Steven Riddle: April 2003 Archives

I had not realized that I hadn't posted this last month. Tonight I'm working on Part V. Please use these if you find them worthwhile. Drop me a line to tell me how I might improve them.

Ascent of Mount Carmel IV

Read pages141-147 (chapters 11-12). In these chapters St. John of the Cross continues some of themes touched upon in earlier chapters. In addition, he introduces some new themes. Pay careful attention to Chapter titles and examples from scripture.

Chapter 11
What does John propose to address in this chapter? Why is that significant for the reader?

(1-2) Are all appetites equally damaging to the goal of union with God? If not which appetites are more to be avoided? Why?

(3) Read the second paragraph very carefully. What is John saying here and why is it important? What is the difference between an advertent imperfection and one that is inadvertent?

(4) List some examples of habitual imperfections according to John. Take a few minutes and pray that the Holy Spirit open your eyes and heart to habitual imperfections that assail you. Note these for future reference, prayer, and spiritual direction.

What do the examples of bird and the remora show us?

(5) Note particularly the second paragraph. What are the chief dangers of indulging "one small imperfection?"

(6-8) What does John use the examples from Judges and Joshua to show. How might his understandings help you to take better advantage of the richness of Scriptures?

Chapter 12
(1-3) Can any appetite produce the two sorts of evils we studied last time?

(5) What does John use the passage from Apocalypse to illustrate?

(6) How is this passage an important caution against scruples? To what problems might scruples give rise.

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Final Poem of the Day

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Untitled--part of a sequence

Is it okay to wonder what You were
about when You took her away from us?
Can we ask why? It's better than crying
and finding no end of fault with doctors
who could not keep her here. And look how much
good there is still, maybe by her constant
prayers. As much as I sorrow that she
cannot see the son You won for me; still
she can see, the Son you won for us all.
But I cannot honestly say that I
don't want her back to be a grandmother
just for a while, just a moment--just now.

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Modern Coffee House--Written In Situ

I see myself in the humid
smoky dark of a 1950s coffeehouse
with a demitasse on a cracked
plate that no chinamaker
would ever call a saucer,
sipping the dusky brew and
listening with maybe a gentle
tap of pen on paper as the poet
beats out wave after wave
of anguish, disgust, anger.
Flash to reality--and I'm
here at McDonald's with a mess
of undigestable, most half-eaten
ends and fringes of things,
picking up more trash than any one
human could produce (but much less
than the average child's quota)
waiting for my boy to go down
the pink slide. And you know,
the thought of the one is so much better,
but the reality of the pink slide--unbeatable.

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Poem for an Anniversary

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On Your Birthday
I remember
and I know your
other sons miss
you like an arm
or an eye and
wish you were here
with our sons and
our families.
It's okay, you're
there where all is
made better by
your prayers. So--
pray for us O
mama, keep us
in mind as you
glory in His
presence. We'll be
there soon enough.
We all love you.


© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Becoming Jesus--Some Words from Our Sponsor

Well, not really, but Pope St. Leo the Great would be a good patron. From the Office of Readings:

But it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage: the same is true, by faith, of all who are born again in baptism. That is why we are able to celebrate the Lord's paschal sacrifice with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The leaven of our former malice is thrown out, and a new creature is filled and inebriated with the Lord Himself. For the effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive. As we have died with Him, and have been buried and raised to life with Him, so we bear Him within us, both in body and in spirit, in everything we do.

Emphasis added. You all know it, but it never hurts to be reminded. Our local pastor made a similar remark, "After taking communion, we become the tabernacle of the Lord." Not as strong, but an important reminder.

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When the Archives Are Working

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When the Archives Are Working Again

Come, join our discussion at Catholic Bookshelf on Chaos and Cosmos. Yes, it's a continuation of much that has been said here, but when the themes are eternal, they are worth visiting again and again.

For the moment go here and scroll down to the Dylan's article about Madeleine L'Engle, Alicia's followup note, and "Chaos and Cosmos." It is only through intelligent discussion and interaction that proper articulation of the Truth is achieved.

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Doubting Thomas Mark at Minute

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Doubting Thomas

Mark at Minute Particulars makes a point I cannot help but address regarding the culpability of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas's doubt is not a problem because he wishes to see, to have evidence he can touch; this is proper and a fully human desire. But he still doubts even after he has been told by those whom he knows and ought to believe. While he may not have known that his fellow apostles had received the Holy Spirit,
And when [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

I think we can know that their account to him must have been told with integrity and was believable within the context of their relationships. Hence the problem with Thomas's doubt.

But I must disagree. Several "reliable" bishops tell me about apparitions at Mudjegorje (I cannot seem to spell it right). They are relating what they saw with all due integrity and with believability due to bishops--must I believe? Rather, I believe I must owe prudence the courtesy of following my own understanding when it comes to extraordinary events. It would be imprudent of me to accept the opinion of others regarding someone being raised from the dead. Yes--I had witnessed it before, but that was not auto-resurrection, but someone I regarded as miraculous with wonderful healing powers raising someone else. However, can the dead raise the dead? Isn't it far more likely that sick at heart as they are they have invented these meetings? They imagined that they saw Him?

No, I see no culpability in following reason--the culpability would have resulted if Thomas, following reason to its logical extreme (as many moderns tend to do) said to Jesus--"I still don't believe because this has no scientific plausibility--therefore it did not happen."

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Apropos of Nothing that Will

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Apropos of Nothing that Will Make Sense to Anyone

I'm annoyed. And the reason is that one of hoi polloi with a huge anti-catholic chip on his bestselling shoulder doesn't know enough to know that Alexander Pope IS A CATHOLIC. You can research everything else in the world--you can get this right too! The line should have read, "It didn't say a ROMAN pope!" Thank you, venting over.

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Revelation in Easter As promised,

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Revelation in Easter

As promised, now is later, and I would like to reflect for a while on the question of why the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse of John) during Easter Season.

The linking of this book and the Easter Season seems strongly to indicate the Church's view of the book and how the Church wishes us to view the book. Now, early on John himself calls it a book of prophesy--but by that, he may not mean what many misinterpret the word "prophecy" to mean. Prophecy is not simply a prediction about what may happen in the future, although there are elements of that in it--prophecy is always God calling to His people. Much of prophecy is a potent love song, accepted by the people of the time of writing as one thing, and taken by people of a later age as something else. What, for example is to be made of the book of Jonah if one reads the prophet merely as a predictor of the future. Jonah's announcement to the people of Nineveh is very nearly beside the point of the story. What do we learn from this prophetic book? God's abiding love of His people.

Okay, then what is one to make of Revelation as Prophecy. It is prophetic in that it is God speaking through John to each of us in our time of turmoil. If we derive comfort from constructing elaborate schema of interpretation, I suppose that is fine; however, John is speaking to the people of the Church of his time--a time of tremendous hardship and persecution. He, himself, is speaking from exile in Patmos and the constant message of Revelation is patience, endurance, and cleaving to the Way of Jesus Christ. It is the message of the risen savior who will overcome all obstacles and ultimately bring us all to the New Jerusalem.

The conjunction of Revelation and the Easter season speaks very effectively of the comfort and joy we are to derive from the presence of the risen Lord. Revelation is filled with frightening, perhaps even horrifying images--and yet the end result is this remarkable passage:

Revelation 22 1 Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

And later we will hear the great song, "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' Let all who hear say, 'Come.' Let him who is thirsty come taste the water of life without price." THAT is the message we should take away from Revelation, whatever else we make of it.

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Poetry Break

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Inspired by the Holy Father, I type these much-less-worthy works. But we all work in our own ways.

Ten Views from a Summer Boat

Moonlight on the stream's
inky surface, whitewash waves
ripple toward the shore.

Mosquito harbor
the wooden boat
alone, broken ripples

The slap, slap,
slap waves
that have not
found their way

Where are you
in the flickering
night? Where now?

Rope trailing
weeds in water,
underneath all.

Even at night
even on water
shadows of shadows
whiteness worn to silver.

Wave
water and wood,
the gentle slip of oars.
Where are we?

Candle-gathered unknown
spirits, paper boats
from chrysanthemum night
suddenly spring dive
in the memory of the river.

It is said the poet drunk
reached out to embrace the moon
and found himself
wed to darkness
as how could he not?

Water washes reeds in still
slow eddies
In pools so quiet they
have the
memory of ages, water so deep
it bleeds.

© 2003 Steven Riddle

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Ruth Burrows Sr. Ruth Burrows

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Ruth Burrows

Sr. Ruth Burrows is a staple of the formation of OCDS members. However, Mark of Minute Particulars stumbled upon some reflections, and that sent me scurrying to see what else might be available. Here's a site with a number of articles that I have not yet had a chance to review, but which may be of interest to some. Thanks to Mark for the reminder of one visited and relished in the past, but somehow forgotten.

[Site requires a registation, but title suggests it may be worth it]

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The Office of Readings Every

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The Office of Readings

Every year I note this to myself, but as this is the first year of blogging, I'll note it to all of you as well. Have you noticed in the Office of Readings that through the Octave of Easter we read the magnificent First Letter of Peter and as soon as we enter the second week of Easter we start reading the book of Revelation? And this will continue until the sixth Sunday of Easter at which time we'll be reading the first letter of John. What is the meaning of this cycle of reading. More, what does this positioning of the cycle of reading say about the Church's vision of the book of Revelation?

If more Catholics would do the office of readings, we would have fewer of them speculating along the lines of Left Behind because they would understand the nature and intent of the book. There is deep significance to the fact that the church gives us this book to read during the period of celebration of the resurrection. We need to pay attention.

More on this somewhat later.

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Scandal Mongering Ron at The

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Scandal Mongering

Ron at The 7 Habitus echoes a frequent lament of some of us, that unless you write and explore things positively scandalous, it is hard to get comments, and sans comments it is often difficult to know where to go.

