Steven Riddle: September 2005 Archives

For Fans of Thomas á Kempis


The Chronicle of the Canons Regular of Mount St. Agnes

Not a work that I am familiar with. I'll have to spend a weekend or so with it.

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Science Fiction Studies:Full Texts of Sold-Out Back Issues

For those who take their Science Fiction somewhat more seriously.

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Washington Irving


Making of America Books

Page images of the 1861 Edition of the Collected Works of Washington Irving. Includes his biography of George Washington, his study of the Alhambra and of Islam, and the Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, etc.

Nice place to start thinking about the season--"Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is always a nice seasonal treat.

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Now Available


Story of a Soul

It's not the definitive ICS, and it is from the 1922 redaction known to have been modified for the sake of the living by her sister. Nevertheless, if you need something quick, easy, on-line, and in public domain, here's your text. The words that remain are those of St. Therese. Much of her sister Pauline's editing was merely deletion of personal references and remarks she thought inappropriate. (Thus leading those who have not read the definitive version to think of St. Therese as a little saccharine and a little over-pious. Her sister Pauline was a great fan and a tremendous spin-doctor in the short run, but may have done her damage in the long-run.

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Request for Particular Prayers

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I am at a juncture where I am facing crises of sorts in several dimensions of my life--nothing dire, but huge decisions that need more brain-power and heart than I seem to be able to muster. (Probably because they affect so many different aspects of life.) If you would remember particularly in your prayers a need for discernment in at least three modes--vocational, career, and home life, I would greatly appreciate it.

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Knocking on the Door

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Jesus told us, "Knock and it shall be opened unto you."

Sometimes it feels as though I've knocked on that door until my knuckles are bloody. Was there ever a widow more importunate? Was there ever a person more persistent? Why do I not seem to progress?

I know the answers to those questions. It came to me early this morning. The door opens inward. If you knock on it, expecting it to open, you have to unlock it first. You have to be willing to let it open. And there are so many ways to keep oneself from unlocking the door. I start by ignoring that it needs to be done. Other methods are head knowledge that somehow never makes it to the heart and transforms it.

I now know the answer as to why some times seem so dry and so difficult. What does one do about them? I think the answer lies in simple patience and persistence. I must be patient in my constant application for admission and I must be persistent in pursuing.

But I also have to be patient with myself. I have to recognize that there are things that prevent me from unlocking that door, and I have to ask God what they are. I have to stop jangling the handle fruitlessly. Quite simply, I need to ask God to light up the interior of this great storehouse that is me and I need to oil the hingese, and clear away the cobwebs and chase away the spiders. I say I have to do it--the reality is I must merely be willing to have it happen to me. I must will to do it insofaras I can understanding that it is only the action of grace that accomplishes these things.

So long as I consider my prayer my own, and not a gift from God, I am on the wrong footing. My prayer is my own only as it arises from me. All prayer is God's gift returning to God with interest. The greater interest from those who have already realized what a gift it is and so do not struggle so hard--do not kick against the goad.

None of this is easy for some of us. Particularly those of us who are very interior people, who have grown accustomed to keeping everything inside. People often comment how very open and revealing some of the things I write are--but believe it or not, they don't begin to even scratch the surface. These are the things I am willing to share--the depths, the true reaches that I have yet to thoroughly plumb and acquaint myself with, I dare not even hint at. Such honesty as there is is superficial--whisper thin. But it is helpful for me to articulate that much--it lays out the map of the known territory and from it, I can begin to explore the reaches. And perhaps my map will assist others who are wandering in the same or similar lands. From it they can get a bearing and move forward.

Please pray for me.

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Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

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One of the real advantages to homeschooling is that you needn't listen to the pablum dished out about a student's capabilities. Samuel is NOT extraordinary in his academics. I want to emphasize that. He is a perfectly ordinary little boy more interested in lunch and recess than he is in what part of speech "therefore" is. However, perfectly ordinary little boys accomplish astounding things when it is simply expected of them. Last night as we said our prayers before bedtime, Samuel piped up (after the Our Father) with his Latin lesson:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra glória tua.
Hosánna in excélsis.
Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Domini.
Hosánna in excélsis.

