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August 1, 2005

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

Revelation 21:5-6

And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

[6] And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.

How long has it been since you have felt that "all things were new?" One of the sad results of growing older is that it often seems that nothing whatsoever is new. We've seen it all before--played out in a million different ways--the same story, the same song. As we age we are more likely to say with Qoholeth--"There is nothing new under the sun."

In fact, in Jesus each day all things are made new. This is one of the reasons why we are commanded to come unto Him as a little child. A child preserves a sense of wonder of the newness of the world. Everything is new, everything is exciting, everything is a revelation. That is how God calls us to engage the world in Him. In Him, everything is new and wonderful, everything is light and beauty. No matter how many times we have seen it before, the whole worth shines and cries out his glory. Hopkins told us--"Glory be to God for dappled things." He further outlined the beauty, the newness of the world in the exhilirating sonnet "The Windhover." Hopkins had recaptured a sense of the newness of the world in Christ.

It seems too many of us do not take advantage of our family connections (Jesus, our Brother) to seize this wonderful and life altering way of looking at things. I know for a fact that I have grown calloused and jaded with the battery of things that assaults me every day. But yesterday I happened to look up at the sky and a new world waited there for me. Florida has the most beautiful skies in the world--they are filled with every type and variety and shade and hue and shape of cloud you can imagine. I find it difficult to imagine that there are so many shades of white and blue and grey. But there it was--some clouds thins as veils draped over the face of the sky, lightening the intense blue of heaven. Some were shaped as with a laser, the outlines sharp and clear against other. Some appeared to have been applied in a water-color wash of blue-grey--streaking across the front of others. I didn't look so much for shapes or meanings, but at the entire landscapes of cloud-form. Suddenly I was reminded of a time when clouds were new, when the shapes had meaning and I spent a good deal of time looking up at them.

Another example--walking on a local nature trail the other day I came upon some yellow wild-flowers whose stems so blended with the background that they appeared to be merely the disembodied floating blossoms of a plant. Suddenly, this too was new.

I realized I could live a life of newness if only I would turn the driving over to God and I would spend a little time looking at the passing scenery.

"Behold I make all things new." Not some, not a few, not a limited number--all things--all things in nature and in myself. Each day I am a new creation in Him, if I choose to be. Rather than clinging to the old self and its perceptions and prejudices, I can choose to grow and become ever new. I can join the Saints in the newness of the world that Christ recreates each day. The choice is mine, the options are mine. God leaves me free to tread the same weary path every day, or to discover in the day all the newness He has placed there.

"Behold, I make all things new." All things. New. Life becomes meaningful once again in Him and in His path for me--every experience is something new from Him, through Him, and in Him. Now it is time to be renewed and to find this newness in the everyday. To see with my son all that the things of the world around me. To see with God's Son how they reflect and speak of His glory.

"Behold, I make all things new." And I wish to see them as He does.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 9:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Away to See Sam and Linda

Don't know what, if any, opportunities for blogging. Will try to write and if I get e-pics that I can post there you'll see Sam in his cowboy get-up.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 5, 2005

Four States, Some Ponies, and a Shrine

WV, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia today. Went out to Pennsylvania to take Sam and his cousin to the miniature horse farm a couple of miles away from Gettysburg. Later passed through that most dismal of memorials (the area here is filled with them--Harper's Ferry, Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, all within a few miles of one another). Sobering and deadening in many ways. I don't handle WBS sites very well.

However, it was worth it because our route home took us through Emmitsburg, Maryland--a lovely small town nestled in the green hills of central/western Maryland. There, of course, is the shrine of the first American-Born saint--Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The shrine itself is enormous and stirring. There is a basilica that holds the remains of mother Seton in a side altar. There is a retreat center and I think a home for aged Sisters of Charity. But also present are two important houses--the Stone House where she attempted to start the first schools in the area. She was ultimately prevented by the pervasive anti-Catholic sentiment that still knows little surcease. Also present is the so-called "White House" in which Mother Seton died.

These houses are wonderful because they are both early-American homes and the houses of a great American Saint. God blessed the country greatly with a Saint of the caliber of Mother Seton. Many who followed her had her as first example. I think most particularly of St. Katherine Drexel, who continued the work begun by Mother Seton in helping the disenfranchised and the underprivileged.

The grounds are quiet and make for a nice, leisurely, meditative walk. For those who live in the DC area, and who have not visited, I would recommend a day trip during the weekend. I was with my protestant in-laws and arrived too-late at any rate, but I was not able to attend a Mass at the Shrine. Even the drive to the shrine is beautiful. Of course, traffic around D.C. being what it is there are traffic jams even out here where corn fields stretch to the very edge of the country roads that wind through the wide green expanses. It isn't difficult to picture yourself in the times of Mother Seton. It also isn't hard to think about her becoming one of the first Americans--she was about two years old when on July 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, creating a new nation that had yet to win that independence.

Any way, it was a beautiful end to a wonderful day. When I get the chance I'm going to post a couple of pictures from the trip--both the shrine and the pony farm. I also bought a couple of books about Mother Seton that include generous selections from her own writings. I hope to share some of those soon. The trip moved me greatly althought I honestly didn't really expect it. God blesses us in all the things we do to honor Him.

