October 2004 Archives



You know, it's good to have reminders from faery-lore and other places that what we see is not necessarily all there is. We need the reminder to the arrogance of science that the empirical is not the end of reality--nor is it even the REALLY important part.


from Songs from the Wood "Jack-in-the-Green"
Jethro Tull

The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
Are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter's night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming, Jack,
Put out the light.

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And One From Sara Teasdale


A poet I don't often visit because so much of her work is so dreadfully bad. Nearly the Ed Wood of poetry--perhaps that is strong. But here's a soft piece--not spectacular poetry, but quite fine in Teasdale's oeuvre, and nice for the season.

Sara Teasdale

When, in the gold October dusk, I saw you near to setting,
Arcturus, bringer of spring,
Lord of the summer nights, leaving us now in autumn,
Having no pity on our withering;

Oh, then I knew at last that my own autumn was upon me,
I felt it in my blood,
Restless as dwindling streams that still remember
The music of their flood. There in the thickening dark a wind-bent tree above me
Loosed its last leaves in flight--
I saw you sink and vanish, pitiless Arcturus,
You will not stay to share our lengthening night.

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Hiawatha or Not?

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A somewhat more rarely seen piece by Lewis Carroll. But worthy of greater circulation by virtue of its very clever parody in a a very difficult rhythm.

Hiawatha's Photographing
By Lewis Carroll

From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;

But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod -
Crouched beneath its dusky cover -
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence -
Said, "Be motionless, I beg you!"
Mystic, awful was the process.

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Featuring: Archbishop Charles Chaput


Go here and have access to all publicly available writings. Look in "Newspaper Columns" and "Other Writings and Addresses" for some columns on Embryonic Stem Cell Research and on Living the Christian Life in the World.

This feature highlights some of the gems I've been able to collect from the internet and which I have provided for your perusal in the side column. Enjoy!

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Eclipse of the Moon

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For those who did not see it last night--(I remember all too well awiting celestial events in Columbus only to have it overcast on the day(s).)

Gorgeous, full, goat-cheese moon unsullied by any hint of cloud, inch by inch seeming wiped out of the sky--but not, we find when the Eclipse has progressed half-way or farther, we can still see it, but dimly. Then with the lunar equivalent of the "diamond ring" effect of the solar eclipse we see it darkly shadowed and then turning progressively redder and oranger (as we pass through the umbra and the refraction of light around earth allows illumination only by the red end of the spectrum.)

What a wonderful autumnal sight. Better than that buttery harvest moon--so lovely and so perfect a sign of the season of gradual decline.

Not another one for a couple of years, 2007, I think.

Took Samuel out to see it as he had rested earlier in the day and we engaged in a "moon dance" much to his mother's chagrin "Whatever in the world will the neighbors think?" Well, malhuereusment, no neighbors. No one evinced the slightest interest in this relatively uncommon celestial event. They were probably riveted to the exotic enchantments of whatever reality show is running the gamut. Tant pis such souls really missed out on one of those fine moments that shows God's crafty hand--the hand of a skilled artist directing the beauties of the world.

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I Voted!

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Just so we can start our recounts earlier and prolong the legal wrangling, Florida now has early voting for nearly everyone. So as to avoid TMI, let us say that I went with the leading of the Holy Spirit at the moment. That means that for Ms. Schiavo I expressed my stern disapproval of everyone who occupies the bench at the moment and in the defense of life I voted to amend our constitution. (It will probably be struck down, but then, there's not even that hope if I don't set it up to start with.)

Even if you find it impossible to vote for president this year, there are a great many other matters of local concern that I urge everyone to consider carefully before avoiding the polling place.

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Praise Report


Thank you all for your prayers. It is premature to say that everything has been resolved, but it appears that all is well and only time will tell. Please keep us in your prayers a while longer, but I think everything is all right.

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Please Pray for Linda and Me

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A probably minor, but very frightening financial crisis this morning. Please pray.

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Reading the Bible Literally

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Some do not know what to make of various injunctions through time that scripture should be read literally. This is a cornerstone of fundamentalist doctrine, but it is more as well.

from Nourished by the Word
Wilfrid Stinissen

The spiritual meaning doesn't lie outside the literal; it is not a little appendage. The spiritual meaning should never be sought behind the letter but always within it, just as one does not find the Father behind the Son but in and through him. The Word has become flesh; in the flesh we meet the Word, in man we meet God. The Spirit's eternal and unlimited thought is incarnated in a limited human word.

Many contemporary exegetes devote themselves foremost to positive science. This is not a mistake. Such a science is needed in order to expose the literal meaning in the Bible, what the author meant. Since the spiritual meaning is hidden in the literal, one won't arrive at the spiritual without first having discovered the literal. Nor is it a mistake that there is an effective distribution of labor: everyone doesn't need to do everything.

The ideal would be, or course, that exegetes--and theologians!--should be spiritual persons. The essential thing, however, is that those who devote themselves to "scientific" exegesis are conscious that this is only one part of exegetics and that the integral exegeses also try to provide an answer to the question: What did God mean with this written word?"

We must understand the literal meaning because the literal meaning gives rise to all other meanings. However, reading the Bible literally does not mean that one stops at the literal meaning of the words. This is the whole point of form criticism--how is one to understand the words given. "As the hart panteth after running streams so my heart pants after thee," makes limited literal sense--we all know this--poetry is spoken in a way that the images convey meaning. We can understand the sentence even as we change it internally to mean something. We know that hearts do not pant. Many of us have never seen a hart and have no idea if he "panteth after running streams." One can assume that he goes looking for water. But all of this is converted in the reading because we understand what poetry is and HOW poetry means.

So with other forms and understandings--what are we to make of the two very different creation stories at the beginning of Genesis. It is not possible that both are literally true contra some "young earth" "scientists." There are more problems in getting these two stories to jibe than in a shelf of books on evolution. We must read them literally and then look for what God means to say to us through them. We do not read the Bible as a science textbook, but rather as the essential revelation of God to us. What one makes of those two chapters of Genesis is up to the individual encounter with God.

Nevertheless, we must start from the literal meaning in order to derive any meaning whatsoever. This is one of the points that makes the choice of a translation so critical. This is why when I am studying I use the RSV, which has been characterized as the most accurate translation available (by sources far more reliable in these matters than I am.) But it is also why when I am finished studying and I am praying, I am far more inclined to use the KJV. While there may be inaccuracies and misunderstandings and incoherencies in some parts of the KJV, the wholly "otherness" of the translation forces me beyond my conventional understandings of language into a greater grasp of the other messages meant for me. The grandeur of the translation is such that I am put in the presence of God through reading.

So, it is fundamentally important to make certain that you understand what is being said and what it meant to the people of the time. Only in that way can we begin to understand what God is saying to us here and now.

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William Cullent Bryant

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To think that the wisdom of this poem came from a mere 17 year old! Most interesting of all, Mr. Bryant created no other works of such power or interest. And this definitely bears the imprint of Wordsworth, and perhaps even of the remarkable Thomas Gray, whom I may post later today.

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 gentle sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

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More on Posting Less

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It turns out that I am not posting less, just less original stuff. And I got myself to thinking, "Why is this particular election so very difficult?"

I think I find two reasons--one is greater maturity on my part, the other is the essential intractability of facts and reason. The first of these--I am more aware of what my faith requires. I am also more aware (largely from being in the blogosphere) of what the Church teaches--which points are negotiable and which ones are not. Greater information leads to less comfort in some cases.

The second reason is by far the more difficult. There are a number of questions that must be answered in the course of this election that admit of no easy resolution. Probably the greatest of these for me is the question of whether or not the war in Iraq is a "just war." Being doubtful of the theory of just war at all, I find myself at a disadvantage in this determination. But a secondary question does arise. Assume it is not a just war--was it unjust from intent or unjust from misunderstanding. That is, did the president entering it knowing that he would not find what he claimed to be the reason for it. I don't know the answer to this question, so I will assume in his favor. Thus we have by the postulates given an unjust war entered into with the idea that is was somehow just. Does ignorance provide enough of a "shield" as it were?

Notice that there is not question at all about Mr. Kerry. There need not be. He has two major strikes against him, as well as a myriad others. Bad enough is the fact that the man would out-Herod Herod in his desire to push an utterly evil agenda to its furthest extent. But worse yet is that this man then teaches a mostly ignorant public that his own stand is compatible with Catholic Church teaching. Both of these are crimes against humanity in a fundamental way. There is no excuse that can be given for Mr. Kerry on either count. As a public figure, he is, de facto a teacher about what the Church IS in reality. Many people look at him and see a "Catholic in good standing." Now, I suspect that many of us harbor notions that may not be completely reflective of Church teaching. For my own part, those ideas that I hold, I hold largely in ignorance, or I hold them, in battle. For example, above I questioned the validity of the notion of a "just war." I don't know what standing this has in Catholic teaching--doctrine, dogma, opinion, somewhere in between these things. But I fight with it--I push against it. I do this in full knowledge that when I have done so before, I have been shown to be wrong in short order, I expect to be shown so now. However, there can be no question about the Church's teaching on abortion and life matters. As such, there is no wiggle room. There is one truth the Church teaches that admits of no variance.