That nomine Domini proved to be quite a tongue twister/challenger (for both of us, as it turns out.) Linda, who has never taken Latin is teaching him Latin with a series called Prima Latina. I, who have taken Latin, hardly understand the pronunciation, so different is it from classical Latin, but I can hear that he is learning it. In fact, it is the lesson he looks forward to. After the Egyptian mummies (and yes, he knows the difference between Upper and Lower Egypt, the red crown and the white and the double, and can tell you more than you ever wished to know about the process of mummification [as I said, he's a perfectly normal little boy--these things are of intense interest]) they do Latin. And if the day has run long and Linda is thinking about cutting it off, the one thing he doesn't want cut out is Latin.

Now we have to find a tutor for him as he wants to learn Spanish, Italian, and French. The last I can teach, though it would be well to have some recordings of a native speaker as my pronunciation is, at best, rusty. But sound and language is his melieu--and as homeschoolers we can recognize that and encourage it. Yes, we have to balance it out with the stuff he doesn't particularly like (aspects of math). But homeschooling has proven successful thus far and I think will continue to be long into the future. Samuel loves it, and we have some considerable input into what he learns and the pace at which it goes. Individualized instruction is the way to go. For anyone who can do so, this is both challenging and rewarding. You can chicken out like we did and let your children get the basics of reading in a private (or public school) and then before their too sucked into education for the test, you can start to teach them at home. It also teaches you a certain amount of respect for what teachers must do every day. When you consider that they must man classrooms of 20, 30, or even 40 children, not all of whom are well-behaved away from their parents, not all of whom may speak English, not all of whom have any support from the family at all, AND they must teach to standards written by people who have never once seen a child in their lifetimes and who have no knowledge whatsoever of what a child is capable of--you begin to get a sense of what courage and loyalty it takes to run a classroom day to day.

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Thorne Smith Fan Site

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It's entirely possible that I am the only person in the world who cares, but it is the works of This remarkable writer that lead me to decry the Mickey Mouse copyright eterno-extension act of 19whatever.

It seems that his work will not pass into obscurity after all--but I can tell you that it deadly hard to come by some of these. My paperback of The Passionate Witch is circa 1945, my hardback of The Bishop's Jaeger's is a first. I have five Del Rey printings of his more popular/well known works Topper, Topper Takes a Trip, The Stray Lamb, Nightlife of the Gods, and Rain in the Door. I have an ancient paperback of The Glorious Pool and one of scarcely more recent vintage of Skin and Bones. What's the attraction? Think thirties screwball comedies in paperback form. Think Busby Berkeley in paperback. Think Thurber with too much whiskey at hand. The books froth, bubble and boil over. They jaunt along at their own unique pace, never properly captured despite three film adaptations--(the two Toppers, and the Veronica Lake vehicle I Married a Witch a.k.a. The Passionate Witch.

Well, just another of my curious interests. But I will work to overturn the idiocy of that copyright act in any way made available to me. Great works are vanishing because publishers are not keeping alive what will not make a profit and it is all out of public domain so that we can protect Mickey Mouse. (Another one of my big beefs against big business--admittedly a very, very small big beef, but one that I am passionate about.)

Below--Thorne Smith on Thorne Smith:

"The more I think about it the more am I convinced that I'm a trifle cosmic. My books are as blindly unreasonable as nature. They have no more justification than a tiresomely high mountain or a garrulous and untidy volcano. Unlike the great idealists and romancers who insist on a beginning and a middle and an ending for their stories mine possess none of these definite parts. You can open them at any page. It does not matter at all. You will be equally mystified if not revolted. I am myself."

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When I said something to Samuel about David dancing before the Lord, he looked puzzled, was quiet for a moment and then said, "Didn't God know how to dance?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, God is older than David and if David danced before He did, then maybe God didn't know how to dance."

Well, what can you say in response to that remarkable chain of reasoning?

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Blogging Personality--No Way!


I didn't blog this yesterday when I did it because I thought no way. And since MamaT had the courage to say no way, I thought I could too.

Your Blogging Type is Artistic and Passionate
You see your blog as the ultimate personal expression - and work hard to make it great.
One moment you may be working on a new dramatic design for your blog...
And the next, you're passionately writing about your pet causes.
Your blog is very important - and you're careful about who you share it with.

This is completely true except--since I've settled on a design for the blog I haven't changed it, and likely won't (although I now have some photo swatches of the real blue I want in the background, so I might go that far.)

I don't regard this as anything near my ultimate personal expression, which can only come through prayer.

And, I'm not particularly careful who I share it with. The whole world is welcome to read if they choose to do so, wipe their feet, and behave themselves as civilized individuals when they visit. It's just about the only neat thing in my life at the moment.

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About Prayer

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I loved this passage.

from Ascent to Love Sister Ruth Burrows,
quoting Wendy Mary Beckett, "Simple Prayer," in Clergy Review

The simplicity of prayer, its sheer, terrifying, uncomplicatedness, seems to be either the last thing most of us know or want to know. It is not difficult to intellectualise about prayer--like love, beauty and motherhood it quickly sets our eloquence aflow, it is not difficult but it is perfectly futile. In fact those glowing pages on prayer are worse than futile; they can be positively harmful. Writing about prayer, reading about prayer, talking about prayer, thinking about prayer, longing for prayer and wrapping myself more and more in these great cloudy sublimities that make me feel so aware of the spiritual: anything rather than acutally praying. What am I doing but erecting a screen behind which I can safely maintain my self-esteem and hide away from God?

The writing is less than grand, but the idea is perfect. Too often I take any recourse to escape from prayer. What am I afraid of? Perhaps it is the Keatsian, "Being too happy in thy happiness, thou light-winged dryad. . ." Perhaps it is loss of identity, perhaps it is any number of a thousand other possibilities. But the reality is that I use all of these escape mechanisms and more. Do you?

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The Anchoress � What 5 Books Inspired You?

The Anchoress, via Julie D., asks the question--other than the Bible, what 5 books have influenced you most?

That's an extremely difficult question because I think through all of the books I have read and I can see so many different influences in so many different directions. But let me make an attempt. These will not necessarily be in order of importance--merely in order of occurrence to me.

1. Thomas Mallory's Morte D'Arthur--which taught me something about what it means to be selfless and devoted to a cause; something about the meaning of nobility; and something about the nature of God.

2. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glassby Lewis Carroll which taught me something about language, something about the essential absurdity of everyday events, something about the beauty of language perfectly used, and something about how poetry can be used effectively in prose to amplify both.

3. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain--taught me something about being a boy and something about what romantic inclinations are

4. Story of a Soul St. Therese of Lisieux. Taught me what St. John of the Cross said and how to practically apply it to my own life. (Haven't done it yet, but still, she did show me.)

5. Dubliners (Most particularly "The Dead," the single most perfect story ever composed in English) or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Ulysees James Joyce--all three taught me exactly the same thing--that no matter what Joyce may have come to think of the Church, he was always guided and influenced by it despite himself, and that the truth was there if I would only look for it. This is a very long story, but it was probably one of two or three books most influential in bringing me tot he Catholic Church (the others would be the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and some of the essays of C.S. Lewis).

Okay, I've listed more than 5,but if I have to choose from the brood at the end, I would probably go with Ulysses in that it taught me that being Catholic doesn't necessarily make you stupid (a prejudice I had to fight hard to overcome due to some influences in early Childhood and some very bad examples of how to be Catholic I experienced early on.)

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Podcasts for Christ


Against a dictatorship of relativism

Look at the supercool array of Podcasts found by Mr. Thakur. Thank you sir.

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Bride and Prejudice

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In two words,"See it."

I saw a review on Julie's site after seeing it recommended at Netflix.

A breakthrough film, featuring all that is best in Indian cinema with a western slant that invites us in. There's color and singing and dancing, and a story we all know and can hum along to. Because I am not so concerned with coordination with the original plot line, I think I was able to enjoy this for the real celebration of family and life that it was. (Commenters at Julie's were disturbed by who was whom according to the book.) For those of you not yet acquainted with the original this is a colorful and delightful introduction.

So much so that I am hard pressed as to whether to more highly tout the "cobra dance" or the gospel choir on the beach sequence.

Beautifully filmed, colorful, and uplifting, I can hardly recommend this highly enough to the St. Blog's community. I laughed myself silly at parts and enjoyed the songs and the essential joy that permeated the film.

An enjoyable way to engage other cultures and to get a look at our own through different eyes.

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Some time back I recall reading a post or a comment (I think it was at Video Meliora. . .) in which a person seemed to be coming around to the true importance of fiction in reading. There does tend to be a fairly strong divide between readers of fiction and readers of nonfiction with the former being mostly women and the latter being mostly men. I don't know if this divide has been documented or if it is merely anecdotal. Most of the men of my acquaintance seem to like fiction (at least some fiction) as much as nonfiction and most of the women seem to like some nonfiction as well as fiction. Be that as it may, there is a substantive difference between the two forms that does tend to give fiction pride of place in literature and in formation of a person.

Nonfiction tends to provide information. This can, but often does not, lead to formation of an individual. You read a book, you are informed, and you are or are not changed by the information. There are several difficulties with nonfiction. To wit:

(1) it is often anything but
(2) being factual it presents itself to the intellect as an object for consideration
(3) there is a tendency to argue with notions and theses with which we may be in disagreement.

This difficulties are sometimes part of the satisfaction and sometimes part of the frustration of reading nonfiction. Let's take a moment to consider these points.

(1) A while back I commented that when one finished a book by John Cornwell, which is supposedly nonfiction, one was immediately driven to seek out the primary sources from which it was derived and check all of them--essentially personally rewriting the book in an attempt to gain corroboration for the opinions disguised as fact and for the agenda disguised as narrative. Except for the field of mathematics (in which I am not so broadly read as in other fields) this is true of writers in all of the nonfiction fields, most particularly those in controversial fields. Who could read Dawkins without wanting to check every assertion made? What political history is not rife with sectarian feelings? How many economics books have no certain affection for a given economic system. Our reaction to these books is proportional to our liking of the ideas espoused in them. They may present facts, but they do so very subjectively and very selectively. This is of necessity because art is selective in its detail--but it leads to great complications of how to deal with the material. Whose view of Adams is the correct one? Of Washington? What does a history of the United States written in Great Britain read like? Which is closer to the historical fact? How many of Aquinas's givens do we accept as true and how many must we let pass simply to follow the argument? The list goes on and one. Nonfiction presents facts, but very rarely is it unmixed with opinions and even falsifications that put forward the agenda of the writer.

(2) Nonfiction presents itself to the intellect. The intellect for most of us is the gatekeeper. It effectively weeds out what we do not wish to consider or do not wish to believe. For example, some time back I reviewed a book by Barbara Ehrenreich titled Nickled and Dimed. Some of the response I received to that review was that Ehrenreich was a feminist, she was pro-abortion, she was this, she was that. Few of the comments that derided the book did so on the basis of what was presented there; rather they immediately went to Ms. Ehrenreich's other agendas. Not one of them reflected on the actual experiences recorded and revealed that Ms. Ehrenreich had falsified data, had claimed things that simply weren't true, etc. The intellect had effectively prohibited the commenters from engaging the central thesis of the work because it was uncomfortable--there is an entire class of people who work themselves literally to death simply to make ends meet. We'd prefer to keep our minimum wages low and with them our prices. To attack Ms. Ehrenreich's book on its own merits is one thing, but on the basis of her overall agenda is another entirely.

I will confess that I enjoy movies by actors who have not bombarded me with their political views. I find it difficult to watch a film with George Clooney or most of the Baldwin clan. This is simply because I have rejected their agenda and with it most of their art. It is a similar case of the intellect being the gatekeeper.

(3) Continuing with the intellect as gatekeeper--we have a tendency to reject out of hand anything that does not agree with our core agenda. This is why debate on issues like the Iraq war can be so rancorous--we simply don't listen. We sit and look as though we are listening, but the entire time we listen or read we are planning our response to the argument. This is why "fisking" is so popular. We disassemble an argument either according to logic or according to our own agendas and systematically dismantle anything that might get through the fortifications. (This leads me to wonder whether or not we might benefit from a less martial, more equable stance on both sides. It is difficult to attain in written media and we have a core resistance to it anyway--but what real harm is there in someone holding a different opinion than my own.)

Fiction, on the other hand, is entirely "opinion" or not fact. It slips in beneath the radar--this is both its strength and its danger. Depending upon the payload with which it slips in the results can be good or bad. For example, when I was younger, Tolkien slipped in below the radar with a tale of what was noble, good, and true. I didn't realize at that time, nor do I entirely buy at this time, how "religious" it was--but it was formative. I saw in the narrative, just as I saw in the Arturian legends, something that was good, and true and real. This percolated within below the radar. Well-written fiction will do that. It is one of the reasons why I rant and rave more against Philip Pullman than I do against Dan Brown. The true, serious, horrendous danger of fiction is fiction that moves us to emotion and makes us hunger for something. When we finish Pullman's book, the hunger is dark and deadly. Poorly written or idea-driven fiction on the other hand works largely in the same way as non-fiction--if we were inclined to think that way anyway, then we will be persuaded, otherwise we will reject the notion. Who has been substantively changed in their lives by Cricheton, Clancy, or Grisham. We may have been engaged and entertained, but we haven't really been moved.

On the other hand, who has read Pride and Prejudice and not experienced something of an entirely different world--a better, more noble, more courteous, more considerate world. These kinds of fictions sneak in under the radar, as I have said, and they affect our formation, our core being. I am convinced that this is one of the reasons that Jesus told parables. What could He have said in a parable that He could not equally well told us straight out. In fact, He does tell us most of it straight out--for those who are more moved by fact than by fiction. But who among us remembers the entire last supper portion of the book of John (almost from chapter 14 on) compared with the parable of the sower and the seed, or the prodigal son. Jesus knew that fiction (and poetry with is also artifice) got in below the radar and worked on the human spirit.

Yes, the intellect can still operate as gatekeeper and keep the fiction at a distance so that it does not work any harm--but it is more difficult than when one faces facts.

One final point about fiction is that it is the eternal now. Whenever you pick up the book Elizabeth Bennett is fencing with Mr. Darcy. Whenever you pick up the book Jane Eyre is engaging Mr. Rochester. Whenever you pick up the book, Mr. Bilbo Baggins is about to celebrate his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence. It is changeless--if has not already happened, it happens in the here and now. In that sense, fiction resembles heaven. It is the expreience of the here and now always. It is living with full knowledge of all that happens but experiencing it outside of time over and over again.

Fiction has its serious dangers--bad fiction, by which I mean well-written fiction with a strongly negative agenda can form as easily as good fiction. Because these things touch the heart, they are harder to uproot and weed out than is nonfiction which can be battled with proper facts and good reasoning. But fiction also has its virtues in that we are invited to a more intimate conversation. In the best fiction and poetry, we are transformed. I think particularly of the story of Jonah, which is utterly transformative in its telling, whether one accepts it as fiction or as fact--the least one could say of it is that it is like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood or Gore Vidal's America series--it is "faction." And it changes us utterly if we encounter it on the level of fiction. A certain truth about God is made substantive and complete when we internalize this story.

Fiction can be an experience of heaven in a way that nonfiction often cannot. Nonfiction can delineate heaven and argue its attributes. It can claim to know how many angels there are and what their ranks are and what precisely each is inclined to do, but it cannot really tell me how to talk to an angel.

For me, fiction has consistently provided a keener insight and a more lasting impression of the things that really matter. Certainly, nonfiction has done so in the form of the Bible, but there we get into another discussion entirely--one that I hope to formulate and articulate soon--how the Bible, while factual uses what we view as fictional devices to bypass much of our resistance.

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Tyrannosaur Canyon


Okay, let's start by laying the cards on the table. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are becoming much like Stephen King and Michael Crichton, particularly the latter. They write too much for anything to be particularly great in terms of the writing. If we accept the awkwardnesses of phrasing and the clunkiness of some plot devices and characters, we'll still find a rip-roaring story somewhere in the debris.

However, this book was very nice. Of course, there isn't much you could write about past life that wouldn't enthrall me. From Julian May's Pliocence series to Brian Aldiss's Cryptozoic I'm a sucker for any story about dinosaurs or time travel into deep time.

Well this one isn't so much about that as it is about dinosaur fossil hunting. And it is a doozy. Chases, murders, mad scientists, not-so-mad scientists, frenzied Benedictines, and a raft of other likely and less likely suspects.

I dare not say too much for fear that it will ruin the entire book for you. But suffice to say that it begins with the murder of a prospector searching for some unknown treasure and ends (quite literally) not with a whimper but a bang.

There is, however, on major oversight that I must comment on, because this is what editors and research are for. At one critical juncture in the book, a mineralogist discovers a "clue" in the presence of a "cenozoic trilobite, such as one could buy for three or four dollars."

Oh really? If there were a cenozoic trilobite it would be as astronomically expensive as some of the relics in this book. The simple reason being that the trilobites became extinct at the Paleozoic/Mesozoic boundary.

We'll forgive Preston his oversight--after all, where else can you find buckeyballs, nanomachines, dinosaurs, and all the sundry and assorted charaters I started this rant with?

For pure, unadulterated bonehead fun, drop everything and run to your library to get this gem.

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Long Ages of Cat's Eyes

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Siris: Daydreaming

Not the title he gave to the poem, but a most remarkable line and a fascinating subject for speculation. Works perfectly with the title. For those who enjoy poetry, go and enjoy this. It has some remarkable, remarkable things in it.

Lofted Nest, why so short on poetry of recent date?

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Secondhand Smoke

. . . (i.e. misguided and very, very far from brilliant) is a person I need to read more of.

Persons interested in the dignity of the human person might do well to check out the blog listed above. Many thanks to Speculative Catholic.

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The Spoken Word Archive


Browse Top Level > Audio > Open Source Audio > Spoken Word

At Open Source Audio--A number of readily available books--and thanks to the efforts and contributions of volunteers such as Maria Lectrix noted below, this will only increase. This is the greatest find (for me) since Distributed Proofreaders.

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Maria Lectrix

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Maria Lectrix

Found via Aliens in this World (thank you!!). A site from a woman who reads public domain e-books for public domain audiobooks--rather like podcasts. And the books she has read!

I saw listed The Sword of Welleran and Annus Mirabilis by John Dryden.

What a wonderful service!!

I just can't use enough exclamation points about this!!!

Seriously, I'll have to plow through the archives of this site and see what all had been produced and then send a very nice thank you letter to the person who produced them all.

Thank you Maria Lectrix if you stop by here. If not, I'll be writing soon.

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Learn New Testament Greek


Home Page of

On-line lessons with study sheets, nice slow intro to the letters etc. May have posted this before, but it is cool enough to require another posting.

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Neat Idea


What Should I Read Next?

Here's an engine that supposedly provides you with a recommendation for what book to read next. Problem is, if you enter only one book, you end up with some bizarro stuff. For example, I entered "Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall" and had suggested to me, "H. P. Lovecraft's Dagon and other Macabre Tales." Interesting associations. Of course, I'm guessing that they expect you to compile a list over time which will help the engine hone its recommendations. Anyway, it looks like something fun to go and enjoy.

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Several times recently, I have seen the Old Testament standard of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," derided as the draconian face of the "Old Yahweh" (whatever that might mean). And indeed, in terms of our present understanding, the standard is harsh. But in fact, for its time, the standard was enlightened.

The Code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest sets of written laws, set out the rule for the nation. Nearly everything was punishable by death. If a neighbor killed your son, you were entitled to kill his son. If you lied on the witness stand, you were to be executed. If you stole something of great value, you were to be executed. Hammurabi's code was indeed draconian.

The "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" code is, in fact a moderation of this very strict, very harsh, very difficult code. One could not go from the rule of Hammurabi straight to "turn the other cheek." I suppose if there is development of doctrine among human beings it is because God first led us step by step to the rule of love. As we responded to His gentleness and clear law, we were encouraged to move further, to improve upon it in our behavior. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," was not the "rule absolute" but rather the absolute limits for what one could justly demand. There is no necessity to demand this from another--but in the transaction of law, no more could be taken than was taken originally.

An eye for an eye is not the way we live today, but it was a considerable improvement over the way we lived in Hammurabi's time.

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Did I Happen to Mention. . .

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Took Samuel to his first church-driven CCD program meeting (he'd been getting home-schooled, but until recently the diocese had a requirement that to receive communion children had to attend Church-sponsored CCD--thought it was still in place--signed him up--it isn't.). As I had to be there anyway, I figured I would volunteer. Signed the sheet and five minutes later was whisked away into the fourth grade class to serve as teacher-helper. (I suppose I shouldn't mention that I am ambivalent about this policy as I thought they would at least do fingerprinting, etc. as is common here when serving with either children or the elderly. But didn't really want to go through that hassle either.)

So now I'll help out the fourth-grade teacher. Next year I may be teaching CCD. Anyway, the program is so weak that it won't damage Samuel's education and we'll continue with what we have been doing at home. So next year I'll probably teach grade 3. Not bad for a person used to working with Grade 6 and above. (Predominantly college freshmen, sophmores, and 1st year grad. students). Pray for me!

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Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

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Molasses Clocked at 35 MPH ... in January!

Okay, so you watch too much Food Network and you hear about things like the Boston Molassacre, in which 21 people died in a Molasses flood. It isn't funny, but there's such a surreal effect about it, I had to make it part of the blog.

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I honestly don't even know how to describe and typify this work. It isn't Japanese because it is by Lafacadio Hearn, a would-be Japanese from ?San Francisco.

Kokoro means "heart" and it includes a number of glimpses into Japanese culture at the time. (read more about Hearn here).

Suffice it to say that this is a major work in the genre. Gutenberg has had some pretty hot properties of recent date.

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History of Mystery


Some fairly important mysteries have already made it to Gutenberg, but this is the first I've heard of R. Austin Freeman's The Red Thumb Mark. Part of the "Impossible Crime" Movement and featuring Dr.Thorndyke, this is a critical publication for those interested in the development of the mystery.

With this publication there were three other Thorndyke mysteries--The Uttermost Farthing, John Thorndyke's Cases, and The Mystery of 31 New Inn. I must confess ignorance as the the first and last of these--so more new good reading.

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Rashomon: And Other Stories

Probably the single most famous Japanese story of all time. Made into one of the most copied Japanese films of the great master Akira Kurasawa. And relentlessly copied in literature. If you read only one piece of Japanese literature, you owe it to yourself to become acquainted with this strange, haunting, frightening little tale.

later I see I originally neglected to mention that this story is by Akutagawa, often nicknamed "the Japanese Poe." But perhaps a much more important figure in Japan than Poe was in the U.S.

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A Thread of Grace


A book by Mary Doria Russell is always a treat, and this is no exception; however, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed in the end of this exceptional book.

I am not a student of WW II. Frankly I know almost nothing about it. As a result, I learned a tremendous amount about the Italian Campaign and what exactly happened in Italy while reading the book. For example, I had not realized that Italy essentially capitulated in 1943 and was thereafter a puppet state of Germany. I thought that at the point of Italian surrender, Mussolini had been executed, but it was in fact at the defeat of Germany. So the book served as a sovereign remedy for a certain blind spot I have in history.

More than that, it is an excellent story about how the Italian people joined together to save the Jews that had escaped from Nice (and such native Italian Jews as they could). The story starts with a harrowing march from Nice to the small towns of Northern Italy. It chronicles two years of terror for nearly everyone in those small towns as the Nazis attempt to force the townspeople to surrender the Jews to them. In our small history, no one does so.