He blesses me also in the people who stop by here each day to read. Thank you so much for your generosity. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 9:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 6, 2005

Consequentialism and Why I Don't Engage in Formal Apologetics

I have stated in the past and will continue to state my unequivocal admiration and respect for Tom of Disputations. And here, while I'm away he's posted two points that I would really like to comment on more completely, but find myself restrained by an extremely slow computer/interface. So let me make my little attempt and I'll fill out what is missing somewhat later.

Here he makes a profound point about consequentialism. All I really wanted to say about this is that I respect and admire people who can identify these faults in reason and give them their proper names. I am all-too-often guilty of thought like this (though, I suspect in this case, I would be guilty of the extreme opposite of consequentialism, assuming it has an opposite). Nevertheless, I am profoundly humbled every time I encounter something like this. At one time I used to think I was pretty hot stuff intellectually. Interaction with such people hasn't diminished my own respect for arenas in which I am capable of reasoned discussion, but they have presented to me the fact that those arenas are not all possible subjects of discussion and I need to accept this limitation. In some matters I am a better spectator than participant. And I think that brings up another point--apologetics. Many people who practice rigorous, argumentative apologetics seem to think that everyone is capable of it. I rush to point in that I could parrot the arguments of Keating, Akins, and others, but without any real effect because I would be repeating their words without their knowledge. Even had I their knowledge, my mind does not work in this way of formulation. I would become hopelessly flustered and mired in the labyrinthine paths of those who reach beyond their capacity.

However, there is another form of apologetics--not so much an argument as a way of life. It is in this form that most of us can succeed--assuming, of course, that we are living the life required by such a mode of argument. If we live a life embued by grace, love, peace, joy, humility, obedience, patience, meekness, and prayerfulness and we surrender to God in all of our ways, our lives become a form of apologetics. Even if we are not raised to the honors of the altar, we function in our capacity as messengers of God's love. While many of us can defend this or that proposition, most of us do not have the rigor of intellect and the disposition to properly argue a point of doctrine or dogma. If someone wants to know more or better, I am inclined (depending on the person) to hand them Karl Keating, Donald Currie, Stephen Ray, Mark Shea, or James Akin and say--here it is, they say it better than I could, read away. And after you've read, come to me and let's talk about how it is lived--because that is something I can start to show you. Obviously, I can't show anyone the fullness of the faith, nor even the complete and integral practice of it. But I can show some things, and that is part of the mission of evangelism. I may not be able to argue the truth of the Catholic faith, but I can argue the truth of the Catholic life in the way that I live and the life that results. That, for many of us, is I suspect, the greatest argument for or against our faith.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 9:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Intemperance, Restraint, and Addiction

Another addendum/gloss on the writings of Tom over at Disputations. In this case he wrote about intemperance, it's remedy--restraint, and childishness. And all that is there seems reasonable to me.

What is not mentioned there is really the crux of the issue. When we inure ourselves to any sin, we become progressively more insensitive to its effects and progressively more possessed by the sin. When we have practiced intemperance long enough, it becomes addiction. This is almost a spiritual law--perhaps it is a spiritual law, but I don't know enough in the realm of this subject to rightly say.

What I do know is that restraint nearly always fails when addiction, particularly physical addiction is at the core of a problem. How many people have you known who have tried to stop smoking? How many times did they try? I know of two offhand who stopped on the first try; however, they are exceptions to the rule. Most people try and try and try and try and try and end up trying the tempers and perserverance of all of those around us.

Restraint works when the sin is young. It may even work when the sin has become habitual--but if the nature of the intemperance is such that it become an addiction, whatever restraint we bring to bear will be insufficient to the cause. In fact, that is true of the other stages as well--and I know that this reasoning underlies all that St. Thomas and probably most of what Tom writes about at Disputations--that is to say, without grace we cannot prevail against sin by our own wills. Our wills must be engaged--that is, we must desire to oppose the sin even if we are too weak to so. We must also seek the grace to oppose the sin. Without grace we can do nothing.

But what happens when the sin proceeds to addiciton--either psychological or physical? How often does that happen, you ask? Too frequently. Look at our society and see people who are caught up in addiciton to sex, violence, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, shopping, sports, and just about every other acitivity or substance you can imagine. There are people who make a fetish of buying things, those who raise eating to nearly exalted heights, those who drink to excess, and those who cannot seem to occupy themselves with one, espoused bed-partner.

Childishness is not merely childishness, unfortunately. It is deadly and deadening. Once we have succumbed on one or another of these things, we are progressively deadened to the metastatic nature of sin. Like cancer, once it's in it tends to spread. We may start with intemperance and proceed to wrath (particularly against those who stand in the way of supplying our present need) and other deadly sins.

Restraint is the answer to intemperance, but it is an insufficient answer on its own. And when intemperance progresses to addiction, "Just say no," simply doesn't work in most cases. We can last a while on our own with grace, but we must seek out the companionship of those who know the spiritual realm and who can better help us seek the grace required to break the back of our addictions. Jesus alone can be our help, but we can find Him in the people of faith around us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack