure hours should be spent training ourselves to be better Christians. The things we choose to take in during these hours should strengthen our resolve as well as our minds and bodies.

Everything has a purpose, every choice matters. Every choice has consequences that echo perpetually. So, it would seem, Dostoievski might be preferable to say Agatha Christie, even if I happen to prefer the latter most times. Chesterton might be better than Grisham, and so forth. We simply need to learn to pray before and about everything and let the Holy Spirit be our guide in all the ways we will go.

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Request for Feedback

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Please let me know if the present line-length in the main blog is comfortable. If not, too long, too short? I think it's about right for good column length and probably good for most poetry display. But let me know if you think it needs something different.

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Terri Update

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The Florida Senate passed the bill. Let's pray that Mr. Bush does as he has promised and let us continue to pray for the recovery and healing of Ms. Schiavo.

Appears Bush has signed the orders to reinstate the feeding. Praise God! Praise God! and keep praying. She needs our prayers and support as much now as she did before. Pray for her recovery and no ill-effects.

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Terri Update


Assuming the Senate approves it:

from the Orlando Sentinel

Bush said he would sign legislation into law Tuesday night and immediately issue the stay, ordering the feeding tube reinserted. He said he did not think lawmakers were motivated by politics.

"This is a response to a tragic situation." Bush said. "People are responding to cries for help and I think it's legitimate."

Pray for all due haste and speed in returning this woman's basic rights.

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Terri Schiavo Update


Mr. Polson draws my attention to the fact that I misread the article referenced below to mean that something had been decided. That will wait until this evening--which gives everyone in the state of Florida plenty of time to keep the phones ringing off the hooks and to storm heaven in the name of Mercy for this woman.

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Terri Schiavo, A Personal View


I have felt guilty for not joining the people in Tampa in their vigil for Terri, for not doing much more than handwringing, letter writing, and praying. However, it seems that there must be some of us gadflies left to sting the wounded conscience into action. We all have a role whether we can maintain vigil or not. Keep praying! And pray that if Bush does what he should Ms. Schiavo's recovery is complete and rapid.

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Terri Schiavo--Update

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The Senate passed the bill. Now it is up to Bush. Let's pray he doesn't drop the ball on this.

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Terri Schiavo Crisis


Many of you may already have seen this. If not--taken directly from the Blog of Gregg the Obscure:

In case you haven't seen this yet at Chez Shea

Urgent Action needed . . .
Here's what needs to happen. Call and/or write James King in the Florida Legislature and demand that emergency legislation be passed immediately--today--to create a moratorium on starving/dehydration such as Terri is being forced to endure.

Phone: 850-487-5229 or 850-487-5030


No time to lose! Please circulate this as far and wide as you can.

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Nothing happens accidentally. Everything you experience is a gift given by God. Often I know that I wish there were an exchange counter. There are gifts I'd rather not be given--presents I wish I could return.

Another wish I have is that the gifts came with intelligible instruction manuals. What am I to do with this thing you have given me? We can pray about it, but not being subject to locutions, I rarely have a clear revelation about meaning or purpose.

And that all leads to the core of the matter--trust. We must trust that everything has a purpose. We must trust that God knows what He is doing, because we sure don't. And we must trust that if we truly love God and seek to follow His will, we will find the path He has laid out for us.

To every small incident of every single day, every overheard conversation, every stranger encountered, every trifling annoyance, there is a purpose. We may not be able to discern it--but the purpose is there. Each day, each episode, each moment is a gift to us. For our love of Him, let's open the gifts with joy and sit at His feet to learn how best to employ them for our good and the good of the entire world.

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Pardon the pun, but an utterly chlling view--and wonderful and beautiful.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream
Wallace Stevens

            Call the roller of big cigars,
            The muscular one, and bid him whip
            In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
            Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
            As they are used to wear, and let the boys
            Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
            Let be be finale of seem.
            The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

            Take from the dresser of deal,
            Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
            On which she embroidered fantails once
            And spread it so as to cover her face.
            If her horny feet protrude, they come
            To show how cold she is, and dumb.
            Let the lamp affix its beam.
            The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

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Praise God, but keep praying. At least the Florida House has voted to allow Bush to help Terri (although as Chief executive of the state, it would seem that one of his prime directives would be to protect the citizenry of the state). Pray that the Senate acts quickly and this poor woman can be saved from the monstrous end expressly manufactured for her by Satan and the culture of Death.

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Back to the Original


Too much time spent trying to find where the problem was and fix it. So until there is some easy transformation we will stay at the 3 column format. Thanks to all who responded. I will be working on this from time to time--but don't expect great advances any time soon. Thanks.

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Query to Coders

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Does anyone have any idea why the blog displays this way? What is controlling the length of the second column? I don't see any indication of length in any of the code/stylesheets/etc. I found one missing semi-colon, but nothing else. This is very frustrating. That and the lack of a break between "Frequented Blogs" and "Categories."

This is why I don't want to start a new page--hours and hours get poured into trying to get everything to display properly.

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When I have an opportunity today--a review of the Exhibit from the Vatican--the purpose of our trip to Fort Lauderdale. Preview--All you Florida people--yes even you JAX people, make an effort to get down to Ft. Lauderdale and see this--it is worth the time and effort.

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Format Change

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I have been requested and am in the process of considering a change back to a two-column format here. I can see some of the advantages of both means of doing this. Personally, I prefer the three column format most of the time. However, it does tend to lengthen posts and scrolling--so two might not be bad. In order to do this I would probably have to create a separate links page, so I would have to either impose upon my hosts to that extent or build a separate page on my own site. I have resisted building my own site precisely because it would become the kind of time-sink which would require me to leave off blogging entirely.

Does anyone else have an opinion on the matter? I respectfully request any such in the comments box below or by e-mail. Or perhaps you all have some solution that I have not yet considered. Please let me know. Thanks.

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So as not to try patience, nor subject reader to infinite scrolling, I post merely two excerpts of this magnificent poem. The subject is the danger of near occasion of sin and the execution is magnificent. Find the entire poem here. This poem should be carefully read and considered and I think in the repetoire of every home-schooler for later years--say grades 11 and 12. There are strong adult themes.

The Goblin Market

MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck'd cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries; -
All ripe together
In summer weather, -
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy."
. . .

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answer'd all together:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipp'd a precious golden lock,
She dropp'd a tear more rare than pearl,
Then suck'd their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow'd that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck'd and suck'd and suck'd the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck'd until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gather'd up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turn'd home alone.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Pluck'd from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.

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Beach Thoughts on Detachment

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I am not a fan of Fort Lauderdale. Sitting in a restaurant on Saturday overlooking one of the many canals that provide access to the city for those with boats, I thought how little that life appealed to me. Walking on the beaches built up with hotels, I thought how little it appealed to me.

Now I am back in my landlocked home and I think, how wonderful it would be to be back there. Without question Fort Lauderdale beach is built up, and I've always disliked beaches that were so commercial. But walking there on Saturday, I realized that there is a good side for those of us who love the sun but don't particularly like being IN it. These buildings provide a wonderful later-afternoon shade that makes swimming in the ocean so much more comfortable.

All of those points aside. I began to consider this whole trip for one reason and purpose--the question of attachment. Recording some of my thoughts after a beach-walk on Saturday, I thought about the question of desire:

But I had a series of questions. Is it wrong of me to want to live near the ocean ? The answer, I think, is no. Would it be wrong to work toward this goal? The answer, I think, is yes--because it would redirect attentions that should be lavished on God. This brings us back to the first question and the answer now seems to be that even the desire must be wrong. I don't really know the answer, but I do know the desire is real. . .

Is it wrong to want something? I believe we are made to want things, that our emptiness longs to be filled with God. Is it wrong to want to live somewhere else or to want to do something else as a means of employment? I don't think so--but the question becomes how much is it permissable to seek these things.

Looking at the lives of the great Saints, we don't see them wanting to live near the ocean or pining because they'd really rather have been carpenters rather than writers or clergy. Because they loved God sufficiently, all other things paled into obscurity. Ordinary life became extraordinary.

So perhaps it is not so much "wrong" to desire these things as it is symptomatic of the need for improvement. When we love God sufficiently everything else is subsumed in this love. When God is the focus of our attention, we no longer think about longer and longer vacations, and spending our time near the ocean or near the mountains, or near anything other than God himself.

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Does anyone have any idea of what a liturgical drinking straw is? I saw two such objects--One of Pope Pius XII and one of a previous pope Leo XIII, perhaps. Samuel was so taken by them that I totally missed the really fantastic object in that case--a plain glass goblet that was used for celebrating Mass in Auschwitz--more about the whole exhibit, I know I've been obscure, when I've gotten a few other things out of the way.

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Good News/Bad News

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Good News: I'm back and experience suggests that I do not need to abandon the blog.

Bad News: I don't have much to say today, so there may be one more entry and then silence again. Thanks for all your encouragement.

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Expect Silence

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For the next few days as I consider other things more closely and decide if/when and where this will end.

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A Prayer for Bible Study

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Found in Stephen Ray's imposing study St. John's Gospel

A Prayer for Scripture Study from Origen
Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and to meditate upon them day and night. We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need, that we in turn may put its precepts into practice. Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So we ask that the words of Scriptures may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts.

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From St. John of the Cross

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from The Ascent of Mount Carmel Book II Chapter 22 St. John of the Cross

In giving us, as He has done, His Son, who is his only Word, He has spoken to us once and for all by His own and only Word, and has nothing further to reveal.

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From St. Teresa of the Andes


A lesser-known twentieth century Carmelite saint who, along with Thérèse and Elizabeth of the Trinity died very young.

There are three things we will be judged on: Your blessings to us, our sins and our deeds, accord to what our intention was. Oh, my God, I am not a saint even though You filled me with blessings! Pardon me so I may be a saint from now on. My Mother, make me become a saint!

As to the accuracy of the beginning of the statement, I cannot attest. I am certain that at least those three things will be considered in judgment, and perhaps others of which I am relatively unaware. But it is the later part of the statement that I find most interesting and compelling. "I am not a saint. . ." with the implied "yet." Evidently, recognizing how far one has to go is no barrier to sanctity, holiness, and Sainthood. We all sigh and say, "We aren't saints." And we are all right to the extent that we do no more than sigh or pine. St. Teresa of the Andes shows us the next step. We ask to become His Saints. And when we ask we are prepared to act upon what He offers us in the way of becoming a saint.