Hence, I struggle with the question of whether or not I face two more or less equally immoral candidates. Engaging in an immoral war (question 1) with full knowledge (question 2) is unquestionably immoral. The difficulty is that there is no chart to show me, no quantifiable data. I have a mass of the opinions, informed and otherwise, of other Catholics. I am grateful for this data, but it is insufficient to determine the reality to the degree that would allow me to vote comfortably.

Here in Florida, we can vote before election day. Given the "irregularities" already "observed" in such voting, perhaps I would do well to hie me to a voting place and cast my ballot. Perhaps it will be invalidated, challenged, or litigated over. Then, at least for the president, it would little matter how I voted. (Sorry guys, I don't buy the statistical argument that one vote doesn't matter. It does, to the person making the vote and to the integrity of the fabric of democracy. Whether or not it affects the outcome of the election we can debate--I believe it does and that it matters.)

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Why So Little Posting?

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I find that I am tired.

I am spiritually worn out from the battle between those who tell me I MUST vote according to this or that piece of the Catechism and my own overly developed conscience, which tells me that a vote either way is a compromise with evil. I've read all of the arguments I've encountered and all they do is further weary me.

Political ads weary me.

In fact the only really bright points on the Florida ballot are a constitutional amendment requiring parental notification before abortion and the chance to vote against two of those who occupy the Executioner's chairs in our idiotic judiciary.

So, for a while, poetry. This weariness with political matters has too thoroughly inflitrated my mind to allow me to sail out of the spiritual doldrums. I'll enjoy the view while I'm here, and soon enough this concern will have passed and I'll come up with another excuse for why I make no progress.

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Richard Crashaw, I reintroduce as one of the two major Catholic poets of the Metaphysical Era. There may have been others, my study has been broad, but not terribly deep. Nevertheless, Crashaw and Vaughn are well worth our attention at their best.

The Recommendation
Richard Crashaw

THESE Houres, and that which hovers o’re my End,
Into thy hands, and hart, lord, I commend.
Take Both to Thine Account, that I and mine
In that Hour, and in these, may be all thine.
That as I dedicate my devoutest Breath         
To make a kind of Life for my lord’s Death,
So from his living, and life-giving Death,
My dying Life may draw a new, and never fleeting Breath.

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An Odd Ode by Thomas Gray


I stumbled on this this morning while looking for "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." The notes to the poem (at Representative Poetry On-Line) say that it is a free paraphrase from an Icelandic tale called "Lay of the Darts." Translated from Icelandic to Norwegian and Latin, Gray apparently got hold of the Latin version and produced this oddity.

The Fatal Sisters: An Ode
Thomas Gray

            Now the storm begins to lower,
            (Haste, the loom of Hell prepare.)
            Iron-sleet of arrowy shower
            Hurtles in the darken'd air.

            Glitt'ring lances are the loom,
            Where the dusky warp we strain,
            Weaving many a soldier's doom,
            Orkney's woe, and Randver's bane.

            See the grisly texture grow,
            ('Tis of human entrails made,)
            And the weights, that play below,
            Each a gasping warrior's head.

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This is one of those poems about which your teacher would require you to write a compare and contrast "theme." Don't do that. Just enjoy the language and the message--distinct, straightforward, clear.

Passing away, Saith the World
Christina Rossetti

            Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
            Chances, beauty and youth, sapp'd day by day:
            Thy life never continueth in one stay.
            Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
            That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
            I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
            Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
            On my bosom for aye.
            Then I answer'd: Yea.

            Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
            With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play,
            Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
            Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
            A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
            At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
            Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
            Watch thou and pray.
            Then I answer'd: Yea.

            Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
            Winter passeth after the long delay:
            New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
            Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven's May.
            Though I tarry, wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray.
            Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
            My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
            Then I answer'd: Yea.

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The Hideous Machinery of Death


Our corrupt and duplicitous legal system once again fails to protect the innocent. I do not understand why, when there is any doubt whatsoever about a person's wishes, actions like this can be enforced. See here for the details.

And a special thanks to Mr. Appleby and to all others who have been and continue to be advocates for those whom our society and legal system would destroy out of hand. Each step toward death makes the future a little less bright. I sure hope Samuel really likes me as well as loves me.

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A Song for Our Time


The follow excerpt from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem speaks volumes both then and now. Think about our modern plight and see if it is not well reflected in this past of the song.

from "The Lotos-Eaters"--8th Strophe of the Choric Song
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lotos blooms below the barren peak,         
The Lotos blows by every winding creek;
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone;
Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,         
Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.         
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,         
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,         
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer—some, ’tis whisper’d—down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.       
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labor in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

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"La Belle Dame Sans Merci"


From the original 1819 "Lamia" version, in which "wretched wight" is used instead of "knight-at-arms."

from "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"
John Keats

            And there we slumber'd on the moss,
                 And there I dream'd, ah woe betide,
            The latest dream I ever dream'd
                 On the cold hill side.

            I saw pale kings, and princes too,
                 Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
            Who cry'd--"La belle Dame sans merci
                 Hath thee in thrall!"

For the complete poem, read further.

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In Praise of the New Knighthood St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Poems Jonathan Swift

The Primitive Rule of the Templars

The Hawaiian Romance Of Laieikawai

Youth and the Bright Medusa--Willa Cather

The Tatler, Vol I Addison and Steele

The Complete Studies in the Psychology of Sex--Havelock Ellis--the beginning of the slippery slope in the twentieth Century. Unfortunately more influential that Freud.

The Nonsence Verse of Edward Lear

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On Stem Cell Research


This gentleman says all that I would say, have tried to say, and have to day on the matter. It's so wonderful when someone obviates the need for my own work.

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Great interview with Neal Stephenson at Slashdot. Particularly interesting and relevant are questions 2 (literary) and 4--the fabled Stephenson v. Gibson.

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Another Weblog

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It appears that one of my commenters may have visited me via the Maverick Philosopher. Check out Siris, his wonderful site.

I am certain that there is much to be learned here. I just hope my brain doesn't explode. One of the first things I happened on was a discussion of David Hume--about whom I know only slightly more than is available to one through Monty Python's Philospher's song--to wit "David Hume could outconsume Schopenhauer and Hegel. . ."

(See also his entry in the Why Americans Should Vote debate. The quote from Coolidge is very, very nice.

And for Quenta Narwenion et al. he does quote from the Professor's translations of The Pearl)

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To Be Completely Fair

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to both St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics (contra another comment at Disputations) I quote:

One of the favorite things to ridicule is the supposed debate among the Scholastics on the question of "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?". Apparently, however, none of them put things in exactly these terms, as those concerned to rescue the reputations of Aquinas and the others are anxious to emphasize. The Scholastics could have very reasonably focused on this funny question, however, for it does concentrate several of their points of dispute, including whether "angels" have a corporeal (bodily) or merely spiritual existence.

And in fact, some of the Scholastics, such as Aquinas, did dance quite close to the precise question, as this little taste from his "Summa Theologiae" shows:

Q. 52, a. 3 - "Whether Several Angels Can Be At The Same Time In the Same Place? There are not two angels in the same place. The reason for this is because it is impossible for two complete causes to be immediately the causes of one and the same thing. This is evident in every class of causes. For there is one proximate form of one thing, and there is one proximate mover, although there may be several remote movers. Nor can it be objected that several individuals may row a boat, since no one of them is a perfect mover, because no one man's strength is sufficient for moving the boat; the fact is rather that all together are as one mover, in so far as their united powers all combine in producing the one movement. Hence, since the angel is said to be in one place by the fact that his power touches the place immediately by way of a perfect container, as was said (Q. 52, a. 1) there can be but one angel in one place."

The original source in its entirety.

That said, I will point out that even the point made here by Aquinas has vanishingly little relevance to how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians, and that is the point of the mockery "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" In a sense that study becomes so abstruse that it becomes disconnected from the reality of living and hence, useless.

That said, the questions about angels comprise a minute portion of the Oeuvre produced by St. Thomas Aquinas. While some of the other questions may have similar small relevance, there can be no denial of the immediate importance of the vast majority of his work. There are probably many "hobbies" of Saints to which we could take exception were we so inclined. I don't see how speculations about angels are out of order in the enormity of the serious and focused work done.

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Goblin Market


Perhaps Christina Rosseti's most famous poem. Perfect for this season of slow decline and waning light.

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The contributors to Maverick Philosopher think so hard it makes my head hurt. Sample this brief discussion of Doctrine and Practice. Then continue on down to read assessments of PoMo deconstructionists and other delectable philosophical tidbits. I can't claim to grasp all that is going on there, but it makes for some highly entertaining reading at times.

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On St. Thomas Aquinas

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Left in the comment box at Disputations, and reposted here to remind me of what I said when I get fed up (again) with scholastic reasoning and St. Thomas Aquinas fans:

Even though I am very sympathetic to your viewpoint [--that much of this reasoning seems to get in the way of actual Christian conduct--I oversimplify, but that was the jist] at times even I can find the merit of St. Thomas Aquinas.

I don't find him much help for the daily encounters at the time of the encounter; however, his articulations of the truths of the faith help to inform how I react to things once I've been able to internalize them.

That is to say, that much of this theorizing and thinking is just that. But some small portion of it can trickle down and change us dramatically. I've experienced this again and again through Tom's presentation of Aquinas's thought.

