Steven Riddle: July 2004 Archives

I don't know if this is a fragment, a pamphlet, a reprint of an extended essay, but here it is: The Historic Thames

Thomas Chatterron's faked 15th century poems The Rowley Poems

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Reading List

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I have honed my list down. That means that while there are dozens of unfinished books lying about, I've decided to try to focus on only three-to-five at a time. (The variation depends on how many book groups I'm reading for. I've finished the study for one book, so I've only got one group to read for right now.)

Founding Brothers--Joseph Ellis
Time of the Ghost-- Diana Wynne Jones (the bookgroup book)
Lancelot Walker Percy--through the aegis of a correspondent
Two Sister in the Spirit-- Hans Urs von Balthasar
Soul-Making--Alan Jones

Also in the background I am continually reading, studying and writing for the group study on The Ascent of Mount Carmel

The wonderful thing about running several books at a time is that when I am not in the mood or I'm bored, or I do think I really want to finish a given book, I switch off to something else for a time and I can usually return to the abandoned book. I'm surprised at my ability to retain much of what is going on. I'd abandoned Founding Brothers for perhaps as a much as a year now, but when I picked it up with the Quaker proposal to Congree in 1790, I remembered where I was quite vividly. As the book is comprised of six vignettes, my memory of the other two is not so important as of this one. However, I discover that I remember them fairly well also.

So my half-finished books on deck, as it were to fill the slots as they become available (you'll note that other than the book group slots, there are three--Fiction, Nonfiction, and Spiritual) include:

Christian Contemplation and Perfection--R. Garrigou-Lagrange (I'll be working on this for years, the Good Lord willing--it isn't precisely what one would call easy reading)
Michelangelo's Ceiling--Herbert Ross
The Science of the Cross--St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Abandoned for reasons far too complex to relate, but a wonderful, wonderful book--by far and away her most accessible.)

And those I haven't yet started but really want to read

A Woman of the Pharisees--Francois Mauriac (I have distant recollections of liking this)
The Desert of Love--Francois Mauriac
Thèrése Desqueyroux--Francois Mauriac I read this in a college-level French class and have almost no recollection of it at all. It was by far overshadowed at the time by Sartre's Huis Clos and de Maupassant's Boule de Suif and Camus's L'exil et le Royaume. I was mystified and horrified by the existentialist and thought for a time that I saw myself as the protagonist of L'etranger. Time has shown me to be wrong in that supposition.
Elizabeth Costello as well as other works by J.M Coetzee, a writer I've discovered recently and whom I like a great deal.


Okay, enough of this maundering on--you get the idea that I have an extensive (humongous) backlog and an attempt at a system for addressing it.

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Prayer Requests--30 July 2004--

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I beseech you by the grace with which you are endowed to press forward on your course and to exhort all men to salvation. . . . Carry the burdens of all men as the Lord carries yours; have patience with all in charity, as indeed you do. Give yourself to prayer continually, ask for wisdom greater than you now have, keep alert with unflagging spirit. . . . The greater the toil, the richer the reward. from a Letter to Polycarp--St. Ignatius of Antioch

Praise

One of the three Carmelites from New York who recently had surgery had been on a ventilator for five days. Yesterday he was taken off the ventilator.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

A correspondent writes and asks for prayers for healing--for an end to the ringing in his head

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

For the Messers Blossers Grandfather/Father or Father-in-Law, that whatever condition is causing his difficulties is quickly brought under control and that this trial serve to strengthen the family.

For the repose of the soul of my brother's mother-in-law. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who requests our prayers as she continues on the path of healing and attends a retreat in the near future. She needs all of our support and love.


For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

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Mystical Theology

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Site for Works of Marvin Olasky

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Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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For all you celtiphiles--find them here.

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Martha and Mary

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I may incur the wrath of St. Blogs for what is to follow. I remind you though, that I am writing from the point of view of one who wishes as closely as humanly possible to choose Mary's part.

I read St. Augustine's sermon in the Office of Readings this morning and had a slightly different perspective on it. Perhaps I am interpreting incorrectly. While I cannot be said to disagree with the great Saint, I wonder about part of his point. Surely Martha will not be busy about corporal works of mercy in Heaven. But part of the communion of Saints, will she not still have an interest in human affairs, in the hospitality of the Spirit? Will she not pray for those who invoke her name and ask for her prayers? In this sense, will she not be feeding the hungry, welcoming visitors, and participating in the healing of the sick? I know that it is a very different participation, it is not the work of the hands. But is it not still a matter of the same interests, the same outward directed heart?

Mary has chosen the better part. But were we all Marys we would have no Mother Teresas. We would have tremendous spiritual benefits and perhaps we wouldn't need Mother Teresas; however, Mary's way is not so easy as it might seem. It is a little way that requires a lot of work.

Is it not possible to integrate the life of the two sisters? Isn't that what many of the great Saints did? St. Francis Xavier, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Katherine Drexel, Blessed Mother Teresa. Did they not have Martha hearts embedded in a Mary life? And even in the experience of the beatific vision, will they neglect the prayers that ascend to them asking for help?

I don't understand the dynamics of heaven, nor can I truly separate the lives of Mary and Martha. If you choose Mary's better part, it would seem that you cannot help but burn with the desire to perform Martha's work. St. Thèrése from within her cloister wished to work in the missions. She wanted to be selected for the Carmel in Vietnam. I think this is the natural outflowing of living Mary's life--the profound desire to bring the message and the reality of peace, caring, and love to all.

(At the risk of irritating Tom) Aren't the great Saints akin to the Boddhisatvas of the Buddhist faith--great enlightened ones who set aside their own transcendance to assist those who have not yet attained enlightenment? Surely the Saints never set Christ aside to assist His struggling brothers and sisters, because they see Christ within each one.

I guess that while I acknowledge Mary's life as the better part, a long history of Saints suggests that Martha's action often flows from the hearts of those who have chosen the better part. For lay Carmelites, called to contemplation in an active world, it would seem a sin to set aside labor necessary in the world in order to retire to some sort of worldly cloister within our houses. And I don't think any lay Carmelite aspires to that. From trying to live the life of Mary, many Martha-hearts are born. God uses our attention and love to point us where we might best serve Him and glorify Him.

In my hurry, I know I haven't expressed the fullness of my intent. But I truly wish to honor Martha, who I believe learned from our Lord's gentle admonishment and whose service began to flow from love of Him and not from the worries and anxieties that rode herd over her.

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But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?

No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. . . Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. From a sermon by St. Augustine.

For those anxious and worried about many things, this special day. It is good to have a Martha heart embedded in a Mary life. Mary had the better part, but not all of us can or should spend our entire time in contemplation.

Praise

One of the three Carmelites from New York who recently had surgery had been on a ventilator for five days. Yesterday he was taken off the ventilator.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

A correspondent writes and asks for prayers for healing--for an end to the ringing in his head

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

For the repose of the soul of my brother's mother-in-law. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who requests our prayers as she continues on the path of healing and attends a retreat in the near future. She needs all of our support and love.


For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

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Two Important Notes

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I realized that the post below about how NOT to read scripture implied that I would deliberately misuse scripture, and that is not quite the truth. I elided the essential elements to get on with the post, but let me fill in the background. When I first discovered the quote from Romans I was delighted to find yet another scriptural source that resoundingly defended the point of view I held (or so it seemed.) But I thought about it for a while, and knew that Romans is one of those books that everyone in the world comments on--it is a basic doctrinal source for all sorts of things. Perhaps I should consider what other leading exegetes have to say about this. Consulting a number of them, including Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and William Barclay, I discovered that my interepretation was never really central to understanding the intent of the entire chapter.

It would be intellectually dishonest to hide this (one of the advantages of not bothering to check) and it would not be the best use of scripture. While I do believe that it [forbidding judgment] is a valid and challenging interpretation of the passage for modern times, I also must admit that almost no one heretofore has thought so. So, perhaps this is just a gift of the Holy Spirit to me. By that I mean that perhaps this understanding underlines a certain sense of mission or direction that is tailored for my path alone. God will do those kinds of things. Perhaps I am to call more attention to this element so that we may begin to focus study on the issue of what really constitutes righteous judgment--a point that I do not know has been carefully considered in times past.

However, if I gave the misapprehension that I would ever deliberately consider warping scripture to suit my purposes, that was not the intent. As a former Baptist and a devout Catholic, such a thought is absolute Anathema. The Scriptures are sacred--both as the Word of God and His presence. To so use scripture would be to damn myself and to harm those who would come afterward, and it cannot be countenanced under any circumstances. And for this very reason I felt the need to be truthful and to say that it was a momentary temptation to be intellectually dishonest and to pervert scripture to my own end. I am grateful to God for preserving me from this path.

Item 2--On a much more serious note--I cannot fail to have noticed that many of you have not considered with all due gravity the Sanskrit puns in John Gay. Shame on you! Certainly this must be one of the burning issues of the day. How could you think to hide yourselves away in ignorance of these tremendously important facts? Now, hie thee to the article and study the Sanskrit etymology of Sukie Tawdry.

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More on Judging Others

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I am really struggling with this point, and I hope to faithfully articulate why shortly. But in the meantime, dipping into Koine Greek and trying to make sense of the various understandings of a key passage in Matthew, I was aided by the passage in Romans cited below.

Many contend that the judging that Jesus precludes in Matthew 7:1-2 and Luke 6:37 is judgment that results in condemnation. That indeed we are called to judge people, but we may not condemn them.

However, the Greek argues against this, and it was only in the passage from Romans that I discovered this. The Greek word for judging in the general sense of how we presently use the word judging is krino. In Romans, we find both this word and the word for condemnation—a most interesting construction katakrino (from kata—bad, krino—to judge.)

Thus what I may conclude, which is not conclusive, is that Jesus’s use of the word judge in the passages noted above was not restricted to the judging which condemns but was more universally the word as a whole. I would argue that if he intended the restricted meaning of the word “judge” he would have used the Aramaic for “katakrino” not the more general word.

Now, as the Greek New Testament is not in the original language that Jesus spoke, I must admit that there is the possibility that the Aramaic had no word for “condemn” and used only judge. This seems very unlikely to me, but I am not an Aramaic scholar, I couldn’t possibly begin to advance an opinion . However, if I am to believe in both the inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture (which I do) I am forced to ask the question as to whether so key a point would have been left to chance. I rather think not, but that thought is not conclusive.

One last point, in the interest of complete disclosure, the sense of “krino” does not seem to include the notion of passing sentence, but it does include the idea of censuring or judging as in a civil case. So it is possible that krino could contain within it the meaning of katakrino. My thought there is that one would tend to the more accurate representation of the thought—thus if Jesus had meant condemn, he would have used the word.


Later: In the interest of full disclosure, most of this post was made possible by extensive consultation and perusal of the On-Line Interelinear Greek New Testament (gateway here, , actual reference source here)with study notes. Hence the assertions i make are based on the efforts of others, not on my own knowledge. I am sorry for any confusion that I may have caused by this. Note to self: remember to credit ALL sources.

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I have to admit to being a bit nonplussed over some recent discussions regarding judgment and the licitity of participating therein. This issue is very near and dear to me for any number of reasons, perhaps both good and bad. And I do intend to make a non-scriptural argument for my position later. But right now is confession time.

As I read through scripture, I’m certain this issue was stuck in the back of my head. I was certain that folks who argued for the propriety of judgment were wrong. Well, lo and behold, as I was reading Romans, I stumbled upon this passage:

Romans 2: 1-4

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
[2] We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things.
[3] Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?
[4] Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Isn’t it amazing how the Lord comes to your rescue if only you are paying attention? And while I’d like to leave it there, it wouldn’t be entirely honest of me. I clung to these verses awhile and relished what they were saying TO ME. And I think that is a key issue here. Scripture speaks to us where we are and informs us of the thing God requires of us individually. If you read scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will find with billions of others, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119.)

And I do believe that this passage reconfirms my mission and my message. However, to claim that it was written in support of my contention that one should never judge a person is patently false. This I discovered as I researched exegetes throughout time and how they viewed this passage from Romans. First, they took it with the next seven verses. Secondly the read the whole probably as Paul originally intended it, to be a blast against the cultic Jews who regarded their salvation as assured even as the pagans of the time were condemned. Paul was excoriating those Jews who pointed out the faults of the pagans while participating in them themselves. They were, in fact, doing what they were condemning in others. And the laws they cited against the pagan were, in fact, reflecting back on them.

Now, scripture is both in time and timeless. This passage was written to Roman Jews and Christians at a certain moment in time to address certain issues that had arise in that society. But the meaning of scripture is not confined to that time, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speaks through all of time to individuals and to the collective Church.

Nevertheless, while I would contend that the message provides support for my contention, proper study and interpretation of the literal meaning and intent of the passage certainly indicates that it was not what Paul originally meant nor intended.

This is the danger of citing scripture for your own purposes. It isn’t so much that you might be wrong in what you are saying (although that is certainly true) but there is always the possibility that what you are saying was meant for you alone or you in the execution of the task God has given you. Scripture has definitive universal meaning, which the Church preserves and helps to convey to all peoples and all generations. But scripture also has personal application and intent, revealed to an individual by the Holy Spirit. One must discern carefully in interpreting scripture that even the personal application does not fly in the face of Church teaching and the preserved revelation of the fullness of Scripture and Tradition handed down by the Church. Nevertheless, one must read and understand scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is intended to give life to our faith.

For a while, I was tempted to post this as a unilateral endorsement of my general theory of human conduct. I was tempted even after I knew the truth of what the passage intended. This temptation reflects Shakespeare’s contention (was it in Othello?) that , “The Devil can cite scripture for his own purposes.” To use scripture as a weapon, a bludgeon, or even as support for a good argument in defiance of the revelation of the Holy Spirit is a work of the devil. We must be honest and careful about how we use Scripture. It isn’t ever licit to use it as a trump card or as “the winning hand” in an argument. On the other hand, it is perfectly appropriate to present scriptural support for an argument.

I suppose I must admit that sometimes the desire to “win” an argument or sway opinion can overcome better judgment. It didn’t in this case. Scripture is a love-letter not a cudgel or a bludgeon to be wielded as we see fit.

Always beware scripture citations in support of an agenda or an argument. They may well be valid, but they may reflect a selective culling and consideration of the Holy Writ for the support of some cause. Any good cause so supported is diminished by such an irresponsible use. Any other cause simply proceeds from that which would always confound the Church given the opportunity.

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The Plight of Sodom

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A small post at TSOs yesterday or the day before titled “Not a Parody” made me think about the Sunday scripture from the book of Genesis.

I know that there is a bevy of doom-mongers out there who spend much of their time finding parallels between our own society and the decadent societies that preceded it. But as I was hearing the scripture proclaimed (or is it merely read?) unbidden there rose to mind an image of the fifty states.

A moment of additional background: presently in Florida there is a lesbian couple suing the state for recognition of their marriage in Massachusetts. This, in fact, was precisely what I feared and what most people who oppose the Marriage Amendment won’t say anything about. Under the 14th amendment (I think, although I leave it to the many lawyers and constitutional experts who visit the site to correct my mistakes) there is a provision that requires states to recognize the legality of certain actions performed in other states. That is, while Florida may not have to permit gay marriages, they would have to recognize and legally validated gay marriage conducted in states where it is legal.

The connection between gay marriage and Sodom probably is significant. I was hearing the doom of Sodom with Abraham begging God to look with mercy upon the city. And Abraham argued with God down to 10 good people remaining.

And I thought of the fifty states as these men. Will God find 10 still standing after we are done with gay marriage, with abortion “rights” and with all manner of the outcry of the innocent to God. (Well, Gay Marriage isn’t a outcry of the innocent, nor is it particularly as alarming to me as the obvious embrace of abortion noted by TS in his post, nevertheless, let’s roll with it.) Will ten still struggle for traditional morality? Are we standing in the place of Sodom? Will we be like the Cities of the Plain? Is it already so? (No, I didn’t start asking about when the Rapture was going to occur.)

But as I noted in an e-mail to a correspondent, so long as God preserves His Church and the truth it represents, we have nothing to fear from these trends. They may drag the whole of society down (they may not—let’s face it, we’re not terribly good at predicting what these trends may mean.) But the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that Jesus establilshed.

The Holy Spirit informs, protects, and guides the church in all of its ways. So long as some number of us abide in Him and He in us, the gates of Hell will not prevail. It is as John Paul II quoted at the beginning of his pontificate (long may it continue), “Be not afraid.”

The one thing we cannot afford in our encounters with the culture of Death is fear. To quote Frank Herbert “Fear is the mind-killer.” (aside: Those of you who have not read Dune have missed out on some great stuff.) And in response, a quotation from the first letter of John (1 John 4:18) “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

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Prayer Requests 28 July 2004

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My apologies, I had trouble accessing this morning and I really want to put up a couple of things in this very short break.

Please see yesterday's requests and remember particularly one of our own who is in financial distress. Pray for something lucrative and stable for him that will restore stability.

Thank you, and once again, my apologies.

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Being a Martha

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One of the joys (and aggravations) of blogging are the sudden revelations about myself that occasionally stem from where I find myself in the blog-world at any given time.

Take today's revelation--following a series of links I wound up on a site that featured some articles by Sister Joan Chittister. I have long been curious and a little cautious about Sister Joan. I know she espouses some views that I do not hold and I don't much care for the company she sometimes keeps. Nevertheless, everyone is entitled to be heard for who they are not who they know.

The articles were not particularly well-considered examinations of trends Sister Joan sees in American Politics. Like me, Sister Joan does not seem to be a well-qualified observer or commenter on things social and political and some of this muddle comes through in her articles. I was not particularly impressed. But more than that I was frustrated. I was frustrated by the reasoning and by the stridency of such things as a plea for tolerance that seemed, itself intolerant.

But the point of this is not to critique Sister Joan. It is to ask why do I go about subjecting myself to these things? Why do I go to places that I know will frustrate me? Why do I have this compulsion to read things that will knock me out of equilibrium. (You'd think that after I read one of Sister Joan's articles I would simply have ignored the others or the Google links and interviews, etc.)

To bring up other examples. Once I can tell from the header of a post that a particular entry at any given place is about The War that Shall Not Be Named, why do I continue on to read the piece? I know it is likely only to upset me even if it is strictly in accord with my own viewpoint. Why--because for whatever reason, I am upset by this particular topic, I have unduly close ties and interest in it. So why don't I leave it alone?

Well, appropriately enough for this week, I've concluded that the problem is that I am a real Martha. I'm not really big on service, but I'm a real pro when it comes to anxiety and worry. If I am not presently anxious, I seem to actively seek out things to be anxious about. There can be any number of reasons for this, but prime among them is that I still haven't really resolved to partake of the "one thing necessary." I don't really want to learn from Jesus, not down at the core. I want to busy myself with all sorts of things, notions, ideas, objects, events, people, and worldly things. I don't really want to listen and let Jesus lead because it would require of me a certain tractability and surrender. I'm not yet ready to surrender. However, I really want to be ready, but it's very difficult to abandon the defenses and clear the battlements.

I am Martha. I spend too much time meddling in all sorts of things that I haven't any business doing and then I go and complain because others aren't helping me. I go to Sister Joan for the truth. Now is that fair either to me or to Sister Joan. Who proclaimed her the embodiment of truth--she's simply a fallible person with her own viewpoint and agenda. So once I get there do I have any right to complain about how little of the truth I may have discovered in her article? Did she promise to reveal to me the wisdom of ages? No! And yet, I do this time and again.

I fail because I am anxious and worried about many things. I'm worried about having the "right" point of view. I'm worried about the abstract elements of truth and justice, while I continue my life pretty much unchanged. I remind myself in my activity of the Pharisses of whom Jesus said, "You tithe your tithes of mint and rue. . ." I tithe my tithes by announcing so much publicly, but how much have I declared korban; how much do I worry about truth, charity, peace, and justice, and then do nothing to reify these in the world today.

In this light, no matter how much I may quibble with Sister Joan, she is positively acting on core beliefs and prinicples by making the attempt to articulate them and encourage others to act. I do not do as much as this--I'm too anxious and worried.

The solution--sit down for a while, breathe deeply, open the Good Book (as my Grandparents all termed it) and spend some time with the Lord. And immediately, I can give you 10,000,000 reasons why I cannot do that. And every one of them has a certain measure of validity, and every one of them is part of the arsenal that defends the battlements and guards the fortress of the heart. Oh Lord, I want to be changed, but not too much and not too fast and not just yet. But you can change all that!

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This expression of the Christian vocation works for some of those great Saints who grew up surrounded on all sides by strong Christian virtue (St. Thèrése) and perhaps some others. I claim this as my goal as well, but recently I've been called to examine that ambition. Do I want to be a saint for the right reasons?

What are some right reasons for wanting to be a saint? It seems there are several, some more valid than others. First, it would seem to me that a right and proper desire to be a saint comes from an orientation of love toward God, the Holy Trinity, and the hosts of heaven. This would be the most proper orientation. A second reason might be that our Lord commanded us to be saints, "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." A third, but more shadowy reason might be to participate fully in Divinity.

It is as we move toward these more shadowy reasons that the question begins to bear full weight. Why might I want to participate more fully in Divinity? Do I want to for the sake of God and His Kingdom, or do I wish it for my own sake?

Let's talk about some less-than-worthy motives for wishing to be a Saint. The one that crops up first and largest in my mind is, "I want to be a saint so I will be remembered as are the other saints." Now, no one who really wants to be a saint would admit to this reason; however, in carefully examining my own motives, I have to admit that this occasionally crosses my mind. It isn't the predominant factor in my desire, but it is enough present that I am aware of it. When I think about the great saints of the past--Augustine, Ambrose, Athanasius, I think how fortunate they were to be Saints so early on because they would contribute foundational that would become the building blocks of the entire Church. No theologian of the twentieth century can be said to have done that--at most they have provided additional understandings of God and Church. The great work has been done, work remains, but not necessarily the kind of work we think of in theology--again I point to St. Thèrése as a Doctor of the Church. Not a theologian in the technical sense, I suppose, but one who had much to teach those who would listen.

However, even less-than-laudable motives for desiring to be a saint can be used by Our Lord to make true saints. The work of sanctity begins with the recognition of Him who sanctifies and with an outward movement, aided by grace, toward the source of All. This outward movement can have the colorings of inward motion because it of necessity seeks to identify and ground the self. Without knowing ourselves and the little tricks and strategems we use to protect ourselves from God's probing and transforming, we cannot begin the walk of the saint. Naturally this examination is in the light and mirror of grace. We can begin to see how we fail and through grace we can ask that God touch and heal those places so that through time that fault becomes less.

I do want to become a saint. I want it for a great many mixed reasons, some good, many bad. But the desire, the longing to know God face to face, is a gift from Him. It is an undeniable grace, and having been given it, I would be less that grateful and less than saintly were I not to act upon it. I act upon it most effectively when I do so least consciously. Self-conscious saints (in the way we understand the term self-consciousness) seem to be an oxymoron. Normally we think of saints as selfless, but I would say rather that they participate in the great Self and this cannot happen if you choose to separate yourself in a self-conscious way.

The long and the short of it is, that God grants the longing to be with Him. He will use, I think, almost any motive and turn it to good. (I must trust and rely upon this as I know many of my motives are poor.) He calls us to sanctity and He lifts us to sanctity and while there is much that we can do to cooperate, there is nothing we can do to speed the process on its way. God will accomplish in His own time His own ends if we open the door and allow Him in. Sainthood is not ever on my own terms, as I have recently been reminded, but always on His. I just need to make up my mind that His terms are good enough. In so doing, I will begin to see just how good they are.

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You are going to leave your money behind you here whether you wish to or not. On the other hand, you will take with you to the Lord the honor that you have won through good works. In the presence of the universal judge, all the people will curround you, acclaim you as a public benefactor, and tell of your generosity and kindness. from a sermon on charity--St Basil the Great


Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

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

For the repose of the soul of my brother's mother-in-law. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who requests our prayers as she continues on the path of healing and attends a retreat in the near future. She needs all of our support and love.


For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

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The XII. Wonders of the World

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A little late for his taste, but nevertheless, for Don.

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From the Site I Posted Yesterday

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Were you all aware of the availability of these e-books? If so, shame on you for not telling me.

This collection includes:

The Golden Legend Jacobus de Voraigne
Steedman on the Saints
Documents of the Council of Trent
Writings of St. Catherine of Genoa
For Greater Things: The Story of St. Stanislaw Kostka
Memoir of Father Vincent de Paul

etc.

Go and see, wonderful resources!

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While I was casting about looking for a harbor or whatever you want to call it, I decided to rediscover the odd delilghts of Mack the Knife. In doing so, I stumbled across this rather unlikely discussion of how John Gay used Sanskrit wordplay in the original of the Three Penny Opera--The Beggar's Opera. The author includes a reference to his study of "Sanskrit Puns in Gulliver's Travels," also worth a look.

One never fails to be delilghted by the endless invention of the human mind. What masterpieces we are of the Father. We look and we find meaning in the most unlikely places. And the odd part of that is that in those odd places is more meaning than we could possibly comprehend anyway.

(Dedicated especially to Eric and other erstwhile and formidable semoticians out there--thank you for making the world a more interesting place. Now, won't you please come in out of the rain before you catch your death?)

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Joachim and Ann, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God's help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! from a Sermon--St. John Damascene

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

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

For the repose of the soul of my brother's mother-in-law. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who requests our prayers as she continues on the path of healing and attends a retreat in the near future. She needs all of our support and love.


For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

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The second book by Billie Letts (the interview at the end suggests that there may be a movie coming soon on this one as well). Pretty much second verse same as the first. Quirky characters come together in the small Oklahoma town of Sequoyah--In this case a paraplegic Vietnam War Vet, a Creek/Crow Indian, a Mother of a disruptive teenage daughter (same age as Noralee Nation in the first book), a Vietnamese man who is earning money for his wife to move over from Vietnam, etc.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon is the centerpiece around which these characters convene, emote, and general make mayhem and community for one another.

The prose is smooth, unblemished. The characters nearly uniformly likeable. The bad guy immediately identifiable, and though Letts tries to humanize him through his trauma, he is still one you hope gets what's coming to him.

And while I enjoyed and do recommend this book almost as much as the previous, I have to admit that my first reaction upon finishing it was--"Why did I spend the time on that?" Not that it was a poor book or a poorly written book. But I have had impressed upon me lately the necessity of serving the Lord in ALL things. Now, before I continue, I don't want to say that the message that follows is for everyone. It is NOT. However, I think we could all profit by pondering some of the things I came to realize in the course of thinking about this book.

We all know that our span on Earth is strictly limited--none of us knows how long it will be. If the purpose of our life on Earth is to worship God, then all things in life should be directed to that purpose. Now, things are good in their measure. There is certainly no harm in reading things that give us pleasure (assuming that the pleasure is derived licitly from the reading--that is, it does not appeal to the prurient). However, is it enough?

I think early in the Christian journey all legitmate and licit pleasures are good and should be gratefully accepted. However, as we grow in the faith, it seems to me that the things we take pleasure in should also advance. That is, that while we might enjoy light reading at the start of our Christian career, as our lives move into conformity with God, we might move on from this legitimate interest to more profound things. Perhaps Scripture reading replaces some of the light reading we do. Perhaps reading of Christian classics, theology, and other spiritual helps begins to move in.

I guess I'm suggesting that as we become conformed to Christ we are becoming new people--those new people should not be quite so involved with the old things as they were.

I have said "we" here. What I really mean is "I." I felt a little cheated in reading a book so similar to another that I had recently read. But I also felt that I somehow cheated God of time that was more properly used in His service. For example, in the time that I read Honk and Holler I probably could have gotten through a chapter or so of Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans. I could have read several chapters of one of the least dense books by von Balthasar that I've ever set eyes on--Two Sisters in the Spirit. I enjoy these things as much as I enjoy Billie Letts, but the perusal of these works is also more conducive to moving closer to where God wants me to be, or so it seems.

So, I'm not saying that I shouldn't enjoy things. Rather, I should pick among the very best things to enjoy. If I would have equal pleasure from Agatha Christie as from Walker Percy, but Percy would lead me to think more about God's kingdom, isn't it more proper to read Percy? If all other things are equal, shouldn't I always choose the path that lead more closely to God?

Now, sometimes this might well be Agatha Christie. Perhaps I am overloaded and need rest to become once again the person I need to be. I would think this would be the exception rather than the rule. More than this, I look at the lives of the great Saints who did not indulge a penchant for popular fiction (indeed St Teresa of Avila accused herself of foolish indulgence in the chivalrous Romances of her time). Surely these servants were also seeking God and experiencing His pleasures in their time.

So it leads me to wonder if our indulgence in these pass-times isn't sometimes also a way of avoiding deeper commitment. I know that it can sometimes be that way for me. The matter of how to spend my leisure time is one that I should spend a good deal more of my prayer time and meditation time regulating properly. If God is not at the center, even of those things that I do for pleasure and recreation, then they simply are not worthy of my time.

What do you all think?

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St Joseph Software Home Page

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A correspondent sent me this wonderful link. I'll be adding it to my side-column later.

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Okay, now that I'm over my regular quarterly meltdown, it's time to get back to business.

The first item of business--Parish Hopping.

I have fought and fought the idea of going to "my parish" church. The first time I was there I saw some really awful liturgical dance. The decoration is abyssmal, and the ambience is not what I best appreciate. That said, I went there today, really asking God what to do. I doubt my willingness to drive nearly twenty miles to cart Samuel to and from CCD. This church is so close that if I oversleep but still have 20 minutes I can get there in plenty of time.

So I asked God to speak to my heart, to tell me what to do. After all, He seems to have ordained this week as a week of blessings for me. I went to Mass this morning, with the idea that this should be my home. I wouldn't walk into my own home and start judging the decor etc. After all decor is secondary even if quite important.

What I noticed was that unlike the Church I really like, this church was truly and wonderfully diverse. I saw several families with mixed race children, a great many African Americans, hispanics and Phillippinos, as well as a white population of all ages. The other parish I go to is on the wealthier side of town, it tends to have a smaller diversity and the pastor, somewhat understandably, tends to cater with those who will give large sums of money to the Church.

At the time of the homily, an African American Deacon came forward and gave the best homily I've heard in a long time. He blessed me and blessed me again because I've been longing for some of the dynamism that is the basis of protestant preaching but with faithfulness to Catholic Doctrine. Here I have it all in one person. But more than that, he launched a direct assault at my most firmly protected entryway to God--the heart of stone I carry around with me. He sent legions and legions that direction, with only a momentary foray into the region of the intellect--another heavily guarded bastion, but one not quite so impervious to trying to listen to God. Oh, how I was blessed by the kinds of things he spelled out. How God spoke to me through him. I rejoice in the Holy Spirit within me who determined that I would try this Church yet once again and set aside my misgivings.

Finally, the Lord opened my eyes to my woundedness. The reason I do not care for this Church is that it reminds of a Church in Columbus that I called St. X's Nearly Catholic Church. A deacon was dismissed from the Church I describe because he dared to speak out against abortion from the ambo on the day dedicated to precisely that cause. And all he said regarding the matter was that we should not look down upon women who have had abortions, but we should regard them with accepting compassion and kindness, welcoming them back into the loving embrace of the Father.

I must place my trust in God that this place is not like that one. But I do believe that he spoke to me today. He had a great many things to say, but amongst them was this most important one: "You've got a very supple, very pliable head but a heart of stone. Get thee to a place where you can work on demolishing the battlements around your heart and leave your head alone--it will watch out after itself. You work is heart-work, not head-work. "

And finally, my wife seems more favorably inclined toward this church than toward the one I am accustomed to attending. If God can work on her through this Church all the more reason for going here.

It's amazing what God will say when we're willing to listen.

Pray for us as we launch into this

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Below you'll find a plethora of posts dedicated to the quarterly agonizing as to whether I shall continue to blog or choose to retire to the parlor before I'm overcome by the vapors. At least I spared you all the public agonizing until after the inevtiable decision has been made. Enjoy, or not, at your own discretion.

Later: And, oh, what an incoherent babble it is!

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I don't know.

I go to Disputations and there are always interesting points and arguments there--cogently considered and pertinent to our lives.

I go to Video Meliora and I am, at a minimum, amused, often intrigued, occasionally piqued.

Summa Mammas and Two Sleepy Mommies tell me something relevant and interesting about family life, dealing with children, and everyday practice of faith.

I could continue down the list of places and comparisons. But they all lead to one inevitable conclusion--what I have to say is for a vanishingly small audience of people--a loyal and faithful audience, but one that could as easily find these things elsewhere. There is nothing new here. Anyone can read the documents I read and come to similar (or wildly different conclusions. So what is the point?

The point is I write, not because I have anything to offer that isn't better said elsewhere, but for two reasons:

(1) I cannot do otherwise.

(2) In writing I learn what I cannot learn from merely reading. In writing I begin to play with ideas and shape them--however awkwardly and clumsily, until they begin to mean something to me. Much of what is here is exploration, investigation. It isn't even really meant to be definitive. If I could speak definitively, i certainly would not be in the messed up spiritual realm I am in.

It is this second reason that is an important reason for continuing to blog despite the lack of originality. Ecclesiastes in its world-weary way tells us that "There is nothing new under the sun." And that is so true. I couldn't come up with a "new" truth because Truth has been established from Eternity--it is timeless and always present. I might provide a way of looking at the truth that provides insight or provokes questions--but I'm not going to tell anyone anything they don't already know.

So while I despair of being so great a servant as those I have mentioned and many others, I continue to write. Even if for an audience of one, it is a necessary part of who I am and how I need to approach and understand God.

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Can be found here

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Friday's Listening

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Something to consider.

Mack the Knife
as Sung by Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Brain Setzer,
translated from the German of Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht

      Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
      And it shows them pearly white
      Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
      And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.
 
      Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
      Scarlet billows start to spread
      Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe
      So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.
 
      Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ … uuh, huh
      Lies a body just oozin' life … eeek!
      And someone’s sneakin' ‘round the corner
      Could that someone be Mack the Knife?
 
      A-there's a tugboat … huh, huh, huh … down by the river don’tcha know
      Where a cement bag’s just a'droopin' on down
      Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear
      Five'll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town.
 
      Now, d'ja hear ‘bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
      After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash
      And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
      Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?
 

      Now … Jenny Diver … ho, ho … yeah … Sukey Tawdry      
      Ooh … Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
      Oh, the line forms on the right, babe
      Now that Macky’s back in town.
 
      Aah … I said Jenny Diver … whoa … Sukey Tawdry
      Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
      Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
      Now that Macky’s back in town …

      Look out … old Macky is back!!

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Descent to Silence

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Friday I implemented restrictions on my site that amounted to showing only two days of posts and not allowing comments on any of those. This was prepatory to saying goodbye--to seeing if it would be possible for me to let go. And appears that it may well be so. Only time shall tell. But I'm thinking that by Monday whatever traces of desire to blog remain will have been extinguished and I will vanish off the face of blogdom. There's a part of me that wants to wallow in the "unseen, unheard, unlamented" melodrama, and part that doesn't really want to quit, and part that urges me to get away from this arrangement completely--I needed only the appropriate impetus to get me moving. My foolishness earlier in the week provided this and it may be well for me to delete the entire blog before the weekend so it will be unremembered. Who knows?

I wish things were more clear to me--that I were better able to sort out the competing desires and impulses. How can I begin to gauge whether or not I have done anything worthwhile here? Honestly, I don't have a clue. And since the first duty of a Christian is to "first do no harm and bring no harm to His name," it would seem better that if I am unable to determine this, I should just desist.

And yet part of me rails at this, insists that I should continue to blog. Perhaps that part is called "pride." And perhaps I should not so readily lend it my attention.

