June 2005 Archives

Prayer Requests


Prayers please for Carol O. who is fighting a debilitating disease and needs all of our love and prayers as does her entire family.

Prayers also for guidance for one who is seeking a way and for protection.

Prayers also for Christine and Gordon, who seem to be doing well despite profound difficulties.

Prayers for Linda and Samuel as they continue to enjoy the rolling hllls of West Virginia.

Prayers for safety in my coming trip.

Thank you.

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Blogging Futures

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I will soon be undergoing a temporary but major paradigm shift in domestic accommodations.

That is to say I'll be taking my vacation to SW Florida including the Ten Thousand Islands, the Everglades and the Dry Tortugas (which necessitates a brief stay in the Keys (oh, poor me. We WILL NOT, however, be staying in Key West, where one cultivates weirdness until it is merely boring).

In the course of this trip I hope to visit Ca D'Zan (the home of the Ringlings), the Winter Homes of Edison and Ford, and a number of other South Florida Venues. A real high point will be a trip to the Amish Community (!) of Sarasota to eat at the equivalent of the most marvelous restaurant on Earth--Der Dutchman in Plain City.

(Note to TSO: It's probably late for the Shekinah Glory Festival out that way, but the weekend Auctions are always interesting and the restaurant is heart-stopping in its Mennonite goodness--real cream, butter used in mashed potatoes-slow cooked green beans in real animal fat--you know all those comofort foods plus delicacies like shoo-fly pie, oatmeal pie, and date pudding--definitely worth planning for--but they close early--I don't recall if they use electric lights in the restaurant or not--the Mennonite communityt here is not as strict as the NE Amish. )

Anyway, I will be online, and probably occasionally blogging, but don't expect a lot.

Just pray for me on the trip and continue to pray for our family in our temporarily and happily separated state. (Samuel is spending the summer with Grandma and Grandpa and may be taking a little jaunt in the next week or two to the Baltimore Aquarium.)

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Being a Writer

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In the category of TMI, so be warned.

Of recent date I've been amazed at just how much of a writer I am. I think I've always known this, but never really acknowledged it. Now, please note, I am not boasting, I am merely stating facts--I did not insist that I was a good writer, merely a writer, and by that I mean something very specific.

To be a writer is to have the mind of a writer. To have the mind of a writer means that you cannot help but write whether what you do is publishable or execrable. The case in point which showed this to me all too clearly arose earlier this week.

I recently had a matter I needed to discuss with my supervisor--merely a matter of differences in style that was more an offering of information that would help me feel more comfortable in my present capacity. I wrote ten drafts of an e-mail in my head and one in reality before I went in a spoke with her for about ten minutes. It was in writing these things that I was able to make concrete the grounds of our differences and the essence of what I wanted to say. Prior to that point, I was a mass of conflicts, blaming, accusing, and resenting. Once I wrote all of that out, the reality of what I needed and wanted to say became clear. The writing made clear what the feelings and motivations were--it cleared away the vapors of distraught emotions and laid bare what gave rise to them.

When I look back over my life, this has always been the case. That is to say, I often need to write about a matter before I can actually deal with it. Writing puts me in a different and differently connected realm of being. It is why I feel that I pray more with pen in hand than I do when I sit around and try to pray. Get out the Bible and a notebook and I'm off for an hour or more. Now, I may be just indulging myself in a fantasy of prayer. But I hope that God will honor the intent and, as He knows who I am, will use the gifts He has given to clarify who I am in Him. If I am not praying, then I pray that He might lead me there exactly as He sees fit. But given that nothing is clear until the words are on the page and I can read them and read beyond them, I suppose I shall keep up the practice until directed by spiritual advisor or Word of God Himself to do otherwise. I suppose one of the chief "rules" for prayer must be do what works and honors God

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Another Word from Morning Prayer


"As for me, I exalt my God,
and my spirit rejoices in the King of Heaven."

C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven." Last night at Bible Study I jokingly said, "Everything comes back to the book of Phillippians." They will know we are Christians by our love, but they will know our true love by our joy. Joy is the light that shines forth and invites the world to the banquet of the lamb. Joy is the mainstay of life. A life without joy is a life not lived.

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Evening Prayer

A few quiet moments now to pray before payer begins,
a moment to taste being, to listen to the rain,
Florida rain, rain in rivers not in drops and dabs,
and in all of this to see grace, to hear God.
The God who loves me, calls me His own beloved.
The same God who made the blue of ocean and sky,
who fed Elijah by the Wadi Cherith when all hope
was lost. The same God who opened his arms and died
for me as if I were the only one.

So called free verse is the stream of consciousness of the poetry world. It has its functions and purposes as in this free-form meditation. I could sculpt it into something other, but then it would not be what captured that moment. Sometimes a poem is a painting, sometimes it is a polaroid. This one is a polaroid--snapped at the time of its happening, without deliberate art or artifice, but nevertheless true for all that.

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A Word from Morning Prayer


I read these words every four weeks or so on a Tuesday, perhaps more often than that. But today the meaning dawned upon me in a new way.

"King of glory, Lord of power and might, cleanse our hearts from all sin, preserve the innocence of our hands, and keep our minds from vanity, so that we may deserve your blessing in your holy place."

May it be so for all of us. In other words. Amen.

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Two words that struck home particularly hard as I did this morning's prayer:

Let your splendor rest upon us today,
direct the work of our hands.

may everything we do
begin with your inspiration
and continue withyour saving help.
Let our work always find its origin in you
and through you reach completiion.

May everything we do find its roots in the Lord and its branches holding up the Kingdom of God, like strong pillars. I have a work to do today that is not to my liking. May God make it easy and temper it with grace, strength, humor, and conviction and may no one suffer from it.

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Amos 8:11-12

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Reading a remarkable little book by Lauren F. Winner titled Real Sex: the Naked Truth about Chastity. And in the course of it she quotes this passage. If you aren't familiar with Amos (and who is) this is what the passage has to say:

Amos 8:11-12

11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

I'll need to spend some more time with this verse and its context, but isn't it a prophecy for today? Isn't it incredibly appropriate to our lives and times? And isn't it frightening.

There will be a famine not of bread and water, but of hearing the word of God, and people will scramble to try to find it and there will be all sorts of "interpreters of the word" ready to tell them exactly what they want to hear. But there will be no one to tell them the truth.

The most frightening part of this is that we are part of that famine. Every time we participate in something ungodly--every time we listen to gossip being spread and say nothing about it, every time we hear God being maligned and simply walk away, every time we hear the scriptures being misused, misquoted, and distorted we increase the famine of the word.

More, every time we pick up the newspaper or turn on the television set without having spent time in the Word and listening to God, every time we let a day pass without reading the scripture and sharing its good news with someone in some small way, every time we pass up an opportunity for a Bible Study or a moment of prayer because it is inconvenient, we are contributing to the famine. And our land is already skeletal and the vulture of the Prince of this world are already circling waiting for the last gasp.

"All that is required for evil to conquer is for good people to do nothing." The time for silence and for putting off our study and time with the Lord has long since passed. We must speak the truth in light, but to do so, we must know it and we can only know it if we know Jesus Christ. And finally, "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."

When I was with the Charismatic movement, I had a gift given me that I believe was wrongly identified as prophecy. I think rather that my gift is exhortation and encouragement. And now I am exhorting and encouraging. Life is terribly, terribly short and souls stand the chance of being lost every single day. Our silence has terrible repurcussions and implications. If you cannot speak the Gospel in words, then speak it in your actions of the day. In Today's reading for Mass Jesus promised us that even so small an action as giving a cup of water would carry a great reward. Think then what the reward would be for pulling the drowning from the waters that threaten to engulf them. I know that I will make a commitment to try much harder to read scripture and live out the image of Christ they convey to the betterment of all around me. And I promise to share as much as I can of what this ultimately means.

God bless you all--now--hit the books!

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I just had the most harrowing (and gratifying) encounter ever in the confessional. I had never had a priest accost me in quite the way this priest did. Apparently this man believes in the destructive power of sin. I felt like I was at the inquisition and it was wonderful. All too often, I go into the confessional and I get a priest who will tell me how what I think is a sin is not really all that sinful. This priest harangued me about the horrors of mortal sin and the path to which it led. It was frightening and exhilirating. I walked out of the confessional with a sense that I had actually participated in a Sacrament. More, the ordeal was such that any penance afterwards would be incredibly light.

But what was so nice is that Father made it very easy to step through all the various actions and thoughts and to really make a good confession. I can tell it must have been efficacious because afterwards at Mass I was seized with such an enormous anxiety attack I wanted to run out of the Church and scream. I restrained myself, nearly hyperventilating. As communion came and went the anxiety eased somewhat. I'm convinced this was simply an emotional attack to try to get me offtrack again.

Anyway, thank goodness for this priest who still believes in sin and its prevalence. He even gave a rather Savonarola-like fiery homily against sensuality and sin. This to a Mass of tourists. Very, very nice.

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For those interested in what exactly contemplation is or does, you could have no better description than this passage from the first book of The Prelude.

from The Prelude
William Wordsworth

Content and not unwilling now to give
A respite to this passion, I paced on
With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length,
To a green shady place, where down I sate
Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice
And settling into gentler happiness.
'Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day,
With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun
Two hours declined towards the west; a day
With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,
And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove
A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts
Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made
Of a known Vale, whither my feet should turn,
Nor rest till they had reached the very door
Of the one cottage which methought I saw.
No picture of mere memory ever looked
So fair; and while upon the fancied scene
I gazed with growing love, a higher power
Than Fancy gave assurance of some work
Of glory there forthwith to be begun,
Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused,
Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon,
Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks,
Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup
Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once
To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound.

We have the poet clearing his mind to focus it, and then focusing it upon such things that the imagination leaves off and

"a higher power
Than Fancy gave assurance of some work
Of glory there forthwith to be begun,
Perhaps too there performed."

This becomes the perfect metaphor for the entry into the state of acquired contemplation. One exercises the imaginative faculty and the will in the course of meditation, until suddenly meditation leaves off and a conversation begins. We start to speak with God almost unknowingly. He has entered quietly through the door we have left open by asking His presence. He sits down and when we are focused enough, we see Him and begin to treat Him as the honored guest He is.

For Wordsworth (and for St. John of the Cross, and though I'm less well versed, for St. Francis of Assisi, as well) nature gave entry into this place. Nature is not the end, but it is in reading the book of nature and accepting its welcome that some can enter the realm of meditation and contemplation.

Add to that vision this:

From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun
Had almost touched the horizon; casting then
A backward glance upon the curling cloud
Of city smoke, by distance ruralised;
Keen as a Truant or a Fugitive,
But as a Pilgrim resolute, I took,
Even with the chance equipment of that hour,
The road that pointed toward the chosen Vale.
It was a splendid evening, and my soul
Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked
Aeolian visitations; but the harp
Was soon defrauded, and the banded host
Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,
And lastly utter silence! "Be it so;
Why think of anything but present good?" 100
So, like a home-bound labourer, I pursued
My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed
Mild influence; nor left in me one wish
Again to bend the Sabbath of that time
To a servile yoke. What need of many words?

Makes a pretty convincing picture of some of the solace captured in contemplation and some of the trial of emerging from it. And then "of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,/ and lastly utter silence!" This seems to speak of the time that we leave the consolation of acquired contemplation and move into the realm of infused contemplation and spiritual dryness where we no longer "feel" the consolations and yet we are not deprived of peace. We come to undersand "What need of many words?"

God speaks in so many places. When I first read these words, I had no idea of their weight or their meaning. Now I do, although I am not so close as I would like to be to the experience. I understand more fully what Wordsworth speaks of, and it sounds as if he were a "natural mystic" something akin to an Emerson--which to be speaks profoundly of God's grace and His constant reaching out to us to correct our error and lead us to Him.

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courtesy of my friend Katherine

O Blessed Trinity,
We thank you for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II
and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.

Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness is the necessary
measure of ordinary Christian life and is
the way of achieving eternal communion with you.

Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will,
the graces we implore,
hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

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I'm sure that John Wesley would be most interested in the results of the following quiz

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Who knew that Wesleyan Methodism and Catholicism were so completely overlapping. I can believe 100% of both apparently without conflict. Somehow, that strikes me as a bit odd--but given me and my usual state of mind, hardly unlikely. I was sorted out by the last question which gave a "trilemma" of which is these statements is most accurate: (1) It is right to Baptize Infants; (2) The theology of Karl Barth is hugely important; (3) God's grace enables us to respond to Him. How then does one choose between 1 and 3, both of which are the objective truth and therefore "the most accurate." Number 2 may be dismissed out of hand as a mere opinion. So always being one to favor Grace, I wound up a Methodist, even though it is right to baptize infants (which would have made me a Catholic). Surely there are doctrinal divides sharper than that between the two churches.

Perhaps what this best reflects is the remnant protestant thought that lingers behind the encompassing Catholicism of my present life. Well, to paraphrase the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, I can resolvesix irresolvable contradictions before breakfast.

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Oblivion Only Seems Romantic


. . . pardon the pun. But Keats's poem, which follows, is truly one of the gems of the English Language and perhaps the high point of the Romantic Movement. I choose it today because there are strains and notes of it that speak to my present situation. And I lovingly dedicate it to Linda and Samuel--my heart away from home.