That said, I find much of it to be straining at gnats. I suspect many do. Aquinas does not add to what has been revealed by Jesus Christ; however, he does provide the reasoning and the informed understanding of it.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Who cares? Object, Intent, Circumstance--what does it mean? Well, I suppose it means the difference between pursuing Jean Valjean for 20 years over the theft of a loaf of bread for his starving family and Mother Teresa caring for the poor in Calcutta. The reasoning may not appeal to all--but the reasoning can inform the heart.

Nevertheless, it does, at times, seem tortuous.

And unproductive. You ask--"How can this lead to love?" And I answer, I don't really know, I don't understand it. And yet the history of the Saints and of St. Thomas Aquinas himself shows definitively that not only can it, in fact, it often does. This seems to go hand in glove with the first post of the day from the letter to the Philippians--"whatsoever is true. . . think about these things." When we start in thinking and in knowing, we can grow in loving. When we start in loving, we can learn thinking and knowing. The two comprise an ever-expanding cycle of knowledge and love IF we allow them to do so. Thus for every Thomas Aquinas there is a Thérèse of Lisieux. The two end up at the same place but arrive by different routes. Nevertheless both routes involve the cycle of knowledge and love. We cannot avoid them. True knowledge leads to love, overwhelming love leads to the desire for knowledge. Hence the need for the knowledge, not merely of St. Thomas Aquinas, but of all the Saints who have thought and loved through all of time.

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One of the less-well-known patter-songs. Inspired by Mrs. Bradley's disdain for The Mikado as I was watching the first season last night.

from " The Sorcerer's Song"
Gilbert and Sullivan

He can raise you hosts of ghosts
And that without reflectors
And creepy things with wings
And gaunt and grisly spectres
He can fill you crowds of shrouds
And horrify you vastly
He can rack your brains with chains
And gibberings grim and ghastly
Then, if you plan it, he changes organity
With an urbanity full of Satanity
Vexing humanity with an inanity
Fatal to vanity
Driving your foes to the verge of insanity
But in tautology on demonology
'Lectro biology, mystic nosology
Spirit philology, high class astrology
Such is his knowledge, he
Isn't the man to require an authority. . .

from Iolanthe "The Lord Chancellor's Song--The Nightmare"
Gilbert and Sullivan

When you're lying awake with a dismal headache, and repose is
taboo'd by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose to indulge in,
without impropriety;
For your brain is on fire--the bedclothes conspire of usual
slumber to plunder you:
First your counterpane goes, and uncovers your toes, and your
sheet slips demurely from under you;. . .

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From the very end of an agony in eight fits--

from The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits
Lewis Carroll

          "It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
              And seemed almost too good to be true.
          Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
              Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"

          Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
              A weary and wandering sigh
          Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
              It was only a breeze that went by.

          They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
              Not a button, or feather, or mark,
          By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
              Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

          In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
              In the midst of his laughter and glee,
          He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
              For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

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From my favorite epistle of the Bible:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8

I start with an aside: that pretty much lets politics out. And then continue to the main point--our lives are worthy of the gift we have been given when they most thoroughly reflect the manner of thought suggested above. Finally, we make life better for those around us when we concentrate on these things in the people we meet rather than on the darkness, as too often seems our wont.

Think how much more pleasant a day at work would be if you spent it thinking about how many virtues you can find and foster in those around you rather than how awful people can be. We have a choice about how we think about each other and the world that God has created. We can regard everything as implacable enemy of the soul--a constant dreary battle. Or we can regard everything as a flawed but certain indicator of the existence and presence of the loving God.

When we think of these things we perform as kind of Christian "Namaste." When we look at all these worthwhile virtues, we say to a person, "I see and salute the Godhead within you." The source of all beauty, all goodness, all wonderful things is God. Everything that is good derives its goodness from God's ultimate goodness. To see goodness is to see the presence of God and in some sense, to see goodness is to draw it out of a person.

And so, because it is so beautiful, so apt, and so apropos, I leave you once again with Paul's words:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

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Tam-Lin translations of the ballad with some notes on its musical history. I'd love to hear some of these sometime--if you're so inspired.

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The Mouse Tower


A folk tale that I had forgotten (or perhaps not known) until perusing "The Children's Hour" this evening. Read about wicked Bishop Hatto and his mouse tower on the Rhine. Ah! now that's poetic justice!

Perhaps tomorrow we'll consider Keats's Lamia, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," and Coleridge's magnificent Cristabel

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Two by Longfellow


Too long to include in their entirety, but poems everyone should have encountered at least once, perferably more often.

The Wreck of the Hesperus
Skeleton in Armor

Read the notes as well, they offer some interesting insights into the composition of these ballads.

Oh, and while we're at it anyway,

The Children's Hour

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Somber Autumnal Poems

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One of the things I love about the season is a return to some of the splendid poems of early youth, but also returns to some like the excerpt below, that came in later studies. See here for the complete poem.

from "Ode to the Confederate Dead"
Alan Tate

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

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It's about that time again. Actually, it's well past that time again. Here's the next installment.

Study Guide for The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Read chapters 18-19, p. 210-219 in the Collected Works

Chapter 18--Describes also how these visions may cause deception even though they be of God.

1-2. What is St. John's chief reason for writing at such length about visions?

5-7. These paragraphs discuss what a spiritual guide or spiritual director should do and often does not do in the face of such visions. What is St. John's main theme throughout this section? Why does he consider this so important?

8-9. What is one of the chief dangers of entertaining visions? Why might this occur?

Chapter 19--Wherein is expounded and proved how, although visions and locutions which come from God are true, we may be deceived about them. This is proved by quotations from Divine Scripture.

Choose one of the examples that St. John lists , and "make it your own." Read the passages he refer to in the Bible, look at what God says and how people interpret it. Be ready to explain how God's word is true even though people are looking for something else.

How does this relate to the danger of visions and locutions? Why does it provide further evidence of what we should not do?

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Urgent Prayer Request


Prayers for a financial miracle from one in extreme distress.

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Congratulations! It's A Girl!

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For Spouse and JCecil3, it's a girl! Congratulations on this wonderful birth, may you both be blessed in the days to come as you learn the joys (and the hardships) of being parents.

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Musical Spiritual Theology

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TSO offers an interesting take using one of my favorite musicals. I think this is his original work (hard to tell) but it is beautiful. (Lest I cause swelled heads, I deleted my original "sheer genius.")

Add it to this reflection and this one on My Fair Lady. Amazing that the work of an agnostic/atheist (I'm never really certain where GBS actually falls) has such profound utility in theological discussion.

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Best Photograph of 2004

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Copyright probably does not permit me to replicate this except for personal use; therefore I send you all here and say, particularly to fathers--look at the fifth photograph down. Certainly the best photograph of this much beleaguered year. (Number six is also evocative.)

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The Importunate Widow


Why is it that Jesus tells us to be persistent in prayer? God knows what we need. Why do we even need to ask for it? If God is a Just Judge, why should we go begging?

Persistence in prayer effects no change in God or in God's will for us, or at least so it seems. If predestination is true, the path is marked out in its multi-fractal brownian way--the currents of prayer will not stir these particles out of the way.

What persistent prayer DOES change is us. As we pray, we start by praying selfishly or semi-selfishly. Persistence in prayer teaches us to talk to God and more importantly to listen to Him as He speaks in ordinary life. God is not changed by prayer, but by persisting in prayer, what we once thought a just cause is progressively revealed to us as what it really is and we can begin to pray God's will, not my own.

Persistence in prayer is a requirement for holiness because only in this persistence are we altered enough to know God and do God's will on Earth.

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A New Blog With a Heart For Children


My thanks to Joachim for directing me to A Grain of Wheat. See also wthe wonderful website you can access through the side column of his blog. A Grain of Wheat--The Website

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On Fatherhood


An excerpt from a letter by Tim O'Brien found at Summa Mamas. It is really beautiful. Please go and read it. I'm stealing this part for my letter to Samuel--

"That said, I would trade. . .my life's work for an extra 5 or 10 years with you, whatever the going rate might be. A father's chief duty is not to instruct or discipline. A father's chief duty is to be present. And I yeanr to be with you forever, always present, even knowing it cannot and will not happen." (Tim O'Brien--author of Going after Cacciato and The Things They Carried

Well, the last line is not true. I rely upon God's graces and the communion of the saints to know that I have the opportunity to be with him throughout his life and ultimately in eternity. When I am no longer physically here, I hope that my prayers keep him company, and this, in itself is impetus to improve my spiritual life as I suspect I can do him little good if I'm working off my time in purgatory. (Doesn't it say that those in purgatory must rely upon the prayers of others to attain merits? I'm not very good on the doctrines surrounding this.) Nevertheless, a good reason for a virtuous life and keeping purgatory at a minimum is to know that Samuel will never have to be alone for long. (It's not the best and most virtuous reason, but it does have the advantage of being present and tangible on a day-to-day basis. And surely, any little charity shown is worthwhile and a impetus toward the greater Charity.)

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The Kaleidoscopic Book Bag

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On top of the Stack--

Bad Faith Aimée and David Thurlo (The first in what promises to be a series of Religious detective stories featuring Sister Agatha.)

Vile Bodies Evelyn Waugh--I'm sure it's no new discovery to note that one should be extremely cautious in the quantity of Waugh one consumes at any one time. Cynicism and bitterness tend to be contagious.

Murther and Walking Spirits Robertson Davies. Dipped into, but never really started, this seemed quite an intriguing read for around Hallowe'en.

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard L. Hudson.

Background reading continues to be the remarkable translation of Anna Karenina

I've been debating reading The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. Highly rated and well-considered as a work of twentieth century literature, its subject matter is such that it makes me wonder whether it is worthy of my attention. For example, I find the subject matter of Lolita so repugnant to my sensibilities that I have been hard-pressed to read any Nabakov at all. Yes, I know, a rather provincial prejudice, but it seems that some works come pre-tainted--that is regardless of how well constructed or beautifully written, one must wonder whether there can be any merit to them at all. I'll glance at a few more studies of Durrell and read a few more pages (I really do love the style) before deciding. Unfortunately Durrell, unlike Henry Miller, has real talent with words. Henry Miller I attempted to read in my youth because he was so "controversial" and "erotic." Fortunately, I was so turned off by the dreariness of the lives encountered in whichever of the Tropics books I happened to pick up, and by the relentlessly blocky, unstyled prose that I never fell prey to their temptations. Oh well, the dangers of reading. . .

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Through no fault of its own, this book brought me once again to the realization that as I grow older, I seem to have less time or willingness to bear with trifles.

The story concerns the exploits and background of one Mma Precious Ramotswe, a resident of Botswana and founder of the first ladies detective agency in the country. The novel consists of a string of cases, the most serious of which is a rather confusing tangle of an 11 year old boy whose fate I will not detail, but which ultimately remains obscurely or entirely unexplained.

In the course of this novel one gets delightful evocations of life in southern Africa. One comes to meet some fairly interesting people, and one is given an inside perspective on life in Africa today. Because of a kind of ingrained romanticism that stems from never having visited any part of Africa, I am always surprised to read about modern cities, expecting rather more traditional villages and communities. So it is good to upset those fixed notions from time to time.

But the book is ultimately a trifle, a puff-pastry, a delectable delight that once consumed leaves one unsatisfied. One can move on to other such works or resume more substantial reading. For one, I may consume one other such trifle, but then it's back to Davies, Waugh, and Tolstoy. (Not to mention Benoit Mandelbrot.)


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. . . and their proper interpretation

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel
St. John of the Cross

[from Book II, Chapter 19]

For two reasons we have said that, although visions and locutions which come from God are true, and in themselves are always certain, they are not always so with respect to ourselves. One reason is the defective way in which we understand them; and the other, the variety of their causes. In the first place, it is clear that they are not always as they seem, nor do they turn out as they appear to our manner of thinking. The reason for this is that, since God is vast and boundless, He is wont, in His prophecies, locutions and revelations, to employ ways, concepts and methods of seeing things which differ greatly from such purpose and method as can normally be understood by ourselves; and these are the truer and the more certain the less they seem so to us. This we constantly see in the Scriptures. To many of the ancients many prophecies and locutions of God came not to pass as they expected, because they understood them after their own manner, in the wrong way, and quite literally. This will be clearly seen in these passages.

Guess this leaves the "Left Behinders" with rather short shrift. And well done, too. Literal reading of Biblical test is a never-ending morass of confusion and misunderstanding in many cases. One must, of course, understand the literal meaning of the words, but that does not mean that what is expressed on the face of it it what ultimately is intended by it. A simple example is when Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." We look neither for a wick, nor for a switch. We understand this to be said metaphorically. We all know this, but there are some pockets of Protestantism in particularly that insist on literal readings, most particularly of texts that were never written to be read literally. (The Apocalypse comes to mind.)

One must never attempt to understand what is being said in the Bible by leaping over the literal meaning to some cracked figurative meaning. But then neither should one stop at the literal meaning thinking that is all that is present. The word of God is sharper than any two edged sword.

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From Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Typically syntactically tortured, but transcendantly beautiful.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire
Gerard Manley Hopkins

            As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
                As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
                Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
            Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
            Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
                Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
                Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
            Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
              I say more: the just man justices;
               Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
            Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
               Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
            Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
               To the Father through the features of men's faces.

"The just man. . . acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is--Christ." That says it all. And the unjust. Well, see psalm 1 for the answer there.

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On the Debates


One of the great, wonderful things about being a Catholic loyal to the magisterium (as much as I understand it) is that it makes completely unnecessary any attention to this year's debates whatsoever. Nothing Mr. Kerry could say, not matter how prolix (on the one hand) or oratorically grand (on the other) can redeem his stance on the slaughter of the innocents. Nothing Mr. Bush has to say will eradicate his past and present record.

I had long ago concluded that no matter how I might like some social policies, it would be impossible for me to vote for John Kerry. As the issues I am concerned about are not going to be discussed in the course of the debate, or at least not resolved, that makes listening to the debates an exercise in redundancy. It little matters who "won." My only trial is to consider the candidate remaining to me and to decide where conscience really leads after serious consideration of all sides of the issue.

It is not an easy matter (the difficult part of being a Catholic loyal to the magisterium (as much as I understand it). However, the debates have not played in my house nor have I amused myself with the sound bites and recaps, which, being extracted by a media biased against our incumbent, would never show him in a good light anyway. So once again, the truth has set me free!

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Has ever been a favorite. Tightly repressed, and somewhat pursed-lipped, nevertheless, she whispers through the ages poems that have no age. I have no idea how she would vote, and I like it that way.

The Snake
Emily Dickinson

The Snake

            A narrow fellow in the grass
            Occasionally rides;
            You may have met him,--did you not,
            His notice sudden is.

            The grass divides as with a comb,
            A spotted shaft is seen;
            And then it closes at your feet
            And opens further on.

            He likes a boggy acre,
            A floor too cool for corn.
            Yet when a child, and barefoot,
            I more than once at morn,

            Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
            Unbraiding in the sun,--
            When, stooping to secure it,
            It wrinkled, and was gone.

            Several of nature's people
            I know, and they know me;
            I feel for them a transport
            Of cordiality;

            But never met this fellow,
            Attended or alone,
            Without a tighter breathing,
            And zero at the bone.

That last stanza is a clencher, and the last line, sheer genius--in fact it inspires the very feeling it describes--a delicious chill, an ominous ringing.

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I'm convinced that were he alive today, Whitman would vote for John Kerry.

from "Song of Myself"
Walt Whitman

              I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
              And what I assume you shall assume,
              For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

              I loafe and invite my soul,
              I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

              My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
              Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
              I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
              Hoping to cease not till death.

            Creeds and schools in abeyance,
            Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
            I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
            Nature without check with original energy.

I will leave it to others (including Whitman himself) to celebrate the genius of Whitman, it has ever eluded me.

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To Autumn
John Keats (1795-1821)

             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.

When I first encountered this poem in a Keats class in College the professor claimed that it was flawed in its near perfection. At the time I found that profound, and I suppose there is still some merit in the notion, but I think now that it is perfect in its near perfection, in its capturing of the spirit of the season so well.

(And yes, OBJ., I know you'd prefer I didn't wander so frequently in the groves of poetry. But then, I'd prefer that you would wander there more, and lead by the hand the little ones in your charge. And this goes for all you home-schooling moms! If it is within your power, give your children poetry early and often. And don't beat them over the head with analysis and with talk of symbolism and all sort of other nonsense that too often accompanies the reading of poem. Rather, savor the language, the richnesses, the rhythms, the sheer beauty of what is there and the symbolism and all the rest will follow, more or less naturally. Keats did not have to instruct his public in how to read his poetry, and they were a good deal less sophisticated than we claim to be. Poetry is an enormous gift to children--from sing-song rhymes to epic verse. Let it be an experience of immersion, not of distant intellectual approach.)

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One of the Many St. Blog's Poets


From Taliesan--

from "Elizabeth (Poem) "
Tim Smith

your ears were far from dull
for in the first word Mary spoke
you heard her silent child.
(and so did John.)

Go and enjoy the whole thing. A wonderful gift to the parish, as it were. And I trust Mr. Smith does not mind that I posted this small part to encourage all to seek him out. (If so, just let me know, and I'll take it away.)

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Wordsworth on Contemplative Silence


Though he would not have called it that. Look at this second strophe of Tintern Abbey and see if it does not recall the states described by the mystics. Wordsworth does not attribute it to God, and yet, in his own way, I think that it is because he encounters God most directly in the freedom of nature, as Paul said in Romans (?), the second scripture.

from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798

William Wordsworth

                                                    These beauteous forms,
            Through a long absence, have not been to me
            As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
            But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
            Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
            In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
            Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
            And passing even into my purer mind
            With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
            Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
            As have no slight or trivial influence
            On that best portion of a good man's life,
            His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
            Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
            To them I may have owed another gift,
            Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
            In which the burthen of the mystery,
            In which the heavy and the weary weight
            Of all this unintelligible world,
            Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
            In which the affections gently lead us on,--
            Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
            And even the motion of our human blood
            Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
            In body, and become a living soul:
            While with an eye made quiet by the power
            Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
            We see into the life of things.

We see into the life of things. We see into the life of the most important things, the life of the three persons of God. We do not understand it, nor can we begin to grasp it in its fullness. Nevertheless, the contemplative experience is a window into the life of God, a glimpse into His Holiness and His perfection. And with a window into God, we have a window into all that matters in life. Wordsworth captured it well here. He summarizes it in a way that would befit St. John of the Cross in his mystical transports. Go and read the whole thing and enjoy. Literature is not the highest good, but it is certainly a great good--greater yet when it offers us a picture of the divine.

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Special Prayer Request

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Marriage is really under attack, both in the abstract formulation of law and in the concrete. We all know of some very prominent Catholics whose marriage is unfortunately falling apart quite publicly; however, there are any number of private crises as well.

As faithful Catholic we need to take a stand in prayer and fasting for marriage. Please consider offering even a single meal, or that tempting snack or desert, some small personal sacrifice in the name of the many who are enduring very, very difficult times right now. The assault seems enormous. Every time I turn around, I seem to learn of another couple whose marriage is in danger. Please give some time todqy, perhaps a decade of the rosary, perhaps during the Divine Mercy chaplet, or perhaps some other small prayer for the many, many people who are enduring this onslaught of the evil one. He will not cease until he has utterly corrupted or destroyed this life-giving sacrament.

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"Cheer Up and Vote"

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Mentioned by TSO in a comment at Disputations, this article by Benjamin Wiker at Crisis. Excerpt below:

We won’t be judged, then, on how we would have acted if things had been perfect, nor even on how we would have acted if things had been better. We will be judged on how we acted in the midst of the actual imperfection into which we were born and under which we lived. More accurately, recalling that sins are also committed by omission, we will be judged on how we did not act, as well as on how we did. If we wait to vote until we have a candidate of the intellectual and moral caliber of Abraham Lincoln, then we will be responsible for the repeated election of a rogue’s gallery of presidents during our repeated sins of omission.

(Let us put aside the question of the moral caliber of Lincoln for a moment--which is a matter of some lengthy debate.) What is astounding in the excerpt above is its lack of recognition that refusal to vote is NOT inaction, it is action at its very highest. Refusal of moral compromise is the most important action we can take.

I won't comment on the political state at the moment, nor on my own view of what should and should not be done. However, not voting is rather like refusal to move when blocking the doors of an abortion clilnic. You get yourself thrown in jail, reviled and hated by the media, branded a fanatic, and ultimately probably don't change even a single mind that day--but that steadfast refusal is a witness to a societal evil so profound that even if you witness accomplishes nothing else it is a testament of the courage that accompanies refusal of moral compromise--it charges the world with a greater good. I read Mr. Wiker's article and it suggests that moral compromise is perfectly acceptable, that we must make do with what we have. And I think the unwillingness of many to do so is a sign of the times. Many may feel that it is the continuous chain of "making do" with what we have before us that has led us to this debacle.

I find the suggestion that we should lower our principles to vote for what is morally repugnant distressing. But I am in all likelihood mischaracterizing a small portion of what I read. This is simply what stuck in the craw. Don't take this critique to mean that Mr. Wiker said these things--just consider it the exaggeration caused by the aftertaste of reading.

Elections like this one make Erik's authoritarian tendencies look positively appealing. But I would refer to the first of the Dylan Thomas poems I posted yesterday and encourage everyone who is of the moral conviction that it would wrong to vote for either candidate--"Do not go gentle into that good night" of compromise and complacency. Democracy has its failings, but one of its virtues is that no one is compelled to support evil. Rather than compromise, it is time to start raising up morally acceptable candidates. And by that I don't mean morally perfect, but those who strive with all that is in them to walk the right path. It may be that one of the present candidates fits that bill for many readers, and for those readers it is not only right, but it is mandatory that they support this candidate. However, it may well be that it is not the case. If so, don't relax moral vigilance. Most of all, do not expect from the government what it is incumbent upon us as Christians and as the light of Christ to deliver to the world. Justice does not come from a system (witness Terri Schiavo.) It comes only with the blood of martyrs and the work of the chosen.

All that said, as much as I disagree with what I read in Mr. Wiker, I think what he has to say is well said and should be carefully considered by every person who thinks that they cannot (morally) vote for a candidate this election. Perhaps his arguments will give you cause to change your minds.

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I love Bill's idea of assembling a Psalter. My difficulty would come in choosing the very best versions of these translations. Naturally KJV and BCP come to mind, with Douay-Rheims-Challoner as possibilities. But I am reminded of the huge wealth of the literature of translation, inclunding Mary (Sidney) Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, and the remarkable Bay Psalm Book, from which I extract Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 from the Bay Psalme Booke

1 O blessed man, that in th'advice
of wicked doth not walk
Nor stand in sinners way nor sit
in chayre of scornfull folk.

2 But in the law of Jehova,
is his longing delight;
and in his law doth meditate
by day and ere by night.

3 And he shall be like to a tree
planted by water-rivers:
That in his season yields his fruit
And his leafe never withers.

4 And all he doth, shall prosper well,
the wicked are not so:
But they are like unto the chaffe
which winde drives to and fro.

5 Therefore shall not ungodly men,
rise to stand in the doome,
Nor shall the sinners with the just,
in their assemblie come.

6 For of the righteous men, the Lord
aknowledgeth the way:
but the way of ungodly men,
shall utterly decay.

You can hear some ot the melodies to which this might have been sung on this page.

A related page here gives a sense of what such a psalter might be. Though, I wouldn't necessarily choose the translations on these pages--they are instructive to see what one would choose for singing Psalms.

For example, here's Milton's rather strident and overly poetic version of the same. (Note half-rhymes and enjambments that would make singing almost nonsensical, it would seem.)

Psalm 1
translated by John Milton

Bless'd is the man who hath not walk'd astray
In counsel of the wicked, and ith' way
Of sinners hath not stood, and in the seat
Of scorners hath not sate. But in the great
Jehovahs Law is ever his delight,
And in his Law he studies day and night.

He shall be as a tree which planted grows
By watry streams, and in his season knows
To yield his fruit, and his leaf shall not fall,
And what he takes in hand shall prosper all.
Not so the wicked, but as chaff which fann'd
The wind drives, so the wicked shall not stand

In judgment, or abide their tryal then,
Nor sinners in th' assembly of just men.
For the Lord knows th' upright way of the just,
And the way of bad men to ruine must.

But still, the idea has appeal, if only for the fact that it would require us to spend some goodlyl amount of time perusing, and hopefully praying the psalms as we are selecting them.

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Mount St. Helen's Watch


Courtesy of a friend


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Who Mourns for Derrida?*

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Courtesy of a friend: here

a brief excerpt:

But even if deconstruction cannot be defined, it can be described. For one thing, deconstruction comes with a lifetime guarantee to render discussion of any subject completely unintelligible. It does this by linguistic subterfuge. One of the central slogans of deconstruction is il n'y a pas de hors-texte, i.e., "there is nothing outside the text." (It sounds better in French.) In other words, deconstruction is an updated version of nominalism, the view that the meanings of words are completely arbitrary and that, at bottom, reality is unknowable.

Jacques Derrida along with Paul de Man gave us the systematic undermining of modern morality and respect for the truth. And then there is this lovely little piece of filth to deal with:

Stock in deconstruction has sagged a bit in recent years. There are basically two reasons for this. The first has to do with the late Paul de Man, the Belgian-born Yale professor of comparative literature. In addition to being one of the most prominent practitioners of deconstruction, Mr. de Man--as was revealed in the late 1980s--was an enthusiastic contributor to Nazi newspapers during World War II.

That discovery, and above all the flood of obscurantist mendacity disgorged by the deconstructionist brotherhood--not least by Mr. Derrida, who was himself Jewish--to exonerate Mr. de Man, cast a permanent shadow over deconstruction's status as a supposed instrument of intellectual liberation.

Sorry I've quoted so much, but atheistic existentialism (in fact most existentialism) and postmodernism are two hobby horses I would like to ride to death and bury them shallowly so that the more worthy vermin may pick their bones. They have done more to destroy the fabric of culture and society than anyone or anything except perhaps Margaret Sanger and the eugenicists.

May Mr. Derrida rest in peace, I pray ardently for the repose of his soul, despite the damage he may have wrought on culture in general. But may his work crumble and be consigned to the dimmest lit, mustiest, and moldiest back shelves of the library of culture along with Deism and other worthy contenders for philosophies just short of insanity. The foulness of this philosophy taints even sterlling members of the Saint Blogs' community who are accustomed to talkling about "victimization" and the "need for emancipation from the hegemony." Those who tremble in rage at the pale penile patriarchy and who go out of their way to give me inclusive language that is yet a further assault on the ears and intellect. The reach is vast--may it be eradicated. I pray never to hear another word about the "imperialism of ideas" or about the "lesbian phallus." Yes, all of these things are courtesy of Mr. Derrida and his merry androgynes et al.

* Not that Derrida in any manner compares--but the source:

Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


              Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,
              Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright.
              Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;
              As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light
              Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might
              Satiate the void circumference: then shrink
              Even to a point within our day and night;
              And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink
         When hope has kindled hope, and lur'd thee to the brink.

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This is one of my favorite psalms, and for a variety of reason, I truly love this setting of it.

Psalm 139
Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke

Psalm 139
by Mary (Sidney) Herbert,
Countess of Pembroke

      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.

There is an ease and a beauty here that does not show in the sinewy and strident translations of Milton. There is also a music here that is lost in most other translations (the exceptions being the 1662 BCP and the King James and some of its predecessors.) You can imagine this psalm set to music, to baroque music--trumpets and flourishes. Unlike the weedy, thin and well-nigh indecipherable knots of words that we call our modern translations. No grandeur, no stateliness. What can one say of this:

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me;
you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side


Or this:

Psalm 139

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.