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Another Poem--Shelley-Ozymandias


It's good to have a couple of poems--and I'll be away awhile contemplating other things so best to leave you with something to think about:

Percy Bysshe Shelley

            I met a traveller from an antique land,
            Who said -- "two vast and trunkless legs of stone
            Stand in the desert ... near them, on the sand,
            Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
            And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command,
            Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
            Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
            The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
            And on the pedestal these words appear:
            My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
            Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
            Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
            Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
            The lone and level sands stretch far away."

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Unhappily less remembered and recited than "The Owl and the Pussycat" but every bit worthy of the same:

The Jumblies
Edward Lear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Working Assumptions

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I am not supposing that these assumptions are guidelines for all; however, one must start somewhere:

I will work on the assumption that

(1) those who disagree with me have legitimate reasons even if they are unable to articulate them.

(2) those who disagree with me hold their opinions in good will until further evidence indicates otherwise.

(3) that unless the Church teaches otherwise the Bible means precisely what it says interpreted in accord with the guidance of the Church.

(4) I am not always right.

(5) I have a narrow viewpoint that is not shared by all.

(6) I am not in any position to judge why anyone holds the opinions they do.

(7) the truth is more important than my personal viewpoint or comfort level.

(8) when I am made angry by something, I need to first look within for the source not outside.

(9) I am not the center of the Universe and things are not here for my convenience.

(10) with rights come concomittant responsibilities.

(11) the responsibilities are at least as weighty as the rights.

(12) what I personally dislike need not be made improper, illegal, or unavailable for everyone.

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E-Books For Everyone

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H. Rider Haggard Fair Margaret
G.K. Chesterton Alarms and Discursions
John Knox First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (voted most amusing title in a long time)
Erasmus Darwin The Botanic Garden
M.R. James Ghost Stories of an Antiquary--Volume II--Contains the remarkable stories "Casting the Runes" and "Stalls of Barchester Cathedral." James is one of the all-time greats in the genre of stories that are just a bit chilling.

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Some relative newcomers to the blogging world have been at times dismayed by the lack of response they receive when they discuss spiritual matters. I would point out that of all of the material posted yesterday, what received the greatest comment was a movie review posted on another site. This is the way of things--the movie review had statements that while not necessarily controversial were, at least, arguable. How does one argue with St. Teresa of Avila. Indeed, how does one even adequately comment on the writings of the Great Saints? It is in the application that comment may arise, but the writings themselves--who wants to go up against a Doctor of the Church.

So, be not dismayed if you find a vast and eerie silence around posts that you have worked hard on. The Holy Spirit will guide them to work where they will and if you were listening to Him, they will not go unheeded--you just might not be privy to the good that they do. And so it is--St. Paul reminds us that some are sowers and some are reapers, and those who sow may never see the harvest that is brought in. Everything is in God's hands and it is all for our good.

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Some have complained of the amount of poetry on the site. Some have seen fit to stop reading. I am sorry that it so distresses them; however, it has put me back in touch with part of the reason I'm doing this anyway and given me great pleasure at revisiting old friends.

This poem in particular is nice to visit again. My first acquaintance with it was on the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer album Brain Salad Surgery where it is the fanfare to introduce the whole rather twisted affair. These words are a hymn sometimes sung in Anglican Churches and they are quite lovely:

from Milton
William Blake

              And did those feet in ancient time
              Walk upon England's mountains green?
              And was the holy Lamb of God
              On England's pleasant pastures seen?

              And did the Countenance Divine
              Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
              And was Jerusalem builded here
              Among these dark Satanic mills?

              Bring me my bow of burning gold:
            Bring me my arrows of desire:
            Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
            Bring me my chariot of fire.

            I will not cease from mental fight,
            Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
            Till we have built Jerusalem
            In England's green and pleasant land.

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What a Wonderful Story


The Night I Met Someone Like Terri by Peony Moss--please take the time to read it, you'll be glad you did.

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A Beautiful Farewell

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By Kathy the Carmelite (KTC). Wonderful and inspiring chez O'Rama. Has he had a record number of citations today or what?

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Nice Review of the Passion

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Available at Mr. O'Rama's site


One scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized wounded Jesus was soon to fall again, under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Dolorosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached, to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said, "Behold, I make all things new."

"Behold, I make all things new." Praise God.

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St Teresa of Avila on Prayer

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from The Autobiography (VIII:12-13)

12. If, then, to those who do not serve God, but rather offend Him, prayer be all this, and so necessary, and if no one can really find out any harm it can do him, and if the omission of it be not a still greater harm, why, then, should they abstain from it who serve and desire to serve God? Certainly I cannot comprehend it, unless it be that men have a mind to go through the troubles of this life in greater misery, and to shut the door in the face of God, so that He shall give them no comfort in it. I am most truly sorry for them, because they serve God at their own cost; for of those who pray, God Himself defrays the charges, seeing that for a little trouble He gives sweetness, in order that, by the help it supplies, they may bear their trials.

13. But because I have much to say hereafter of this sweetness, which our Lord gives to those who persevere in prayer, I do not speak of it here; only this will I say: prayer is the door to those great graces which our Lord bestowed upon me. If this door be shut, I do not see how He can bestow them; for even if He entered into a soul to take His delight therein, and to make that soul also delight in Him, there is no way by which He can do so; for His will is, that such a soul should be lonely and pure, with a great desire to receive His graces. If we put many hindrances in the way, and take no pains whatever to remove them, how can He come to us, and how can we have any desire that He should show us His great mercies?

Find the entire autobiography on-line here

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Glorious and Happy Feast Day to All


The feast of St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great Saints of the Carmelite Order, affectionately known to all of her Sisters as La Madre.

Also a solemn day, may we invoke her aid for the life of Terri Schiavo. Perhaps she can obtain from the bounty of the graces of God a miracle--great or small-- that will prevent us from sinking further into the barbarism of the culture of death.

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See here for a scriptural meditation on this great feast day.

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For the Feast Day of La Madre


From The Autobiography (XXV: 22)

O my Lord, how true a friend art Thou! how powerful! Thou showest Thy power when Thou wilt; and Thou dost will it always, if only we will it also. Let the whole creation praise Thee, O Thou Lord of the world! Oh, that a voice might go forth over all the earth, proclaiming Thy faithfulness to those who love Thee! All things fail; but Thou, Lord of all, never failest! They who love Thee, oh, how little they have to suffer! oh, how gently, how tenderly, how sweetly Thou, O my Lord, dealest with them! Oh, that no one had ever been occupied with any other love than Thine! It seems as if Thou didst subject those who love Thee to a severe trial: but it is in order that they may learn, in the depths of that trial, the depths of Thy love. O my God, oh, that I had understanding and learning, and a new language, in order to magnify Thy works, according to the knowledge of them which my soul possesses! Everything fails me, O my Lord; but if Thou wilt not abandon me, I will never fail Thee. Let all the learned rise up against me,--let the whole creation persecute me,--let the evil spirits torment me,--but do Thou, O Lord, fail me not; for I know by experience now the blessedness of that deliverance which Thou dost effect for those who trust only in Thee. In this distress,--for then I had never had a single vision,--these Thy words alone were enough to remove it, and give me perfect peace: "Be not afraid, my daughter: it is I; and I will not abandon thee. Fear not."

And in a sense, this may be another response to Mr. O'Rama (see below)--that perhaps the ennui that sets in is a trial of sorts--bear up under it, offer it as a small sacrifice to God and make progress in the Little Way. All of our choices have echoes in eternity.

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From one of the great Catholic poets of the Glorious 17th Century.

A Hymn to the Name and Honour of the Admirable Saint Teresa
Richard Crashaw

LOVE, thou are absolute, sole Lord
Of life and death. To prove the word,
We'll now appeal to none of all
Those thy old soldiers, great and tall,
Ripe men of martyrdom, that could reach down
With strong arms their triumphant crown:
Such as could with lusty breath
Speak loud, unto the face of death,
Their great Lord's glorious name; to none
Of those whose spacious bosoms spread a throne
For love at large to fill. Spare blood and sweat:
We'll see Him take a private seat,
And make His mansion in the mild
And milky soul of a soft child.
Scarce has she learnt to lisp a name
Of martyr, yet she thinks it shame
Life should so long play with that breath
Which spent can buy so brave a death.
She never undertook to know
What death with love should have to do.
Nor has she e'er yet understood
Why, to show love, she should shed blood;
Yet, though she cannot tell you why,
She can love, and she can die.
Scarce has she blood enough to make
A guilty sword blush for her sake;
Yet has a heart dares hope to prove
How much less strong is death than love....

Since 'tis not to be had at home,
She'll travel for a martyrdom.
No home for her, confesses she,
But where she may a martyr be.
She'll to the Moors, and trade with them
For this unvalued diadem;
She offers them her dearest breath,
With Christ's name in 't, in charge for death:
She'll bargain with them, and will give
Them God, and teach them how to live
In Him; or, if they this deny,
For Him she'll teach them how to die.
So shall she leave amongst them sown
Her Lord's blood, or at least her own.

Farewell then, all the world, adieu!
Teresa is no more for you.
Farewell all pleasures, sports, and joys,
Never till now esteemed toys!

Farewell whatever dear may be--
Mother's arms, or father's knee!
Farewell house, and farewell home!
She 's for the Moors and Martyrdom.

Sweet, not so fast; lo! thy fair spouse,
Whom thou seek'st with so swift vows,
Calls thee back, and bids thee come
T' embrace a milder martyrdom....

O how oft shalt thou complain
Of a sweet and subtle pain!
Of intolerable joys!
Of a death, in which who dies
Loves his death, and dies again,
And would for ever so be slain;
And lives and dies, and knows not why
To live, but that he still may die!
How kindly will thy gentle heart
Kiss the sweetly-killing dart!
And close in his embraces keep
Those delicious wounds, that weep
Balsam, to heal themselves with thus,
When these thy deaths, so numerous,
Shall all at once die into one,
And melt thy soul's sweet mansion;
Like a soft lump of incense, hasted
By too hot a fire, and wasted
Into perfuming clouds, so fast
Shalt thou exhale to heaven at last
In a resolving sigh, and then,--
O what? Ask not the tongues of men.

Angels cannot tell; suffice,
Thyself shalt feel thine own full joys,
And hold them fast for ever there.
So soon as thou shalt first appear,
The moon of maiden stars, thy white
Mistress, attended by such bright
Souls as thy shining self, shall come,
And in her first ranks make thee room;
Where, 'mongst her snowy family,
Immortal welcomes wait for thee.
O what delight, when she shall stand
And teach thy lips heaven, with her hand,
On which thou now may'st to thy wishes
Heap up thy consecrated kisses!
What joy shall seize thy soul, when she,
Bending her blessed eyes on thee,
Those second smiles of heaven, shall dart
Her mild rays through thy melting heart!

Angels, thy old friends, there shall greet thee,
Glad at their own home now to meet thee.
All thy good works which went before,
And waited for thee at the door,
Shall own thee there; and all in one
Weave a constellation
Of crowns, with which the King, thy spouse,
Shall build up thy triumphant brows.
All thy old woes shall now smile on thee,
And thy pains sit bright upon thee:
All thy sorrows here shall shine,
And thy sufferings be divine.
Tears shall take comfort, and turn gems,
And wrongs repent to diadems.
Even thy deaths shall live, and new
Dress the soul which late they slew.
Thy wounds shall blush to such bright scars
As keep account of the Lamb's wars.

Those rare works, where thou shalt leave writ
Love's noble history, with wit
Taught thee by none but Him, while here
They feed our souls, shall clothe thine there.
Each heavenly word by whose hid flame
Our hard hearts shall strike fire, the same
Shall flourish on thy brows, and be
Both fire to us and flame to thee;
Whose light shall live bright in thy face
By glory, in our hearts by grace.
Thou shalt look round about, and see
Thousands of crown'd souls throng to be
Themselves thy crown, sons of thy vows,
The virgin-births with which thy spouse
Made fruitful thy fair soul; go now,
And with them all about thee bow
To Him; put on, He'll say, put on,
My rosy Love, that thy rich zone,
Sparkling with the sacred flames
Of thousand souls, whose happy names
Heaven keeps upon thy score: thy bright
Life brought them first to kiss the light
That kindled them to stars; and so
Thou with the Lamb, thy Lord, shalt go.
And, wheresoe'er He sets His white
Steps, walk with Him those ways of light,
Which who in death would live to see,
Must learn in life to die like thee.

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Seeing All Things New

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I didn't want to leave so important a discussion in the comments box below, so I pull it out:

Comment from T.S. O'Rama
I'll have to think about it some more. I certainly am not implying a minimalist or Puritan philosophy! Not in the least. I guess my issue is how to live on a Wednesday afternoon - as Walker Percy put it so beautifully. Living in Central Ohio - mecca of civilization that it is - tends to make life a little dry sometimes. I know you won't believe it, but it's not exactly Florence, Italy. There's a part of me that believes/wants to believe that life is gloriously interesting in Central Ohio if I'd only see the spiritual war more clearly. But perhaps this comment is what I should've said on my blog (I can fix that)...

And my response

I understand what you're saying. I lived there for 10 years. And yet. . . there are places where things are even less exciting. I live in the entertainment capital of much of the East Coast and a Hub for most of the world, but after you've tasted of that spring the water begins to run a bit flat. Not to say that it isn't a wonderful place to be or that there is anything wrong with the wonders that surround me--but, believe it or not, there are aspects of life in Central Ohio that I do miss--to wit--

(1) The summer film series at the downtown theatre
(2) The Shekinah Glory festival with quilt auction out in Plain City
(3) The Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival, The Waynesville Sauerkraut festival, and the Circleville pumpkin festival.
(4) Ready accessibility of the Mounds at Newark, the Chilicothe Mounds and Governor's House, the not too distant Serpent Mound, and the place down near the Golden Lion -- ?Fort Ancient?
(5) The libraries and the booksales for various libaries

So there are delights in Central Ohio or Nearby. (Polka Barns up near Cleveland, for example). It isn't a hopping place--but on the other hand it is no worse than a great many. And life is exciting if one views it daily with the gratitude for the gift that it is.

My greatest anecdote about life in Central Ohio comes from a fieldtrip a friend of mine led when a graduate student there. They had a group of kids from inner city New York in a big bus--they're about twenty or thirty miles WEST of Columbus--you know how that gets, when suddenly there's a huge commotion from the back of the bus and the driver is told to "Stop the Bus, Stop the Bus!" Fearing the worst, he did so, and from the back three kids pile out of the bus. My friend got out with the other counselor to break up whatever is going on and they see the three kids with cameras taking pictures of one of those vast fields between Columbus and Dayton. One of the kids says, 'What's that?" pointing to the crop growing at the side of the road, and my friend answers "Corn." And they said, "Ain't no way that's corn--corn comes in a can." My friend says, "That's what it looks like before it goes in the can."

The point is merely to say that one of Thérèse's chief teachings is that we must become like little children to whom all things are new again. We need to teach ourselves to see that corn as though we had never seen it before--to marvel at its growth , and yes, its beauty. We need to accept what comes to us and rejoice in the great generosity with which it is given. THAT is what gives life savor and interest and THAT is what comes of loving Jesus as a little child--nothing can every be ordinary again.

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Poetry and Life

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Mr. O'Rama asks a question that I will probably need to think more about:

Do some, for whatever reason, have a higher “minimum daily requirement” of art? Of plays, music, books, theatre, film, paintings, architecture, poems?

I think of the Little Way of St. Therese and wonder: If we could see life as it truly is, as spiritual warfare in which our most insignificant actions have rippling effects -then would not our lives be infused with meaning and art be, extraneous? What need has the soldier on the field of battle for novels when his own life is the stuff of legend?

I do not know the answer, but I do know how I feel. Art is one of the great battlegrounds for hearts and minds. Poetry, literature, music, art, cinema, all vie for attention both as entertainment and as edification. I don't know that walking through the National Gallery of Art actually qualifies for "entertainment" or even really "diversion." I think experiencing art is another way of experiencing a portion of God's creative capacity as doled out in His creation.

I suppose we must take very seriously the question of whether some need Art or whether Art makes life more "real" or more "lived" as I must believe it does. I seriously doubt that the Holy Father would have wasted the time in writing a Letter specifically to Artists if he did not consider the matter vitally important.

Yes, if we visualize all life as a spiritual battleground much of this is true. But if we look at life that way, are we not also missing part of the message? Is life MERELY a spiritual battleground. Isn't it also the time during which we come to awareness of the glory and the grandeur of God. And isn't Art one of the ways in which we can do that? I have seen a great many moving sunsets and sat beside lakes, streams, waterfulls, and rills. I have paddled among rias and aits and even kayaked up the Potomac to Great Falls to take measurements near Difficult Run. I have walked the paths of Hocking Hills and had the great Serpent Mound all to myself for days on end and all of these things are great and glorious. And I have read a poem by Hopkins and been a thousand times more moved and transported than many of these other things have done. I can recite from memory hundreds of poems, thousands of fragments, but only one natural impression has remained so indelibly impressed upon me. Not that all those things I mentioned before are not beautiful, but that beauty in its different forms speaks to different people. "My Father's House has many mansions." I cannot imagine life without art. I am uncertain whether I would have come to know God as well as I hope I do without Caravaggio and Monet, Palestrina and Debussy, Dante and Joyce.

So I think the answer is, yes. For some art is a necessity--it is the lifeline through which God communicates some portion of His grace and presence. Some seem to get it from fishing, others through sports, still others from gardening and simple daily tasks. For some of us it is in the words we use every day. And that does seem apropos as we are told, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . ."

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Made for God's Pleasure

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I read something earlier this evening that I've always known, but which hasn't really meant much of anything to me. We are, in the words of Psalm 149:4, "made for God's pleasure."

Why is this so remarkable? What is so astounding about this revelation? God delights in us--in each one of us. Parents--think about the delight you experience when one of your young ones does anything at all cute. We are God's young ones. When we were born, He was there, grinning like a donkey eating briars. He takes real pleasure in us. Yes, we can be aggravating. It is possible for us to be downright infuriating. But He nevertheless delights in each one of us.

We were made for God's pleasure, at His pleasure, in His pleasure, by His pleasure. We were made to be pleasing and God is pleased with us. We focus on how much we get wrong, but by His grace we do get some things right.

Every day start the day by remembering that God made us for His pleasure, and start the day living to give God cause to rejoice.

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An Outpouring of Prayers


There appears to be one last concerted effort to save Terri Schiavo's life--details here. St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of those with headaches and loving mother of all those consigned to her care should be invoked, perhaps even for a miraculous awakening that will put an end to this evil.

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Robert Diaz Interview


For those following the interviews that have been making the rounds Mr. Diaz has his responses here

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The Right Mirror

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I have a very dear friend who said to me, "It hard to believe that the Glory of God resides in me when I look in the mirror." There are a great many Christians who have trouble believing that God loves them as they are right now. We have been trained through years of rejection and humiliation to believe that love comes with a price tag--that acceptance costs something.

In fact, love does come with a price tag--one paid by Jesus, and it does come at cost, the life of the Son of God. Our problem facing these issues is that we are using the wrong mirror. We look into a mirror of glass, but the mirror we should be using is that recommended by the great Madre herself--"Mira que tu mira"--
"Look at the One who looks at you." The proper mirror to judge yourself by is the mirror of the eyes of one who loves you--that comes closest to the way God looks at you. When you look into the eyes of one who really loves you, you see yourself--and when those eyes belong to God, you really and truly see yourself for what you are--a child of God.

We are who we are--with all the drawbacks and payoffs that includes--fat, thin, balding, short--God made us uniquely ourselves and loves us regardless of outer accouterments. He won't love us any more or any less if we gain or lose a few pounds. He won't love us better if our skin clears up, or hate us if we eat onions in our omelette for breakfast. God's mind is not as human minds, God's heart is not as human hearts. God is not fickle nor is He capricious. He is a Jealous God and as such, when all else fails, His love endures.

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About this, at least, there can be no doubt of its autumnal and Octembral appropriateness.

William Cullen Bryant

  TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds  
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks  
A various language; for his gayer hours  
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile  
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides          
Into his darker musings, with a mild  
And healing sympathy, that steals away  
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts  
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight  
Over thy spirit, and sad images   
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,  
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,  
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—  
Go forth under the open sky, and list  
To Nature's teachings, while from all around—   
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—  
Comes a still voice—Yet a few days, and thee  
The all-beholding sun shall see no more  
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,  
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,   
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist  
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim  
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,  
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up  
Thine individual being, shalt thou go   
To mix forever with the elements;  
To be a brother to the insensible rock,  
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain  
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak  
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.  
  Yet not to thine eternal resting-place  
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish  
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down  
With patriarchs of the infant world,—with kings,  
The powerful of the earth,—the wise, the good,   
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,  
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills  
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales  
Stretching in pensive quietness between;  
The venerable woods—rivers that move   
In majesty, and the complaining brooks  
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,  
Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste,—  
Are but the solemn decorations all  
Of the great tomb of man! The golden sun,  
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,  
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,  
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread  
The globe are but a handful to the tribes  
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings   
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,  
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods  
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,  
Save his own dashings,—yet the dead are there:  
And millions in those solitudes, since first  
The flight of years began, have laid them down  
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.  
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw  
In silence from the living, and no friend  
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe   
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh  
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care  
Plod on, and each one as before will chase  
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave  
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come   
And make their bed with thee. As the long train  
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,  
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes  
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,  
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—   
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side  
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.  
  So live, that when thy summons comes to join  
The innumerable caravan which moves  
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take   
His chamber in the silent halls of death,  
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,  
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed  
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave  
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch   
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

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Ms. Knapp is really on a roll, but then I haven't known her to stop except for a brief, unavoidable spell away from the computer.