"Ode to a Nightingale"
John Keats

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

With my penchant for reading into rather than merely reading, and keeping in mind that Keats was not a known Christian adherent (to say the least), I still can see some wonderful Christian sentiment in the poem. If we take for the Nightingale, God himself, then, in at least these two stanzas we come to an understanding of the longing of the contemplative. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the poetry of the Romantic Era is really about contemplation. Often it is a pantheistic contemplation that is suggested. In Shelley's case it may be more an introspection than a contemplation. But much of what they write is about being transported out of self by engagement with the Other--usually in the form of Nature. And it is an odd zeitgeist that gives us the Romantics in England approximately cotemporaneous with Emerson and his lot of transcendentalists here in the U.S. The Enlightenment provided us with a watchmaker God who did not interfere in His creation, and the Romantic Rebellion found in nature itself an object of contemplation to replace God. Obviously this is not a salutary move, nevertheless, that they still sought to find Him when they were told that He would not be found, or if found could not be moved, is characteristic of the longing of the human heart.

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A Prediction from Wordsworth


From one of the great long poems of modern times by a poet for whom I cared little in my college years, but whose attraction grows with each passing year. I am not at the place described below yet, not quite yet dug out from the avalanche that consumes me, however, soon. . .

from The Prelude "Book First--Introduction--Childhood and School-time"
William Wordsworth

OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented sojourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!

It is times like what I am enduring now that I turn to God and to poetry to be sustained. Nothing earthly lasts forever and so this too shall pass. And in this particular instance, it is rather like a kidney stone, once passed it will not be missed.

The Prelude is a poem some 200 pages in length. So far as I know it is the only book-length autobiography in poetry. (One could make arguments for La Vita Nuova but I think that is a different category of things.) When I had to read this in college I thought I would die. I didn't care for Wordworth--to my mind the blandest of the Romantic Poets. But the riches of his thought and poetry become all the more clear as time passes. Wordsworth, unlike Keats, Byron, and Shelley (Coleridge falls into a different class) is not a poet for youth. He is a poet for maturity. The attractions of his poetry are likely to be lost on those who rush from day to day crowding in all that can be done in a day. He is a poet of leisurely, deep thought--a poet who rewards close reading and careful attention. One might wish to start with shorter lyrics--"Tintern Abbey" "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality Recollected from Early Childhood," "Daffodils," and the Lucy poems. But eventually The Prelude looms, like Browning's The Ring and the Book a magnificent epic. Whereas the latter is a chronicle of another life, the former is the chronicle of the poet's life commited to poetry and thus all the stronger a representation of the man.

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At the library the other day I chanced upon a volume compile by the prolific Harold Bloom of the world's greatest poetry. Of course, Bloom, as usual quite full of himself, pontificates and expostulates on each of the selections he has made. In the process, he takes quick jabs at those people he does not like and seeks to make his vision of High Poetry the only vision of poetry.

Problem is, Bloom doesn't appear to really understand poetry all that well. He seems to think that any reading of a poem outside of his own is completely incorrect. Needless to say, it is attitudes like this that made reading poetry a chore for the vast majority of us.

However, in the course of all of his comment Bloom does say emphatically that EAR is one of his very favorite poets and he cannot understand why he is not more popular today. He then goes on to relate some of the strengths of Robinson's verse--and when he is in this mode he is usually quite acute as a critic and as a poetic ear.

So, while I can't say much for his opinion of Poe, T.S. Eliot (as a critic), or his selection of Alan Tate's poetry, I do admire the strength of his vision and opinion when it comes to the poets he happens to like. And, commendably for him, he does not stint on poetry by those he does not care for as people.

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Medieval Hagiography

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One of the things that has always disturbed me about St. Francis of Assisi are the excesses of miracles and wildly improbable stories that have cropped up around him. Insufficient are the stigmata themselves, we have the scent of the blood attracting all of the animals from near and far, and so forth.

Yesterday, while reading Paul Sabatier's (1894) biography The Road to Assisi, a thought occurred to me. Sabatier was a student of Renan, a German theologican who absolutely disregarded ANY stories of miraculous occurrence asserting that nothing that occurred did so outside the explanations available to modern science. Sabatier wisely took the best of the historo-critical method, but left this assumption behind. (Sabatier's is considered the first modern biography of St. Francis of Assisi.)

In the introduction by Jon Sweeney, this passage piqued my interest:

from The Road to Assisi, "Introduction"
Jon M. Sweeney

Since minutes after Francis's death--when the canonization process began in earnest and Assisi was quickly established as one of the most important places for tourims and pilgrimage in all of Crhistendom--until the late nineteenth century, the life of Francis was clouded in myth. The Golden Legend, a popular late medieval collection of tales from the lives of the siants, for instance, records this about Francis: "The saint would not handle lanterns and lamps because he did not want to dim their brightness with his hands." Also: "A locust that nested in a fig tree next to his cell used to sing at all hours, until the man of God extended his hand and said: 'My sister locust, come here to me!' Obediently, the locust came up and rested on his hand. 'My sister locust, sing! Sing, and praise your Lord!' The locust began to sing and did not hop away until the saint gave permission.

It was the first of these vignettes that knocked me upside the head with what should have been obvious all along. Even if the story is not literally true (and this is one of those I tend to doubt), the truth of it, as the truth of all fiction, lies deeper and stretches broader than a mere recounting of fact. What we hear in a tale of this sort may not be what physically happened, but it was what people saw and felt in the saint they had been near. Perhaps one person said something like, "He shone brighter than any fire at night, any lantern, any candle," a metaphorical statement that cannot be challenged because it speaks from the heart of the speaker. In time, this story entered the legend as literal truth. Now, understand that I am not saying that should God have decided it to be so the story CANNOT be the literal truth. Rather, I am saying that it NEED not be the literal truth, and yet it still expresses a deeper, fundamental metaphysical truth about the Saint.

The trouble then becomes how to separate those things which are metaphysical, metaphorical truths, from those that are factual, material--an exercise left for biographers and other interested partisans. For my own practice, I must learn to read the truth within the literal statement, accepting what is said for what it means and not concentrate on the improbabilities of the tales. Did Francis command the locust to sing and did it obey, resting on him until he gave it leave? Does it matter? What the story tells me is that Francis was a pool of serenity, of peace, of God's own Shalom to all who encountered him, human and otherwise. It does not matter whether the locust sang for Francis, what matters is that the person who related the tale or saw the vision related a truth, the locust would have sung for Francis, so full of God's love and peace for all of creation was he.

Again, I don't seek to refute the validity of the good things Francis might have done. Rather, I seek to break through the wall of skepticism that has long kept me at arm's length from this Saint. Others must read as they are led, but I must read in this way to find the man who followed God and to learn from him what he knew of God's ways.

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Hotel Rwanda

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Perhaps not one of the greatest films ever made, nevertheless a film everyone should see. Intense, but not overwhelming, the story recounts the efforts of one Hutu Hotel manager to save more than 1200 who flee to his Kigali hotel.

The scenes of the real horror in Rwanda are muted, but the tension is constant throughout the film. What I found myself asking again and again as I watched is "Why are we so incapable of recognizing one another as children of God? As children of our mothers, mothers we all love?" In the great slaughter of Rwanda, why could so few stop feeding the flames of fear and ask the questions--what real danger does a three-year-old pose?

Hate is powerful, devastating. Hotel Rwanda shows us that and shows us courage in a time of great despair. We need to keep foremost in our minds that people are people regardless of their skin color. I think about that and recognize that in the Rwandan scheme, my own precious child would have been seen as enemy. And they would not have stopped because of his age. Their goal was to completely eliminate a "tribe" that was an invention of the European rule. These people were not even really separate groups--merely the formerly have and have-nots.

Highly recommended for Adults and children over 14 or so (depending on the child.) One of those films to view and discuss.

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D-(as in Departure) Day

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Linda and Samuel will be spending the summer months up in WV with the grandparents. (It is the deepest of mysteries to me as to why they moved from the center of the world to its most far-flung corner--nevertheless, that is as it is.) Linda's sister has a small house and a large yard with chickens, goats, sheep, and other assorted farmyard animals. We thought that Samuel would have a great time being there. Moreover, we wanted him to have some time with his grandparents. I wasn't content with our usual week-long trip at Thanksgiving, so I'm hoping this is everything we imagine it might be.

As you might well imagine there is some sense of trepidation at so long a separation. The plus side is that toward the end of the trip I'll travel there also and we'll probably spend some time in Washington D.C. and perhaps in Charlottesville (really at Mount Vernon and at Monticello). Until then though, I'm more or less on my own and there's something a little scary in that. And sad. I'll miss them both. And as fun as it might be, I suspect that Samuel will miss Daddy as well.

What I will not miss are the mandatory three thousand and five daily repetitions of "Move it, Move it" from the Madagascar Soundtrack On the other hand, I will miss hearing, "March Slave" (as Samuel calls it), "Odd to Joy" and other tunes he's beginning to pick up. It's amazing how his ability grows by leaps and bounds although he doesn't really spend all that much time practicing.

In their absence, I suppose I'll immerse myself in my Father's Day present--David McCullough's 1776 as well as other works of similar vintage and theme. I've got about four Franklin Biographies stacked up to read, and heaven knows a plethora of Washingtoniana.

Anyway, prayers for safe travel and wonderful trip would be deeply appreciated.

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Living in this Moment

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One of the most difficult things to relearn after a certain age is the ability to live in the moment. As we enter adulthood we often lose the ability to live moment-to-moment in anything like comfort. We find ourselves planning for this expense and that expense, for this vacation and that event, for retirement, for college expenses for children, for hurricanes, for the Apocalypse. You name it, we're planning for it.

Not that planning is a bad thing--it isn't. But too often we are so wrapped up in planning that we forget to live. We're living in the future that is not yet here. In other words, we're not living at all, but waiting for some magical instant when the harmonic convergence will converge and we will enter the age of milk and honey.

Ain't happening. This is Satan's most clever ploy. How many times do we hear, "There will be a better time. Just wait. The time will come"? How many times do we listen. "We should wait to have children." Why? What are you waiting for--more money, better time? It isn't going to happen. "We should wait to get married. . ." Until?

Occasionally there is great prudence in waiting. For example, waiting upon God's will is what we are supposed to do. Of course that waiting isn't an example of mere stasis, it is waiting in the sense of table-waiting--performing then as it were. But even at that there are prudential times and there are times for things to come to fruition. Problem is, we aren't really good at tellilng when these are AND so, as we age we tend to wait.

Well, there's really no point. Even when we're maxed out, as I have been at work recently--those are moments to embrace and live and feel the vbrant, life-giving, encompassing love of God that fills every moment of every day. Seize this moment, this time. Now is the proper time. This instant is the proper instant. Don't think about yesterday and tomorrow--at least don't allow them to loom so large that their shadow obscures everything present. Live now. Live in God's Love which is now, in the present, in the only moment we have. We have lost yesterday and we may not have tomorrow. Now is the time to practice the presence of God. Each time we sin is the time to repent and start up again.

We can stand all summer at the edge of the pool and contemplate whether or not we will jump in. Or we can plunge in, swim and rejoice in that mysterious lightness of body that comes from being present to God, from living in Him.

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Reading List


Founding Brothers Jospeh Ellis
Benajamin Franklin Edmund S. Morgan (The man who is organizing the Franklin Papers)
Streams of Living Water Richard J Foster
Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

There are of course a million other things that float into and out of my perception, but for the moment, there will probably be a strong focus on things American, and particularly things Revolutionary. I love the Founding Fathers, Mothers, Brother, whatever you want to call them. And perhaps at the end of the summer, I'll have another opportunity to visit that most wonderful of Revolutionary Shrines--Mount Vernon. (I'll be a mite closer to Monticello, I suspect, but we'll see.)

Wow, what a summer--the Dry Tortugas and Mount Vernon. The only thing to make it better would be Williamsburg. But we may end up waiting until 2007--the tercentary of the the Landing at Jamestown.

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Killing Floor Lee Child


A tremendously violent, extremely high body count mystery thriller. This novel won the Anthony for best first book. And despite its horrendous excess, it deserves the award.

The prose is smooth and supple. I had picked the book up with the idea that I might read it later and found myself taking every free moment (and there were very many) to read it. Compelling and engrossing both for the character presented and the intricate and ornate plot. There are implausibilities that would cause me to balk ordinarily covered by enough velvety smooth prose that they go down easily. (I think for example of the identity of the first victim.)

The novel starts with the arrest of a man in a diner--a man who has only recently arrived in town. He is arrested for a murder that occurred near a place he walked by early in the morning. It is nearly Kafka in its inception. And from that point on it's a roller-coaster ride.

The only author I can think of off-hand who I like better is James Lee Burke, whose prose is equally smooth and whose violence is nearly as overwhelming. I'm not sure I'd care for a steady diet of Child, but a book here or there can punctuate the vast sea of bad prose that consitutes modern fiction.

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Sharkboy and Lava Girl


Okay, given the title you didn't expect much. Unfortunately for adults, you don't get much. What plot there is is utterly incoherent. Even the 3-D is not all that great.

But, as with all the Robert Rodriguez films aimed at children (see Spy Kids) the underlying message is the importance of the family and of staying together and overcoming obstacles in your way to success. Now, whether it was worth wading through the tedium of this film. . .

. . . Oh, but wait. Samuel loved it. He wanted to see it again and again. He loved the action and the effects. He loved the story. So apparently this film wasn't meant for me anyway, and my delight comes from Samuel's delight. I rejoice in his joy and so, were he staying around, we'd probably see it again. As he's on his way with his mother to Grandma's they'll probably go and see something else. (Willy Wonka I expect.) But then, so shall I.

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Not with a Bang. . .

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but a whimper. The return to blogging. It seems as though it may be possible, ande so, expect a couple of things today before the heat gets poured on.

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Interim Report

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You've seen things grow scant.

Work's at a peak and it doesn't seem to resolve itself into days with normal numbers of hours and so I have little time for blogging. That will change in the near future; however, for the time being bear with me.

More importantly, I'd appreciate it if you'd think to remember me in your ongoing prayer requests at least until such time as this project comes to an end.

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John Adams to Abigail Adams, Letter of 3 July 1776

But the day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

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"Being persuaded that there can be but one true religion taught by Christ, and that the R C is that religion, I conceive it to be my duty to have my grandchildren brought up in it. I feel no ill will or illiberal prejudices against the sectarians which have abandon that faith; if their lives be conformable to the duties and morals prescribed by the Gospel, I have the charity to hope and believe they will be rewarded with eternal happiness, though they may entertain erroneous doctrines in point of faith; the great number in every religion not having the leisure or means to investigate the truth of the doctrines they have been taught, must rest their religious faith on their instructors, and therefore the great body of the people may conscientiously believe that they hold the true faith; but they who, from liberal education, from understanding, from books, not written by one party only, and from leisure, have the means of examining into the truth of the doctrines they have been taught as orthodox, are in my opinion bound to make the examination, nor suffer early instructions and impressions or habits or prejudices to operate against the conviction of what is right. Upon conviction only a change of religion is desirable; on a concern so seriously interesting to all of us no worldly motives should sway our conduct." -- letter to Harriet Chew Carroll, 29 August 1816 (Harriet, or "Hettie," was the daughter-in-law of Charles Carroll)

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Samuel Quote

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After learning Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on Piano, "Odd to Joy Rocks." (Yes, that's Odd).

After learning Beethoven's Turkish March, "Classical music rocks."

These two pieces have gotten him to study piano and really be interested. Perhaps we have too few piano players because of methods that provide distinct disincentive to continue. What say you?

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Hard Drive Bomb

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Mysteriously, as is usual in these things, my Hard Drive bombed out yesterday leaving me with the NEW IMPROVED Windows XP black screen of death from which you cannot possibly recover anything.

Result--reformat disk, reinstall Windows, reinstall each separate tedious application, reset all preferences, days and days and days of work.

Praise God!

Other net result--months of accumulated junk gone in an instant, everything clean and shiny and new. Important Data---multiple redundant backups in multiple locations. A pain to deal with, but on the other hand, nothing serious lost.

Praise God!

This is such a blessing. I have had such an enormous burden of accumulated junk removed and now I have the opportunity to start over with a clean new system.

Of course, I nearly immediately junked it up again. But I erected a new folder structure and everything is much better organized than I would have made it within the parameters of the last system.

There really are great blessings in starting anew. This is one of those death and resurrection experiences that help reinforce my faith.

And while all of this may seem to have a satirical or sardonic undertone, let me assure you, my joy is real, and everything written here is a cause for glorifying God. When we are too weak to do what need be done, He will help us. When we are reluctant, He will put the car in gear. This is one of those times.

God is very good indeed!

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National Treasure

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Loved it.

This is exactly the kind of film I like--a treasure hunt, based in history for a treasure hidden by the Masons. Clue left all over lead the protagonist finally to. . . well, now, that would be telling wouldn't it.

It is this premise that made The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons entertaining and interesting. No, I wasn't interested in the characters. No, the theology was rotten to the core. But it was the challenge of unravelling one after another a series of hidden clues that would reveal when all followed to their conclusion some amazing end result. (Now the end result in The DaVinci Code was idiotic and ill-conceived. As we all know, Mary Magdalene is not the Son of God, and the whole notion of her "divinity" in the book is a silly rip-off of earlier, ill-conceived speculations on divinity.)

But National Treasure (except for its fondness for Masons) has nothing of like alienating potential. The story is literally and figuratively a treasure hunt in which the founding fathers have left a trail of clues as to the location of a fabulous treasure rescued during the first Crusade by those who would become the Knights Templar. Most intruguing is the idea that the first clues to this treasure are encoded on the back of the original Declaration of Independence. (The only problem being that the original was a printed copy, not the manuscirpt copy in the hand of Thomas Jefferson with all of the strikeouts etc. And the "original" was one of multiple printings at the same time. But I suppose we needn't trouble ourselves over that because the Fathers, after they had determined which one would be preserved as the original could easily have done all that is suggested.

Anyway--a fun, fast-paced, exciting film. Recommended.

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Cinderella Man

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A while back there was a travelling meme that asked one to name five things that everyone around one was wild about but to which one was rather cool. I never participated because it strained my brain to think of five things. But here's two:

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks.

Ron Howard hasn't produced a thing since EdTV that even remotely interested me. And he goes on to produce progressively less interesting things with each new film. A Simple Mind (as I call it) had me turned off about six minutes into the film. Meeting the protagonist was such an agony of unpleasantness, that I decided I could do without the rest of the film (much to my wife's dismay). So too, I've already decided to forego the elusive pleasures of Cinderella Man. However, I can tell you that two women whose opinion I trust on these matters (while I may not necessarily agree) have both enthusiastically recommended it.

So if watching two people bash each other bloody is your cup of tea, it would seem the Cinderella Man is your tea-party in heaven.

On another front--Russell Crowe--an actor whom I can enjoy at times--is in a very long lull for me. The last two films I really enjoyed were Virtuosity and L. A. Confidential, both horrendously violent. Of recent date we have The Insider (ho hum), Gladiator (repulsive from the very first scene--so ahistorical as to cause an immediate gut-level reaction resulting in the set being turned off), A Simple Mind aka A Beautiful Mind yawn-fest extraordinaire dealing with an unpleasant man's unpleasant life, Master and Commander, which I typified by a dark and soggy Ivory/Merchant wannabe--I found both main characters unattractive and it is only on Talmida's enthusiastic recommendation that I retain any scrap of desire to actually read the books (and Talmida's recommendation is not to be underestimated as she liked both Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and Mary Doria Russell's magnificent Children of God and (I assume) The Sparrow), and now Cinderella Man. Now, my opinion of these is not to reflect at all upon their worth as films. A great many have enjoyed them tremendously, and I derive from that that they are good, well-made films into which I simply haven't been invited. That's all right--I don't need to be as there is a great deal out in the world of cinema to see. But I do find it something of a trial that I cannot enjoy the opus of an actor whose work I really do like. (Personally, I find the man not in the least admirable. Things like this just add to my opinion of him. But he has legions of devoted fans who turn themselves into pretzels (my wife among them) explaining how the news didn't REALLY report what REALLY REALLY happened and he isn't REALLY all that bad at all, and besides he's misunderstood. I've learned to tune this stream of things out--consistent reportage reveals that the man has serious issues that need to be dealt with long-term. Let us hope that his family does not suffer with them as well.)

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What can I say? I was amused despite myself. I wanted not to like it. I wanted to be able to pooh-pooh it. But I wasn't able to. It was so darkly amusing and so odd that it was endearing. Meryl Streep's character was particularly amusing, and the children, particularly the youngest were quite endearing.

Not great cinema, but very amusing. Samuel saw it and loved it. His one reaction was, "Count Olaf is worse than Vicki/." (Vicki is the babysitter on The Fairly Oddparents who is constantly plotting to take over the world and make Timmy's life miserable.) As a result, we've promised to change our babysitter from Vicki to the Count Olaf Child-Care Service. Meeting all your needs for unpleasantness since 2004.

Anyway, an amusing little film. I can't get enthusiastically behind a recommendation, because I suspect that enjoyment of such a film is an acquired taste. But for those who have acquired the taste: highly recommended--good light-brained fun.

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Maronite Rite

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Yesterday I was under obligation to attend a Maronite Rite Mass. The Priest at this relatively new Church had been an advisor and a helper to the Carmelite community. His bishop was visiting and he needed to swell the ranks of his members at the early Mass.

I say under obligation, but also under some curiousity about what exactly the Maronite Rite might consist of.

It was an interesting experience. The church was beautifully arrayed. I had half-expected an iconostasis, because the rite is Eastern. There was not one. Overall, the church had the effect of a slightly less ornate Roman Church. This may be because it was relatively new and Father George had to woo western Rite Catholics to make a go of it here. I don't know. But it was a small, beautiful church.

The rite itself suggested the Byzantine in some of its particulars, but that may just be the result of a liturgical tin-ear. Communion was by intinction.

The most interesting aspect of the Mass is that the prayers of instittion (or whatever the prayers are called when we say "The night before He was betrayed, Jesus. . .") were in Aramaic. It didn't sound all that much different from the Syriac of some of the responses.

It was a perfectly wonderful, beautiful rite. I could be at home in this Church, but I am not tempted away from my own parish and its liturgy. As I said, I probably have a liturgical tin-ear. While there may have been a bit more of holy silence about the place than there is in any Latin Rite church I've attended, that may also have been the result of a smaller congregation. While the prayers and responses in syriac were interesting and mysterious, they did not inspire me to heights of devotion, nor did they particularly perturb me. I got lost in the missal a couple of times, but was easily able to find my way back.

I am grateful that the Church embraces such a diversity of traditions--22 in all, I'm told--21 Eastern, the bulk of which are in the Patriarchate of Constantinople so they vaguely resemble the Byzantine Rite, and one Western-Latin or Roman Rite.

As I reflect upon this experience I discover that I am likely a ritual indifferentist. So long as Jesus is there it doesn't matter to me if we pray in English, Latin, Slavonic, Syriac, or Aramaic. I am not persuaded to greater heights of devotion by mysterious foreign languages or clouds of incense (which, during allergy season only aggravate my respiratory troubles). It is for this reason that it may take me a while to work up the desire to wander out to a Tridentine Mass. I'd like to see what so many hold so dear, but it isn't a burning, overwhelming desire, it is mere curiousity. Perhaps I would be transported with new joy over it, but I suspect, protestant-raised as I am, that it will have minimal effect. On the other hand, if we really have Gregorian Chanting--I would find that moving and interesting and I hope reverent and awe-inspiring.

I suppose this is to say that if the entire Church were to return to the Tridentine Mass tomorrow, I'd adjust and go on my way, hopefully toward God. I don't think it would perturb me, but I'm also uncertain it would particularly inspire me.

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As you well know the Catholic Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin remained so throughout her life.

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters point to certain verses in the Gospels that mention the "Brothers and sisters" of the Lord. Or, "James, the brother of the Lord." They find in these compelling evidence against traditional Catholic teaching.

But something occurred to me the other day as I was thinking about this matter. It is by no means a conclusive piece of evidence, but it is certainly persuasive. If Jesus had brothers and sisters, or if His half-brother in the flesh were actually the James who was to head the synagogue in Jerusalem, why, on the Cross did He entrust His mother to the care of John?

If James really were his brother in the flesh and really was a follower and did lead the chief group of early Christians, would it not have made more sense to consign his Mother's livelihood to His own family?

Again, this is not compelling. But it is as persuasive as the arguments that refuse to consider the actual meaning of the terms in Aramaic.

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Orlando Has the Indult

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At long last, the Orlando diocese has the indult Mass. It is now celebrated at two different parishes in the diocese. Unfortunately, the closest to me will be about 45 min to an hour away. However, I can manage that once in a while. I have no intention of leaving my parish, but I would like to experience what everyone seems to be raving about. I have a suspicion that it might not be my cup of tea--but we'll see.

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Loving Scripture

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Over at Disputations, I prevailed upon Tom's hospitality to compose an very long answer to a gentleman who objects to the Catholic Church's "interpretation of Scripture." In reading his comments I (perhaps erroneously) inferred that he seemed to think that the Church hands down a line-by-line interpretation of the Scripture. Here is my response to him;

You say the Rock is Peter. I say the Rock is the truth of acknowledging Christ as the Son of God and Lord of my life and a promise Christ gives to all Christians. Catholics then say, that’s why we have the authority to interpret all scripture because that’s how we interpreted this verse of scripture. [A quotation from my correspondent]

Need it be one or the other? Can the rock not be both? Is it not possible that Peter was chosen as the rock upon which the Church would be built because of his faith in Jesus Christ, and we each are expected to have that faith, and yet, just as at the Cross we are given a mother, in this moment we are given a shepherd.

I don't see the two as contradictory. I see them as mutually supportive. The Church teaches that this verse is what established the Church, but she does not limit the meaning to that.

What people outside the Church do not thoroughly understand is that there is remarkably little scripture that is authoritatively interpreted by the Church. And even when so, it is more often than not that the meaning is not circumscribed, merely elucidated. That is, the meaning that is important to central Church doctrine is enunciated without prejudice to other possible meanings.

The Church gives definitive guidance in how to read and how to interpret scripture, but only very rarely does she pronounce on THE meaning of a passage. She leaves the faithful to read and interpret within the guidelines she offers. And these guidelines, the fruit of centuries of work and experience, are such that they do not so much circumscribe meaning as they give meaningful help in guiding the conscience so that we do not get the multiple schism of the Protestant Church.

What you fail to acknowledge in all of this, is the sheer chaos that comes from unbounded personal interpretation of Scripture.

I've regaled a great many with the tale of how my Grandfather's fundamentalist Baptist Church split into two new Churches over the question of whether women should wear panty-hose or not.

Given my choice between the two systems, I would prefer to interpret scripture in accordance with Tradition and with the understanding that Scripture has held through the ages.

For example, presently, many would have us read the scriptures prohibiting homosexual congress to mean a very isolated instance of a specific problem that is more related to temple worship than to homosexuality. The Church definitively teaches that homosexual congress is a sin. There are few others who do so, and those that do, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention, has no authority to do so by their own understanding of the Scriptures. That is, if all personal interpretation is equally valid, then the "authority" of the Church has no right to a definitive interpretation. Believers must accept the guidance of the individual conscience and cannot conclusively state that the Bible prohibits homosexual congress.

There are those in the Catholic Church who would like this to be the way we operate. But we do not. The Magisterium definitively interprets the scriptures to say that homosexual congress is illicit, immoral, and sinful.

I have faithfully sat on both sides of this fence, and I can tell you that the freedom that comes from not having to know everything about the Bible and the languages in which it was written and what was meant by this phrase and that, is exhilarating.

My experience has always been that the self is a tyrant, and that tyranny is often forced on others, even when the Churches are hammering away at Sola Scriptura.

If, indeed, a Church truly operates on Sola Scriptura then one must grant that the only legitimate approach to scripture is the individual encountering the word, and therefore, tradition, authority, or other extrinsic factors count for nothing in the mix. You cannot have sola scriptura and yet expect others to read the same words and come to exactly the same understanding as you have.

When the Church interprets scripture, she does so in a limited sense to clarify and to assure the unity of the faithful. If you read through the Fathers and the Saints, you'll find dozens, hundreds, thousands of different interpretations even of key scriptures. Only in a rare event are these problematic, usually when they lead to a significant misunderstanding of the nature of God or of Jesus Christ.

The Church does not authoritatively offer a line by line understanding of the Bible. Rather, she provides guidance for the reading of Scripture AND clarification of those scriptures on which our Doctrine and Dogma defend. Without the Church we have no doctrine of the trinity (no where explicitly spelled out in the Bible) we have no "of the same substance" with reference to the Godhead, etc.

So I would respectfully submit that you may have some misconceptions about precisely how the Church handles and interprets scripture and what she demands of her children with respect to these interpretations and with respect to reading the Bible. You do not abandon freedom upon entering the Church--you are shown the true outlines of freedom. There is greater freedom in knowing the boundaries (and greater safety) than in wandering the fields dependent only upon ourselves (even with the assistance of the Holy Spirit) for not falling off a cliff. The multiplicity of Protestant faiths speak clearly of the dangers of a lack of central authority in understanding faith.

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Lectio Divina III--An Example


While it is always bad form to use oneself as an example, I thought it might be instructive to present how lectio make take form in one's mind. This session is from this evening when I picked up in the midst of my favorite book, read through about a paragraph and was struck by something at the very beginning. There is nothing stunning, nor even enlightening here for those of you who live outside this body--all that I offer is a look at what might go on in Lectio. Often I create my silence in the midst of writing. When I write the entire world passes away except for the words in my head and whatever I am using to write. I prefer the experience of writing with pen and paper, and thus more often take notes on my palm than at the keyboard. Nevertheless, here is the offering.

Phillippians 1:12

I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.

These words of Paul force me to reflect--do my own actions, my own life, serve to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When people look at me do they see the joy of Christian living? Does my demeanor suggest to the world the fullness of the truth and joy that resides in Jesus Christ? Paul was able to sing and rejoice in prison. He was able to look upon the most deplorable of circumstances and rejoice for what he saw there. When people who know me well look at me, do they see and understand the joy of Gospel life?

What Paul seems to be telling us here is that a life lived in Christ must perforce reveal Jesus Christ. It cannot do otherwise. It is impossible that we cold live fully in Christ and not make Him known to the world. Conversely, that we do not dailymake Him present to others is most suggestive about our willingness to live fully in Him.

I cannot give up self even for Self that is more glorious. To be born again in Christ gives us a "new self" that is already living the kingdom.

So you see the simple fruit of perhaps fifteen minutes with the scripture and another five or so writing it out as it took form. I offer the writing as my prayer to God, not as instruction, not as exhortation, not as anything more than a personal session with the scripture. I think you can understand why I love scripture as much as I do. I only wish I could be as consistent in expressing this love as I am about running my mouth on other matters.

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Where I Stand

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(for those who care.)

While I am fascinated by disputations and controversies in doctrine, dogma, and practice, I have to admit to not be terribly interested in the things that divide us as Catholics. That is not to say that these issues are not important, they are. However, I know what I believe, when what I believe is challenged or proven to be incorrect, I take steps to correct it, and that is as much as is required of me. The truth of the matter is I haven't the wherewithal to correct the errors of others. Moreover, I often find myself in sympathy with the motives of those who hold erroneous beliefs, if not with the belief itself.

On issues of practice and discipline, I hold no fixed belief. I was not raised Catholic and so I do not revere the celibate life the way those born to the faith might. It little matters to me whether a priest is married or unmarried so long as his first and overwhelming love is the Lord.

On issues of doctrine, I am somewhat less flexible. I will continue to hold with the Church that the ordination of women is not licit until such time as I hear otherwise. However, I have no intention of or interest in trying to prove this to anyone else. It simply doesn't matter. I don't believe that when one approaches the gates of heaven after living life in a state of grace, helping God's poor, and partaking of the sacraments that one will be excluded on the basis of believing that women should be ordained.

I hold to the truth and I pray for those who differ--not for fear of their souls (in most cases) but rather in respect for the truth. If what I believe is true, then it is the only thing worth believing. If it is false, then it should be excised. I leave to finer, more honed minds than my own the excision, submitting myself to the correction of the Church. However, I am not a surgeon. My part in the body is not to excise error, but to encourage love and devotion. This is something I feel equipped to do. This is something I can understand and which requires no great grasp of the intricacies of the faith, but rather a desire. Truth supports this desire, which is why it is always necessary to be in touch with truth; however, truth isn't necessarily the desire itself.

I cannot correct error. I don't think in the ways necessary and at this point have no desire to think that way. I'm afraid I tend to be on the side of Unapologetic Catholic in these matters--many of the apologists for the faith have personalities that would send St. Thérèse into screaming tantrums. The truth need not be abrasive, nor need it be present caustically. In fact, the truth can be presented in any number of ways outside of argument--and that is where I am called. I love God and I can share God's call to His love in my own inadequate fashion. I leave to other, differently attuned minds the defense of the faith. As their honed arguments and presentations bring the flock in, I will feed and water and care for them as best I can. My position is not that of master, but servant and most appealingly as servant of all God's servants. My rule is love. It can lead to excesses and there is the danger of indifferentism, but not so long as prayer informs everything I do. I cannot be indifferent to the Truth, because the Truth is what I love and what I desire others to love. I may not be able to see and articulate the fullness of the truth with the skill of some others. But what I can see, I desire to make known as clearly as God can make possible for me.

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The chief part of lectio is listening to scripture. This means engaging the word of God on some level. How does one go about it?

Well, that depends on who one is in Christ. God has made each person different from all others. The means He uses to speak to each of us will vary with the means of the persons He is addressing. In lectio you are practicing listening and so you must find the "posture" that best allows you to listen.

Now, listening is an active process. We've all heard about active listening--listening in which we show our attention by nodding, by looking the speaker in the eye, by asking questions that help to clarify the point. All of these are important skills that engage both the person speaking and the listener. In lectio you can employ some of these skills. In considering a bible text, one does well to follow St. Teresa of Avila's famous advice:Mira que le mira--roughly--"Look at who is looking at you." (Autobiography Ch. 13). Surely the first step in listening is to look at the One who speaks. Take a moment and place yourself at His feet as Mary (of Martha and Mary fame) did. And look at Him while He speaks. You will need to employ the imaginative faculty to do this, but it can be done. Look at His face and listen to the words of scripture, His personal word to you. Look at Him closely enough to see that His exclusive interest is you. His entire love is directed at you and your salvation. His complete attention is devoted to you. In the back of your mind you may also realize that this is true of every single person on Earth. So as you sit looking, you can see what so many on Earth never take the time to see. You can see how Jesus longs for us to bend an ear, to listen--to pay attention.

For some, this exercise can be too much of a trial. The strain of trying to imagine Jesus looking at one can be overwhelming. If you cannot, for any reason, bear the weight of that gaze, then start more simply. There are as many ways of listening as there are people. When Jesus speaks, He often speaks in story. The same is true of much of the Old Testament. The story carries the message meant for you. The story is a small seed meant to grow. To grow it must be planted and watered in the imagination. In the previous post, I mentioned that it may be fruitful to consider the same text on several days. This is particularly true if you are just starting and trying to get the hang of what is going on. As you listen to the words of scripture, picture them in your mind. After your reading, close the bible, marking the place with a marker, or a finger and simply close you eyes. See what it was that you just read. In some cases, for example the Letters, it can be difficult to see things because the letter tend to be doctrinal, and written instruction. For this reason, it is probably better not to start with the letters, but to look first at the Life of the Savior. Nearly everything we know comes to us as pictures. Read a passage, close you eyes and see the scene. Place yourself there--look at every blade of grass, every flower, feel the breeze or the heart, feel the exhaustion or the elation. Be present. In being present we begin to hear. Too often we are troubled with the events of the day or with the constant restless movement of the intellect. If we are concentrating on participating in the event described, the intellect will have no room to wander, we will not be able to stray from the text. If we are seeing it and listening for what God means for us to hear in the text, we will have little time for our own concerns.

This form of imaginative participation in the scripture can bear great fruits for those who practice it faithfully. It can inform your prayer of the rosary and become a constant, higher starting point from which to begin prayer. At first you may not see the point, but eventually as you continue and as you listen, you will begin to hear things that you have not heard from the scripture before.

Another way to listen is to play with the words. Read them and then read them again accenting them differently. For example:

"A voice cries out in the wilderness make straight a pathway for God."

We can read this verse in many ways--but let me present two possibilities.

"A voice cries out in the wilderness
make straight a pathway for God."

In this case it is the voice that is in the wilderness.

"A voice cries out
in the wilderness make straight a pathway for God."

In this case the pathway for God is to be constructed in the wilderness.

Now these two variations have profound resonances against one another. They are not contradictory, they are complementary. Together they ring changes on a theme and broaden the implications of the scripture. We can acknowledge that sometimes the lone voice of conscience cries out to us, "Straighten up, confess, and let God in." This voice leads us to move toward God. And sometimes the voice says to us, "You need a time apart, a time of refreshment, a time to enter the wilderness of self and find there the Pearl of Great price, the seed of the kingdom of heaven."

Much of scripture is this way. You can read it one day and hear one thing, and return to it the next and hear something quite different and quite stirring. For this reason, the version you read for lectio can be important. You need not only to understand it, but to be inspired by it. This is one of the reasons I keep promoting the KJV or the Authorized Version--not because it is the most accurate translation, but because it was the Bible of my youth and the language that I grew to know and love deeply. The words themselves are enough to move me to transports of joy. Sometimes I can sit and just listen over and over again to a single line, to one word from the Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord alway again I say rejoice." "The voice of the turtle was heard in the land. . ." etc. Obviously, this does not have the same resonance through all people and will not have the same profound movement within them. Therefore, find the version that makes your heart sing simply to read it, and then read it, over and over again, delighting in the word, delighting in the line. Delight always to come before the Lord. I think of the hours that I have spent with the single have line, "You see now as in a glass darkly. . ." The sheer magic of that language moves me and speaks to me and it speaks so deeply that I cannot utter the words that it says. They simply invigorate love in a way I do not myself understand, but which I gratefully accept.

Also, with active listening, we ask questions. Do not be afraid to say, "What did you mean when you said, " Why do you trouble me, Woman?" Is that any way to address your mother?' And then listen for the answer--perhaps it is, "I addressed my Mother as Woman, because She is the New Eve, the beginning of all Women and the Mother of those reborn in Christ. She is indeed the archetype of Woman and the exemplar for all time. There is no distance here, there is no denigration. Rather, I have raised her and placed in the place of highest regard." Or perhaps, you will hear something else. But ask where you have doubts and listen intently. If you ask in simplicity, not like the Pharisee seeking to catch Jesus in some trap, the answer will come in time and the answer will change your life.

Lectio will improve your prayer life. Lectio will give strong roots to the depth of your love. Lectio will invigorate your faith and your devotion.

From time to time in the past, I have shared some instances of my own Lectio. You can find the fruits of these, and the methods I used to move toward them by clicking "Lectio" in the side column.

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The irresistable allure of the prose even in translation decided for me: Shadow of the Wind. I'll be sure to let you all know how it turns out.

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The Eternal Question

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What to Read?

You can see by the review that I finished a relatively unsatisfying read last night and now three fiction books loom before me as possibilities:

The Romanov Prophecy Steve Berry(not Legacy as I erroneously posted last night
Sanibel Flats Randy Wayne White
The Shadow of the Wind Carolos Ruiz Zafón

Of this last, perhaps my correspondents in Spain can better inform me, but the translation appears to offer some linguistic delights. Among them this moment from the very beginning:

from The Shadow of the Wind
Carolos Ruiz Zafón

A few of his chums grumbled in assent. Barceló signaled to a waiter of such remarkable decrepitude that he looked as if he should be declared a national landmark. . . .

"I hate to bring up the subject," Barceló said, "but how can ther be jobs? In this country nobody ever retires, not even after they're dead. Just look at El Cid. I tell you, we're a hopeless case."

And there were about three quotable lines in between. The premise is intriguing. A young boy is taken into a place called "The Cemetary of Lost Books" where he finds one called Shadow of the Wind, the last novel of Juliá Carax. In pursuing Carax's work, the boy discovers that every copy of his novels is being systematically destroyed--he may own the last copy of Shadow of the Wind. Don't know much more than that from the cover, but it sounds very Perez-Reverte. The blurbs say, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Umberto Eco meet Jorge Luis Borges." Not a promising blurb, I'll grant you, rather like a raspberry, chicken, and asparagus milkshake. Nevertheless, I take the point that we're talkling postmodern aesthetic encounters magic realism. I should have thought comparison to the remarkable The Club Dumas would have been suffiicient--the novel already shares some similarities in plot elements.

But decisions, decisions. l rather think I should speed through the first two to land in the third and spend my time.

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