Blogging is much like conversation--many see it as a journalistic medium--and it may be to some extent, but the real excitement comes where there are comment boxes, feedback, and notes of interest at a single place. I don't mind reading the ocassional blog with no comments--but I'm often frustrated--possibly because I am very lazy when it comes to this medium, that there is no way to communicate directly. I have to go off-line to e-mail to make a comment or bring it back here. Thus, I infrequently even try to comment at such places. Each person has their own reasons for the set-up they choose. For example, in the Carmelite Chapel, I have deliberately chosen not to have comments, as a chapel should be silent except for the prayers rising to God. On the other hand, both of the other blogs have comments. I'm surprised at how few comments the bookshelf engenders, leading me to wonder if anyone visits--but I didn't put in a site meter because it little matters--the conversation is important enough to continue even in the paucity of significant feedback.

One thing I noted to Ron is that most of us who would comment run our own blogs and commenting elsewhere detracts from the time we can spend in our own pursuits, trying to flesh out our blogs. And, as far as it goes, that is true. But there are other factors at work that I sometimes wonder about. When people comment on deeply spiritual things, no one seems to have much to say. Whereas when they comment on an intellectual abstraction, there seems to be no end of comment. Now, that makes a certain amount of sense as well--it is easy to argue intellectual things. In the face of spiritual revelation, what is there to say? And yet. . .isn't that exactly the kind of thing we want to encourage? Isn't it where we get insight and help in matters that are most important to us? Isn't it where we should be doing the most encouraging? Should the Fr. Keyes's and the Ms. Knapp's of the world be getting a greater share of support than those who scour the newspapers for things anyone can read for themselves?

I don't know. I can't figure it out--and I suppose it little matters, although it does exercise me every now and again.

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The Splendid and Solemn Magnificence of the Holy Father's Poetry

You can read excerpts from The Roman Triptych here. As with all of his writing, the Holy Father blesses us with his poetry. What is particularly moving and noticeable about this work is that it was originally written in Polish, and yet the translation seems so utterly free of the usual infelicities that accompany a translation.

What response is there to such beauty as is so expressly evident in lines like these:

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side
unveils the created world around us ...
all that, like the undulating wood,
runs down every slope ...
all that is carried away by the stream's
silvery cascade,
rhythmically falling from the mountain,
carried by its own currentócarried where?

The wooded slope and the stream make a reappearance throughout this section of the triptych--perhaps through the whole thing, I've not yet had the opportunity to buy the whole work. That same magnificent, solemn echo occurs in other passages

The running stream cannot marvel, and silently the woods slope down, following the rhythm of the streamó but man can marvel! The threshold which the world crosses in him is the threshold of wonderment. (Once, this very wonder was called "Adam").

He was alone in his wonder,
among creatures incapable of wonderó
for them it is enough to exist and go their way.
Man went his way with them,
filled with wonder!
But being amazed, he always emerged
from the tide that carried him,

I have not been an ardent fan of the Holy Father's poetry. I've liked it on and off. But there is something in the words here, some spirit captured that in the very reading ennobles the reader. It presents us with things always seen and never really grasped, with realities that we choose not to embrace because we choose not to look. All of nature crosses a threshold in man. If that is not an astonishing thought then poetry is wasted. And perhaps many of us have lost that sense of wonder, that sense of the presence of God just beneath the surface of all. Each day we walk in God and through God and with God. Like sunshine, He is all about us and ignored, through His power we see--in Him we live and move and have our being. Those words might become hollow if we don't pause to hear them and make them real. Do we acknowledge every day that we move in Him, and by Him we are moved? Do we really live in Him? Is there any live outside of Him? And what does it mean to have our being?

Poetry leaves some scratching their heads--the words seem to force a disconnect--but what is probably more proper is that they force the proper connect. Without poetry, the Divine remains hidden--ever present, but unattainable because only metaphor and simile can begin to touch the Face of Being.

If you get a chance to do so, read the Holy Father's book of poetry. I've a sneaking suspicion that it will be a rich source of reflection, affirmation, and support. It convinces me more than any other work, that the Holy Father has a deep, abiding, and thorough-going connection to God. He has for some time. And this poetry seems to suggest that he is experiencing his own dark night. Remember every day to send him your love in prayer. Send a heart with wings unto the throne of God so that He might shower it back down upon His precious, wonderful, obedient, faithful servant.

Shalom to all. He is Risen indeed! We do not need to touch the wounds to feel the beating of His heart in our lives.

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We Are Not Amused. .

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We Are Not Amused. . .

. . .although other members of blogdom (who shall not for long remain nameless) have considered our deep cogitations and thoughtful probings into the world of things about which we haven't a clue the source of great amusement. I'm still trying to decide whether to write him out of my will--please go here and read the post titled, "SNL, Consumerism & Walker Percy" and let us know what you consider the proper response to such temerity, such audacity, ah. . . words fail us, we shall have to retire to our fainting couch before we are overcome by an incipient attack of the vapours.

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I was blessed with a wonderful gift today, and my immediate response is to share part of that with you all.

from Joy Bertrand Weaver, C.P.

The fundamental reason for joy in faith is that faith opens up a whole new and wonderful world. We have a way of thinking and speaking about the other world as though we were going to eneter it only when we die. The fact is that we are living in the other world now. The other world is not only all about us but within us. The joy of the convert is the joy of discovery of this new and exciting and infinite world. If the joy of a born Catholic in some cases does not equal that of a convert, it is because the former has allowed his faith to become dulled. [ p. 8]

Now, a passage from the intro:

A Fueurbach says that world is a madhouse, a jail, and a St. Thomas Aquinas says that happiness is the natural life of a man. A Schopenhauer observes that life is a sham, an annoying and useless interruption of the steady calm of eternal nothingness, and a St. John of the Cross say that soul of one who serves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing.

Rejoice, for the Lord, Our God, Savior and Brother is risen indeed, and with Him we rise!

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Didn't Have to Change or

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Didn't Have to Change or Fake a Single Answer

On this one. However, the caveat is that my soul came from God--but He probably felt fit to give it a bath before it was put into a body:

Ocean2
You come from the Ocean. You've always been drawn
to the sea, the sound of the waves, the crystal
blue water, near the sea is where you belong.


Where Did Your Soul Originate?
brought to you by Quizilla

I drive the people where I work insane trying to make the entire color scheme of any project fall in the teal/light blue/caribbean scheme. And if they have one more picture of a surfer, there may be a lynching.

(found at Mixolydian Mode, who apparently came from the night sky--that too would be most appealing.

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A Place to Start Discussion

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A Place to Start Discussion

To give you a sense of where I'm coming from--books of spiritual direction have echoed the refrain I'm trying to sound for some time. The following excerpt from the somewhat severe Imitation of Christ will set the stage:

The Imitation of Christ Thomas á Kempis Book I Chapter 2 :The Doctrine of Truth

HAPPY is he to whom truth manifests itself, not in signs and words that fade, but as it actually is. Our opinions, our senses often deceive us and we discern very little.

What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day? Neglect of things which are profitable and necessary and undue concern with those which are irrelevant and harmful, are great folly.

We have eyes and do not see.

What, therefore, have we to do with questions of philosophy? He to whom the Eternal Word speaks is free from theorizing. For from this Word are all things and of Him all things speak -- the Beginning Who also speaks to us. Without this Word no man understands or judges aright. He to whom it becomes everything, who traces all things to it and who sees all things in it, may ease his heart and remain at peace with God.

O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting. I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me.

The more recollected a man is, and the more simple of heart he becomes, the easier he understands sublime things, for he receives the light of knowledge from above. The pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not distracted by many labors, for he does them all for the honor of God. And since he enjoys interior peace he seeks no selfish end in anything. What, indeed, gives more trouble and affliction than uncontrolled desires of the heart?

A good and devout man arranges in his mind the things he has to do, not according to the whims of evil inclination but according to the dictates of right reason. Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer self, to become stronger each day, to advance in virtue.

Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous life ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish little or nothing because they try to become learned rather than to live well.

If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.

Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they are seldom remembered. How quickly the glory of the world passes away! If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study and reading would have been worth while.

How many there are who perish because of vain worldly knowledge and too little care for serving God. They became vain in their own conceits because they chose to be great rather than humble.

He is truly great who has great charity. He is truly great who is little in his own eyes and makes nothing of the highest honor. He is truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain Christ. He who does God's will and renounces his own is truly very learned.

Is this any longer relevant? Do we need to heed its advice? Or has our society as a whole so advanced in maturity and in the ability to deal with sophisticated elements that these words are no longer relevant?

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E-text Announcement For those who

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E-text Announcement

For those who do not frequent The Catholic Bookshelf (shame on you!), this redundant announcement of the e-text availability of Hillaire Belloc's The Path to Rome.

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Okay, I'm Still Not There

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As you will see in the comment box below, I still haven't refined what I really want to say to the point where I can express the intent, which I truly believe is not at odds with what John da Fiesole would say.

But why, you ask, am I concerned at all about the issue? Am I anti-intellectual? Do I want to see a return to the bad old days of confining Galileo for his views about heliocentrism (a myth, by the way)?

Not at all. I am concerned because personal experience has acquainted me with a great many people who began with all good will to study and who studied with all due humility, or so it would seem, and who came to the conclusion that all they had learned in the faith was false--that in fact, the only truths were mechanistic, logical positivist, demonstrable truths. I am concerned, perhaps beyond my need to be, for the safety of souls.

I think much may depend upon what you study and why. For example, the study of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas for the purpose of understanding one of the major influences of Catholic thought and philosophy for a great length of time, conducted in all due humility with respect to the magisterium, seems quite beneficial. If one stands ready to be corrected and to submit one's work to the teaching authority of the Church, then one stands in good stead.

What, then, might constitute "bad study." I don't know that there is any (apart from things forbidden us, such as occult ways). But there may be bad pursuit of study, or a fundamental lack of knowledge of one's self that would tend to lead one off track. Or there is the insidious possibility of being slowly pulled off-track by various influences. Most theologians who are now in disrepute started out as fairly orthodox. Few of them just went of the rails from the start. Many theologians whose works may be too easily misinterpreted by lay people--Häring, for example--were surely thoroughly Orthodox at the start.

I'm going to think and pray more about this to try to say clearly what I wish to articulate. But I think at the core, it amounts to a much, much greater emphasis on humility. "Above all else to thine own self be true. . ." if we interpret that line in conjunction with Socrates's injunction to "Know thyself." In other words--know who you are in Christ, respect the limitations of your intellect and personality. And that restated is the fundamental truth--exercise humility in all your actions.

This does not mean that you cannot take joy in your discoveries. I'm afraid I tweaked a very precious, very good Carmelite in the course of these comments, and she should not have been tweaked. There is great, deep, wonderful satisfaction in discovering the things of God, and there is a natural impulse to want to share these discoveries. We must watch ourselves, and as Carmelites particularly, we must be willing to allow these consolations to pass from us and back to God. But surely no harm comes from innocent delight and pleasure in the knowledge of God.

So it's back to the drawing board, and perhaps working with my good blogfriends, I will finally be able to say precisely what I am aiming at. Thanks to all for your patience and kindness in following this track.

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Clarifying Knowing About God

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Clarifying Knowing About God

What are the aspects of knowing about God?

There is the good, right, and proper knowing about God, which John da Fiesole sees as a legitimate end in itself--and I cannot entirely disagree, if, as he posits, it is conducted under humility. And there is a "knowing about God" that serves the human purpose that all knowing can serve, namely, "Look at me! Look at me! Look how very, very clever I am!" It is this latter, this pursuit of knowledge of an object, not for the object but for our own self-aggrandizement that I am critiquing when I refer to a certain type of "knowing about God."

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Okay, So It Helps If

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Okay, So It Helps If You Make Sense of the Entire Post

All right. Stop, back up. Erase our disagreement, and I evidently misunderstood St. Thomas's vision of the vision as it were--it seems to be part and parcel of an entire nexus of events. Okay. But better to leave the previous post because despite its misapprehension of some things, when I come back to it, there may be some language I wish to rescue. My thanks to John da Fiesole, and I do think our "difference" is more along the lines he describes--

"She is his Aunt"

"Not at all, he is her nephew."

Thanks.

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Knowing and Loving I said

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Knowing and Loving

I said in John da Fiesole's comment box that would attempt to spell out my disagreement with him, and perhaps with St. Thomas Aquinas, though I suspect not, in some detail this evening. The crux of our essential disagreement occurs in this passage:

Unfortunately, I don't think I do agree. I think the point of knowing about God is to know God, and following the trusty old Baltimore Catechism I think knowing God is distinct from loving God. Knowing God is a means of loving God, but it is also an end in itself. In fact, according to St. Thomas, knowing God -- the union of the human intellect with God's very Essence -- is the end, the way we will be happy with God for ever in heaven.

My disagreement in the statement above is the "vision" of happiness in heaven. I could be wrong, but the vision of St. Thomas as indicated seems somewhat sterile and incomplete. However, looking at the passage from St. Thomas cited, I see that it may be that the summary of it that may be at fault. St. Thomas says, "I answer that, Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence. " With this it would not seem possible to disagree. Where there may be some difference is that I would posit that it must be more than the intellect that participates in this "vision." Love is an act of will and it seems to me that Love of that essence, immolation of our Will in the great will, or at least the utter union of both wills must, in some wise be included in the ultimate end. If not, than any pursuit of that Union here on Earth would be largely a futile endeavor. What indeed one should spend all of one's time doing is thinking about God, pursuing the knowledge of God. But we know that Jesus said, "If you love me you will heed my commandments." These commandments enjoin us to defend and provide for our brothers and sisters, to pray for all and to exercise charity toward all. The Shema Y'Israel seems to include what is required from us and what will ultimately be our joy:

"Hear O Israel,
The Lord Your God
The Lord is One.

Love Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind
And love your neighbor as yourself."

So, as I stated, my disagreement is not in kind, but in degree. It would seem that heaven must consist of more than a participation of intellects--there must be participation of the whole person in the resurrected body. We sha'n't be disembodied intellects floating around a vast energy center--or at least so I think the Church teaches. We shall have glorified bodies--"real" things--though real in ways that we probably cannot perceive and understand in our places here on earth. These real bodies must have some participation in the beatific vision, just as must the other faculties of the full person.

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An Old Debate Revisited

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Warning: Maximus Quibblius follows. Please do not infer from this anything other than the deepest respect for the person whose work is so examined. I do this for a point I keep trying to make, somewhat unsuccessfully and that is--the validity of an argument depends for its success upon acceptance of the terms, definitions, and postulates upon which the argument is founded. And that acceptance is a good deal more slippery and less clear than might at first be thought.

From another blog I love (do you get the impression I am fickle--well I am--why do you think the blogroll is so long. There isn't anything on it that I don't love for some reason), Minute Particulars we get the usual incisive, quite intelligent commentary. In this case a remarkable meditation on action, object, and moral theology or philosophy. Explained with aplomb and lucidity, with one small faux pas that I must quibble over:

I raise this because I'm beginning to suspect that some folks have become inured to claims that human beings are substantially unique among all beings of the Universe. For Catholics, this inattentiveness would surely be a grave failure to contemplate and cherish the Incarnation and its inexhaustible implications for human beings, human nature, the human person, and the startling fact that every human being was willed freely and deliberately into existence by the Creator:

It is the first sentence that gives pause, and again, it is a matter of language. Which beings are not "substantially" unique as a class? One of the ways you determine the class and order of a group is to sequence the cytochrome C from the mitochondrial DNA (assuming the beings you are studying have organelles--but let us leave that aside for the moment). That difference in chemistry is indeed a substance-ial difference by any meaning of that term. Then we have the problem of what "substantially unique" might mean. Does it mean the substance of the creature (however one defines the term: mechanistically or philosophically) is unique, or does the term in fact mean that it is "nearly unique." If the latter, what then is nearly one-of-a-kind--there are merely two, three, or four of that kind? I must accept that I probably don't quite understand the term substantially unique because it may refer to a philosophical entity and set of propositions with which I am not sufficiently acquainted.

Now, what I have articulated above is a quibble that I wouldn't really bother with normally because it is perfectly clear from context the manner in which Mr. Mark (whose last name slips my mind at the moment, so please pardon the infelicity) places it. However, that argument will have implications for my overall quibble.

My real objection is of another sort. Who is to say that the incarnation did not have some substantial effect on other beings we know not of? We do not know all of the beings in the universe--we don't know even all of those on Earth--although we are sufficiently well acquainted to see that humans have no close correlatives here. We certainly don't know all of those in the Solar System--though here again, we are sufficiently aware to suggest the truth of our Blogmaster's proposition. However, we do not know that elsewhere in the Universe God did not see fit to create another similar form of life. Biblical revelation is silent on the matter, as is (at least presently) the universe.

So my quibble is that we can only speak substantially of what we know with some degree of intimacy and as the state of the entire universe is largely an unknown the first proposition can have only the contextual meaning and the effectiveness of the argument is thereby inhibited. Unless we define substantially in the first sense outlined above, we cannot know for certain if there is a substantial difference. If we do speak of substantial difference in the terms I outlined above, then the argument sinks of its own weight as there is no creature that is not substantially different from any other.

The solution is simple and consists of two parts: (a) Steven should stop quibbling; and (b) we need to limit the proposition above to what we know can be proven and is true. Therefore we can say, of all of the creature we know of in the universe, Human beings are substantially unique as a class.

Now all of this is what comes of being too much a reader of science fiction in my youth, and too hopeful that someday we'll encounter others "out there" who will help us to better understand our place in creation.

And the point of all of this is not that the argument is malformed, but that reason can and will produce constructs in which small errors gradually propagate to abrogate the entirety of the argument. The problem is the ability of any individual to recognize the inherent small errors in the articulation of the argument. We all say things the way we say them. For the person speaking, what is said is perfectly clear, but the person hearing may have no real understanding of what is said--or may have an understanding that is completely different from that of the speaker.

Now, our PoMo friends leap upon this incongruity and suggest that it is impossible to communicate--that meaning is substantially within the person making the expression and it is essentially incommunicable to others as they are quite differently constructed. I would take exception to this as well because refinement of the argument can produce an articulation that, unless we are being unbearably obtuse, most, if not all can agree upon the meaning of. Now, that does not mean that they will agree with the proposition, but they can at least agree that it has some meaning outside of their solipsistic ally constructed realities.

This is often how I feel in the sea of theological arguments. A says Rahner is heretical in his teaching on the Eucharist. I read Rahner and from what I can make out there is nothing particularly heterodox. I'm not sure I understand the need for the new articulation--but that is another matter entirely. B says Balthasar is heterodox in his articulation of the population of Hell. C says that Garrigou-Lagrange is ultramontane and irrelevant to any real philosophical/theological debate of the day. And so it goes. What does one who is substantially ignorant of all the niceties do? Research is nearly impossible because you must pick a place to stand, and the choice of that place will inevitably affect the outcome of your research. As an example, John da Fiesole (whose opinion on these matters I respect greatly) does not care for some aspects of the theology of Balthasar. Mr. da Fiesole may be accurate in his assessment. But might it not also be that Mr. da Fiesole is analyzing Fr. Balthasar's work as a Thomist facing a theologian who is not working from a strictly thomistic base? Might the lack of agreement be the result of different ways of argumentation and what constitutes "proof?" I can't say because I have insufficient grasp of either Aquinas or Balthasar to say one is right and the other wrong; however, my inclination would be to agree with a person whose judgment in these matters I trusted. On the other hand, Mr. Serafin, whom I respect and admire greatly, thinks a great deal of Balthasar's theology. Admitting my ignorance, I am now in a quandary--which opinion should I follow if I lack the time, ability, and discernment to properly articulate my own?