She reports this interview with father Thomas Dubay from one of the CIN Listservs. Well worth your time, as always.

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A Blogging Examen


Ms. Knapp very graciously gave me permission to reprint her examen question in toto I found them profound and profoundly helpful.

Karen Marie Knapp  
Queries for a Bloggers' Examen II: the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Blogging

In church-bureaucrat-speak, blogs are called "a medium of social communication", and paragraphs 2493-2499 are about us. So, from reading then, what questions do rise up?
2493 is definitions.
2394: Do I consider the common good when I post and publish, or only my own ego-shine? Do I tell the truth? Have I ever omitted or manipulated some of the facts to make them say what I wanted them to say? Do I keep in mind that the people I blog about have rights and human dignity?
2495: Do I truly seek to know and respect others? Do I respectfully challenge ideas, or do I attack people? Do I shout down without a hearing those whose ideas differ from my own?
2496: Do I neglect my duties in real life in order to read sites? Do I keep in mind that not everything I read in the blogosphere may be factual, and that all that may be factual may not be true? Do I discipline myself to avoid those sites that are, for whatever reason, near occasions of sin for me?
2497: Have I ever lied in my blog? Do I acknowledge and respect the distinction between reporting facts and judging individuals? Have I ever defamed anybody by my blogs? If so, have I made amends, insofar as possible?
2498, which is mostly about civil authorities: Have I ever used my blog, or anywhere else on the Net, for illegal activity (e.g., libel, slander, warez, inciting civil disorder)? Or for unethical or immoral activities, even if legal (e.g., porn, spam)?
2499, about totalitarian regimes: Am I thankful for my freedom to write and publish? Do I respect this freedom, and rightly use it, never abusing it?

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On What To do About Your Websurfing


Whether intentionally or otherwise, I cannot copy material from M'Lynn's site, so I send you there to read the last paragraph of so of this entry. What is written there is wise and good advice to us all. Not only should we purge all that plunges us near despair, but everything that provides near occasion of sin. Thanks M'Lynn.

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Public Confession

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To keep me honest. Four times today I have been tempted to respond to a comment elsewhere that seemed somewhat ill-tempered and ill-considered. I drafted four or so responses and deleted them each time. What point is there to continuing a discussion with people who do not wish to discuss but who instead insist upon their own way? It seems that very few nowdays are wiling "to walk a mile in their neighbor's mocassins." In fact, many won't walk six inches. On matters of faith and morals, this makes good sense. On all other matters, it strikes me as both rude and ill-considered.

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Reading Group


Our reading group nicely disposed of Harry Potter with some comments you'd expect--many decrying the lack of literary substance and the formulaic nature of the stories (both of which points I tend to disagree with). But more interestingly, we chose our book for next month and it took a bit of wrangling to work it around, but it is a wonderful possibility. We'll be reading "The Merchant of Venice" along with a book by John Gross called, "Shylock."

"The Merchant of Venice" is a wonderful play because of the way it shows up the essential shortcomings of most Christians. Portia's caskets are a prime example--the choice of the three is obvious, and yet she needs to help the person she wants to choose the correct casket (if I remember correctly). And then there's the impassioned and gorgeous "The Quality of Mercy" speech followed immediately both by Shylock showing none and then by Portia as judge showing little-to-none. It can be read as an elegant indictment of Christian hypocrisy in action (I suppose). But then, that's the dangerous attraction of Shakespeare--it may probably also be read as a Marxist parable of class struggle and a freudian analysis of the war between the sexes. I had a very wise professor once tell the class, "Whatever methodology or system you bring into contact with Shakespeare will light up--the trick is to read him without any prior conceptions, to find out what he actually said."

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You probably don't think of this much in the context of autumn and fall and October, however, I think it a perfect fit for some of the melancholy many feel about this time--it's a great song for the falling of the leaves.

Music when Soft Voices Die (To --)
Percy Bysshe Shelley

                Music, when soft voices die,
              Vibrates in the memory--
              Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
              Live within the sense they quicken.

                Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
              Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
              And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
              Love itself shall slumber on.

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Erik's Interview Questions

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Erik very kindly agreed to write some interview questions, and these are very valuable and very helpful to reflection on vocation and goal.

1. Steven, you are obviously keenly interested in and deeply knowledgeable of poetry. What do you expect from a poem? There are several things I expect from a poem--fresh, surprising, original language is one of the first; however it is not sufficient. The language poets and the concrete poets could all do language, but the poems rarely emerge from the merely experimental into the meaningful. What that requires is a moment of removal from reality. Every great poem should yank you out of yourself, even if only for a moment, turn you around and allow you to see what the world looks like from somewhere else. They are epiphanies. This can happen in a number of ways--through sheer force of rhythm and language or through startling imagery. The beginning of "Ode to a Nightingale", "My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains my sense. . ." starts you on the course. Eliot was a master of this, "I have measured out my life in coffeespoons." "Mixing memory and desire" "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." "I have heard the mermaids singing. . ." and so forth. Some poets were absolute masters at these moments. The best of Stevens, Pound, Eliot, Wilbur, and others move you to this new place. Sylvia Plath does it rarely, Anne Sexton more rarely yet. Overall I don't much care for modern poetry as it has largely become either utterly confessional telling me too much about the poet and too little about the world, or academic--intricate, ultimately meaningless word games and puzzles designed to appeal to other academics, but with no real resonances or meaning to the casual reader. It would be very difficult to memorize a single line of most modern poets--whereas poets of the Glorious 17th Century (of which see my obsesssion) this is patently untrue--their words and images are tremendously powerful.

2. Who is the most striking example of a Catholic poet that you can think of, off the top of your head? I mean Catholic in terms of spirit of the poetry, not in terms of the actual confessional status of the poet (for instance, I consider Rembrandt one of the great Catholic painters, in spite of the fact that he was a member of the Reformed Protestant Church). Please explain. I think of three right off, two catholic and one non. Richard Crashaw and Robert Southwell are both of the confession and tremendously Catholic in the range, nature, and depth of their poetic utterances. Richard Crashaw is particularly moving and interesting when one looks at the epigrams and the poems about St. Teresa of Avila. And of course, Robert Southwell is nearly the perfect anti-Puritan. Everything one might despise in the writings of say a Jonathan Edwards is turned on its head. The whole theology is there, intact, and utterly Catholic. But one who strikes me as strangely Catholic in themes and obsessions is Wallace Stevens. Stevens claimed to be an Atheist up until near his death at which point he joined the Church. However, all along, his poems show an interest in both modernist themes (The Blue Guitar) and with very Catholic concerns ("Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" and "Sunday Morning.") I can't read Wallace without thinking of him as the consummate Catholic Poet--he just remained ignorant of it for a long time.

3. In your field (modern science in general, and museum crowds in particular) you must be a rara avis as a faithful and devout Catholic. What are the conflicts that come up and how do you deal with them?

It actually presents almost no trouble at all because I am not a literalist and do not read anything in church teaching that demands a literal interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, I have no problem with the notion of evolution, but a tremendous difficulty with the idea that it is undirected--for example Stephen Jay Gould's contigency theory--which states that if one thing had been off just a little bit, all of evolutionary history would have been changed. Well, this is a philosophical specualtion, not a piece of science, because it is essentially untestable except within a logical framework. And within that logical framework it suffers because of Chaotic dynamics and the notion of "self-organizing systems" and systems redundancy. So I would argue that Gould's contingency theory is simply a marxist frame aroound a paleontological speculation. My frame is theist and Catholic. If evolution is the mechanism by which things came to be, and the prepoderance of the evidence suggests that it is so, I beleive that the whole path was directed and guided by God's gracious hand. That is to say everything that is was created through this mechanism and so God is the unique creator of all things. However, this is also not science and not a testable hypothesis. I have revelation to guide intellect, but science operates on empirical evidence outside of authority (in science, arguements from authority are considered the weakesst). Thus, what I believe and know to be true in the core of my being really has no bearing on the science. Scientists start with the null hypothesis--undirected--and most don't bother to search for any evidence that it may be otherwise.

So this long answer says basically that science is science and religion is religion. Another of Gould's theories or philosophical proposals was that of non-overlapping magisteria. That is to say that science cannot presume to offer the answers that religion does and when religion offers to answer the questions science asks it often ends up looking foolish. St. Robert Bellarmine's famous statement regarding the Galileo affair is appropriate, "The Church does not tell us how the Heavens go, but how to go to Heaven." I do think that Gould has something with the nonoverlapping magisteria--although I'd probably refer to it more as well-defined jurisdictions. Science can tell us if something is possible--cloning, genetic manipulation, utter destruction of everything in existence, but it cannot state whether that possibility should be acted upon. The problem in recent days is that pundits and blowhards like Francis Crick, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins overstep their bounds and think that they can make moral decisions on utilitarian principles.

Anyway, I've gone on at great length. Suffice to say that I have had almost no problem reconciling religion and science and it doesn't require sleight-of-hand or even any very rapid fancy footwork, simply faith and tenacity in the face of those who would like you to think otherwise.

4. If you could be any kind of tree… No, just kidding. The real question: has the writing of Teilhard de Chardin influenced you much? I do not mean this as a gotcha question. We all know that he had some iffy ideas, but he was deadly serious in his attempts to reconcile anthropology and theology. How have you interacted with his better ideas (that is, if you have given him some serious study)?

Not at all. This is one of those places, where unfortunately, the overlapping of the magisteria is such that I have been hard-pressed to figure out what to make of Teilhard. As you well know, he was intimately involved in the Piltdown Hoax, although he may have been unaware of the forged fossil evidences. This kind of involvement put me off of his other writings. In addition, I have to admit they have a kind of breezy new-age atmosphere about them that has been so readily embraced by nearly every fringe-element pseudo-science religious group around that it is very difficult for me to sufficiently divorce him from his effects. The long-term result is that I have not made any real effort to study his work.

5. What direction do you see poetry going in? Any particular poets that do it for you these days?
To paraphrase my favorite Episcopagan Bishop--John Shelby Spong, "Why Poetry Must Change or Die." I think there is a swing back toward more classical forms, more metered and rhymed material, but I don't know that the academic school of poetry hasn't so badly damaged the core of the genre that it might not ever recover. Poets like Rita Dove and Billy Collins do almost nothing to advance poetry. Dana Gioia, on the other hand, presents a wonderful, enlightening, and powerful rhythmic and poetic stance that is the harbinger of the return of the memorable. Like much of modern Art, if modern poetry does not change its long-term direction there is no real hope for its continuation. It has become in large part the reading of choice of a small portion of academia, with almost no popular base. But it can be redeemed from that and there are a great many poets working today who promise just such a resuce. As much as I don't care for Billy Collins, I find the approachability of his work promising. It is approachable and still above the level of mere doggerel. As for Rita Dove, once again, very approachable, fine stuff, just not normally transcendent. I like Linda Pastan and Maxine Kumin, both of whom write very approachable lyrics. I've gone on too long--basically the direction of modern poetry largely depends on whether it can once again find a large popular base. I'm hoping it can, but I don't really think it likely.

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Lip Service

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The young man in the gospel today was downcast when the Lord told him that he must go and sell all that he had to follow Jesus as a true disciple. Some of us recognize the difficulty of what Jesus was saying in this particular instance. But let's assume for a moment you are one of those who could say easily, "Oh yes, Lord, I'll do it." Perhaps Jesus has a harder question for you--for example, are you willing to "let the dead bury the dead?" or "to set hand to plow and never look back?" or "to leave mother, father, sister, and brothers" and find them in the Christian communion?

Many of us pay lip service to these ideals, or perhaps conveniently shove them out of the way of the mind's eye. But spend a few moments today and think about the things Jesus could ask of you that would make you as downcast as the young man in the gospels. Then, when you've identified the problem areas, you have the beginnings of understanding, you can move more toward God in all these issues.

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An Examen for Bloggers


Via Fructis Ventris this remarkable help--an examen for what we do as we blog-- from Ms. Karen Marie Knapp--touching precisely on thoughts I have had this day. Thank you Ms. Knapp.

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Every Action Matters

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I write this largely to convince myself that it is true. If we are bound for eternity, it would seem that every step toward or away from that goal must matter. This is what sits at the heart of Labora est ora. Every action, no matter how small, has eternal ramifications. Thus, how we keep our houses, how we drive our cars, what we choose to read or write, every action has ripples through eternity. Every action is a measure of how we employ what God has lent us for this time on Earth.

We need to remember the parable of the talents. While we may have been given only a single talent, it is better to invest it for the small interest of a savings account than to bury it entirely. Erik recently posted on the importance of cooking and meals in the Christian life (here's a continuation of the discussion). I thought the post perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but nonetheless essentially true. If one cooks well, then preparing a good meal for a family can be the most loving and Christian act one can do for one's family--it is a perfect prayer of service. So too with all of our talents small or large.

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In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

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I particularly relish putting Poe up in October because Harold Bloom thinks so little of him. And I happen to think that Bloom has blinders on when it comes to certain genres and writers.

The City in the Sea
Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently--
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free--
Up domes--up spires--up kingly halls--
Up fanes--up Babylon-like walls--
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers--
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol's diamond eye--
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass--
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea--
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave--there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide--
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow--
The hours are breathing faint and low--
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

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You are probably aware that the Epsicopalian Church is still in an enormous uproar. For some reason, it seems to have stronger resonances here in Florida--perhaps because the Episcopalians had asked the use of the Catholic Cathedral in St. Augustine for the ordination of their bishop. Such permission had been granted until Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopalian Church announced that he would officiate. The Cathedral in St. Augustine withdrew its permission--largely making the point that while we can recognize something Christian in the Anglican Communion, the presiding bishop's actions have put him outside the Christian flock. A Letter from Cardinal Ratzinger and a conversation between Rowan Williams and the Pope have consistently reiterated this theme.

The crisis affects all of us. Most particularly, those who are presently part of the war-torn Episcopalian Church need our prayers that they may find safe harbor. Please see this and read the last several entries for an "insider's" view of what is happening. This is not a tempest in a teapot, but a great convulsion in the body of Christ that may lead on to a great restoration of the body or may lead to multiple fragmentation. Whatever happens, we need to pray that all who are directly touched by this crisis are blessed by it and come closer to God as a result.

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Wreck of the Hesperus
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane.

"Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
Oh say, what may it be?"
"'T is a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns,
Oh say, what may it be?"
"Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light,
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That savèd she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

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Yesterday-A Poem NOT about April


Several times in recent date I have read of a poem categorized as being about "april being the cruelest month." In most cases the person quoting the line wished to disagree in one way or another and to say why some other month is more cruel. (Usually my favorite--October, but then chacun á son goût.) However, the poem they are quoting isn't really about April being the cruelest month, although that is the first line after the epigraph. It is in fact probably the most important poem of the 20th Century and the harbinger and measure of the modernist movement:

from The Waste Land
T. S. Eliot


APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.

You can see from the context that what is happening is that we are being introduced to one stream-of-consciousness in a multiplicity. April is the context because it springs from this consciousness. However, April is cited as cruel because of its forced resurrection which mixes "memory with desire." It forces us out of ourselves and into the light when we had long lain dormant.

But the poem is not about April, and Eliot did eventually come to terms with the despair he so neatly chronicles by joining the Church of England. And really the only reason for this post is not to correct anything or make any real point at all--it simply gave me sufficient excuse to quote an excerpt from a poem I love and I love to talk about.

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John Keats is one of the all-time great poets and the following ode with its unusual and langorous construction is truly a highlight of his work.

To Autumn John Keats

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

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

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

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The next couple of entries are reposting what was lost from early yesterday. I'm truly sorry the interesting conversation re: Mr. D"Hippolito's comments has been foreshortened, but then these things happen.

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Please visit here for the details. Please remember Sister Claire in your prayers as she approaches her wedding day.

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Prayer Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, 1577

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

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On Pro-Life Endeavors

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I found the following strongly worded and provocative entry in a comments box at Disputations--as it was a rejoinder somewhat off the main point, I thought I would drag it out and comment upon it here.

Comment by Mr. Jospeh D'Hippolito at Disputations

Second, regarding your skepticism of voting because of "pro-life" issues: The biggest problem with "pro-life" Christians in general is that they demand (let alone expect) a democratic government expressed through republican institutions to remake society in their moral image. That is beyond the scope of such institutions, which are designed to ensure individual liberty against government intrusion, not to create a society of virtue where none exists. The Founding Fathers always knew that the success of their experiment depended on a virtuous citizenry.

Besides, "pro-life" Christians have deluded themselves into believing that the ultimate answer to abortion lies in public policy, rather than private endeavors. What sort of endeavors? For one thing, sex education based on personal responsibility and Christian values. For another, centers funded by Christians of means where unmarried, pregnant women can have their babies safely, learn maternal skills, perhaps even get a modicum of job training and a GED. For a third, promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Mr. D'Hippolito and I have exchanged views in the past at Disputations. Mr. D'Hipplolito tends to strong language and strongly worded thoughts. That said, I cannot but agree with the essential thrust of what is said here. Well, let's say that with a little demurral. I do believe that as committed Christians we should push to have as much of our worldview as possible represented in the laws that drive our society; however, I do not think that legislation is ultimately the solution to the problem. The solution lies in making abortion not merely a crime but unnecessary and undesirable.

Now, to give groups credit, many pro-lifers do not spend their time pushing for absolutist legislation that has, it seems to me, little chance of success. A great many do run the kinds of help places Mr. D'Hippolito lists above--but more are needed and more volunteers are needed, and more responsibility needs to be taken by parents for the proper education and instruction of children in matters dealing with sex--and yes, schools should be stressing Chrisitan values and personal responsibility.

All that is here seems very sensible to me. I would just add that it does no harm to continue to work for legislation that helps to put limits on abortion as well. I just don't think it is reasonable, practical, or sensible for that to be the main or only thrust of any work toward a solution to the problem and crime of abortion.

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Alfred Noyes, author of "The Highwayman" converted to Catholicism after the death of his first wife. He was author of several mutli-volume epic poems and has a longish piece at CIN on St. John the Evangelist.

The Highwayman

Alfred Noyes

Part One
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say-

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Part Two
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching-
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say-
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till here fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs
ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did
not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up strait and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him-with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding-
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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Narnia Resource


A book highly recommended at Blithering Idiot, is made available on-line. Peter J. Schakel's Reading with the Heart: The Way into Narnia has long been out of print, but the author has generously made it available to readers through the web. Thanks to both Blithering and Mr. (Dr.?) Schakel.

By the way, I read Blithering Idiot to keep a sense of the pulse of conservative Episcopalianism in this time of crisis. (Midwest Conservative Journal is also an excellect resource for this. ). I continue to pray for those in the church who have chosen to lead others astray and hope that they will eventually come to understand the magnitude of what they have done.

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On Confession

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Via Father Jim, this wonderful discussion of Confession at Father Rob's place. I will want to come back to this time and again as a reminder.

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On Contemplation


This really struck me as I was reading it. The message is for all who aspire to "higher" or "deeper" prayer. I think of this as the transformation Jesus promised Nicodemus who came in the night--"Ye must be born again."

A Letter to Pope Paul VI
Thomas Merton

God seeks Himself in us, and the aridity and sorrow of our heart is the sorrow of God who is not known to us, who cannot yet find Himself in us because we do not dare to believe or trust the incredible truth that He could live in us, and live there out of choice, out of preference. But indeed we exist solely for this, to be the place He has chosen for His presence, His manifestation in the world, His epiphany. But we make all this dark and inglorious because we fail to believe it, we refuse to believe it. It is not that we hate God, rather that we hate ourselves, despair of ourselves. If we once began to recognize, humbly but truly, the real value of our own self, we would see that this value was the sign of God in our being, the signature of God upon our being.

The contemplative is not the man who has fiery visions of the cherubim carrying God on their imagined chariot, but simply he who has risked his mind in the desert beyond language and beyond ideas where God is encountered in the nakedness of pure trust, that is to say in the surrender of our own poverty and incompleteness in order no longer to clench our minds in a cramp upon themselves, as if thinking made us exist. The message of hope the contemplative offers you, then is not that you need to find your way through the jungle of language and problems that today surround God; but that whether you understand or not, God loves you, is present to you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you, and offers you an understanding and light which are like nothing you ever found in books or heard in sermons. The contemplative has nothing to tell you except to reassure you and say that if you dare to penetrate your own silence and dare to advance without fear into the solitude of your own heart, and risk sharing that solitude with the lonely other who seeks God through you and with you, then you will truly recover the light and the capacity to understand what is beyond words and beyond explanation because it is too close to be explained: it is the intimate union in the depths of your own heart, of God's spirit and your own secret inmost self, so that you and He are in all truth One Spirit.