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Lady Windemere Fans a Scandal

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Inspired by a note from a correspondent, I ventured over to Amazon today to look for Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans (a work I truly admired, and one which got me solidly interested in Christianity, after wandering through the wide world of religion.) Upon arriving at Amazon, my "recommendations" screen popped up and the first book listed was Clinton's My Life

Those who know me know that the last president I was truly interested in was John Adams, and I might conceivably venture forward someday to read a biography of Martin Van Buren or Andrew Jackson (though biographies of military and political figures generally bore me to tears--if they are after the revolutionary period). I don't read biographies of modern presidents I like, much less of one for whom I have to pray constantly that I do not enter into sin in thought, word, or deed when I turn my attention to him.

What led to this noxious recommendation? Well, according to Amazon, I liked Lady Windemere's Fan (a play by Oscar Wilde) so that led directly to Bill Clinton. I would certainly like to know by what convoluted road one arrives at Bill from Lady Windemere, but I suspect I would be terribly dismayed at whatever revelations lay behind that conjunction.

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The requests remain unchanged from yesterday, for which please see below. Please especially remember Dylan.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Liturgy of St. James

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingčd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

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The 9/11 Commission Report

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I finished reading this last night as a form of penance, and penance it was. Not only for the events detailed, but as in any government report, the lapses in grammar, the turgid and unnecessarily obtuse language and the convoluted sentences indicating a lack of clarity about any of the conclusions.

We know much, much remains to be known, whether or not it can be none int he absence of the perpetrators remains to be seen.

The report is available online here

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If this is useful for you or your Carmelite group feel free to use it or to adpat it to better fit your own community or way of study. If you need them, I have word files for all of the parts that I should be most happy to e-mail at your request.

Study Guide for The Ascent of Mount Carmel XII

Read Chapters 16-17, pages 199-210 in the ICS Collected Works

Chapter 16

The imaginative apprehensions represented supernaturally to the phantasy are incapable of serving as a proximate means of union with God

What does St. John of the Cross mean when he says this? (For a quick review, please see II.12.4-6, pages 186-188.

(2) What are “imaginative visions?” Where do they come from? What is their purpose?

(3) Who can use these visions? To what purpose?

(4) Why would Satan take particular advantage of this way of coming to the soul? (Read carefully the last two sentences of the section.)

(5) What is the purpose in knowing the difference between good vision and bad ones?

(6) Why should one refrain from entertaining or thinking about imaginative visions?

(7) What is the difference between these visions and God’s way of working within the soul?

(8-9) Sections 8-9 deal with what the Holy Spirit reveals through Deuteronomy and Numbers. What are these revelations and how are they related to each other?

(10) Why is it unnecessary to desire visions and corporeal communications with God in order for them to have their effect within the soul? What is the advantage of NOT desiring them?

(11) Why is advantageous to divest oneself of the “stain-like figures” of imagination?

(12) On what should the eyes of the soul be fixed? What does one gain from this orientation?

(14) What is the chief danger of the unenlightened consideration that we ought to accept these visions and imaginations?

(15) What is our most effective dark candle in the darkness? How do we best follow it?

Chapter 17

God's procedure and purpose in communicating spiritual goods by means of the senses.

(1) Read the footnote associated with this section very carefully. Note what the editors say is the importance of this chapter. Break this down into key points to follow through the rest of the chapter.

(2-3) What are the three fundamental principles important to answering the questions posed in the first section? What is the importance of these?

(4) Why does God give a person visions, forms and images?

(5) “In the measure that souls approach spirit in their dealings with God, they divest and empty themselves of the ways of the sense, of discursive and imaginative meditation.” What does Saint John of the Cross have to say of the separation of the spiritual and the physical? What might it indicate? Why is this so?

(6) What is one of the chief characteristics of the perfect spirit?

(7) Why must a person not turn away from discursive meditation before the proper time? What are two reasons for not desiring visions or other supernatural communications? Of what does St. John of the Cross say, “ Such an effort is profitless, a waste of time, a hindrance to the soul, an occasion of many imperfections as well as of spiritual stagnancy. . .”?

(8) Note well: “It is regrettable that a soul, having as it were an infinite capacity, should be fed, because of its limited spirituality and sensory incapacity, with morsels for the senses.” Why should this be so?

(9) What must be the sole focus of the eyes of the Soul? Why?

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"Our Revels Now Are Ended. . ."

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"The Tempest" Act 4 Scene 1
William Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

I have been back and forth wondering and pondering--do I continue this endeavor. My recent gaffe has caused me to rethink a lot of what I do and I've come to the conclusion that what I offer here is nothing that would not be better coming fromt he original source unalloyed. If people are truly interested in these matters, they will seek them out. Otherwise, why have them thrust upon them. Is this more an exercise in self-indulgence, or more likely in compulsion? So it seems. And to indulge oneself at the expense of bringing harm to others is unconscionable. You will lose nothing with my departure, of this I am certain. There are many others out there who provide what I do in a form nearer its origin and without so much dilution and distraction. I recommend particularly Ms. Knapp's blog, which never fails to be a source of inspiration and a font of charity. Tom's Disputations is a wonderful place to undertake an intellectual workout. And TSO has never failed to provide me with a smile, an intriguing tidbit, or perhaps a cause of apoplexy--all admirable and desirable.

If this irritant has one some occasion produced some pearls, I am most pleased. But I am most sorry for those I have harmed, for those who have been frightened, confused, or upset by what they have read here. Go to the sources. Read your bible daily, pray the Liturgy of the Hours and wait upon the Lord in His word. You don't need this blog--it is as nothing.

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A red letter day for all you admirers and appreciators of The DaVinci Code. Let us pray to the Magdalene that through her intercession all who have become acquainted with her through this book might rightly order and honor her as a good friend and follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they might honor Him rightfully above all else. Let her intercession turn what has been a burden for many into a new fount of righteous and proper spiritual life. May she, like the Blessed Virgin herself, always point all who are truly seeking to fill the emptiness in their lives toward that source of all fullnes and completion--Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the same Lord she knew as leader, teacher, and friend.

Praise to the Lord,
the Almighty the king of Creation,
O my soul praise him
for He is my rock and Salvation,
All you who hear,
now to his Temple draw near,
joining in glad adoration.

Praise

There is so much sorrow and joy in this praise:

Chris, for whom we had been praying so hard, passed into the arms of the Father peacefully over the weekend. Both she and her husband are at peace, but naturally the children are devastated--please pray for the whole family and for the repose of the soul of Chris.

For Katherine's child in the womb who yesterday was revealed to the world in good health. May God protect this precious child and bring him or her into the loving embrace of Katharine's family.

One of the three Carmelites in New York came through his surgery yesterday with flying colors, please pray for his continued recovery.

Heather recently had some extremely effective treatment for some autism-related disorders. Christine reports that she is about two hundred percent better and the effects are expected to increase over the next year.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For the repose of the soul of Roberta Meiers, T.O. Carm, who passed away suddenly on Monday night. It was a shock to all of us.

For my brother's mother-in-law, who was in the hospital yesterday with a very dire prognosis. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For the family of Chris, that they might know love, comfort, and the joy of His presence in their lives through these very sad times.

For one who desperately needs to learn humility, meekness, and charitableness.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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Turn to the Lord with your whole heart and leave behind this wretched world. Then your soul shall find rest. For the kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. If you prepare within your heart a fitting dwelling place, Christ will come to you and console you. from The Imitation of Christ

Praise

There is so much sorrow and joy in this praise:

Chris, for whom we had been praying so hard, passed into the arms of the Father peacefully over the weekend. Both she and her husband are at peace, but naturally the children are devastated--please pray for the whole family and for the repose of the soul of Chris.

One of the three Carmelites in New York came through his surgery yesterday with flying colors, please pray for his continued recovery.

Heather recently had some extremely effective treatment for some autism-related disorders. Christine reports that she is about two hundred percent better and the effects are expected to increase over the next year.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For the repose of the soul of Roberta Meiers, T.O. Carm, who passed away suddenly on Monday night. It was a shock to all of us.

For my brother's mother-in-law, who was in the hospital yesterday with a very dire prognosis. May the Lord hold her and her family in His healing hands.

For the family of Chris, that they might know love, comfort, and the joy of His presence in their lives through these very sad times.

For one who desperately needs to learn humility, meekness, and charitableness.

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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Most Profound Apologies

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Sometimes, unthinkingly, I do something shockingly stupid or hurtful. It is usually not my intent. Such is the case with a recent set of posts I have made regarding the heresy of Americanism. Both posts have been removed.

The problem with them was that it was suggested that Mr. Akin, a fellow blogger, might have fallen into this heresy. In my excitement over the discovery and the interest of the "new" heresy, I stupidly allowed that reference to pass through. I owe Mr. Akin and all who were hurt or offended by that post the most profound apologies. I hope that anyone so harmed will find it in their hearts to forgive me for sinful stupidity. My intent was never to harm to bring harm to a good name. Mr. Akin and I may have a disagreement on the role and nature of contemplation, but such a disagreement is only that. Any implication or statement that Mr. Akin's position on the matter was heretical was both wrong and unfounded.

Once again, my apologies for this offense against the reputation of a good man. As my own imposed penance for so thoughtless an act, I will post only the morning prayer requests for the remainder of the week. Further, I will carefully consider the wisdom and merit of continuing blogging. If I cannot offer courtesy and respect and a comfortable place for all to come, then I accomplish nothing.

My apologies to Mr. Akin and to all of St. Blogs.

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Caught in the Trap of Our Making

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Described beautifully by Charles Williams:

from All Hallow's Eve

She was about a third of the way down when from far off the sound of the Name caught her. She could hardly there be said to have heard it; it was not so much a name or even a sound as an impulse. It had gone, the Indrawing cry, where only it could go, for the eternal City into which it was inevitably loosed absorbed it into its proper place. It could not affect the solid house of earth nor the millions of men and women toilfully attempting goodness; nor could it reach the paradisical places and thier inhabitants. It sounded only through the void streets, the apparent facades, the shadowy rooms of the world of the newly dead. There it found its way. Other wanderers, as invisible to Evelan as she to them, but of her kind, felt it--old men seeking lechery, young men seek drunkeness, women making and believing malice, all harborers in a lie. The debased Tetragrammaton drew them with its spiritual suction: the syllables passed out and swirled, and drawing thier captives returned to their speaker. Some went a little way and fell; some farther and failed; of them all only she, at once the latest, the weakest, the nearest, the worst, was wholly caught. She did not recognize captvity; she thought herself free. She began to walk more quickly, to run, to run fast. As she ran, she began to hear the sound. It was not friendly; it was not likeable; but it was allied. She felt towards it as Lester had felt towards the cry on the hill. The souls in that place know their own proper sounds and hurry to them.

Without question, Williams is difficult and you must read nuance and symbol to get everything. But here, in characteristic fashion, he spells it out to all who are paying attention. "My sheep know my voice and they hear me."

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Essential E-Texts

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Procopius--The Secret History of the Courts of Justinian a.k.a. The Secret History second only to Suetonius in gossipy vitriol, this history of the the Court helps us to better appreciate the derogatory adjective "byzantine."

John Webster--The White Devil Read it to truly appreciate the greatness of Shakespeare, but also for its sheer lurid awfulness--not in prose or poetry but in story conception.

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The Hundred Best Books

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I wonder how many would agree with this list of the hundred best books. Frankly, any such list that includes the remarkably pallid and maudlin Wuthering Heights deserves to be looked at askance.

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Yesterday T.S. O at one of my favorite blogs Video Meliora made a point concerning The DaVinci Code that I'm not quite certain I agree with, and yet I find fascinating. In context it reads:

The only answer I have to that is that, whatever their merits, Crichton & Clancy & others are living off the fame of their past books. They are a name brand now and could put out anything and it would sell. The key is their FIRST book, their break-out book. DVC is Brown's break-out book and there is something in a breakout book that might say something about a culture...

Now, let me set aside any misgivings I may have about the premise--they are as yet poorly formulated and more along the lines of murky stirrings in the depths more than fleshed-out thoughts. Let's accept the premise that this breakout book reveals something about the culture. Does it reveal anything new, interesting, or exciting.