So I'm back to my question--how does the average layperson discover were the truth is in this thicket? And I must conclude that unless one is seriously dedicated to the pursuit either professionally, or as a serious part of one's vocation, it is a thicket better avoided. We walk in dangerous territory when we walk unprepared, and I can be swayed by Aquinas, Balthasar, Küng, or Cullen if I don't know where I'm going. I have read all of these, and I find that the reasoning of each is persuasive. I can rely upon the magisterium of the church to point me in the right direction (I can safely disregard select teachings of the latter two theologians--though one does risk tossing the baby out with the bathwater). However, the church rarely makes a statement about the correctness or lack thereof of a theologian whose work is not substantially flawed or in error. For example, I have read nothing from the Vatican with respect to Rahner, Balthasar, de Lubac, or any number of others who are, in various arenas attacked--justly or unjustly. And the sad part of this is that I cannot say whether the commentators are correct or incorrect in their assumptions.

Where am I going with this? I suppose I simply wish to say that one needs to be most selective and extremely careful when studying any aspect of theology--a caution to which I am sure no one would object. Obviously such study should be done after and as part of prayer, with guidance from the Holy Spirit. And finally, the results of one's researches should be laid open to the criticism of all and sundry and submitted to the authority of the Holy Mother Church (as is true of all of the great works of the Saints) and redacted and corrected according to authoritative teaching.

As all of that is far too exhausting to contemplate, I think I will read with great enthusiasm the wonderful defenses and analyses others propose. I will ask my ignorant questions and make my stupid statements to try to correct my own misapprehensions. And I'll stick with someone who I can understand and who speaks to me--St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux. My brain is not a razor, and I put myself in danger when I try to use it as one. So expect the same speculations, ruminations, and sometimes simply idiotic meanderings that you have always seen here. But time and time again, I will return to this roost--the skeptic of theological speculation--occasionally poking a finger at it, but trying to avoid the tar-baby syndrome.

[Mr. Mark's (is it Sullivan?) complete argument which, despite the impression you might get from the nonsense above, is well worthy of your consideration, may be found (eventually) here. I say eventually because it is the first post on the blog right now, and until another crops up, the direct link does not work.]

Later: Correction incorporated to attempt to more truly represent Mr. da Fiesole's position--which, by the way, I do not fault.

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A New Motto Let's see

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A New Motto

Let's see if I can life up to it:

"Less said, said better."

Later: Well, evidently not today. Nevertheless, one tries.

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Found Chez Mr. Obscure And

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Found Chez Mr. Obscure

And as it is from one my all-time favorites, I simply must post:

You are The Cheshire Cat
You are The Cheshire Cat


A huge grin constantly plastered upon your face,
you never cease to amuse. You are completely
confusing and contradictory to most everyone.


What Alice in Wonderland Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Knowing, Loving, and Comprehending

John da Fiesole quote St. Augustine in his comments box to the effect that, "We cannot love what we do not know." This is a truism that is an example of one of the points I was trying to make before. I want to get to the main point, but I tarry here to point out that agreement on this premise is entirely predicated on the depth of the meaning of "know." If we mean simply knowledge of, then agreement must follow. But if we mean more than knowledge of, then the premise is debatable. We can love what we do not know in any intimate way. It is perhaps not wise, but it is possible. But it is also entirely beside the point that I wish to make.

That point plays on the same comment in which a very useful distinction is made between knowing and comprehending. Tom says (I paraphrase) we cannot love what we do not know, but we can love what we do not fully comprehend. And he reiterates my point that not only can we do so, but that it is in fact the common fact of most love. How many of us can truly say that we understand everything about those around us who we love?

We must know at least of the existence of an object or idea before we can love it. But fortunately, love is used to lacunae. We do not need to know completely or all about. We do not need to understand everything about an object, idea, or entity in order to love it. This is the fundamental kernel of my statements about the limits of the intellect. As John da Fiesole points out--knowledge and study of the things of God are a good in themselves, but they are not the highest good, and they cease to be good when they become the sole purpose of our study. The point of knowing about God is to love God. When our study of God inadvertantly becomes wrapped up in our image of ourselves, or becomes a kind of intellectual game (witness the Jesus Seminar in most of its pronouncements), it cease to lead toward its proper and natural object--love and union with God.

I'm certain that my language will be further refined or examined by John, but it will only lead to clarity because I am certain my intent is clear. Study and argument is good so long as the study or argument does not become an end in itself. It seems that perhaps our strongest disagreement is upon the probability of this happening. I would say, because the matter is holy and Divine does not mean that one cannot be led astray from its fundamental purpose--loving God. John might say that the nature of the study itself affords some degree of protection--at least that is how I have interepreted previous statements. Here I am dubious, but willing to be convinced.

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A Pleasure from Another Realm

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A Pleasure from Another Realm

Don McClane granted us this enormous pleasure on another blog--presenting the very finest of August Strindberg for those who need an introduction.

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Two Excerpts from Alban Goodier

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Two Excerpts from Alban Goodier

One dedicated to a Nostalgiac dylan:

from Spiritual Excellence--"Live in the Present" Fr. Alban Goodier, S.J.

Meanwhile the present alone is ours and we let it slip through our fingers. The past is gone, whether for evil or for good, to be stored up in better hands than ours. The future still belongs to God alone; and it is not the least of His wonderful mercies that He keeps it entirely to Himself. It is what I am now, not what I have been or shall be, it is what I do now, not what I have done or shall do, that here and now matters most to me, to God, and to all the world besides.

Or to quote the Man of the Day (who had the great good taste to be born and die on the same date in different years)--

"All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. . ."

(Isn't this a great deal of fuss to kick up over a mild reminiscence of a defunct blog. On the other hand, what other excuse would I have for posting this wonderful tidbit?)

The second fondly dedicated to two more of my favorite bloggers:

from Spiritual Excellence (pgs. 123 and 130) Alban Goodier

"Jesus, therefore," says St. John the Evangelist, par excellence, of the troubles of our Lord, "when He saw her [Mary] weeping, groaned in the spirit, and troubled Himself." He is troubled at the trouble of those around Him. His sympathy for them makes Him "groan in the spirit." He is troubled at the loss of a friend, even though He knows that He is going to bring him back to life.. . .

There are troubles from without and troubles from within that are consistent with perfection. To kill the power of feeling these troubles, to put ourselves, in this sense, beyond the reach of trouble, may be very good philosophy--let philosophers look to that!--but it is no special imitation of our Lord and His Mother. To be troubled at the loss of a friend is possible for a saint; to be above such trouble means, if anything, something on the other side.

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What Can Be Learned From

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What Can Be Learned From a Footnote

A fascinating understanding of the true damage of modernism and its associated Biblical scholars from a footnote:

from Mystics Evelyn Underhill

In the great dynamic vision which marks the consecration of Isaiah (Isa, vi.) we have the evident record under pictorial imagery of a mystical experience of God of the highest order.*

*Rudolf Otto, Das Heilige regards this as one of the greatest of all descriptions of man's apprehension of the Divine. We may compare the opinion of those Biblical critics who consider that it describes a heavy thunderstorm, in the course of which Isaiah became unnerved.

Isn't modernist and postmodernist Biblical Scholarship wonderful? Don't you wish we had more Jesus Seminars? Look at the wonderful insights into scripture that we are missing as a result of not partaking more fully of the great wisdom that springs from those deconstructing poetry and dismantling the Divine.

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Theology I Can Handle While

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Theology I Can Handle

While John da Fiesole waxes poetic about the virtues of Fr. Reginald (Genesis of Dust) Garrigou-Lagrange (even the name would choke a horse), I retreat rapidly to the consolation of the only theology I have any hope of beginning to understand. From this morning's office of readings:

"Once you were no people but now you are God's people; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:10).

I leave it to other, sharper, more vigorous minds than mine to figure out exactly how and when and under what circumstances this happened. Meanwhile I relish both the divine poetry of it and the reality of it, and I cry out to God with great thanksgiving.

(Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I hope it is clear through my frequent citations of Mr. da Fiesole's site, that though we frequently disagree, ocassionally quite vigorously, perhaps even vehemently, Disputations is one of my favorite sites, and were I to site a single place other than Chez Dylan for people to go, it would be Disputations. The atmosphere is heady, the arguments intense and sometimes tortured and difficult, but the spirit of charity and civility, and the remarkable expansiveness and generosity of Mr. da Fiesole to those of us less capable and yet arguing anyway, is truly a sign of grace here in blogdom. I relish every word, even when those words aggravate me heart and soul, because I know my aggravation is a good thing, an inspired thing, sent by God to remind me of my own terribly limited capacity. Mr. da Fiesole provides us all with a wonderful service in the exercise of his chosen vocation, and despite my frequent tweaks, I hope my fondness for his site does show through.)

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At Disputations

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I've meant to say a few words regarding some of the on-going commentary at Disputations. Of recent date, John da Fiesole has been posting some interesting ruminations and aggravations at, toward, and about the theology of Hans Urs van Balthasar. Now, I am not a Balthasarian champion, neither am I a detractor. I do not think him a destructive modernist who, with fire in his eyes set about the deconstruction of all that we hold near and dear. On the other hand, I also do not hail him as Prince of Theologians.