Sounds like the work of an extraterrestrial stalker.

Consider a point I made a day or so ago. How we speak may have some influence on our thought. It would seem that when we speak of God we should do so in the best way possible. That is, that the prayers we recite and the psalms we sing should be formulated in words the best reflect the majesty of their Subject.

Taste varies, and often people say that poetry is such a subjective art. And yet, we all know, nearly instinctually what makes a great poem, what makes a sing-song rhyme, and what makes an execrable butchery of the language. Can you imagine an ancient Hebrew poem in which the word "probed" is actually used? Or one in which the utterly prosaic and ghastly, "Even though I walk through a dark valley. . ." It is no wonder our prayer lives are so hampered if these are a materials we are given to start with. They treat God and his word as if he were our Home Boy or our local Val. Like, AS IF.

Okay, I've bent your ear enough. But we can do better than what is presently put before us, and we should strive to do so, seeking out not merely adequate, but truly magnificent translations--words that stir the heart and stick in the brain.

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As We Wait and Pray, a Tribute


Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night
Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion
Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.


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Elizabethan Authors



Featuring a far-too-annotated Thomas Kyd The Spanish Tragedy along with some unfortunately modernized John Lyly--why can't people leave things alone. Yes, they're tough to read in the original, but it give the brain a little work to do and you have a sense of the author you don't get when people go fiddling with the texts. Well, for better or worse:

If 'tis done when 'twere done
'tis best 'twere done quickly.


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Twelve Tribes of Voters

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From Don Jim a link to an interesting analysis of religious voters. Do you fit in a tribe?

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Another Quiz Result


Quiz from Mr. Bogner's place.

You are water. You're not really organic; you're
neither acidic nor basic, yet you're an acid
and a base at the same time. You're strong
willed and opinionated, but relaxed and ready
to flow. So while you often seem worthless,
without you, everything would just not work.
People should definitely drink more of you
every day.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

And I didn't go back and change a single answer. I was so excited with this result. Undoubtedly it would be salt water. 35 parts per thousand salt.

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Single Issue Voting


TSO linked to Touchstone which supplied this:

A recent convert to Orthodoxy wrote in response to Orthodox Confusion and Clarity: "I have been accused of being a 'single-issue voter,' but I firmly believe that a politician's stand on abortion and the sanctity of life can predict that politician's other values and is an indicator of how that State Rep. or Senator will vote or how that President will lead."

And while I agree with the conclusion, I find the pathway there much easier. Without life, there is no other issue. Everything is moot if there is no life.

This space was filled with vacuous maunderings on about political matters, but now has been replaced with this nondescript filler. I will leave it to others to talk in a more informed fashion about political issues. No one needs to be bothered with my diatribe again.

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Prayer Requests 11 October 2004


Praise and Prayer Requests
Please include Linda's concerns in a special way in your prayers today. She is undergoing a most arduous trial at the present time and needs the support of all of us.

For the repose of the soul of M. aged twenty who died in a collision and most especially for the family and friends he left behind.

For the repose of the soul of MIke, recently baptized, aged 25, found dead on his couch by his parent Saturday. May he be with the Lord already.

For Msgr. Harte, Pastor of the Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe, recovered and still recovering from surgery.

For Terry Schiavo (sp?) who was once again placed in harm's way by a "compassionate" court that washed their hands of blood in the same way as Pilate did--"we only interpret the law."

For Smockmomma's sister Charlene, may God help her, heal her, and above all else hold her close in time of yet another trial.

For a troubled marriage, that it may open to the Lord's healing touch and blossom with all the potential that is within it.

Please continue to pray for Dylan until he returns to us.

A quick sale and an easy move for Tom and his family as they set out on another exciting adventure in life.

For the people of the Sudan oppressed on all sides that they receive justice, mercy, and reprieve.

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

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Even when I disagreed, I liked very much what I read here. The writer seems to be a genuinely pleasant, concerned parent. I loved the pictures and the reflections--go and enjoy.

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This morning I was listening through the pledge-week stuff to NPRs report on the Afghan elections. This cause a thought bubble I thought I would share. The mention of the election brought to mind one of those things that I still am angry at--the destruction of the Buddhas by the Taliban. But then I thought, if I truly believed the Koran and the Koran was explicit about making no graven images, would I be serving God if I allowed what offended Him to continue to exist? That is, if the Buddhas offended God, should I allow the glory of men to detract from the Word of God. This, in turn, caused me to think about how one understands scripture. That is there are many ways to read a passage concerning graven images. Does it mean images to worship? Does it mean any image of a living thing? etc. etc. This got me to private interpretation of scripture and the fact that it is always, always flawed because the person doing the interpreting is flawed and is not God nor even close to God-like in his understanding of the fullness of the Word. This thought led finally to the fact that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of order, not Chaos.

For some reason this suggested to me that the Church that would be founded by Jesus Christ acting for the most Holy Trinity would be a church that would have the minimum chances of this occurrence. God had observed the Israelite people and already had had enough of human factionalism. (And even without observation He would know what humans were capable of.) With Jesus He sent into the world his One Son to establish His One Church. The Church He would establish would be such that questions of interpretation and understanding scripture would have some reasonable resolution short of individual interpretation. Thus the One Church would have a single head in whom would ultimately reside the responsibility (no matter how much he was aided by others) for interpreting and understanding Scripture.

The Catholic Church is this church. As I have said elsewhere on the web, it is, at least, the only Church that has a clearly defined doctrine articulated by a central body. When one speaks out with one's individual interpretation it must be weighed against this central body. In other words, there is a body of teaching and understanding to dissent from--but that is how the view must be taken, as dissent from the learning passed down. You can disguise this any number of ways, by appeal to any number of loopholes, but it remains essentially and firmly dissent from a core defined doctrine.

The fact that there is a revealed understanding from which every view not in accord is, in fact, dissent, is further evidence that the Church established through Peter is the One Church. All other Churches receive the validity they have through this principle establishment. No matter what Her errors and problems, present and past, She is the body of Authority established so that we do not all descend into the abyss of private interpretation and its concomitant--infinite division. 22,000 denominations of Protestantism can't all be correct and it is precisely their differences that show the truth of a body that has stood without change in Doctrine for two thousand years.

Amazing what an election in an until recently god-forsaken place will do to one, isn't it? Who'd have thought that an understanding of God's revealed Church would stem from a news story about accusations of election disparities? But it goes once again to say that when we are listen and docile or pliable, God will speak when, where, and through whatever means are handy.

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Languages for Work

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Sitting here sipping my redbush tea and reading The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith when I happen across this:

They taught us Funagalo, which is the language used for giving orders underground. It is a strange language. The Zulus laugh when they hear it, because there are so many Zulu words in it but it is not Zulu. It is a language which is good for telling people what to do. There are many words for push, take, shove, carry, load, and no words for love, or happiness, or the sounds which birds make in the morning.

I thought about this with the Wittgensteinian and Orwellian view that words shape reality and the reality shaped by this language. And then, dragonfly-like, having hovered for a moment over that concept, it occurred to me--what if Wittgenstein was even a little bit right? What if Orwell had enough understanding of human psychology to have identified a major factor in our lives?

Hover with me for a moment, glance at the reflection this thought makes, the ripples of our wings in the water. If this is so, even only slightly so, does it not reemphasize the need to speak aloud the words of the Psalms in prayers? Does it not argue that singing psalms and hymns and hearing the words God speaks to us through these inspired works creates a reality more conducive to giving ourselves to God? Isn't this the most important thing--shaping reality (by grace) to receive grace? Perhaps we should not have so many words "for push, take, shove, carry, load." Perhaps, just maybe, we should have more words for love and joy and God and worship and presence and union and, "the sound birds make in the morning."

Do you pray aloud? Do you hear and live in the world the words of the psalms make? Do you voice your reflections in the course of the Rosary, making them substantial and real.

Yes, I suppose it is unusual for a Carmelite to encourage vocal prayer. But St. Teresa of Avila would tell us that one "Our Father' prayed perfectly is worth any number of hours of struggling mental prayer. If one prays with one's heart what one's word speaks, one is already entering the realm of contemplative prayer. There's no trick--our attention merely needs to be on Him. Our words must be real and make the world a different place for us to live. A place that encapsulates everything God would have us be and do.

Enough of the ripples. Let your mind enter those things that are worthy and they will speak--even light entertainment can bring you closer to God if you allow it. I never fail to be amazed that the places God can find and surprise me. He seeks us everywhere.

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Later: I should have said thank you to TSO for this link

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Val d'Arno: Ten Lectures on the Tuscan Art Directly Antecedent to the Florentine Year of Victories -- John Ruskin--Prince of the Victorian Critics, if something of an aesthete.

Also Queen of the Air

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Praise and Prayer Requests
Please include Linda's concerns in a special way in your prayers today. She is undergoing a most arduous trial at the present time and needs the support of all of us.

For the repose of the soul of M. aged twenty who died in a collision and most especially for the family and friends he left behind.

For the repose of the soul of Sister Anne, precious and beloved advisor to Katherine.

For Katherine, who having lost so substantial an anchor is feeling somewhat at 6s and 7s and for success in her ventures. May the prayers of Sister Anne, who, if not already at the side of Jesus will ascend rapidly on the fragrant offering of prayers from Carmelites the world over, assure her success and sure guidance.

For Terry Schiavo (sp?) who was once again placed in harm's way by a "compassionate" court that washed their hands of blood in the same way as Pilate did--"we only interpret the law."

For Smockmomma's sister Charlene, may God help her, heal her, and above all else hold her close in time of yet another trial.

For a troubled marriage, that it may open to the Lord's healing touch and blossom with all the potential that is within it.

Please continue to pray for Dylan until he returns to us.

A quick sale and an easy move for Tom and his family as they set out on another exciting adventure in life.

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

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The Ever-Shifting Book-List


Having finished Nicolson's God's Secretaries the landscape of bookdom subtly shifted. Now I am in a new phase of the kaleidoscope that has the magnificent Anna Karenina as a background. I'll be reading this for several months in all likelihood. I am amazed by this most recent translation, and will share a couple of notes about it in due course.

But over this steady background there is a plethora of shifting interests. One of my book groups called for a reading of The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I'm a bit ambivalent about this series as it has a reputation only slightly better than Henry Miller's "Tropics" books. But glancing at a few pages, some of the prose is magnificent.

Also on the list :

Vile Bodies Evelyn Waugh--uproarious in parts. I'm reading it prior to seeing the film version directed by Stephen Fry (Jeeves in the series--about which I should blog also.)

The nonfiction read for the next several days will be the intricate, fascinating, multifaceted The (Mis)Behavior of Markets co-authored by Benoit Mandelbrot.

The home fellowship read continues to be Wilfrid Stinissen's magnicent Nourished by the Word. I've reviewed this before, and it has already touched the hearts and lives of at least one, and possibly several of the group members.

This is the reading list at least until my Saturday reading group meets at which time we'll decide upon another book to consider for future reading.

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Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary


Please read this reflection at The Journey.

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You've seen enough of it here, I need hardly say more except to note how very much I enjoyed every aspect of this book. (But what is blogging but the art of saying more when nothing more need be said?) Nicolson gives us more a history of the time from which the King James Bible emerged. We get glimpses of a few personalities and some interesting asides here and there on historical figures.

Some things said were enough to make me want to reevaluate certain figures. For example, St. Thomas More's relentless pursuit of Tyndale is a bit off-putting. While Augustine and others relentlessly squashed heresies, this line from More is not what I really want to consider in the lives of the saints: "and for heretics, as they be, the clergy doth denounce them; and, as they be well worthy, the temporality doth burn them; and after the fire of Smithfield hell doth receive them, where the wretches burn forever." On the other hand, the man was a product of his times and subject to the foibles and failings thereof. As Mark Anthony says of Caesar, "If 'twere so 'twas a grievous fault and grievously hath Caesar answered it." It also forced me to reevaluate my esteem for Lancelot Andrewes who was a pious man but not a particularly saintly one. In short, it gave me a fuller picture of the fallible humans that God uses as implements in His work. I don't know that I will ever think less of St. Thomas More, despite his ferocity, but I do come to have a fuller picture of him as a man as well as a saint.

But the delights of this book were the little details, the subtle points about the fact that the Puritans who were to found Plymouth Plantation, while persecuted, really had it easier than any group in the previous 100 years in England. They were merely exiled to Amsterdam where they continued to do as they pleased.

I recommend the book highly to anyone who wishes to understand better the history of the King James Version. Most particularly I recommend it to those who think that the KJV was largely just a copy of Tyndale or the Geneva Bible. While Nicolson acknowledges those debts and even the shortcomings of the KJV, he also points out how carefully constructed and considered the phrasing of this magnificent work is. Whether we like it or not, the KJV resonate through our language like nothing else--even Shakespeare is a distant second. It is found in the rhythms of Faulkner's prose, it gave rise to the phrases of Martin Luther King's speeches and of Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address." It is central to our understanding of our culture, of the United States, and of much of modern literature. It even influences the post-modernists and present-day literature. For a book 400 years old, that is quite the record.

Highly recommended.

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Prayer Requests 6 October 2004


Praise and Prayer Requests
For the repose of the soul of M. aged twenty who died in a collision and most especially for the family and friends he left behind.

For the repose of the soul of Sister Anne, precious and beloved advisor to Katherine.

For Katherine, who having lost so substantial an anchor is feeling somewhat at 6s and 7s and for success in her ventures. May the prayers of Sister Anne, who, if not already at the side of Jesus will ascend rapidly on the fragrant offering of prayers from Carmelites the world over, assure her success and sure guidance.

For Terry Schiavo (sp?) who was once again placed in harm's way by a "compassionate" court that washed their hands of blood in the same way as Pilate did--"we only interpret the law."

For Smockmomma's sister Charlene, may God help her, heal her, and above all else hold her close in time of yet another trial.

For a troubled marriage, that it may open to the Lord's healing touch and blossom with all the potential that is within it.

Please continue to pray for Dylan until he returns to us.

A quick sale and an easy move for Tom and his family as they set out on another exciting adventure in life.

For a deeper understanding of and commitment to the strengthening grace of the sacrament of marriage, especially for those who are presently undergoing trials.
or those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

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From a correspondent--an extremely interesting site with everything you always wanted to know about Jansenism but were afraid to ask. Note the inclusion of a PDF of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's Grace, being a Thomistic explanation of the doctrine of Grace &c.

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On My Political Views

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It will come as a great relief to you that while I drafted an exceedingly long screed with regard to my political opinions, I have concluded that no one really needs to be bothered with them at all. You've heard enough from me about this, and it is October, too glorious to be further sullied by my meandering tortuous political musings. So, as I have granted you this reprieve, I think you should all return the favor by indulging in either fifteen minutes with the KJV (or other appropriately beautiful translation--Douay Rheims, RSV, etc.) or a similar amount of time with the 1662 BCP.

Later I note after the fact that TSO has also foresworn some degree of political blogging. Tant pis! (and yes, those are false cognates and you should get your mind out of the gutter). He fears he may alienate the 2.5 progressives who occasionally drop by to visit. I don't know where I fall in that mysterious political spectrum having few defined opinions on issues outside of "life." But no amount of political haranguing would ever alienate me from so pleasant a conversational grotto. So, TSO, I say, blog away. If it poses a near occasion of sin, avoid it but otherwise, say what's on your mind and Vive la differerance (opinionwise of course--see above comment about gutters.)!

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Here, succinctly stated, is the truth I've come through time to recognize about the King James Bible.

from God's Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

English was simply the target, the destination, not the language in which questions of precise meaning were naturally addressed. The Englich sentences were being prepared for others, the non-educated, who had no access to the essence of the text which these scholars, like Bois, had been drinking in for decades. The English, in other words, was itself subservient to the original Greek.

That linguistic hierarchy is also one of the sources of the King James style. This English is there to serve the original not to replace it. It speaks in its master's voice and is not the English you would have heard on the street, then or ever. It took up its life in a new and distinct dimension of linguistic space, somewhere between English and Greek (or, for the Old Testament, between English and Hebrew). These scholars were not pulling the language of scriptures into the English they knew and used at home. The words of the King James Bible are just as much English pushed towards the condition of a foreign language as a foreign language translated into Englilsh. It was, in other words, more important to make English godly than to make the words of God into the sort of prose that any Englilshmen would have written, and that secretarial relationship to the original languages of the scripture shaped the translation.

The majesty of the King James Bible is that the language there spoken has never been spoken by any people as the common tongue.

Taste in translation and in approaches to the Bible is largely, I think, similar to taste in the types of liturgies people prefer. Some prefer Latin Masses of the Tridentine School, others the Novus Ordo, still others the vernacular. All of these are excellent vehicles approved by the Church. The translation of the Bible is similar, although not all translations are of comparable worth. Some sing, and some plod; however all serve one audience or another and are therefore intrinsically valuable.

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On Puritan Excess--Again


I love the puritan writers (some of them). I love the puritan spirit (some aspects of it.) The passage that follows details one of the things I love best about them.

from God's Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

It is easy enough to misinterpret men like George Abbot. He was stern, intransigent and charmless. He had no modern virtues and in a modern lilght can look absurd. Early every Thursday moroning from 1594-1599, he preached a sermon on a part of the Book of Jonah. That is 260 Thursdays devoted to a book which, even if it is one of the jewels of the Old Testament--a strange, witty, surreal short story--is precisely four chapters long, a total of forty-eight verses. Abbot devoted over five sermons to each of them. (He was not alone in that; his brother Robert was the author of a vast commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans of such tedium that it remains in manuscript to this day; Arthur Hildersham, one of the pushiest of the puritans wrote 152 lectures on Psalm 51: if the Word of God encompassed everything, as these men sincerely believed, then no balloon of commentary or analysis could ever be enough. The age had word-inflation built into it.)

Nicolson understands part of what he writes about here, but I suspect a post-modern sensibility cannot fathom the fact that, indeed the word of God is inexhaustible. I do not find it impossible that someone could preach so long on Jonah. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the pursuit of understanding, it is entirely conceivable that such a work could be undertaken, perhaps to the great benefit of all who would receive the word.

The word of God is utterly inexhaustible because it is God speaking not only about Himself (inexhaustible in itself) but also about His deep and abiding love for his creation. With this dual stream of inexhaustibilty, it is no wonder that people deeply in love with the word would wind up with what moderns would view as excess. If one were to compile all of the available extant sermons of those who have preached the word, it would come as no surprise to anyone if certain portions of the Bible had thirty, forty, or fifty sermons devoted to each verse.

In short, it is because we do not cherish this inexhaustibility, this comprehensive commentary on the entire world, that we are so lax at our own scriptural meditations. Let me make this more precise. It is because I do not keep an abiding sense of the every growing, ever fruitful, ever changing depths of the love of God embodied in His direct communications with His people, that I am not reading the Bible in the way it should be read. I read neither as frequently nor as thoroughly as the Word itself demands. Were I to do so, and to face the reality of that reading which also reads me, I would be in a much different place as a Christian. And so I think for many of us. Because Catholics have the supreme gift of Christ Himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist, there is a tendency amongst some to neglect other means by which one enters into communion with and understanding of Jesus Christ. Committed, daily scriptural reading and meditation are absolute essentials for growth in the love of Christ and in the imitation of Him that we are called to. If we are to be like God and to become as God, then we probably should spend some time finding out what that nature is.

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Via Bill Cork--A List of Blesseds


A wonderful compendium of all the blesseds named by Pope John Paul II from The Vatican Website. Many thanks to Mr. Cork for the reference. Originally posted to give some insight into the people who were beatified yesterday--including Anna Katharina Emmerick.

Here's the list for Saints, including the Papal homilies on their Canonization.

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Wilfrid Stinissen Revisited

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I suppose I am riding this hobby-horse to death, but I find so much within Stinnisen worthy of attention. I was remarking to the leader of the group with whom I am studying this book a second time that like our other works (Rick Warren and Alan Jones), I am having real problems with this study. Unlike our other studies, my problems with this one is that there is so much in so few pages that I cannot seem to force myself through the book at the pace we want to maintain. I get lost in the magnificence of some of the ideas, and I'm constantly reaching for my Bible--the latter probably the greatest tribute one could pay to such a work.

from Nourished by the Word
Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen O.C.D.

The Bible gives us a synthesis of all of reality but not thereby a system. One does not find an elaborated systematic theology or anthropology in the bible. It is always life which is primary. If you direct theoretical questions to the Bible, you receive practical answers. Who is God, you ask? And the Bible replies: live as a child to your heavenly Father, dare to be children, trustful and lighthearted; follow Jesus, who is the Father's image in the world, partake of his suffering and be like him in a death like his; wait for and listen to the Spirit and let its inspiration be shown to advantage in your life. What is prayer you ask? And the reply sounds imperative: so shall you pray: Our Father . . .

What is love? It is wonderful to philosophize over love, over Eros and agape, but you don't have the time; do like the Good Samaritan, give food to those that are hungry.

Will there be many who will get to heaven or only a few, a majority or a minority? "Strive" replies Jesus, "to enter through the narrow door" (LK 13:24). Don't waste your time with speculations over quantities, don't occupy yourself with statistics, but see to it that you yourself are present.

As I have grown in the Carmelite charism, I have discovered any number of wonders implicit in the ancient Rule of St. Albert and spelled out more clearly by the ongoing reformation and redefinition of the Order, particularly in the rule for the third Order. One of the things emphasized at every opportunity is the necessity and the glory of lectio divina. So much so that one Priest of the order described lectio as the glory of contemplative prayer. The order has said that it is highly desirable that communal lectio divina be part of our monthly gatherings. And when we are faithful to that, the monthly meetings are fruitful, productive, and life-changing. When we fail in it, then little else that happens at the meeting is of any worth.

All Catholics and all orders highly prize the word of God, they cannot do otherwise. The Dominicans show how they cherish is in the charism of preaching the word--making it clear for those who have a lesser understanding. But such preaching can only be fueled by spending time in the word, steeping oneself in it. Franciscans bring it to life through evangelical poverty. But such poverty is meaningless unless it calls to mind Him for whom we endure poverty, unless it reifies the word in the world.

The mission of the lay Carmelite is to bring the word of God into the world through our evangelical works. But how can one do that if one is not aware of what the word says? How can one preach by actions if one's own actions are not informed by the Word of God. All that we would say would be falsehood.

Stinissen points out here that above all else, the Word is practical or it lacks any meaning at all for us. We are not given a philosophical system (not that there is anything wrong with such), but rather a set of instructions, commandments, or guidelines that tell us how to be God's children. More than that, we are given multiple views of His Only Begotten Son so that we might better see what it means to be a child of God. And with this equipment, we are to go out into the world and make it real for people who do not even begin to suspect its truth.

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Praise and Prayer Requests

For the many blessings and beautiful gifts that the Lord gives us day by day. He showers us with the promise of new life and grants us the beauties of this season. (Yes even in Florida, despite the temperatures, autumn has its majestice glory in beauty. Leaves fall from northern trees, and northern birds alight from Florida skies--our sign of autumn.) May He bless us especially in this season so that we may judge aright and wisely select the best possible leaders.

For the repose of the soul of Sister Anne, precious and beloved advisor to Katherine.

For Katherine, who having lost so substantial an anchor is feeling somewhat at 6s and 7s and for success in her ventures. May the prayers of Sister Anne, who, if not already at the side of Jesus will ascend rapidly on the fragrant offering of prayers from Carmelites the world over, assure her success and sure guidance.

For Terry Schiavo (sp?) who was once again placed in harm's way by a "compassionate" court that washed their hands of blood in the same way as Pilate did--"we only interpret the law."

For Smockmomma's sister Charlene, may God help her, heal her, and above all else hold her close in time of yet another trial.

For a troubled marriage, that it may open to the Lord's healing touch and blossom with all the potential that is within it.

Please continue to pray for Dylan until he returns to us.

A quick sale and an easy move for Tom and his family as they set out on another exciting adventure in life.

For a deeper understanding of and commitment to the strengthening grace of the sacrament of marriage, especially for those who are presently undergoing trials.
or those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

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For as long as I can remember October has been my favorite month--filled to the brim with my favorite things (outside of Florida)--the turning of the leaves, the harvest of apples, and most heavenly of all the myriad products that are the fruit of the pumpkin.

It is also the month of the Feasts of two major Carmelite Doctors of the Church--St. Thèrése and St. Teresa of Avila. Moreover it is the month of one of the great feasts to honor our lady. The feast that bridges that infamous Domincian/Carmelite gap--The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Frequent readers will know that I have no strong devotion to the rosary, regarding it as, at best, a penitential practice. However, this is only because of me, not because of the Rosary, the praying of which is the source of many virtues for those who try to live out the promises of its mysteries.

So three major feasts and apples, leaves, and pumpkins. One might call it coincidence. But on careful reflection, I call it providence. Even early on God was speaking to me and in oblique, beautiful ways directing me to where he wanted me to be.

Praise to the Lord, our Gracious King, who grants us the gift of this most wonderful month of the year. The gradually shortening day lends a pleasant air of melancholy, and the fruits of the harvest give us the wonderful heady aromas of spiced cider and pumpkin cake. All these goods from the greatest of goods, our Lord and our God. And every Earthly good should give us pause to reflect upon Him who is the source of all goodness.

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Prayer Requests

For the people of Haiti, those that died, and those threatened by the chaos that follows the storm.

For the repose of the soul of Sister Anne, precious and beloved advisor to Katherine.

For Katherine, who having lost so substantial an anchor is feeling somewhat at 6s and 7s and for success in her ventures. May the prayers of Sister Anne, who, if not already at the side of Jesus will ascend rapidly on the fragrant offering of prayers from Carmelites the world over, assure her success and sure guidance.

For my dear wife Linda who is extremely upset by some changes in the workplace, that she may adjust and move one rapidly and that our family is not too perturbed by the necessary changes in schedule.

For Terry Schiavo (sp?) who was once again placed in harm's way by a "compassionate" court that washed their hands of blood in the same way as Pilate did--"we only interpret the law."

For Smockmomma's sister Charlene, may God help her, heal her, and above all else hold her close in time of yet another trial.

Please continue to pray for Dylan until he returns to us.

A quick sale and an easy move for Tom and his family as they set out on another exciting adventure in life.

For a deeper understanding of and commitment to the strengthening grace of the sacrament of marriage, especially for those who are presently undergoing trials.

Please storm heaven for my friends in Louisiana, they've had a long string of misfortune and could do with some good news.

For a dear friend who is undergoing a troubling period in her life, beset with a number of problems, physical, financial, emotional. May God hold her close to His heart.

For a St. Blog's parishioner in need of work to forestall financial catastrophe, that the Lord provide all that is needed in both material and spiritual blessings.

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

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Marion v. The Curt Jester

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From the Comments Box below, but worthy of greater circulation. What a glorious way to start my very favorite month of the year!

Mr. Riddle, this is totally off topic, so please forgive me, but here goes...what would the blog and combox postings of souls TOTALLY devoted to contemplative prayer look like?

One possibility follows:

October 1, 2004


Comments (4)


Posted by Jane Smith 2:21 p.m. 10/1/04


Posted by Al Jones 3:36 p.m. 10/1/04


Posted by Jane Smith 4:01 p.m. 10/1/04


Posted by Henry White 6:21 p.m. 10/1/04

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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