Powerful imagery, powerful words. The sorrow and the longing in our hearts is the longing of God to find a dwelling place within us, when we are too small and cramped to believe that He would be willing to live within us. Oh Jesus, open the doors and raise high the gates, come through in your triumph, riding on a donkey, a kingly procession and prepare the dwelling place. Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine--the dwelling place of the Eternal God and King of the Universe, of His Sacrificed Son, savior of the world, and of the Holy Spirit who breathes life into faith and joy into hearts that are dead. Only having your heart can we have a dwelling place suitable for the Lord of All.

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This is my October poem for the day. I recall that Dylan did not much care for narrative poems, and for the most part that represents a sound poetic judgment. The following is not exemplary poetry, but it does make for a slightly chilling read in the right atmosphere.

The Listeners
Walter de la Mare

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

I particularly like the image of the last two lines--"how the silence surged softly backward," closing like a curtain, once again cutting the listeners off from contact with the outside world. This is the same world, same atmosphere as that wonderful film The Others.

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What better poem for absent friends?

The Lime-tree Bower my Prison
[Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London]
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

              Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
              This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
              Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
              Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
              Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
              Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
              On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
              Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
              To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
            The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
            And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
            Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
            Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
            Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
            Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
            Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
            Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
            That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
            Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
            Of the blue clay-stone.
                             Now, my friends emerge
            Beneath the wide wide Heaven--and view again
            The many-steepled tract magnificent
            Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
            With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
            The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
            Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
            In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
            My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
            And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
            In the great City pent, winning thy way
            With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
            And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
            Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
            Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
            Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
            Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
            And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
            Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
            Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
            On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
            Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
            As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
            Spirits perceive his presence.
                             A delight
            Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
            As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
            This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
            Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
            Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
            Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
            The shadow of the leaf and stem above
            Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
            Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
            Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
            Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
            Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
            Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
            Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
            Yet still the solitary humble-bee
            Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
            That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
            No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
            No waste so vacant, but may well employ
            Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
            Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
            'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
            That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
            With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
            My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
            Beat its straight path along the dusky air
            Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
            (Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
            Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
            While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
            Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
            For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
            No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

And so I would say to absent friends, "No sound is dissonant which tells of life."

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Yesterday's Events

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Many of you may have noticed that Dylan paid a visit to the blogworld yesterday. It was a much needed, much appreciated boost.

My flurry of poem-posting reminded me of one of the reasons I started this blog at all--poetry. And so contrary to what might seem to be implied by the housekeeping entry below, I have no intention of abandoning the posting of poetry--I intend to pick back up and post it more often. Part of what has been missing here is that interaction and synergy with more last than star. I hadn't realized it, but my missing Dylan had taken the unconscious form of a lack of poetry on the site--kind of a wandering in the wilderness.

I do miss his voice, and I am profoundly grateful that he found his way here. I'm glad to know that he has the ability to contact us, however fleetingly. And it is to his eventual release and return to us that I dedicate each day's poem.

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I have been doing a fair amount of editing and categorizing of previous posts. Most of these include posts from the archives and I have noticed a disconcerting tendency for the titles of the posts to be deficient in certain information. In many cases one could spend an hour analyzing the title to try to figure out what it was I was likely to be telling everyone and not come even close. Thus, I've determined to try to make my titles more informative, but hopefully no less interesting. This will give those of you who have expressed a passionate dislike of poetry, mine and otherwise, a chance to escape before you have read too much. I will not eschew the humorously, sly, or ironic when appropriate, but I do hope that I have learned something from all this editing I've been doing, and I trust that it will better serve the readers of this blog.

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The fantastically rare Room in the Dragon Volant by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, of Carmilla fame. Thank heaven's for rescuing such things from obscurity, if only to a pixelated existance.

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Mr. Scott Fischer, who has the initially disconcerting initials SWF, is blogmeister at the interestingly titled viam pacis. He claims to be an ENTJ, and I have no trouble believing this because in a matter of one short week I feel I know more about him than I do about 90% of St. Blog's Parishioners. There is much of interest here.

Oh, and Mr. Fischer did correctly discern that I pay attention to my sitemeter references. It is, in fact, the only reason I retain sitemeter. I've long thought about removing it, but if I did so, I would stand no chance of finding such unusual and interesting sites.

Welcome Mr. Fischer and I trust that St. Blogs gives you a "laurel and hardy handshake." (Comment if the reference is too obscure.)

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A Reflection on Poetry Day

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I think this spate of poetry today is a way of making up for how much it has been missing of recent date.

I miss Dylan. A lot. I want him back. More than a lot.

Please pray for Dylan that he return to us soonest in good health and frame of mind and begin his work of poetry anew.

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October is among my favorite months of the year. Perhaps my very favorite. To start with, I love everything pumpkin--muffins, ice cream, bread, soup, fritters, donuts, you name it.

Well, here's a poem from the past in honor of October.

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Another guilty poetic treasure

Annabel Lee
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason
(as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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From St. Robert Southwell


Today is simply a day for poetry.

A Child My Choice
St. Robert Southwell

Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that Child
Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled.

I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is His;
While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss.

Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most desired light,
To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight.

He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due;
First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.

Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man, yet God He is:
As wise, He knows; as strong, He can; as God, He loves to bless.

His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth cherish all;
His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of thrall.

Alas! He weeps, He sighs, He pants, yet do His angels sing;
Out of His tears, His sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.

Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly,
Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die!

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A psalm of tremendous consolation:

Psalm 139
Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, 1599

      O LORD, O Lord, in me there lieth nought
    But to thy search revealed lies,
            For when I sit
            Thou markest it;
    No less thou notest when I rise;
Yea, closest closet of my thought
    Hath open windows to thine eyes.
Thou walkest with me when I walk;
    When to my bed for rest I go,
            I find thee there,
            And everywhere:
    Not youngest thought in me doth grow,
No, not one word I cast to talk
    But yet unuttered thou dost know.
If forth I march, thou goest before,
    If back I turn, thou com'st behind:
            So forth nor back
            Thy guard I lack,
    Nay on me too, thy hand I find.
Well I thy wisdom may adore,
    But never reach with earthy mind.
To shun thy notice, leave thine eye,
    O whither might I take my way?
            To starry sphere?
            Thy throne is there.
    To dead men's undelightsome stay?
There is thy walk, and there to lie
    Unknown, in vain I should assay.
O sun, whom light nor flight can match,
    Suppose thy lightful flightful wings
            Thou lend to me,
            And I could flee
    As far as thee the evening brings:
Even led to west he would me catch,
    Nor should I lurk with western things.
Do thou thy best, O secret night,
    In sable veil to cover me:
            Thy sable veil
            Shall vainly fail;
    With day unmasked my night shall be,
For night is day, and darkness light,
    O father of all lights, to thee.
Each inmost piece in me is thine:
    While yet I in my mother dwelt,
            All that me clad
            From thee I had.
    Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine
    So inly them my thoughts have felt.
Thou, how my back was beam-wise laid,
    And raft'ring of my ribs, dost know;
            Know'st every point
            Of bone and joint,
    How to this whole these parts did grow,
In brave embroid'ry fair arrayed,
    Though wrought in shop both dark and low.
Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
    Thy all and more beholding eye
            My shapeless shape
            Could not escape:
    All these time framed successively
Ere one had being, in the book
    Of thy foresight enrolled did lie.
My God, how I these studies prize,
    That do thy hidden workings show!
            Whose sum is such
            No sum so much,
    Nay, summed as sand they sumless grow.
I lie to sleep, from sleep I rise,
    Yet still in thought with thee I go.
My God, if thou but one wouldst kill,
    Then straigh would leave my further chase
            This cursed brood
            Inured to blood,
    Whose graceless taunts at thy disgrace
Have aimed oft; and hating still
    Would with proud lies thy truth outface.
Hate not I them, who thee do hate?
    Thine, Lord, I will the censure be.
            Detest I not
            The cankered knot
    Whom I against thee banded see?
O Lord, thou know'st in highest rate
    I hate them all as foes to me.
Search me, my God, and prove my heart,
    Examine me, and try my thought;
            And mark in me
            If ought there be
    That hath with cause their anger wrought.
If not (as not) my life's each part,
    Lord, safely guide from danger brought.

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A Good Place to Visit


If you have not already done so, take a few moments to visit the website of the Carmelite Nuns of Terre Haute. They've spent a lot of time putting together a lovely and loving website. It's a place of serenity and prayer. If their beautiful site is reflective of their charism overall, Terre Haute is a blessed city.

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Second day in a row I'm unable to access The Lowly Pilgrim and it's the dreaded URL not found. Please return to us soonest, you're already missed.

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When I first started my entry on the Wesley quote below, my intent was to talk about how we should relate to one another when we disagree. You know, the usual spiel you get here from time to time.

Instead it mutated to a reflection on God's Grace, providence, and gifts to us. I was surprised at what resulted.It's amazing what God can do when you just let Him get through the surface armor.

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Another excerpt from Ordinary Graces that spoke to me during reading time this morning:

from Ordinary Graces
compiled by Lorraine Kisly

Those who have realized how dangerous and evil is the life they lead, the devil succeeds in keeping in his power mainly by the following simple but all-powerful suggestion: "Later, later; tomorrow, tomorrow." And the poor sinner, deluded by the appearance of good intention accompanying this suggestion, decides, "Indeed, tomorrow; I shall finish what I have to do, and then, free of all care, will put myself in the hands of Divine grace. . . .

Nothing but negligence and blindness can explain why, when the whole of our salvation and all the glory of God are at stake, we fail to use immediately the most easy and simple and yet the most effective weapon, namely: to say to ourselves resolutely and energetically: "This moment! I shall start spiritual life at this moment and not later, I shall repent now, instead of tomorrow. Now , this moment is in my hands, tomorrow and after is in the hands of God. Even if God will grant me tomorrow and after, can I be sure that I shall have tomorrow the same good thought urging me to mend my ways? . . . Moreover how senseless it is when, for example, a sure remedy is offered for curing one's ills to say: "Wait, let me be sick a little longer."

Praise God in His saints and in His gifts to us through them. Now is the proper time, now is the expedient moment. Now is all there is--the past is gone, the future yet to come, we cannot know what is there--so now is the time for healing and for hope.