Frankly, much of what he writes bores me to tears. I tried earnestly and with great vigor to plow my way through his treatise on Prayer--to no avail. This is not a failing on his part, but on my own. The digests I have read regarding his thoughts on the population of hell (among other things) have been intriguing and utterly fascinating--but I have against Balthasar the fact that the native language was German and nearly everything German in translation is leaden and dull. Even Thomas Mann is a labor in English. I can't imagine that if the wooden prose that represents itself as the translation of Thomas Mann actually reflected his felicity in German that anyone would ever have read a word. I have noted this same problem with the vast majority of works in translation from German.

But the case of Balthasar once again raises a point I often make and often get derided for from the Thomists and proto-Thomists out there. Thought and speculation about God is wonderful and good so long as it leads the thinker and those who can follow him or her toward God. But thought about God is not an end in itself. We will not be quizzed about whether the Father and the Son were or were not separated or united in the final moments on the cross. I suppose it is an interesting matter for theological speculation--but I honestly can't see how it would make an iota of difference in my life if I knew and truly understood the answer. And it does make a great deal of difference (or could if I would let it) to my present life because it is utterly frustrating, aggravating, and irritating not to know the answer and be able to apply it to something.

So, Balthasar, Rahner, Küng, Häring, you name whom you choose--even the remarkable St. Edith Stein in much of her work (The Problem of Empathy, for example), do not do much to enhance my love of God. And yet, I rejoice that they have written, as their work undoubtedly must move people of a certain bent closer to the Lord. Anything that does that is a good work--not to be denigrated or derided. But I would venture to guess that despite the pleadings of the few about the importance of such things, for the vast majority of us, the simple complexity of the words of our Savior and of the authoratative exposition of His teaching through the magisterium suffice. If we do not understand ever nuance of how we got to where we are, it is hardly a salvation matter. And if we do not care to do so, it is not a comment upon those who pursue such things with great vigor.

"In my Father's house there are many mansions." And I suspect that each of those mansions has as many libraries, courtyards, salons, ballrooms, and parlors. If some find themselves in at the desk one library, while others are on the window seat with a book of poetry--still there is room for us all.

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Avery Cardinal Dulles on the

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Avery Cardinal Dulles on the Population of Hell

In First Things this month, an excellent article analyzing the Balthasarian/Scanlonian positions. I particularly relished a passage that will have Feeneyites and even those less extreme frothing at the mouth:

from "The Population of Hell, First Things, May 2003 Avery Cardinal Dulles

One might ask at this point whether there has been any shift in Catholic theology on the matter. The answer appears to be Yes, although the shift is not as dramatic as some imagine. The earlier pessimism was based on the unwarranted assujption that explicit Christian faith is absolutely necessary for salvation. This assumption has been corrected, particularly at Vatican II. (p. 40)

Let the fulmination begin. Personally, I find it unconscionable and horrifying to think of a supposedly loving God who would condemn all the humans of ages before Christ to damnation for an ignorance for which they could hardly be culpable. But then, I suppose I shall be disproven a thousand ways from Friday. No matter, I continue to hope.

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Posting in the Near Future

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Posting in the Near Future

I'm hoping that I will be able to work out a reasonable schedule, but I've entered a very busy period at work and home and right now don't have the mechanics of posting worked out. So posting may be sporadic. In addition, I've been carefully reconsidering direction and the kinds of things I would like this site to post and represent. This doesn't indicate any radical departure from things as they were in the recent past, but it may mean that posting is slower as I more carefully choose and compose those items that I would like to post. Never fear, I'll be here. I just have to figure out exactly how that may occur.

He is Risen indeed!

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Joyous Easter to All He

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Joyous Easter to All

He is Risen! Incarnate Love returns to us! Rejoice! Jesus is Lord!

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My Thanks to Hernan Gonzalez

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My Thanks to Hernan Gonzalez

Whose ploy seems to have worked for the moment--until blogger arbitrarily decides to alter another line of code. Their parsing engine doesn't like certain browsers and seems to not like even their standard browser from time to time. At any rate, I am very grateful for kind spirits like Hernan who simply looked at the code and suggested an imminently logical fix.

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Guess I'll Just have to

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Guess I'll Just have to wait for it to go away again

Oh well, looks like it's here for a while. I'll just have to wait for it to go away. Commenting out the Scripture Verse didn't affect it. Things like this do make movable type and others look more desirable. On the other hand if it is (as likely) merely my incompetence, then Movable Type will only exacerbate the situation.

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Now Let's See If I

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Now Let's See If I Can Even Post

Isn't debugging fun?

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Templates Being Curiously Sensitive

Added a link to my side-column and suddenly everything is thrown off again. Went in to effect the only fix that seemed to mean anything last night and no result. I do wish that they would stop fooling with templates.

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Found at Two Sleepy Mommies

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Found at Two Sleepy Mommies

But derived, from all indications from Quenta Nârwenion, this helpful list of abbreviations indicating Relgious Orders.

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Urgent Prayer Request Normally I

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Urgent Prayer Request

Normally I avoid cross-posting as it would be a continual annoyance to anyone. But I received an anonymous request for prayers this morning from an individual who needs everything we can summon over the next few days. Please join me in praying for this person for peace, joy, and strength to sustain the effort required.

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Some May Wonder about the

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Some May Wonder about the Question of Mathematics

It occurs to me that not all may share my deep love and sense of awe in the face of mathematics. I have heard rumor of people, in fact, who don't even care for Math. Although that it simply beyond comprehension to me, I accept it on faith, knowing that even stranger things are known in the real world.

My love of mathematics stems from its perfect unity, its symmetry, its beauty. Mathematics is the most perfect end of argumentation and proof and it is the purest of sciences. Whether a thing "seems" like a circle or not, if it is not the locus of all points equidistant from a given point in the Euclidean plane, it is not a circle. Even if it doesn't look like a circle, if it meets the definition, it is indeed, and it behaves mathematically as a simple closed planar figure.

As some see the face of God clearly in all manner of abstruse, intricate, and infinitely fascinating, if confusing, theological and philosophical arguments, and some see the beauty of God in the beauty of creation, and some see God in His Holy Scriptures (all of which I acknowledge occur to me at times) I never fail to be bowled over by the face, eyes, ears, beauty, and hand of God that so clearly points out of the world of Mathematics and directly into my heart and soul. The Creator who did this, which I can to some degree internalize, did all that I cannot internalize--but if He created this system, it is enough to convince me that this is the One I should love and worship. Such beauty is beyond the hand of Man, it may only be revealed and opened up by people. God alone wrote this and perfected it, and leaves upon every turning of it His imprint. Even without Revelation and Nature, Mathematics alone would prove the existence of God to the heart that yearns for beauty and elegant simplicity. (in the sense of Aquinas). All Mathematics points to God, it's a wonder more mathematicians aren't mystics.

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Did I Need a Test

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Did I Need a Test to Know This?


 
 
 
 
Green



You are a very calm and contemplative person. Others are drawn to your peaceful, nurturing nature.




Find out your color at Stvlive.com!


More importantly, is it in any wise true?

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A Possible Colleague of Mr.

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A Possible Colleague of Mr. White?

Mr. Eric Weisstein, Wolfram Research, and the National Science Foundation give us this remarkable Mathematics page. I'm certain you could not imagine my excitement when I opened the link from the On-Line Books page and discovered a lead article that suggested that the Poincaré conjecture had, at last, been proven. Henri Poincaré's conjecture deals with a topic in three dimensional geometry that suggests that certain types of manifolds are always equivalent to an object known as a three-sphere. It appears that a Russian Mathematician by the name of Perelman has proven Thurston's Geometrization Conjecture which is a more inclusive conjecture regarding manifolds and their topological equivalents. Exciting news for those of us interested in the Math World. But more exciting is this wonderful page Mr. Weisstein has given us.

Splendid, beautiful, and incredibly exciting stuff!

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A New Blog Don McClane

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A New Blog

Don McClane of Tancos fame, and sometime contributor to Catholic Bookshelf announces his new weblog. Jog on over and give him a big welcome to personal blogbom!

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Samuel and Wittgenstein A Samuel

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Samuel and Wittgenstein

A Samuel story that has pseudo-Wittgensteinian emanations. (See, I could be a Supreme Court Judge.)

Samuel has come home from school the last several weeks with various songs, memorized tidbits, and the usual encumbrances of starting school. But one that is most precious to a hoping father's heart follows. He has a couple of Bible verses under his belt, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." And perhaps more significantly, "I will hide thy word in my heart so that I may not sin against God." We hear these on a fairly frequent basis throughout the day, and I am caused to think of the distortion of Wittgenstein that has become PoMo de rigeur--that is , "Words make reality."

I have not read enough Wittgenstein to be able to verify or deny this formulation of his thought; however, it is a chief principle of the relativists and other situationalists who would have us believe that there are no absolutes. However, what I do think and believe is that those things that enter our language and our heads early and frequently do shape our world view. I am in favor of memorization of texts of all sorts, and of Bible texts in particular, because they impart to the recipient a "storehouse of hope." When these enter your life early, you are in a constant state of awareness of Someone called God, and of His Son Jesus. Now, there are many ways of making these Persons real, but none as salutary as memorization of His Holy Word.

So, if we look at Wittgenstein and derive from his work that words can shape our perception of reality (a truth no one can really deny given our experience with the propaganda of the media), what better words to shape our perception than those that lead us to Reality? I am delighted to hear from my young Son's mouth these most fragrant words of scripture. There is no music more compelling, no sound more desirable. Every day I must thank God for the gift given in these words.