I think it is a harbinger of something relatively new and an avatar of several old bogies that have not yet lost their patina of attractiveness. Let's start with the old. In the United States anything suggesting that the Catholic Church isn't all that upstanding or trustworthy has had a very long history (as long as the European-derived nation itself) of popularity and acceptance. One of the easy stepping stones to success is to suggest that there's something just not quite right about the Catholic Church. It's adherents might be all right, but those powerful old men in their secret chambers are out to keep hidden great mysteries and truths that a more open hierarchy long ago would have revealed. For example, if it had been about a group of Southern Baptists, they would never have suppressed these truths, having experienced centuries of suppression themselves (according to their own convenient history of existence.) So that's the first old bogie.

The second is the ever popular, ever new heresy of Gnosticism. Salvation comes to those with secret knowledge, knowledge that exists (as it were) just beyond the edges of scripture. This special revelation comes to only a few who, inspired by God Himself, do their best to share their knowledge, but ultimately only a few are destined for this inner circle anyway. This has bad a popularity since the time of Jesus Himself.

And there is yet a third appeal--one that isn't so much an old bogie as an Archetype with an enormous power even over those of us who have detached ourselves from the old stories. The appeal of the search for the Holy Grail remains. It crops up in odd places and it has odd resonances in society.

In this book we combine the Holy Grail (which always bespoke in some degree of Gnosticism) with anti-Catholic mutterings to generate a powerhouse of a story. But there is still another, newer element, that I would suggest as perhaps the predominant element of the attraction.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union we have been casting about for the new demon, the new evil force that will destroy us. We are looking for an enemy anywhere, and an institution as large and as ancient and as multi-storied as the Church provides the perfect vehicle. Moreover it ties in nicely to the first old-bogie.

If I were to read anything into this in terms of societal trends, I would suggest that society is looking for a focus, any focus. We have become unanchored and are drifting around in a sea of terrorism with no focused enemy and dangers behind every chador and under every turban. We have sufficiently freed ourselves of every burdensome consideration of propriety and morality that we are in a free-fall. I don't want to suggest apocalypse, but I do think Yeats's words resonate more powerfully today than they did when written.

The Second Coming
W. B. Yeats


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I would suggest that the popularity of The DaVinci Code represents the "turning and turning in a widening gyre" in search of an anchor, any anchor, for our fears, our anxieties, and our uncertainties. We hold onto any truth because we falcons can no longer hear the Falconer. His word diminishes in meaning because we do not feel bound by it.

And The DaVinci Code certainly exemplifies "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Mr. Brown himself would swear up and down on a stack of any holy book you care to designate that he is revealing hidden truths while scholars and supposedly intelligent people do little or nothing to counteract the idiocy. (This is speaking purely of the secular world, not of the more that 30 books from religious sources that are combating the ludicrous.)

If Mr. Brown's book fulfills a need, I would suggest that the need of the moment is not so much the "truth" he reveals, which in a year will have been forgotten, but rather that he has provided for us a focus for our fear and uncertainty. The monolithic and evil church of the turn of the 20th century--a la The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.

The Church, after all, is the only thing that stands in the way of "true" freedom. By this I mean that the secular world sees it as the obstacle to everything good that society could accomplish through understanding and gentle loving guidance. On the other hand it is my view that the Church indeed IS the ONLY thing that stands in the way of true freedom--true freedom from sanity. Mr. Brown's book may be one symptom of the descent into societal depression and concomitant delusional behaviors.

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Continuing my beach-reading reviews in a slightly differen vein. My wife informs me that this was made into a movie--I hadn't realized that fact, and I can't imagine it. They must have pruned out large swathes of it (or perhaps not) in order for it not to be entirely depressing. The book itself is NOT depressing, but I could see a very downbeat movie being made from it.

The story centers around 17 year old Novalee Nation who is travelling across country with her boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens to make their fortune in California. Novalee is 7 months pregnant and desperately in need of a potty break when they enter the town of Sequoyah, OK. She spots a Wal-Mart and gets her boyfriend to pull over so she can buy some "house shoes." She enters the store and after taking care of the primary business goes up the register with a ten-dollar bill and gets $7.77 cents change. Seven is not a good number for Novalee, and she realizes that her boyfriend has abandoned her.

With this inauspicious beginning we are introduced to an odd array of characters who help Novalee make a life for herself:

--Sister Husband believes that reading the Bible is confusing. If you read a lot you you get very confused, if you read a little, you are only a little confused. So Sister Husband hands out Bibles a chapter at a time. When she first meets Novalee, she doesn't have any chapters to give her because she's just handed out her last Deuteronomy and two Lamentations because, she says, "I just stopped by the bus station and met a woman going to New Orleans. A woman going to New Orleans cannot have too many lamentations."

--Lexie--the friend with five children by four different fathers who seems never to pick the right man or the right diet. One of her notions for a diet is to stand up while eating McDonald's food.

--Moses Whitecotton--who introduces her to a love of art and vision.

There are others, of course, but this is a sampling. What I derived from the book is a powerful sense of the healing power of community and of selfless love that is still possible among people who have not gotten swept up into the "American Dream" of a Bel-Air Mansion and swimming pool.

I enjoyed the book tremendously (but then I'm a sucker for the 'I lived for a month in the Grocery Store without anyone knowing about it' genre). And I heartily recommend it (pardon the pun), for those looking for a charming, funny, sad, and sometimes moving exploration of human relationships. Billie Letts reminds me of Anne Tyler at her very best. I hope the other book I picked up The Honk and Holler Opening Soon is as amusing.

Recommended--good beach reading.

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Ice Hunt--James Rollins

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Okay, so I've had a slew of non-beach reading, and I realized that I neglected to say anything about this book. (And speaking of it allows me to make another point in a different post, so bear with me.) This is DEFINITELY beach reading. I bought it while in Venice and started reading it while there, finished upon the return home. (I can't read much at the beach because I'm too active walking up and down the beach and looking out to sea--so while I understand the concept of beach reading, I must admit to not being a beach-reader.)

Anyway, this is another of Rollins's utterly fascinating thrillers. In this, an American Submarine in the Arctic ocean comes upon a huge complex frozen into an "ice-island" They surface through a convenient nearby polynya and begin exploring the base. They discover two different but subtly interrelated horrors frozen in the base. I don't know how much to tell you about these because much of the fun of the book is discovering what these wonders and horrors are. Suffice to say the name of the station is Grendel and what is there sufficiently lives out the name.

Rollins has from the beginning constructed elaborate and entertaining thrillers. This one is particularly interesting because of the setting, the sub-plots, and the amazing discoveries and ultimate purpose thereof. You will learn far more that you care to know about arctic ice, submarines, sonar, and illicit human experimentation.

This is light reading at its best--much action, many surprises, a love subplot, a revenge on the entire world subplot, and a conspiracy subplot. The action keeps you moving through it and the author's afterward gives you something to think about as you are considering.

Recommended for your sessions of light reading.

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Be obedient to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was in the flesh to the Father, and the apostles to Christ and to the Father and to the Spririt, so that there may be unity in flesh and spirit. I have exhorted you only briefly, for I am aware that you are filled with God. Remember me in your prayers , that I may attain to God. from The Letter to the Magnesians--St. Ignatius of Antioch

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For three New York Carmelites who have serious health problems, two of whom face very serious operations, may the Lord guide the doctors' and surgeons' hands and bless with the blessing of great peace those who face the treatments.

For a good friend who must find the words to speak wisely and gently in admonishment to one who needs to hear and understand the necessity for actions that must be taken.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Katherine as she works through some difficulties

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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The Martian Child

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David Gerrold, a science fiction writer whose reknown stems prinicpally from various Star Trek episodes, most especially "The Trouble with Tribbles," has written an interesting and occasionally moving novel concerning his real-life experience adopting a child.

Dennis, the child, is labeled by the child-care workers as "unadoptable." He has ADHD, he's been in and out of foster homes since he was taken from his abusvie mother at the age of three. In one case, at the age of four, he had to testify against the person who abused him.

Glancing through a book full of potential adoptees at a "fair" for adoption, David happens upon Dennis's picture and realizes that this is the child for him. He starts proceedings. At the initial interview, all goes well enough until near the end at which time one of the social workers says, "Dennis thinks he's a martian." Gerrold comes up with a response to this that is at once sympathetic and delusional. And so the book proceeds.

We hear mostly about the good times. The bad times are mostly relagated to little intervals between the triumphs. Frankly, this is all to the good. I'd rather hear about the breakthroughs than about how very difficult it can be. And there are a great many breakthroughs.

The story proceeds along a trajectory that injects some vaguely science-fictiony elements into the mix. We meet (in retrospect) Ted Sturgeon (one of the great writers and theorists of the Science Fiction world), Steve Barnes, and other science fiction writers of note.

The novel is about the power of love, and it is perhaps made more powerful by the fact that the events really occurred, that Mr. Gerrold's life is laid out for us, and that things have gone far better than one could possibly expect. The story is about the power of one attentive and dedicated adult to turn around the life of one very disturbed, very hurt, profoundly needy child. From this bundle of need emerges a person who is capable of love and attachment, a person who was always there but hidden by circumstance.

One caution for the scrupulous--Mr. Gerrold is a self styled "gay" or "bisexual" man. It plays remarkably little part in the story. but some may have objections. It did much to make me rethink any I might have been harboring.

Recommended.

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All Hallow's Eve

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I've said before, and I do not think I will tire of saying, Charles Williams is one of the most unjustly neglected authors of recent times. Every time I dip into this book, I am once again convinced of the eerie power Charles Williams has to evoke the spiritual world and the kinds of battles that rage there. Much of his work is difficult, perhaps even obscure. I shared this work with the reading group I have and one person was completely confounded by it. The other enjoyed it but did find it a bit difficult.

One of the main themes in all of Williams's work is the battle that rages around us constantly and our inability to see it. So too here. We start with Lester and Evelyn whom we learn very early on are both dead. We follow them around through a kind of shadow London, the nature of which is not completely clear--though it seems a London in which it is possible to move through time. This becomes clear when we meet the Clerk--a Rasputin-like religious figure with an enormous power of a great many followers. He sends Betty, a rather lackluster girl, through shadow London on various missions. As it happens, Betty has connections in the past with both Lester and Evelyn.

I don't want to go to much into the mechanics of the plot here because it might dissuade you from reading this magnificent work. I think a better focus might be to mention that the book is largely about the neglected power of the sacraments. We see the transforming, indeed salvific power of the sacrament of Marriage in action in one character. In another we see the similar power of Baptism, even though the character was prevented from doing anything that would reinforce the initial sacrament.

One of the book group readers was fascinated and entertained by the powerful love story that provides the backbone for the book. All were intrigued by the various symbols in the work--for example, the two paintings of Jonathan that portray the Clerk and his followers and the "real" London. These symbols need to be carefully examined and "unpacked" for the story to have full effect.

While the book is short, it is NOT fast reading. You have to allow yourself the leisure to enjoy and understand it. While it can be read in one sitting, I'm not sure that is the most effective means of approaching it. Better to take it a little at a time and let it blossom, savoring the sentences, the meanings, and the symbols that come to life with careful examination.

Williams is an amazingly talented author. His fiction is uniformly as good as most of Lewis, and better than some. His prose is dense, an occasionally difficult thicket of words; nevertheless, it is so deliberately. It isn't an absence of cultivation that makes for obscurity, but, I believe, a deliberate attempt to slow the reader down and make them face the elements of the tale before them.

If you've read and enjoyed Lewis and Tolkien, you owe it to yourself to try the most difficult, and in some ways most interesting of the Inklings. (This is high praise indeed, if you only knew the great esteem in which I hold C.S. Lewis and some of J. R. R. Tolkien.)

Highly recommended--but not for beach reading.

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Follow the ways of God, and have respect for one another; let no one judge his neighbor as the world does, but love one another always in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing among you that could divide you, but live in accord with the bishop and those who are over you as a sign and a pattern of eternal life. from the Letter to the Magnesians--St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a good friend who must find the words to speak wisely and gently in admonishment to one who needs to hear and understand the necessity for actions that must be taken.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Katherine as she works through some difficulties

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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The Brown Scapular

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From recent teaching documents on the Scapular (1999)

Brown Scapular One way in which Mary is honoured in the Carmelite family is through the Brown Scapular. The Scapular is a symbol of Mary’s protection. A garment as a symbol is found elsewhere in the Christian tradition, most notably in the Eastern icon tradition “Madonna of the Mantle.” Along with the understanding of Mary’s protection, the Scapular (itself a symbol of the Carmelite habit) includes the idea of consecration to Mary. Consecration is most properly an act done by God, so that when we say we consecrate ourselves to God and to Mary, we are principally stating that we freely want God’s will, the Lordship of Jesus, to be manifest in our lives. The wearing of the Scapular is a sign that we want the values lived out by Mary to be evident in our actions and dispositions.   Tradition suggests that in 1251, Our Lady appeared to the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, St. Simon Stock at Aylesford, England. In this apparition, Our Lady gave him what we call the brown Scapular... a garment that has become the symbol of the bond between Our Lady and the Order of Carmel. The Carmelites have always been her devoted servants. However, whether or not this apparition actually took place is something we shall never know. But Our Lady did not give the Scapular just to the Carmelites. She gave it to the whole world so that all her sons and daughters could wear an outward sign of her love for them. As a “cloak” of grace and love, the Scapular represents the protection and security we find in our heavenly mother’s love. Our Lady has given us her Scapular to wear; a garment of special concern a sign of belonging. Her Scapular is a mantle of grace and love.   The Carmelite Scapular is not a magical charm to protect you, or an automatic guarantee of salvation or an excuse for not living up to the demands of the Christian life. The Scapular holds us to live as authentic Christians in line with the teaching of the Gospel, to receive the sacraments, to profess our special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which should be expressed each day, at least by saying the Hail Mary three times.
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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Within the order, as you may know, this Optional Memorial is a Solemnity. It commemorates the day on which, according to tradition, St. Simon Stock received from the hand of the Blessed Virgin herself the Brown Scapular which so many people wear. If properly enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular, all of these are said to be members of the Carmelite family, sharing in some part the spirituality of the Order.

This is from the Preface to the Eucharistic prayer for the Liturgy of the Solemnity:

Your Word filled her heart and inspired all her actions, making her constant in prayer with the Apostles, and, through her share in our salvation, constituting her the spiritual mother of all mankind. She watches unceasingly with a mother’s loving care over the brethren of her Son, and lights us along our pilgrim way to the Mount of your Glory, our beacon of comfort, and the embodiment of all our hopes as members of the Church.
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O Most Holy Mother of Mount Carmel, when asked by a saint to grant privileges to the family of Carmel, you gave assurance of your Motherly love and help to those faithful to you and to your Son. Behold us, your children. We glory in wearing your holy habit, which makes us members of your family of Carmel, through which we shall have your powerful protection in life, at death and even after death. Look down with love, O Gate of Heaven, on all those now in their last agony! Look down graciously, O Virgin, Flower of Carmel, on all those in need of help! Look down mercifully, O Mother of our Savior, on all those who do not know that they are numbered among your children. Look down tenderly, O Queen of All Saints, on the poor souls! Prayer from the Ninth Day of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Praise

According to an item posted recently by TSO, Mary Herboth, host of the Parish Hall and of the lovely "Ever-New " Blog has a daughter who is entering religious life. Praise God for the blessings of a new vocation and for His blessing on her family. May they all grow closer to Him through this act of obedience.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a good friend who must find the words to speak wisely and gently in admonishment to one who needs to hear and understand the necessity for actions that must be taken.

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies. Especially for S. as she spends the next ten weeks in the hospital, separated from her family seeking to preserve the life and health of the infant she presently carries.

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Katherine as she works through some difficulties

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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For those intrigued by this morning's Office of Readings, here's a place to get St. Bonaventure's entire treatise in both English and Latin.

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Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to the throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross full of fiath, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise. from Journey of the Mind to God--St. Bonaventure

Praise

According to an item posted recently by TSO, Mary Herboth, host of the Parish Hall and of the lovely "Ever-New " Blog has a daughter who is entering religious life. Praise God for the blessings of a new vocation and for His blessing on her family. May they all grow closer to Him through this act of obedience.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Katherine's two friends as they each struggle with a different difficulty related to their respective pregnancies

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Katherine as she works through some difficulties

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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From Don's Most Excellent Resort

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Yes, the Master of the Mixolydian Mode has given us a link to senseless surrealist Japanese films. My favorite here is one I like to call "Funky Lobster." For the link to all, visit Don.

Later: (Actually its title is Ebi, so I suppose my lobster is a shrimp)

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Rebuilding the Temple

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Following on a quotation from Saint Augustine noted by TSO yesterday, I turned my reading back to the Old Testament last evening, once again to savor the richness of the salvation story. Throughout this testament God's love is made manifest in His gift of the prophets. So I'll share with you a little reflection that came from reading one of the prophets less often read.

Haggai 1:2-9

2: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: This people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD."
3: Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet,
4: "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
5: Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
6: You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes.
7: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
8: Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the LORD.
9: You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house.

Sometimes I am awed and in deep wonder at what the Lord allowed to come down to us in the Bible. The words here seem so irrelevant to us today. Haggai is told to tell the people of the exile now returned home to rebuild the temple of the Lord. What relevance does the rebuilding of the temple have for any of us today? Why do we hear this word?

I think it's fairly evident that the temple spoken of here is two-fold. There is the exterior temle, which is a powerful sign of God's presence among the people and the interior temple, which is also a shambles. In rebuilding the exterior temple, God is setting in motion a work that will help to transform the interior temple. By using the labor of their bodies, the people of Israel work within their souls to realize how lost they have been.

Look at the words of the passage above. How much more relevant could they possibly be for today? Verse 4: "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? " We build for ourselves (at least in this country) comfortable, perhaps too-comfortable lives--lives that are in many ways so comfortable that service to the Lord is an inconvenience--an arduous necessity that we do because we have to, but it really gets in the way of our rhythm. I know most St. Bloggers don't feel that way most of the time, but I know there are times when I would rather be doing anything o ther than Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer or any number of things I do to get in touch with God.

Look at verses 6-7 again: "You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared."

I toil at making more money at getting more things. I eat and eat and eat myself into oblivion. I live in a hypersexualized society that seeks to deaden the interior emptiness, the ruins inside, with progressively more perverse passtimes. Our modern fashions dress us in expensive clothes that reveal more and more skin--they don't keep us warm, but they keep us fashionable. And I never, never, never have enough of anything. As a society, we are morally bankrupt. We are attempting to gild the exterior of the ruined sepulchres that many have as souls. We seek to fill the emptiness inside with thngs from outside. We want to be full and propsperous and happy and we go about it in all the wrong ways.

If first I were to "Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the LORD" (verse 8), I would be rightly ordering things. Jesus says later, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." When I build God's temple first, when I please Him, I am starting down the right path. Building His temple by actions in this world, helps to sets to right the ruins inside. Yes, prayer and fasting and attendance at Mass are all necessary and fruitful, but I am enjoined to real action in this world. I must go to the hills and bring the living wood of souls who have not known the joy of the gospel message. I am to build God a house of humanity that worships Him and rejoices in His glory. It is in this substantive work in the world that I set to right what has gone wrong. (Keep in mind, this is all in cooperation with God's grace, I don't mean to say that I do it.)

Finally, in verse 9, it is again summed up. "You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house."

Perhaps I have looked for much outside of what is right and proper for me. Perhaps I have not looked for much in the right direction. I've looked inside to myself, rather than inside to the enthronement of the King. All of this comes to nothing. I gather these shreds of self, and the first zephyr that strokes my cheeks sends it all to ash and dust.

And why is all of this true? Because I have neglected God's house, the interior castle in which, too often, my Gracious King sits alone on a cold throne in an unlit room, while I scurry about attending to the emptiness inside by filling it with things, thoughts, and experiences. All the while I neglect my service. I do not render my humble homage of love, my duty of keeping company with the Lord of the Universe.

What can I expect other than the person that I am?

So perhaps Haggai is sent to remind the people of Israel, and the people of today, what the priorities are. Perhaps his words come down to us because they are words for every people of every age. They are a literal prefigurement of Jesus's profound teaching that God must come first. The throneroom must be decorated, lit, and kept warm to welcome Him, and we are to be constant attendants, servants always to the King who reigns over our souls. We are to build a suitable house through the offering of ourselves and those we meet each day. Only in this way will the chllly emptiness we try so desperately to fill be vanquished. He is King if only I will make Him King. He will not force His rule upon me. And I may only make Him King, if I treat Him as such, if I build His house in the world and in my soul.

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(A Reading appropriate for both blessed Kateri and the first item posted below)
Virgins, perservere in the way of life you have begun, persevere in what you are to be. For you will receive a glorious prize for you virtue, a most excellent reward for your chastity. You have already begun to be now what we shall all be in the future. You already posses, here in this world, the glory of the resurrection. You pass through this world without the world's infection. If you persevere in chastity and virginity, you are equal to God's angels. From a sermon On the Dress of Virgins--St. Cyprian.

Praise

According to an item posted yesterday by TSO, Mary Herboth, host of the Parish Hall and of the lovely "Ever-New " Blog has a daughter who is entering religious life. Praise God for the blessings of a new vocation and for His blessing on her family. May they all grow closer to Him through this act of obedience.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Mary H as her daughter enters the process of discerning a vocation

For Katherine as she works through some difficulties

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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Not that you care, or should care, but I thought it would be nice to say some things that are complimentary of blogging as an exercise and as a discipline. Too often I hear all manner of critics of the art or craft, and there are, admittedly, some strongly negative elements in blogging. In my estimation, these negative elements are more than compensated for by the positive accomplishments that can be a part of participating in blogging.

While I may not compose my very best prose for this blog, I am composing prose daily. The nearly daily discipline of writing has much to be said for it. No, I'm not writing the novel, the poem of the century, or great and timeless essays. Nevertheless, I have an opportunity to say things that I think are important or fun in a forum that invites readers to contribute to the ideas.

I have learned just how little I actually am. Like many, I've thought a good deal too much of myself. I've taken for granted that I am capable and fairly intelligent. In the face of others I have realized my own incompetence and my own smallness in both intellect and spirit. There are those far brighter and more capable than I am--people who reason better and have a better grasp of certain matters that are of importance to me, but which I sort of walk by in a haze. I assume God's mercy will not hold me culpable for things I do not know, but I sometimes am desolated at the depths of my ignorance and my own inability to grasp what seems to others to be the simplest of points. Perhaps I am neither so bright nor so capable as I thought. And this is perfectly all right. It is good to see you as you really are, rather than as you think you are.

In reading other blogs I have been more informed, more inflamed, more engaged, and more interested than I have in years worth of magazines. I am hearing from people, not pundits. Admittedly not all have the same reach and capability, but blogs often allow me access to the opinions of people I can respect, admire, and like. I may disagree--and I try to do so as respectfully as possible. Blogdom has been an arena of learning and refining perceptions of self.

Blogging may not be high art; however, I believe it a valuable and important enterprise. It deserves more respect that the outside gives and and more respect than many of us give it. Will it last? Probably not. Most of us are not Shakespeares and Austens. But I don't think that is the point for most of us. There seems to be a sufficient understanding of the limits of the medium, but only a very poor understanding of its virtues. And there are a great many of them.

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Tom provides, perhaps inadvertantly, much food for thought for those of us subject to a certain scrupulosity. He states that in voting for a candidate we cooperate either formally or materially with ALL of that candidate's positions. In such a case, there is no candidate on Earth for whom I could possibly vote except for myself as there is no one with whom I would agree on all positions and that agreement would be materially on the substance of the question--is this moral or not; therefore, the conclusion seems to be that a person of properly formed conscience should absent him- or her-self from the voting booth. While this formal or material coooperation is proportionate to the whole spectrum of views a person may hold--the underlying theme is always--"you may not do evil that good may result." If I vote for someone who favors an explicitly immoral stand on one or more issues--say Gay Marriage, then I have committed an evil act.

Yes, the more I hear about the whole thing, the more confused, befuddled and uncertain I become about the morality of participating in such a system at all. It would seem to me that the Mennonites and Amish have it about right--being involved with the government in almost any way is an invitation to sin.

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You are taught that our fathers were covered by the cloud, a cloud of blessing that cooled the fire of bodily passions. A cloud of blessings: it is with a cloud of blessing that the Holy Spirit overshadows those whom he comes to visit. The Holy Spirit came at last upon the Virgin Mary, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, when she conceived for all mankind him who is redemption. This great miracle was prefigured through Moses. If then the Spirit was prefigured, is he not now present in truth, for Scripture tells you that the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. From the treatise On the Mysteries--St. Ambrose.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Linda in a health crisis right now that it might be resolved quickly and to the betterment of her family

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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The following is an excerpt from the decree of the Council of Chalcedon on the nature of Jesus:

from the Decree of the Council of Chalcedon

So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity;. . .

The part that puzzles me is begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity. Is this to say that Jesus is not Coeternal with the Father, that the Trinity was somehow "assembled" at some point, or is the chief point here sometihng else? If Jesus were begotten before all ages, on whom or by what mean was he begotten? Was this phraseology cleared up later?

I stumbled across this passage as the first thing in a new book by Michael Casey, a monk from Australia whose work has captivated me. The book Fully Human, Fully Divine: an Interactive Christology intrigued me both in title and in description. I bought it and immediately fell into this particular hole. I don't think it is any big deal, but it was a point that caught my attention. And so, I thought I'd ask the knowledgeable crew of St. Blogs what might have been meant by this mysterious phrasing. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

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He sent the flood and ordered Noah, the righteous man, into the ark. When the flood began to subside Noah sent first a raven, then a dove, which as we read, came back with an olive branch. You see water, you see wood, you look on a dove, and you hesitate to believe the mystery?

The water is that in which the flesh is dipped, to wash away all its sin. In it all wickedness is buried. The wood is that to which the Lord Jesus was fastened when he suffered for us. The dove is the one in whose likeness the Holy Spirit descended, as you have learned from the New Testament: the Spirit who breathes into you peace of soul, tranquility of mind. from a Treatise on the Mysteries--St. Ambrose

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For a young lady of e-mail acquaintance who is in a great trial, fighting for her life against the weight of dread and despair, that God who is infinitely good will show her goodness of life

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Linda in a health crisis right now that it might be resolved quickly and to the betterment of her family

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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from Two Sisters in the Spirit
Hans Urs von Balthasar

In recent times [he's referring here to the time of original publication about the 1950's] no religious order has been granted such clear graces for mission as has the Carmelite Order. Such divine favors admonish us and counter recent trends in the world and the Church. In an era of churchly projects and campaigns, they call us back to the one thing necessary, to contemplation, without considering whether it will succeed or be effective. In an age of psychology, we are called back to anonymity, not merely to the anonymity of the veil but deeper into pure liturgical adoration of God for his own sake, where the worshippers seem to be indistinguishable from each other. In an age of emphasis on religious personality, we are called back into the life of a supernatural mission, a mission for which each personal ability and preference can at most serve as material to be used, a mission that demands a readineess to sacrifice one's entire nature.

The well of pure contemplation, which is the innermost source and mover of all life in the Church., must either be kept clean or be restored to purity.

What I read here is that contemplation is the fuel that lights the fire for mission. Not that every person should spend all day or ever much of the day in contemplation, but that contemplation is necessary, indeed the one thing necessary. In real contemplation, which may not be what Mr. Akin is addressing, contemplation leads directly to action. Perhaps the action is small and confined locally, but contemplation and service seem to go hand in hand.

I wonder if Mr. Akin is not addressing a very distorted, almost quietist notion of contemplation that has once again sneaked in through the back door. His particular reference to the "female" nature of contemplation seems to suggest a passivity (at least that's how I read his use of the word) that, if not Quietist , is certainly not truly partaking of the force of contemplation. Who could look at Thérèse's contemplation and find in it something to fault? How was this cloistered nun made co-patron of the Missions that Mr. Akin so ardently supports if she were merely passive before the face of the Lord? And yet it is undeniable that she was indeed profoundly contemplative.

So the contemplation Mr. Akin appears to address is what I would call "in-name-only" contemplation, and kind of ritualized involved self-inspection and passivity that never quite gets off the ground. It is a contemplation that is more a navel-staring than a God-adoring. This contemplation while not culpable is certainly not the great work of past ages that so inspired generations of Saints and Catholics.

Contemplation, meditation, and frequent feeding on the word of God are essentials to evangelization. In fact, if these are done in humility and proper spirit, they are among the most effective forms of evangelization that one can engage in. Far more people are attracted to the visible fruits of the properly lived Christian life than are attracted to words telling them what those fruits must be like. My vocation lived out in the presence of the Holy Spirit is a far more effective witness than my weak words. In that witness I say "Do as I do." In my other witness too often, I must say, "Do as I say, not as I do." And as anyone who has children will tell you, that is the very weakest form of teaching. People will more often follow your example than follow your words.

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I was distressed to read the excerpt from James Akin's article yesterday at Video Meliora. It starts with:

"The problem is that the renewal of holiness being conceived of is in feminine terms, placing a greater emphasis on meditative spirituality and 'contemplating the face of Christ.' This seems to me to be if not the opposite of what is needed, only a single component of what is needed."

But, it's just one of those cases when the attempt to make a very important point results in hyperbole that probably overstates what is really in mind. Surely Mr. Akin would not fly in the face of the Lord who said that "Mary has chosen the better part." And yet some of the remainder of the excerpt seems to say exactly this.

Instead of praying and turning inward, the Church needs to be praying and turning outward - evangelistically...It is true that the goal of evangelization and of ecclesiastical activity is union with God, but the primary modality of the average Christian life and of the Church's mandate in this world is evangelistic action rather than meditation or social projects.

This is not a zero-sum game. Turning inward is absolutely necessary. The Church must do so, but that inward turning must lead to an outward flowering and growth. The plant does not grow exclustively from the apical meristem--there is concomittant and perhaps even greater growth at the root-tip. If the roots are not entrenched, well-placed and healthy, the plant is sickly. Reaching outward before reaching inward is a tactic commonly used in certain evangelical circles and it leads to a spirituality that Jesus described in another parable--the grass sown shallowly. The roots dry up and the grass blows away.

I have not read all of Mr. Akin's comments as I do not get the publicaiton in which the article occurs. But one need not abandon nor even etiolate the inward looking contemplative dimension of life in order to serve. But one must pray in all humility that his or her mission is made clear.

Evangelization without true knowledge of the news you are spreading which comes from study of the scripture, but more from talking to the author of Scripture is a very bad notion indeed. (Moreover, I have much to say about Mr. Akin's distorted and highly stereotypical notions of fatherhood as well--but I won't go there because I suspect the point was not to talk about all fathers at all times, but to make a generalization with which I can in large part agree. However, I am inclined to wonder what he thinks all the pslams about "Our God is quick to save and abundant in love" are all about. )

Read the excerpt and if possible, read the article. I'm sure that I have overstated Mr. Akin's case here, and so I have no real basis for strong disagreement, just caution. The growth of a crown of a tree that is not accompanied by the growth of the root, leads only to the ultimate collapse of the tree.

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Portland Crisis

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For an interesting perspective, speculation regarding the possible ramifications of the Portland Problem, you might want to visit The View through the Windshield. Scroll down to July 8 and the entry "Reformation II."

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Beloved, see what a marvellous thing love is; its perfection is beyond our expression. Who can truly love save those to whom God grants it? We ought to beg and beesech him in his mercy that our love may be genuine, unmarred by any too human inclination. From a Letter to the Corinthians by Pope St. Clement

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Linda in a health crisis right now that it might be resolved quickly and to the betterment of her family

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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More insight from St. Thérèse via H.U. Von Balthasar.

from Two Sisters in the Spirit Hans Urs von Balthasar
[here von Balthasar quotes from Manuscript B of Story of a Soul]

What does me a lot of good when I think of the Holy Family is to imagine a life that was very ordinary. It wasn't everything they have told us or imagined. Such as the story that the Child Jesus modeled a little bird out of clay and breathed upon it, so that it came to life . . . . In that case, why were they not trasnported to Egypt by a miracle--that would at least have been useful and not at all diffiuclt for the good God. They would have been there in the twinkling of an eye. But no, that did not happen. Their life was the same as ours.

Here the truth of the Incarnation is in question and therefore the truth of our whole life, which is only true when it is lived through to its utmost depths as it comes to us from its source, the Savior. Men always believe that they are supposed to attribute to the Lord every imaginable, superhuman "perfection"; and the fact that they do so may even be a token of their admiration. Yet ultimately this perfection lies in that very humility and love by which he became like us in everything except sin. For he was obedient unto death, learning this obedience through suffering

And what pious nonsense has been talked in the name of Mariology! Rather as if she herself were wielding the thong of cords at the purification of the temple, Thérèse ruthlessly kicks aside all the heaps of pious, well-meant untruths that have been wished upon the Mother of the Lord and in the end leave souls unnourished and prevent them from drink the living waters.

All the sermons on Mary I have heard have left me cold. . . . How I should love to have been a priest in order to preach about the Mother of God! I believe that just one sermon would have been enough for me to show what I mean. I would begin by showing how the life of the Mother of God is, in fact, very little known. One should not relate improbable stories about her, such as, for instance, that she went to the temple when she was a child of only three years in order to offer herself to God because she was so full of burning love and extraordinary fervor. Perhaps she went there quite simply out of obedience to her parents. . . . If a sermon on Mary is to bear tfruit, it must give a genuine picture of her life, as we are allowed to glimpse it in the Gospels, instead of something imagined. And it is surely easy to sense that her life in Nazareth and later must have been perfectly ordinary. "He was subject to them." How simple that is!


Too often, it seems, we may do the same with Saint's lives. We look upon their extraordinary accomplishments and then embellish them so that they become not so much role models as distant figures of impossible faith and piety. We neglect their ordinariness. We admire them, but we can come up with an extraordinary plexus of reasons why we couldn't possible emulate them in any way. How often have I heard, "Oh, I couldn't be like St. Thérèse, she was so holy from such a young age." So who is asking you to be like St. Thérèse? We already have one of those, and there are those in the world who would maintain that one is more than enough. (I used to be among them--no longer).

God gives us Saints not so much for slavish imitation as for encouragement. No one is called to be another St. Francis, St. Benedict, St. Anything. Each person is called to be a unique Saint, just as they are a unique person. The canonized Saints give us a glimpse of how others have achieved this. How they have achieved heroic sanctity despite a less than heroic start; how they have come to love God when they started by dispising Him; how their own persons and personalities are used by God to erect new Saints and new heroes, new examples that tell us--"You can do it."

After all, what is remarkable about St. Thérèse? She grew up a bourgeoise French lady, a potential snob, in a jansenist French society, overwhelmed with the exceeding wrath of God. She was treacly sweet and had a hellish temper at the same time and was stubborn as an ox. Nothing here particularly remarkable. And in that very fact lies our best hope. Just as there is nothing particularly remarkable about any of us, so too God can use that milquetoast or wanness and convert it into heroic virtue.

When I reflect on St. Thérèse this is what I most often think about--her humble beginnings did not stand in the way of her storming heaven, asking for, and receiving the gift of holiness, the gift of love. So what stops me? And when I think like this I realize that there is very, very little in the way--only myself. And if Jesus is willing, I can be healed.

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Ignatius Insight Scoop

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Although not advertised as such, Insight Scoop is a blog moderated and run by Carl Olson presenting some very interesting material. Also of interest Ignatius Insight, which offers articles and excerpts of books online. Check out these resources.