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Advice for All Christians

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from Ordinary Graces
compiled by Lorraine Kisly

Do not condemn or think hardly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some of us have thought hardly of others merely because they contradicted what we affirmed. All this tends to division; and, by every thing of this kind, we are teaching them an evil lesson against ourselves.

O, beware of touchiness, of testiness, not bearing to be spoken to; starting at the least word; and flying from those who do not implicitly receive mine or another's sayings!

Expect contradiction and opposition together with crosses of various kinds. Consider the words of Saint Paul: "To you it is given, in the behalf of Christ [for his sake, as a fruit of his deeds and intercession for you] not only to believe but also to suffer for his sake."

It is given! God gives you this opposition or reproach; it is a fresh token of his love. And will you disown the Giver; or spurn his gift, and count it a misfortune? Will you not rather say, "Father, the hour is come that thou shouldst be glorified; now thou gives thy child to suffer something for thee; do with me according to thy will?" Know that these things, far from being hindrances to the work of God, or to your soul, unless by your own fault are not only unavoidable in the course of providence, but profitable, yea; necessary for you. Therefore receive them from God--not from chance--with willingness, with thankfulness. Receive them from men with humility, meekness, yieldingness, gentleness, sweetness. Why should not even your outward appearance and manner be soft?

--John Wesley

It seems that often we tend to view God as very one sided--He gives only those things that we view with human eyes as good--opposition, crisis, and difficulty come from somewhere else. But they do not--God allows everything that happens to us, He wills, either permissively or ordained, all that occurs. This includes difficulties. Every moment comes from His gracious hand and Paul tells us: "ALL things work to the good of those who love Him." All, not some, not many, not most, but ALL things work to the good of those who love Him. I cannot pretend to know the wisdom of difficulty, the regeneration that comes from crisis--but as I do believe God to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, I cannot shy away from the fact that what I view as bad as well as what I view as good comes to me from His hands. I can trust that He knows what He is doing, or I can presume to know better. In such circumstance, I prefer to believe that what I experience is for a cause, my own betterment, or the betterment of those around me. I also want to believe that it comes to me from God Himself as a gift, the problem is that some gifts are so terribly difficult to accept and to open.

And that leads us back around to St. Thérèse's little way. Perhaps I need to be like a very small child and upon opening up the gift, play with the wrapping and the package more than the clothing or other unknown and unappealing item within. Let God work His will in me and rejoice in it--a skill to learn and apply.

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Hallowe'en is Coming

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And many of us do not observe the customary celebrations. For those who do not care for the usual fare, you might look into a wonderful picture book for children. The Pumpkin Patch Parable, by Liz Curtis Higgs, a well-known protestant writer, uses the ancient custom of Jack 'O Lanterns and turns it on its head, making it a parable of God's redemption and the action of the Holy Spirit in human life. Recommended.

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Craig Rice


Following on my note of this morning, following on Lee Ann's note, this announcement of the availability of at least the first three or four Craig Rice novels. An American mystery writer of some little talent and a good deal of humor. Now, if only we can start to see Thorne Smith available.

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Interblogview--Robert Diaz



Sorry this took so long--having trouble thinking up reasonably good questions.

(1) You seem to be in the process of discerning a vocation. Who have you turned to for help in the discernment process? What would you advise others in a similar situation?

(2) What are you favorite hymns/settings of religious music and why?

(3) What are five books (other than the bible) that have been important in your formation as a Catholic?

(4) In your FAQ, you have an interesting array of films listed as favorites. Is there any common element among them? What makes a good film for you?

(5) What do you think are the most pressing problems for Catholics in the world today, and what is your suggestion for combatting the problems?

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Present Reading List


Okay, so here's a brief list of the books in the batting circle (and that's as close as you're likely to ever see me approach that, or any, organized sport.

Philip Gulley Home to Harmony--Short Story sermons in disguise--much akin to Jan Karon, but to my mind and taste much more readable than Ms. Karon's stuff

Philip Gulley Signs and Wonders--Ditto, saving it's a novel

Robert McCammon--Speaks the Nightbird--a two volume novel after a very long retirement/haitus from the writing world. McCammon was one of my favorite writers of dark fantasy--his Swan's Song was arguably a much more successful rendition of The Stand. Honestly don't how this one will shape up, but I'm hoping for the best.

Lindsey Davis The Silver Pigs--Mystery set in Ancient Rome--lot's of intimate period detail.

Michael Curtis Ford Gods and Legions--A Novel of Julian the Apostate, but the author of The Ten Thousand which was a novel based on Xenophon's Anabasis.

Randy Wayne White Sanibel Flats--a novel acquired this summer while visiting Sanibel--captures a sense of Southwest Florida.

Harry Turtledove--Ruled Britannia--Welcome to post Armada-invasion England. Shakespeare as subversive playright.

Charles Dickens--Bleak House who can forget Jarndyce and Jarndyce? And Mrs. Jellyby.

In the Silence of Solitude compiled by Eugene L. Romano, HBHJ--Desert Fathers and their application to everyday life.

Dwight Longenecker St. Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way--you've seen enough of that here to get a notion of what it's about

Rick Warren The Purpose Driven Life--for a previously mentioned fellowship group.

On other book notes--a recent entry at Summa Mamas reminded me of how much I really enjoyed Jon Hassler's Staggerford, consulting the local public library listings, I discover that in the entire system there are precisely three volumes--the status of two of which is in doubt. I guess I'm going to have to find some other way to get some of these books. (Oh, and if you're not reading Summa Mamas, you really should be--endless variety and endlessly entertaining.)

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Review-The Quiet Game Greg Iles


It is a pleasure to read insight about the South from someone who has a notion of what it is about. Ignore the fact that his geography of Disney World is completely messed up (the beginning of the book is nearly completely incorrect).

The book focuses on a nearly Faulknerian Southern Family saga, with the additional complication/impetus of a nearly forty year old civil rights era murder. Much better written than most contemporary thrillers, this will provide a couple of hours of entertainment if you've decided to let Dostoevsky rest for a while. Needless to say there is more than one gratuitous sex scenes and other cumbersome and burdensome apparatus of best-seller fodder. I'm tired of it, and I don't usually reward it, but hearing about the south from a southerner made this worthwhile in this limited instance.

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I use Proust's title because it seems so apropos. This morning I was given the most wonderful possible gift--a sudden, gentle, completely noninvasive, nonfrightening reminder of the evanescence of this existence and the need to keep in mind how time stand still for no one.

As a result of these reflections, it is possible that things here at Flos Carmeli may well change (hopefully for the better) in the near future. I will endeavor to spend more time on things that are of primary importance. I do not know what form this will take, but I must reiterate my heart-felt thanks to the Lord above who granted me a moment of clarity to evaluate how far I've come and how far I have to go. And to quote Frost,

"I've miles to go before I sleep,
and promises to keep. . . "

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Prayer Requests


Please remember the following in your prayer intentions:

--for the family of a woman who recently suffered the loss of a child in the womb that they all may be brought closer together and come to greater love of each other through this great sacrifice.

--great thanks for supplying Gordon with a temporary job, prayers for its continuation, and prayers for safe travel and for his family who will be left behind while he works out the parameters of what's happening.

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Books and Book Buying


Ms. Lee Ann, of amazing book consumption lore, posts here a most insightful and amusing insight into her philosophy of book-buying and book owning.

Little does Lee Ann know that I am every bit the book buyer--the problem here is the EXTREMELY limited secondary market. When I lived in Columbus, I had access to several major library sales each year, not to mention a seemingly endless array of second-hand shops--probably part and parcel of living in a major univeristy town. In my present berg I've found one so-so ongoing library sale (although many will be chagrined to learn that I DID buy a copy of The Purpose Driven Life [for a home-fellowship group]) and one nonantiquarian used book shop. So, I haven't the resources Ms Lee Ann has, though she finds that incroyable. Nevertheless, I do my fair share of buying.

And yet, even so, E-books have an appeal that normal books do not. I tend to like to write out lengthy passages of the books I read to note important points. Well, I don't like the copying thing as I am not one of the world's great typists and the handwriting bit means I spend so much time copying it out, I can't possible comment on it, and the whole purpose for keeping the dratted passage should be noted at the time you keep it, and then subsequently commented upon so you have a kind of extended chronoconversation with the piece. The natural advantage of e-books is that it makes such quoting and commenting possible.

That said, the appeal of a find book, well bound and hefty in hand is infinitely finer than the slender stale sandwich of a PDA. But I stand by my choices--I love the ability to carry 40 or 50 books at a time (when I upgrade to the new PDA I'll be carrying as many as 500 or so at a time. (at 100-200K a pop, a 128 meg memory card/stick can hold a goodly number of books--and not all that I want to carry is so large (most of Shakespeare's plays are smaller.) The profound advantage of having a library wheresoever my PDA may be is well worth the tradeoff in sense-luxury.

One final point on e-books--I am able to get a great deal that I really, really like and which has been out of print for a looooong time. I always bring up H. Rider Haggard, but I'm discovering as well some of the lesser known works of Mrs. Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade. Publishers can't make a lot of money on these very limited markets, so they don't publish them.

I recognize the very great chasm between our attitudes. Nevertheless, I do hear where Lee Ann is coming from and I do have a great deal of empathy for the position.

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To All Our Resident Franciscans


A most joyous feast day.

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Those Running IE on Windows

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Might wish to take a look at this. For the time being I would probably recommend that everyone use something like Netscape, Mozilla, or Opera, if you have them available. the MyIE2 claims to have IE as a core, but it looks a lot like a Mozilla (open source) core with some IE skin trappings. However, if uncertain, probably better not to use it until IE is well and truly patched.

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Urgent Prayer Request

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I have two very dear friends who seem to be in good positions to emerge from the employment doldrums. For one of them this will entail the great hardship of being separated from his family for a length of time. Please pray for the success of the interviews and the removal of any other bureaucratic red-tape that may be in the way. Thanks.

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On Orwell's Great Opus

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If you have not yet sought it out, Orwell's "Politics and the English Langauge" is still required reading. Written in 1946, his analysis is still dead-on and the trends he noted are becoming only more entrenched. His introductory analysis of five examples of overblown prose will make you exceedingly cautious when you are tempted to use the word "utilize" again.

I would say that this essay, along with Strunk and White will point you in the proper direction of clear prose more readily than a passel of University professors.

from "Politics and the English Language"
George Orwell

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

. . . It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. . . . People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying.

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On Humility

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from Ordinary Graces
complied by Lorraine Kisly

Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. to be humble is not to make comparisons. Secure in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller, than anything else in the universe. It is--is nothing, yet at the same time one with everything. It is in this sense that humility is absolute self-effacement.