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A Small Tweak In a

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A Small Tweak

In a spirit of fellowship and camraderie, not just to be mean, I share this snippet from Alban Goodier S.J.:

from Spiritual Excellence Alban Goodier

Put a check upon self-seeking, on self-gratification, on looking for reward, and you will have cleared the ground. Be led by something more than mere argument, mere reasoning of your own, that dead and fallacious thing that is the offspring of man's short sight. See without turning aside the compelling force of truth in itself, of nobility in itself, of beauty in itself, of goodness in itself, wherever these may be found. Submit to them without drawing back; be guided by them without flinching. (p. 17)

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Expect Little or nothing in

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Expect

Little or nothing in the way of posting this week. Happy Holy Week and Joyous Easter to all.

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Said Far Better Than

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Said Far Better Than I Could Hope To

Once again Mark at Minute Particulars states precisely what is on my mind more eloquently and more succinctly than I could ever hope to. (Let's face it, I am poet and a writer of fiction--nonfiction is a real labor, and my generous readers have probably noted it). Please go here and read this eloquent, cogent, courteous, and thoughtful review of the subject. Less impassioned and more persuasive.

(You may have to go to the first link and scroll down to "You Can't Be Any Poorer than Dead.")

Thank you, Mark for stating so clearly what I have tried to say without much success.

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Prayers of the Faithful It

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Prayers of the Faithful

It occurs to me, with overwhelming consolation, that perhaps it is the prayers of the faithful that curtailed what could have been an extremely long and hideous conflict. It is not over yet. Prayers do not cease. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that we would not be even where we are had not so many been praying so hard for peace. Praise God in His eternal Mercy. His Love endures forever.

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Death and Materialism In several

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Death and Materialism

In several places in St. Blogs, notably Disputations and Kairos, I have seen the argument that death is not the greatest evil, that there are indeed worse things in life. And I generally concur. But the argument is made with such force in defense of the indefensible (the taking of innocent life in the course of war) that I feel it must be countered.

Death is not the worst thing in the world. But I am glad for the creeping materialism that suggests perhaps it is. Death is a great natural evil that marks our fall. Before death, we were in constant communication with God throughout life; by death, we know that that door was (more or less) closed. I believe that some Saints may come close to attaining that state while living, but most ordinary folk only have momentary glimpses of it.

Believing that death is the worst thing that can happen puts the breaks on attitudes such as "Kill them all and let God sort them out." If death is not the worst thing, what then would be wrong with taking everyone out?

Further, my death is not the worst thing in the world. But as I've said elsewhere, for anyone who has lost someone near and dear, they know at a level beyond the intellect that it is indeed one of the worst things that will happen in the course of their lives. I remember my poor grandmother who after the death of a son a year earlier, stood over my mother's coffin and cried out loud, "It isn't supposed to be this way. Parents are not supposed to bury their children." This is a woman steeped in the Bible and certainly one of God's friends, and yet, at that moment, death did not seem to have such a light hand.

Jesus himself wept for Lazarus and sweated blood over his own impending death. He didn't advise us all to see to it that life ended as soon as possible. He did not tell us to advise widows to commit suttee and to offer up orphans. He provided additional wine at Cana and obviously saw life as a great good and death as something not to be feared, but not to be embraced.

Death is not the worst possible thing. On that I can agree. But I see little harm in the vast majority of humanity keeping in mind how much it hurts to be left behind, and how it can be the worst possible thing for some time in one's life. Perhaps be so remembering we will be less prone to enter easily into war, less prone to allow people in lands far from our own to starve, less prone to support abortion and other heinous practices. Perhaps if we really did believe that the death of an innocent life were truly the worst possible evil we could ameliorate some of the other tremendous evils that stalk the world today. If we could agree that life is precious, good, and to be preserved with all due diligence (but not necessarily with extraordinary means) we might cultivate a caring that is deeper than we presently have.

I can say that the attitude that death is not the worst thing does support a great many things that most of us would otherwise not countenance. I also point out that it is an argument from intellect, our emotions and our very flesh tells us otherwise. But phrases like this, " Death is not bad; it simply is" (Kairos Guy), I find terrifying in the hands of tyrants. It echoes too many callous words throughout the ages. It reminds me of the quote (was it Count Mirabeau?) in the French Revolution, "To make omelets one must crack a few eggs."

Kairos Guy is right, but the phrase in the wrong hands leads to depredation and horror beyond imaging. I'm sure that Adolf Hitler did not think that other people's deaths were particularly bad, the just were. Without a proper Christian background (which Kairos stipulates in his argument) the phrase is botulinum and worse. Better to let the materialists and even those of us who are profoundly Christian to continue in our attitude that death, while not the worst possible thing, is certainly a thing to be avoided, both for ourselves, for those we love, and for all people of good will throughout the Earth.

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Mr. da Fiesole, Revisited Yet

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Mr. da Fiesole, Revisited Yet Again

Amidst much interesting discussion chez lui, I encountered the following proposition:
"I'm trying to insist that, for a morally upright person, what can be done is identical to what may be done."

To which I responded in several modes, and thus I delineate more clearly here my response. For the upright person they cannot be identical because it suggest to my mind complete will-lessness. Now, our wills should be united to God, but that should take the form not of recognize CAN and MAY as identical, but as recognizing and rejecting CAN. This is something that it is possible for me to do, but which I will not to do because I MAY not do it according to God. When CAN becomes MAY we are not necessarily upright, but just possibly crippled in mind, body, or will.

Perhaps the great saints implied that what one can do is identical to what one may do for the righteous. But I suspect not--it smacks paradoxically of both Calvinism and Quietism. No, the world of potential is open to the upright person, the choice is made, moment by moment not to do what is within his or her ability--that is what makes him or her morally upright.

Later: I thought of the proper phrasing of my disagreemnt. When CAN and MAY are identical, we have innocence (which is a form of uprightness, but not one that everyone can aspire to, nor the only form).

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Dubito, ergo Cogito, ergo Sum

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Dubito, ergo Cogito, ergo Sum

An excellent preface for a small attempt to articulate why I am deeply suspicious of some aspects of "reasoning." Descartes statement is one of the great philosophical errors of modern time--an error that stems from asking the wrong question to start with. Other errors stem from other causes. In fact, reason can prove just about any absurd proposition you choose.

The problem with sola rationis even under inspiration is that unless every argument begins from first principles that are mutually agreed upon or upon revelation, the meaning of which is completed agreed upon, they are based upon prior arguments, definitions, or axioms which must be demonstrated conclusively before the argument can begin to be coherent. This is not a sufficient problem to explain my difficulties, but it is a beginning. For example, how do we agree upon revelation. There are some who read both Genesis and Jonah literally, even within the Catholic Church, even given the Church's guidelines for interpreting scripture. Their sense of revelation is likely to differ from those who do not so read scripture. To take an example from a recent discussion, Kairos insisted that one of the commandments should be read, "Thou shalt not murder." Every translation I have read, including some great rabbinical translations say, "Thou shalt not kill." Right away we are faced with a disagreement even in the definitions and axioms of the system.

Does this mean reason should be abandoned? Definitively not. But it also casts into doubt what can be derived therefrom. Further, Godel's theorem, applicable technically only to number theory, but nearly axiomatic in most philosophical circles, tells us that within any closed system their are proposals and theorems that can be advanced that cannot be proven with the instruments, axioms, theorems, and definitions of the system. A broader, somewhat inaccurate translation of this into philosophical terms is that there is a limit to what can be known within any system. Now, perhaps reason takes us to that limit and faith makes the leap into the secondary or tertiary or quaternary system, or perhaps reason leads us away from the boundaries of the system and simply muddles our thinking with considerations that we have it all right.

As we are all aware, statistics, which, I suppose are "facts" of a sort--a quantitative, if biased representation of some small segment of reality, can be manipulated in any number of ways to subvert reality. Probably most importantly, the phrasing of the question is the most critically important datum. For example, if you ask most Americans if they support abortion on demand up to the point of birth, the vast majority are likely to say no. If your approach is to ask if abortion should never be allowed under any circumstance, the majority will say no again. The truth is somewhere in between, and rarely sought by those who ask the question.

To take an old, proven, and accepted argument, when John da Fiesole presents an axiomatic system that says "God frowns as greatly upon the death of one as He does upon the deaths of millions," and shows proof of this, I understand the proof, and I even believe the proof. On the other hand, what kind of God, I ask myself, am I worshipping who allows the continued slaughter of millions by the interdiction of the death of one? While it is not good to think about God fashioning a squad of hit men, neither is it salutary to consider a God who sits back and allows the chaos that we see in many countries and forbids the obvious remedy. You cannot look at the sheer logic and not ask the question, "God would prefer the deaths of millions to the death of one?" Now the answer is that He would prefer no deaths--but what is the reality?

Thus, when I claim to eschew or doubt reason--perhaps it is not so much reason as the further implications of following that chain to its logical conclusion. If God forbids the removal of the one, then He approves the slaughter of the millions. You cannot have Him disapproving both because if He did so, the slaughter obviously would not occur. Now, recast the argument and assume that the person committing the murder of millions is in fact "above the law," by the definition that He is the law, and yet He has committed what must be considered Capital crimes as he has no intention of stopping. He cannot be brought to trial because he is the law. Is it permissible then in a body of peers to try him and to find him guilty and so sentence? My intuition here is that Mr. da Fiesole would argue this also would be illicit because it predicates a solution upon a (pardon the pun) ex-lex solution.

But let us ask the question--if the God who commissions hit men is deplorable and awful, what must one say of the God who allows genocide? Does He allow it? Could it happen if He did not? Does He approve it? Probably not. Then what remedies does He allow? The most efficacious is, of course, the Death of His Son. The second is prayer. The third is to point out that life on this world is but a brief visit with bliss to follow. And yet does that mean that everything in this world must be misery and punishment for those who visit? Did God not make all things good?

Reason proposes no real solution to these dilemma. It outlines what is not permissible. But I venture to guess that one can use a different axiomatic system (such as my suggestion of an ex-lex trial) and come to a different conclusion about what is acceptable. Revelation answers some of these problems, and communion with God yet others.

Hence when I say I eschew reason or logic--it is not the principle but the conclusions one must draw if the reasoning is correct. If we are not to sin in the case of a mass murderer, we must neither murder him nor assist him in his murders through our inaction if it is within our power to stop him. So long as we do not resist, we sin. When we reach the point of murder, we sin. The solution is not in reason but in prayer and in the communion with God through His Holy Spirit.

Thus, rejection of "reason" isn't abandonment of method so often as it is rejection of the conclusion that one must reach if one follows the thought to the end of the line. Reason is a trustworthy vehicle only inasmuch as the founding principles are firm and the chain of thought linking them to the conclusion as firm and not salted with additional propositions that come to us unproven.

Reason is a valuable implement, but it is neither the most valuable, nor is it necessarily the most reliable as it is too subject to our own whims and rationalizations.

All this said, I mean neither personal offense, and I hope I have not in any way intimated that I believe Mr. da Fiesole to be anything other than a fellow-traveler struggling with the same dilemmas, problems, and frustrations that beset all of us. Nor do I wish to intimate that he has been unconvincing in any of his arguments on this point. I readily admit that I accept them all. But I also find the implications of the arguments very, very disturbing and unavoidable. This isn't really about Mr. da Fiesole, but it is an attempt to refine what I meant by some of the hyperbole of a few days ago. I hope I have articulated it sufficiently to be clear and to make clear why, as much as I enjoy the refined pleasures of a well-cast argument, I distrust them as well. I will endeavor not to eschew them, however.

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While both Disputations and Minute Particulars hail a "lost" text of Aquinas, the excerpts published show that the work was at least familiar to a student of Wittgenstein's, and his analysis (a darling of the PoMo crowd) is indubitably the most forthright exposition of the logical schema of the core of Wittgensteinian paradigmata. Go and see.

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From Minute Particulars I liked

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From Minute Particulars

I liked the post the post with the deeply mysterious title, "BLAMBO FORSTINE INBLIMS ABADABA." This may mean more to others than to me. But I did wish to respond to one point:

I can't help but wonder if he's not implying a contradiction between reason and faith or even heart and mind. Regardless, this kind of approach creates cracks in the notion that truth is one, a unity that arises from existence itself, and it's an approach that will eventually contradict itself.

No, what he really is implying is that he speaks in hyperbole and leaps before he looks. My "reasoning" method is intuitive--leaping to a conclusion and then (sometimes) looking for linkages back. That is why it is so nice to have such as John da Fiesole to point out to me the errors of some of those leaps. I must retract the statements in question and say, that I understand the reasoning--but that understanding strands me in the quandary outlined below. So overall, it would be far more comfortable to do as I said I would do, because it allows me some solace, some escape from the tyrrany of conscience that cannot see where my involvement stops.

By the way, Mark, what does the title mean?

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Another Quiz I don't remember

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Another Quiz

I don't remember where I found this, but I liked the result:

Numenorean
Numenorean


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

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A Public Confession Kathy the

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A Public Confession

Kathy the Carmelite writes at Disputations:


In Comments at Disputations

How about obey the Pope by praying and fasting, offering up all of our interior angst to the Lord to use as He sees fit? Such angst as most Catholics feel would be quite a powerhouse IF MORE PEOPLE BOTHERED TO OFFER IT UP.

Humanitarian aid contributions or other support are good, too (taking in refugees, etc.). Even if your contributions are not applicable directly to this Iraqi conflict, in God's economy what goes around comes around, so to speak; so your heartfelt gift will be applied by God as needed.


And I respond:

If it is only interior Angst, then it may be offered up. But if I have sinned, it must be confessed, and each time repeated--confessed again.

With each innocent life taken, I am complicit either by not actively opposing or by tacitly approving. I sin in the death of innocents. I sin in doing nothing to prevent that death. What is there in this to be offered up? All there is is confession and constant knowledge of the fact that I am responsible. That isn't angst--that is a wedge separating me from God--a sense that no amount of confession can undo it because I sin both in doing and in inaction. Every person who dies weighs on my conscience, on my soul, is my personal responsibility either because I did not pray the way I should, I did not speak up when I should, I did not do whatever it was that I should have done.

This is not mere angst, this is a crime against God and my conscience sits as constant judge upon it. (Unless of course I'm deeply immersed in other work or in sleep--the only time I am not praying for some enlightenment, some sense that I have not completely cut the bond that unites me to God.) And yet I know that I have not done what should be done. You can only offer up what is not sin--sin is not an offering--it is a matter of confession and until confessed impedes any clear communication.

Hence, "They all cry, 'Peace, Peace,' but there is no peace." I suppose you could say that I am overwhelmed with my sense of responsibility, indirect though it is, in all of this. I could take no position for or against, and still cannot, and so I am all the more responsible for lack of clarity.

The only hope is the infinite mercy of God and the hope that this will soon end, and perhaps end my complicity. And then, what is my responsibility in other regimes, other areas of the world? I do not like the cast of the questions this dredges up. Where does my personal responsbility end--how can I cut off my sense of sin in this, and should I? I want to be realistic about what I expect of myself, but as I spent all of my time trying to figure out the truth of what is right in this case, I feel doubly responsible. Where does individual responsibility end, or does it? This may be why the Saints were so aware of their own sinfulness, knowing how much they could have done to help others and failed to do, for whatever reason.

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An Elegant Argument, but. .

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An Elegant Argument, but. . .

Mr. da Fiesole produces an elegant, eloquent, and ultimately convincing and True argument against some comments made here Saturday. And while I find the argument truthful and ultimately correct, I also find it curiously lacking in any suggestion of implementation. When educating, arguing, and persuading, one must not be merely correct, but one must also suggest a plan of action along the lines of the argument that would lead one closer to the truth. I have asked Mr. da Fiesole for a suggestion of such a plan. One who wishes to engage in apologetics and reasoned argumentation cannot afford to be inconsiderate of the consequences and necessities of the argument.

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May be found at Our Lady of Loretto Carmelite Chapel. (You'll have to scroll down for it). In it, St. John of the Cross traces the way of the discipline of detachment, something even those long in Carmel have great difficulty with. But Evelyn Underhill notes the following points concerning the mystics. "In an experience which often transcended all their powers of expression, they realized God as an abiding Fact, a living Presence and Love; and by this their whole existence was transformed. And this happened to them, not because He loved and attended to them more than He does to us; but because they loved and attended to Him more than we do."

And frankly, I'm tired of my own recalcitrance. It is time and long past that He should have His due from me; time to mortify the flesh and bring it into line with His will; time to become the saint He would have me be; time to realize or perhaps here the word is reify life in God. Otherwise all is wasted and worthless.

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Apologia for Pacifism I liked

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Apologia for Pacifism

I liked this particularly piece from the ever-interesting T.S. O'Rama. Unfortunately, direct linking is fouled up bigtime, so you'll have to go here and scroll down to Playing Devil's Advocate.

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A Samuel Story Today Samuel

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A Samuel Story

Today Samuel was carefully examining the hymnal and decided that he didn't much care for it. "What are all these smilies doing in here?" he asked, point to the "slurs" grouping the notes. "There are too many smilies. I don't like smilies." After I explained what they were, he decided that perhaps the smilies weren't so bad.

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The Importance of Mysticism Check

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The Importance of Mysticism

Check The Catholic Bookshelf for an excerpt from Evelyn Underhill's magnificent work on the the lives of the Saints, Mystics of the Church [direct linking not working, so just scroll and look for Ms. Underhill's name.]

Too often the word "mysticism" is regarded with some deep skeptism, sometime with something akin to horror. There lingers about it the odor of superstition and the occult. But, it was our word first, and we need to reclaim it for what it is--the indication of what every Christian should aim for in this life.

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I Wonder Again About the

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I Wonder Again About the Theory

Just war seems to me an irreconcilable verbal construction. Assume for the sake of argument that it were possible,. would it ever be possible to truly codify it. Let us pause a moment and consider--perhaps one might have just reasons for taking up arms, but I wonder if the end results of the conflict that resulted could ever be termed "just." Is any conflict actually conducted "justly?" It would seem to me that as soon as the first innocent dies, the "justice" of the cause has succumbed to the taint of human blood once again.

That said, I also wonder whether it is just not to oppose and depose a person who oppresses, represses, tortures, and kills his people systematically. Don't we have Biblical precedent for this (Judith, for example). I speculated a while back that it might not be all that great a sin to remove someone like Hitler who was slaughtering millions rather than to stand by and allow them to be slaughtered. Are there instances in which the good of the many outweight the good of the few. John da Fiesole said, "Never," in my previous discussion of this, and I must submit to the logic of it--but this is where I do not trust logic. I cannot imagine that God regarding the relative merits of say Hitler and his would-be assassin would place them in the same frame. (Sorry, John, all the logical arguments in the world will not move me from the intuition that love expresses itself sometimes in actions that do not seem very loving--a deep love for humanity might have driven an assassin of Stalin, and the world might have been a better place sooner.

So even apart from a just war--the meaning of which I find sufficiently slippery to be suspect, there are times at which we are given a choice of two evils--allow someone to continue killing, destroying, and terrorizing, or remove that person. Either one of them might be regarded as a sin. But personally, I would rather be complicit in the removal of a tyrant than in the destruction of a single innocent life.

This leaves aside the question of other recourse, which I do deliberately--this is academic pondering--or not academic, because I probably won't submit to the persuasion of reason on this but follow my heart. I honestly don't believe that a war can be conducted justly even if it has a just cause and these are two separate, hard issues. But sometimes war may be necessary for the security of the world and the freedom of a people. I am glad I am not in the place to make that decision. And I am overjoyed that I have the privilege of praying for everyone involved. Just, unjust, or whatever, prayer is the remedy now and always. Our Soldiers, the people of Iraq, their combattants, and even Saddam himself are all in need of our prayers. Not now nor ever will I speak a word against those brave souls who have risen to the call of our leader and responded as they ought and should. My debt to these men and women surpasses any repayment--regardless of what I may think of the circumstances. And as you can see from the last several posts, I don't know what I think. What a trial and what a great opportunity for growth, if only I can figure how to let God into it all.

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On the Question of the

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On the Question of the Justness of this War--I respond to a Commenter

In the comment box to a different post a commenter, for whom I have developed a great deal of respect, posts a very strongly worded declaration that the present war is unjust. Part of this conclusion is derived from the suspicion of economic motives, part from other, logical reasons. My response is below:

You aptly express some of my very strong reservations and suspicions. However, I sometimes wonder if we (the United States) don't need an extra jolt, be it economic or otherwise to do what needs done in the first place. For example, it took as an unconscionably long time to enter WWII, and if ever there were a just war, it seems to me that WWII would probably be a type case.

The question of the justness of this particular war seems to be closed--it has happened, it has been permitted within the scope of God's will. Thus, while it may not be just, it has been permitted for whatever reason. We must repent of the sin (if it is a sin) and pray for the victims. My intuition is that this could have been resolved by other means, but for whatever reason, God has permitted it to come to this. If I am to believe in the efficacy of prayer, and I do not consider petitionary prayer as a "majority rules" impulse, I must believe that God has permitted this when the power of prayer could have diverted it. That does not make it just, but it does give one pause to contemplate the mystery of God's will.

I do have another question about it. I wonder whether part of the object lesson of this is not the opposite of what you suggest. Perhaps we are called to assure that petty dictators do not make the lives of a significant portion of Earth's population unlivable. Perhaps this is the hard lesson that we need to improve our ability to resolve conflicts and to unseat those who would control and destroy lives by peaceful means. We have not yet the skill set to do this. But I wonder whether we oughtn't to carefully examine and research the rise of any new government before we endorse it however obliquely. Perhaps our economic interest should not be the first consideration in our diplomatic consideration. For example, why is China on the "Most Favored Nation" trading list. I don't understand this except that it is economically worthwhile. So we say, on the one hand--oh, you bad, bad, violators of human rights, and on the other, come let us trade together--thus we are complicit, as a country in the oppression of billions of Chinese.

Can we have a just peace so long as the world is overrun with people who are willing to kill their own and anyone else? Can we work toward this peace so long as our primary consideration in any engagement is economic? Should we not stand firmly on our principles when it comes to questions of this sort? Should we not REALLY support freedom and liberty? What, for example, are we doing about the nation of Zimbabwe? Not a heckuva a lot that I can see.

I do understand and sympathize with your point--my own is something like, shouldn't we be sharpening up our own diplomatic set of tools so that we don't support regimes like Hussein's (which we haven't done overtly in recent years, but had done before). Should we embrace every dictator who rises to power? Or should we use every tool in the book to unseat him before the base is so well established that one is left with this as the only action that many can see as viable.

Part of our biblical mission, it seems to me, is "to proclaim liberty to the captives." Now the course of that proclamation is almost never easy but need it be always is such violent terms? I think not. But perhaps it takes a lesson of this sort to bring it home. My impulse would be to use this war as a lever and encourage the government to learn from this so that it is never again necessary. The loss of life on both sides, and the loss of innocent life, is a crushing sorrow. There can be no "humanitarian" wars, no matter how hard we try. Should we not draw the line here and say--enough! Learn from this. Yes, national security is a primary interest, but surely there are more expedient ways to work toward it.

The danger becomes, when one is the only superpower, that one can become the schoolyard bully rather than the knight in shining Armor.

God has allowed this war for a reason. I accept His will, while wondering what I am to derive from it. I cannot believe that this is His perfect will. I cannot believe that God ever wills war and destruction. But I must believe, if I am to believe in the omniscience and omnipotence of God, that at times He permits it. And that permission must be more than to give vent to mere fallen nature. Perhaps those who question it, need to help others who are convinced of its justness to work toward an understanding of how, ideally, we should be relating to one another. Once we have fashioned at least a model, perhaps we can more and more closely lead our leaders to approximate it.

That is what the Vatican and John Paul II are trying to do, I believe; however, I also believe that the groundwork for it has not properly been laid. We are still hormone-addled adolescents in some ways, working our way toward a rational approximation of the truth.

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Dissenters

I am somewhat disturbed by those who seem to be taking a rather strong hard-line on prudential judgments and labeling those who disagree as "dissenters." No matter what the denotation, the connotation and commonly understood meaning of the term is those who are in violation of the teaching of the Church on matters where there is no room for such disagreement. One needs to very carefully consider the emotional weight of words when making reasoned arguments. It happens that I agree, in general with the conclusions, but there is the habit of labeling in the course of argument which I find highly alienating. A dissenter is automatically either burdened or enhanced (depending on one's stand) by the label. And so, I would encourage that we very clearly reserve dissent to mean those who fly in the face of infallible teaching.

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The Next Installment in the Study of Ascent of Mount Carmel

For those who have been following along, here's the next installment.

Ascent of Mount Carmel IV

Read pages141-147 (chapters 11-12). In these chapters St. John of the Cross continues some of themes touched upon in earlier chapters. In addition, he introduces some new themes. Pay careful attention to Chapter titles and examples from scripture.

Chapter 11
What does John propose to address in this chapter? Why is that significant for the reader?

(1-2) Are all appetites equally damaging to the goal of union with God? If not which appetites are more to be avoided? Why?

(3) Read the second paragraph very carefully. What is John saying here and why is it important? What is the difference between an advertent imperfection and one that is inadvertent?

(4) List some examples of habitual imperfections according to John. Take a few minutes and pray that the Holy Spirit open your eyes and heart to habitual imperfections that assail you. Note these for future reference, prayer, and spiritual direction.

What do the examples of bird and the remora show us?

(5) Note particularly the second paragraph. What are the chief dangers of indulging "one small imperfection?"

(6-8) What does John use the examples from Judges and Joshua to show. How might his understandings help you to take better advantage of the richness of Scriptures?

Chapter 12
(1-3) Can any appetite produce the two sorts of evils we studied last time?

(5) What does John use the passage from Apocalypse to illustrate?

(6) How is this passage an important caution against scruples? To what problems might scruples give rise?

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All Cry Peace! Peace! and

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All Cry Peace! Peace! and There is No Peace!

You're tired of hearing it, but I suppose I am not tired of writing it. I am stunned by how weighed down I am by this conflict. The thought of our "mistakes" of the people who die who need not do so, no matter how careful we are, of the sheer evil of those who rather than truly fighting to preserve their country instead hide behind human shields of women and children, all of these things go into the mix. I suppose there is a dull joy in that God's will must be being done, but my vision of it is so hazy as to defy understanding or statement.

I sorrow. I sorrow for those who must do this. I sorrow for each man and woman of the United States forces that must fight this terrible battle. I sorrow for the oppressed people of Iraq--oppressed by Saddam, killed by their own army, used as shields and ultimately not given the dignity of the human person.

Okay, so perhaps it shouldn't be so public, but as you can see it has pounded me out of my usually convivial garrulousness and into a sorrowful, I hope prayerful, and yet absolute confident assurance in God's merciful will. Lord have mercy.

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Philadelphia Revisited

While I was in Philadelphia, I took the opportunity to visit the Quaker Meeting House. The Society of Friends was holding an annual meeting at which representatives of 12,000 Friends were meeting and talking about issues important to them. As one would expect from Friends, the war was a major issue, although not in the course of discussion I overheard.

Friends, as you are aware, are pacifists, as are certain of the Mennonite Brethren (perhaps all of them). And I wonder how an ardent pacifist could justify allowing a terrorist government to remain in power. Let's skip the present situation, as it is too close to us and to controversial because it is "of the moment." How could a pacifist justify inaction or mere diplomatic action in the face of the Nazi regime? How could you know of the deaths of thousands of God's people every day and stand by and allow it to happen? Are you standing by? Am I seeing this issue properly.

I tend toward pacifism myself. I rarely find cause to go to war and I see war as the Vatican itself described it, "always a great defeat for humanity." However, I also recognize that the hardness of the human heart causes us sometimes to have no recourse other than to go to war. How would a pacifist justify the position. Obviously, even by just war theory, one must exhaust ever possible diplomatic avenue before war is considered, but once these are entirely exhausted, what remains?

Is pacifism justifiable? Doesn't the Lord want us "to proclaim freedom to those in captivity," and isn't this freedom more than the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. Doesn't He mean even unto bodily salvation? How do you proclaim freedom to captives if you allow the regime that is destroying them to stay in power.

You can see the reason for my glum state. I am at heart one who believes all such conflict is ultimately a pyrrhic victory. On the other hand, it sometimes seems we are forced to the wall. There were, at one time, powerful liberals in the United States that could bring themselves to justify even Stalin's depradations--a most sobering thought.

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A Very Trying Week I

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A Very Trying Week

I think the silence here, relatively speaking, is related both to the endeavors elsewhere (q.v. the first two links on the blog list) and to my inability to accept, assimilate, or deal with news of the world. I cannot see how such a tragic set of events can be regarded as anything other than simply dire necessity, there is no joy in prosecuting this terrible conflict, and yet I do believe that the engagement must continue both for our own good and the good of the world and our children. A policy of appeasement is (sometimes not-so) slow death.

So forgive me if I spend more time in my more recreational blog or the more silent chapel. Perhaps the impulse will return and I will have something worthwhile to say.

I suppose the overall pall cast over blogdom for Lent may also account for this--lack of discussion tends to cause one to think that discussion has no purpose.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Steven Riddle in April 2003.

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