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Prayer Requests 8 July 2004--

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My Father and I will come and make our home with him. Let your door stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart and stand befor the sun of the everlasting light that shines on every man. This true light shines on all, but if anone closes his window he will deprive himself of eternal light. If you shut the door of your mind, you shut out Christ. Though he can enter, he does not want to force his way in rudely, or compel us to admit him against our will. From an exposition of psalm 118--St. Ambrose.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For Chris K. please continue and redouble your prayer efforts

For Linda in a health crisis right now that it might be resolved quickly and to the betterment of her family

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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In Carmel, one is not allowed to strike false coins in order to buy souls.

I would broaden that to say In Christianity. Following the now-much quoted dictum that one may not do evil that good may result, false coinage would strike me as a great betrayal against the commandment that requires us not to "bear false witness against our neighbor." What would such false coinage do to the fabric and integrity of the faith?

Do you think you can satisfy our Lord with one of your nicely composed devotions? No. Words are not enough. In order really to be a victim of love, one must utterly surrender oneself.

Or in the words of that immortal theologian Eliza Doolittle (according to Lerner and Lowe--from the song "Show Me")

Don’t talk of stars
Burning above;
If you’re in love,
Show me!
Tell me no dreams
Filled with desire.
If you’re on fire,
Show me!
Here we are together in the middle of the night!
Don’t talk of spring! Just hold me tight!
Anyone who’s ever been in love’ll tell you that
This is no time for a chat!

I've said before and I'll state more clearly, God speaks even in show tunes. And this is one of the things He sings to us. "Don't talk of love--show me."

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from Two Sisters in the Spirit
Hans Urs von Balthasar

Thérèse's mission, at the very first glance, displays the marks of a clearly defined and quite exceptional charcter. This is much less due to the personal drama of the little saint than to the sacred form into which the trickling grains of petty anecdotes are compressed, into a hard, unbreakable block, by a firm, invisible hand. It is contrary to all expectation that the simple, modest story of this little girl should eventaully culminate, as it irretutably does, in the enunciation of theological truths. Originally she herself never dreamed that she might be chosen to bear some fundamental message to the Church. She became aware of it only gradually; in fact, it did not occur to her until her task was almost completed, after she had already lived out her teaching and was writing the last chapters of her book. Suddenly, as she saw it all laid out before her, she recognized its strangeness, that in her obedience she had unwillingly conceived something beyond her own personlaity. And now that she saw it, she also understood it and seized it with a kind of violence.

Some, like St. Paul, know clearly from the time of being touched by God what their mission to the world is all about. They cannot conceive of the repercussions of successfully fulfilling the mission--how the world will be transformed and turned inside out--nevertheless they know it and fulfill it. Others, and I take it von Balthasar would propose Thérèse as an example of this, simply live their mission. It is perhaps possible that such a saint might not grasp their mission even toward the end. Von Balthasar argues that Thérèse did recognize her own; however, it stands to reason that it would be possible to fulfill God's will entirely and not see the contours and patterns of one's own calling. The thought of this fascinates me and intrigues me.

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On the Mission of the Saints

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Von Balthasar starts his work on St. Thérèse and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity with a brief discussion of the role of theologians in looking at the lives of Saints and with an analysis of what it means to be a saint. The excerpt that follows is from the introduction.

from Two Sisters in the Spirit
Hans Urs von Balthasar

In a saint, it is primarily the missiion that is perfect; only secondarily is he himself described as perfect, insofar as he integrates the whole of his gifts and strength into fulfilling his mission. Many have grasped their mission joyfully, taking it, so to speak, on the wing; others have undertaken it hesitatingly, almost reluctantly--but the mission proved too strong and compelled them to serve it. Some, at the cost of their flesh and blood, have allowed its complex demands to lay hold on every single fiber of their persons; others have been content to accept the essential demands, levaing many corners of their selves untouched and empty. For the kingdom of the saints knows many degrees, from the lowest limit, where the integrity of the mission is just preserved, to the highest level of all, where the mission and the person become indistinguishable. The Mother of God alone has reached that level.

I find interesting the notion of lackluster Saints--saints who can be prodded into action, but just barely enough to fulfill their destiny as saints. Even these low level saints (let's call them the "Red Dwarfs" of the saint's world --after those suns that just barely keep lit--far exceed the holiness and perfection of those of us who never even think about what our mission might be, let alone consider fulfilling it.

Anyway, von Balthasar, as usual has given me something to consider quite carefully over the next several hours or days. What is my mission? Who am I in God and how I am I called to share and express that with the Church? In short, how do I become the Saint God wishes for me to be? Not the general contours of that proposal, which are taught by the Church at all times, and for which I direct your attention to Disputations, but rather, what are the specific things, talents, ideas, personality traits, yearnings that God wishes for me to share? And how do I go about sharing these? Questions for all who aspire to love God perfectly and to find His way for them in life.

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While this is a much more accurate, much finer story than Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, it still rates only about a three out of five. The primary reason for this is a too-long stretch of sexual healing through group grope that casts its jaded, gloomy shadow over the final portions of the novel. Absoutely unnecessary in every regard, this theme adds nothing and detracts considerably from a fascinating story about time travel, dinosaurs, and paradox. At moments, the novel approaches philosophy--as when one of the characters engaged in time travel refers to their actions as predestined. The predestination in this book seem rather like the Calvinist double predestination. However, as this can all be undone, it is not really predestinaiton at all.

The novel traces a band of paleontologists and paleontological groupies as they travel through time giving papers and visiting the lost vistas of the past. Time travel has been given as a gift from "The Unchanging," with the proviso that those using it do not introduce paradox into the time stream. Time travel is used exclusively for visiting the Mesozoic era and studying dinosaurs upclose.

We are almost immediately given anod to Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder," when one of the characters tells another, "You can step on as many butterflies as you want and kill as many dinosaurs, it has already happened."

Time travel is threatened by (what else) a reactionary group of fundamentalists who seek to destroy the whole notion for purposes that don't make any sense whatsoever, except perhaps that it allows the author to express his antipathy toward a group of people he obviously neither understands nor has any tolerance for.

Plot logic lapses such as this, and extraneous elements both detract from a neat and interesting story line. In the hands of a more controlled writer (I won't say more capable because Swanwick is truly a talented writer) this book could have been about a hundred pages shorter and a good deal less offensive to those who hold any sort of religious views.

It is worthwhile to read for the dinosaurs, the paleontology, and the inside look at some of the battles that rage through the scientific world. However, I must say that the negatives nearly overwhelm any positive aspects the novel may have. For most of y'all, I'd suggest giving it a big miss.

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When you finish the meal [the Eucharist] offer thanks in this manner: "We thank you, holy Father, for your name which you enshrined in our hearts. We thank you for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus. To you be glory for ever. Almighty ruler, you created all things for the sake of your name you gave men food and drink to enjoy so that they might give you thanks. Now you have favored us through Jesus your sevant with spiritual food and drink as well as with eternal life. Above all we thank you because you are mighty. To you be glory forever.

"Remember, Lord, your Church and deliver her from all evil. Perfect her in your love; and, once she has been sanctified, gather her together from the four winds into the kingdom which you have prepared for her. For power and glory are yours forever." From "The Didache"--Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For Linda in a health crisis right now that it might be resolved quickly and to the betterment of her family

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Chris K. whose experimental treatment did not yield the expected results, that more traditional methods will help to end this terrible disease.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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Future Entries

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Having shown to my satisfaction that there is no interest whatsoever in either paleontology or Nathaniel Hawthorne, what new depth shall I plumb as a potential source of all that is dull? I haven't considered it thoroughly yet, but don't be surprised to hear from Father G-L again.

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from "Filling the Long Space of Loneliness"
Ellen Wilson Fielding
in The Word Among Us August 2004

Rose remembered all her life a visit her father recounted making to an English poorhouse. A small, diseased child covered with sores drew close to Hawthorne and held up his arms beseechingly. Hawthorne's body reacted with strong physical revulsion, but he fought his natural response and picked up and hugged the child. He explained later that he felt God had promised the little boy that kindness and that he could never have called himself a man again if he had refused.

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We entreat you, brothers, as earnestly as we are able, to have charity, not only for one another, but also for those who are outside the Church. Of these some are still pagans, who have not yet made an act of faith in Christ. Others are separated, insofar as they are joined with s in professing faith in Christ, our head, but are yet divided from the unity of his body. My friends, we must grieve over these as over our brothers; and they will onl cease to be so when they no longer say our Father. From a Discourse on the Psalms by St. Augustine.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For Christine as she discerns the proper path to take in setting up a community

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Chris K. whose experimental treatment did not yield the expected results, that more traditional methods will help to end this terrible disease.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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I know you all would rather see pictures of Samuel, but pardon me for indulging my enthusiasm. It's definitely NOT great to be back, but then one can't spend every day in paradise as one would be tempted to do nothing.


Array of Fossils.jpg

The array of things collected including unidentified process of a femur or humerus, fish processes, shark teeth, alligator scutes and other more inscrutable objects.

Large Shark Tooth.jpg

One of the larger Shark's teeth I've had a chance to find, and probably one of the largest that is readily preserved in even the mild surf zone of the Gulf. (Great for kids--rays in the morning with minnows and little blue fish, the occasional crab, and for the adults, glorious sunsets and thunderstorms (about which more later).


Shark Teeth.jpg

Just the shark teeth with a quick attempt at orienting them all in the same way. Not knowledgeable enough to do true anterior/posterior and certainly don't know enough to tell you (yet) where in the mouth. But this array probably represents something like 20 species of shark, from Miocene to Plio-Pleistocene in age.

Hope that whets your appetite--or not, as the case may be. More about Venice tomorrow.

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Absence

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Over the next several days, I shall be blissfully celebrating our nation's birth (much to Erik's pain and woe) at the breast of the Mother of Life (at least here on Earth) herself. Please pray for my family this evening as we travel, and even as I delight in the sun, the sea, and the shark's teeth, I shall be praying for you.

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These are the waters that the heart of the believer longs for, these are the waters that the heart of the newly baptized yearns for when he says: My heart thirsts for God, the living fountain. This is no a weak, faint desire to see God, rather the newly baptized acutally burn with desire and thirst for God. Before they received baptism they used to ask one another: When shall I go and see that face of God? Now their quest has been answered. They have come forward and they stand in the presence of God. They have come before the altar and have looked upon the mystery of the savior. From a Sermon to the Newly Baptized by St Jerome

Reports

TSO reports that his friend Ham has a consulting job that may develop into something permanent. Please pray that Ham and the job are a good fit and that good comes of this.

Requests
Please continue to pray for Dylan

For Franklin's father and family as they struggle with the present circumstances

Please pray for Katherine's friend C. who lost her baby yesterday--healing, comfort, health and solace.

For Kris in Galesburg IL. who a year ago was diagnosed with cancer; now she faces treatment for a cancer that has spread. The local group is invoking the Blessed Gianna Beretta Mola.

For Chris K. whose experimental treatment did not yield the expected results, that more traditional methods will help to end this terrible disease.

For Akim, a blogger (not of St. Blogs, so far as I know) perilously close to the edge and calling out for help.

For Heather as she continues to undergo therapy to assist her living in greater harmony with the world.

For Gordon's brother, Sean, who is once again depressed and in bad cricumstance.

For Chris, of Maine Catholic and Beyond, who vanished from our midst with nary a word and has not been back since, that all goes well for him and for his family.

For Franklin, Katherine, and family as they travel, for safety, comfort, peace, refreshment, and renewal.

For Linda against discouragement under difficult circumstances

Prayers for Jeff Culbreath and the renewed success of his printing business.

For Brain Savio O'Connor, victim of conscience and Christian Witness in Saudi Arabia

A special request from two gentleman battling particularly troublesome and besetting sins for grace and help as they continue forward.

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

For my isolate Carmelite Brother and Sister in NY (Mr. and Mrs. O) one of whom is battling cancer, the other who has Parkinson's and has recently broken a bone, may God be with them in their trials and in their healing

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Steven Riddle in July 2004.

Steven Riddle: June 2004 is the previous archive.

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