To be nothing in the self-effacement of humility, yet, for the sake of the task, to embody its whole weight and importance in your bearing, as the one who has been called to undertake it. To give to people, works, poetry, art, what the self can contribute, and to take, simply and freely, what belongs to it by reason of its identity. Praise and blame, the winds of success and adversity, blow over such a life without leaving a trace or upsetting its balance.

Towards this, so help me, God--

Dag Hammerskjöld

While there is much food for thought here, I have a simple note on the beginning. Some time back there were comments about false-humility in Catholicism. There was some intimation that when one looked at a veritable monster, say Saddam Hussein, and said, I am the chiefest of sinners, there was something false in that humility. But it is possible for the humble person, and necessary, it would seem, to say, "I am the chiefest of sinners." For in humility we do not compare, and so we would know only our own state and in that knowledge each one of us is, in fact, the biggest sinner we know. Now, there is part of me that reels at the contradiction--surely I can look out into the world and see people who have done things far worse than I could ever contemplate--they are thickly encrusted in the deepest darkest muck of sin. I however, have never done such things, but I have done others. My muck may be of a different color, but for all I know may be twice as thick as the person I am looking at. We forget that ALL sin is equally abhorrent in the eyes of God. Anyway, I belabor the point. True humility does not admit of comparison--comparison is nearly always an act of pride (when it is to oneself that the comparison is made).

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Quotation of the Day


From T.S. O'Rama's place--you know that Video Ovid place:

"Cling to Christ so tightly such that if he sent you to hell he would have to go with you" -our pastor quoting St. Claude.

And even though the obligatory cautions were given, I can't see how you can fault the thought--if you cling to Christ why would He want you to go anywhere else?

Thanks T.S.--great quote.

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Another Blog of Great Promise

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Ms des Ormeaux left a comment earlier today and very kindly included access to her blog--Notes to Myself. . .. Please stop by and give Ms. des Ormeaux some support as she gets her "blogging legs."

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I spend much of my time in the quiet tidal pools of St. Blogs. There are really wonderful evidences of life to be observed there. Of recent date I have grown very fond of The Lowly Pilgrim. It joins ranks with Ms. Knapp's log,, the journey, and Conversations that Matter as one of the pleasantest and quietest of places to retreat from the noise of the blogworld. Unfortunately, as in all these cases, there is not nearly enough there for those of us who are voracious in our consumption of the quiet and unassuming. But, let us celebrate what there is.

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On Merton and Yancey

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This note started out as a response in the comment box to this post by Mr. Moffat. I must preface everything by expressing my disagreement with the codicil to the post in which he rejects the good that Yancey has given through his writing by a quibble with his personal life. Yancey's personal life, whatever it may be, will not infect the Catholic reader, but the reader will engage on a journey as one man discovers ways back from alienation with faith. That said, Mr. Moffat brought up a number of points about Thomas Merton (who is far more likely to lead the casual reader astray, even though I have not read anything that I would say was categorically unorthodox, nor, to my knowledge, has the Vatican ever issued any "warnings" against his writings).

On Merton a couple of notes--

(1) I deeply admire Merton and his career. He was a man who sought silence, but who could not reconcile the interior noisiness that gave rise to his prolific writing with the life of silence. The attraction to eastern religion and Zen in particular probably stemmed from the desire for a "technique" to help still the interior noise. What Merton failed to realize, or at least what I seem to hear relatively little of, is that the act of writing was an act of prayer. He wrote because he was writing to God and for him there was no other choice. I tend to view his Asian experience as more an experiment with method than a flirting with ideas. I could be wrong, but he always seemed to return to a very solid Christian center. He never bought the notion of annihilation of self in a literal nothingness. Annihilation of self can be correlative to detachment, but then the self is being more reified than annihilated. That is, in detachment one gives up the false self created for security amongst people and assumes the true identity in Christ. So, as I see the fascination for Zen, I see an attempt to find a "short-cut" or at least a clear route to the center of detachment. (But I haven't read extensively in the later diaries, so I don't know that these speculations are well-grounded.)

(2) It seems that if one were to take exception to Merton, the strongest case for doing so is outlined in Paul Elie's study as well as most of the modern introduction to The Seven Storey Mountain. That would, of course, be the fact that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. However, were we to judge all by this standard, I suspect there are are good many Saints we would have to do without, starting with Augustine and going right up to Charles de Foucauld. We all make stupid mistakes in youth--Merton did so, presumably repented, and that issue was a matter for him and God, not for him to be judged by.

I bring up this lattter to return to the initial point--a single life-shaping mistake or experience neither abrogates nor reinforces with work of an individual. Yancey was raised in a church of racists and taught fundamentally racist doctrine. Mr. Moffat claims that the bitterness of that experience has transformed him into a PC Christian. I do not agree, and I must admit find the judgment thus levied uncharacteristically harsh. I saw nowhere where Yancey compromised the truth encompassed by Scripture in any case of special pleading. He refers once to Mel White and his continued friendship with Mr. White--in no way implying that what Mr. White was presently doing was at all correct. His continued friendship is an instance of love the sinner--hate the sin. So I'm afraid I will have to continue to respectfully disagree with Mr. Moffat on this issue. I stand by my recommendation of Soul Survivor as a book that is most excellent for Christians of any stripe and a nice guide to possible future reading. I also stand by my statement that I have found other works dry or uninteresting, with nothing for me, nor perhaps for many Catholics. It is the nature of Soul Survivor as a kind of religious Literary Appreciation of a number of authors and people that gives it its peculiar viability and power.

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Crystal Responds

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How NOT to Make Your Point

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I'm not fond of Schopenhauer's philosophy. I find it approaching Nietzsche's in utter repugnance; however, this little ditty seems to be a source of salutary reading for many of St. Blog's (and the world-at-large's) controversialists. These are to be distinguished from St. Blog's distinguished, reputable, and above-board disputant

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My blogroll has become so bloated that it is literally impossible to get through it and pay any attention whatsoever to the articles written in a day. What is a poor person to do? Where can you possibly cut a blog-list? It's impossible. So I suppose I must get myself into some sort of routine that allows me to crawl through the list in thirds or something. But I've noticed with my erratic visits I haven't been hitting all of my favorite spots nearly so often. So, forgive me, but know that you're still a favorite--I'm just not terribly well organized yet.

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Now there's a phrase to ring terror into every heart. What in the world does a group of nuns have to form a coalition about? This sounds like the AFL-CIO. I was blissfully unaware that such an organization existed and hope to return to that blissful state momentarily. But it did strike a note, a nerve, or some other n-thing. I can't imagine Thérèse (you knew I'd get her here somehow) joining, condoning, or even noticing such an organization. Were there National Coalitions of Nuns in France in the 1890s?

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Another Meditation on St. Therese


is available here.

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Doctor of the Church


You all know by now that Thérèse is a doctor of the Church. As such the Church has declared that she has taught valuable doctrine concerning core church teachings. In particular, her "little way" is seen as a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Church.

However, the definition is that of a doctor of philosophy and the original meaning of Doctor. Thérèse is also a doctor in the modern sense. Through her deep understanding she corrects certain ailments in the church that come through exposure to the secular world.

from Spiritual Childhood: The Spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Msgr. Vernon Johnson

The word "love" is so often used for something merely emotional or sentimental that we hesitate to use it in connection with our religion. St. Thérèse rescues us from this false reserve and puts the word "love" again upon our lips in its true meaning.

In the midst of us cold and grown-up lovers, with our love hardened by the difficulty of life, dulled by its dreary routine, stilted by convention, and fettered by human respect, God has placed St. Thérèse to rescue us from all that is false in our concept of love and lead us back to that simple, direct, spontaneous love which, in the depths of our souls, we really long for.

As we enter the crypt of the basilica at Lisieux, we find ourselves beneath the great arch which spans the entrance to the nave. At the base of one side of the arch are written these words of scripture: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighour as thyself. On the other side are the words of St. Thérèse: "There is but one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus and to save souls for Him that He may be more loved." Thus does she make the words of Scripture live again, words which we have known from childhood, but whose meaning for that very reason has lost much of its significance.

It may be urged that a love of such simple directness as St. Thérèse's is possible only for special souls, gifted with extraordinary supernatural graces, and that therefore it is not within the compass of the ordinary person. But St. Thérèse's life was not distinguished by anything spectacular. Her way, as she used to say, was very ordinary, fashioned through the normal means of grace common to us all. The extraordinary thing in her life was her simple fidelity to those means of grace.

Thérèse is a gift to us from God. Through her, as through St. Bernadette, He once again showed us that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary sanctity through perfectly ordinary means. In short, He showed us that once again “His Grace is sufficient.”

Of ourselves we can do nothing but sin. But with God we are, each of us, a saint and a source of hope for the people we meet every day. Thérèse has pulled us out of a sense of love that grasps and seeks to fill a great emptiness and shown us a love that comes from a fullness and reaches out to others. More, because she was not extraordinarily gifted—she did not have the mind of a St. Thomas Aquinas, or the high teaching of St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus, or St. John of the Cross—she is accessible to us. Moreover, she promised to make herself accessible. Her heaven would be spent doing good on Earth. The good she does begins with our choice to follow the little way and to show to all around us the loved she showed while on Earth. We will each do this in our own way; however, our best tribute to her today would be one small action, one little sacrifice that takes us away from ourselves and puts us squarely with God and with our neighbor. Thus we can spend our Earth building the Kingdom of Heaven through God’s grace.

St. Thérèse, Doctor and Daughter of the Most Holy Catholic Church, pray for us that we all burn with the fire that you had for God and for the salvation of souls.

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Happy Feast Day

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To all my Carmelite Brothers and Sisters, Happy Feast Day.

To the rest of you, happy St. Thérèse Day. May this day see showers of roses from heaven for all of you. May the prayers of St. Thérèse be a source of blessing, peace and healing.

And today is an especially good day to invoke St. Thérèse in the cause of Terry Schiavo and Michael Schiavo. St. Thérèse knew illness intimately. She died an atrociously painful death at a time when painkillers were but little available and not at all available to those cloistered because of their vows of poverty and obedience. She understands sickness.

May her prayers help to free Terry Schiavo from the terrible death-sentence spelled out for her.

More importantly, Thérèse, was completely caught up in the spirit of saving souls. She prayed for an unrepentant murderer before his death, let us pray that her prayers will lead Michael Schiavo to a place where he can better understand what he is doing and where he can choose to do otherwise. May her powerful intercession break the bonds of Satan so clearly present here.

Blessings and joy to all today.

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