Another point in Russell's favor, she appears to have no ideological axe to grind. The Pope is not singled out for doing nothing. The only mention of the concordat is a mention in favor of what it did well and how it was used to help the cause. The priests in the book are holy and ultimately self-sacrificing. If there is any small fault it is that everyone (other than most of the Nazis) is so darned noble that one begins to wonder how a war was fought at all.

And perhaps that is what makes me a little disappointed at the ending of the novel. Suddenly, internicine strife of which we have had nearly no indication begins to snuff out people one by one until, at the very end, there appear to be something like three people left whom we have met in the novel. Somehow, I felt this did not ring true and I'm uncertain of Russell's purpose in bringing the novel to a close this way.

Nevertheless, despite reservations about the ending, I must recommend this book to those who wish to know more about the conduct of the war in Italy, about people who risked everything to help strangers who did not even speak their language, about human nobility in the face of absolute horror. Once again, beautiful written and compassionate--if you can believe it even to the perpetrator of all of this horror (even while not exonerating or taking away one smidgen of his ultimate responsibility and guilt).

Treat yourself--try this book. If you enjoy it (and you read Science Fiction) you will find The Swallow (aka Jesuits in Space) to be an even finer, more satisfying, if puzzling read. Enjoy!

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A Grace Note on the Charismatic Renewal


One thing I forgot to say and which ties in with themes that have been running through my mind since earlier this week (there are no coincidences) is that Praying in Tongues is certainly exemplary of "a joyful noise." While I have never done so myself, I am always at home with those who sing their prayers to God--I am buoyed up and brought closer to God on this tide of joy and I am moved to joy myself.

In a very real way the Charismatic movement taught me the beginning of contemplation, of waiting on the Lord with patient fervor.

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Buy A Friend A Book

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Buy a Friend a Book!

It is with a cheerful and smiling self-aggrandizement that I point out that the next BAFAB opportunity is the first week of October, and TSO has recently pointed out that mine is not the largest private library that he is aware of (Alas). It strikes me that one should be able to rely upon one's friends to redress these gross maladjustments of the celestial sphere.

So those so inclined can hie thee to Amazon and see if they can figure out how to find my wish list and purchase one, two, three, or all six-hundred and eighty-nine items on it. (exaggerating of course--I'm fairly certain there are not more than 100 at the present time.)

But wait! There's more! If you act right now, you can go to this page and get fabulously wonderful stickers to put on your blog site and to lead others straight to your amazon wish-list!

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Which Emperor


From Noli Irritare Leones--it could have been worse.

you are augustus caesar
You're Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. He had
a lot of drive and skill, possessing a
respectable spirit and the ability to persuade.
His wife was alwasys in his ear, she has a
BIGGER persuasive spirit. He's a God.

What Julio-Claudian Roman Emperor are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Holy Souls Prayer Books


Bethune Catholic: Paying the bills .....

Bethune Catholic offers a nice selection of books, including a book perfect for the month of November. In addtion, they are in need of some cashflow, so let's preserve another fine Catholic Press while offering suffrages for the poor souls in Purgatory.

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Colm Toibin


Sancta Sanctis

The post to which TSO links, is from Enbrethiel who is a Colm Toibin fan. I know him only from The Master and obviously have some work cut out for me as it seems that I have missed out on a great deal and on a great author.

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Being Charismatic

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Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor

TSO links to a most excellent post on facing the charismatic movement when you yourself are not.

It is most interesting as to all outward appearances and to any casual acquaintance I would appear to be the total anti-Charismatic. And I suppose to some degree there is truth in that evaluation.

I belonged to the renewal for five or six years. I never once spoke in tongues nor did I ever accept that speaking in tongues is what the Renewal makes of it. In the time of Acts, speaking in tongues meant that whatever language was being spoken was understood universally by all in their own tongue. So this melodious, wordless, sing-song thing that had no meaning to mean obviously was not the same thing. (Note, that I said HAD and TO ME; I've come to think of it quite differently as I shall relate below.)

I remember the first time someone stood up in a meeting and uttered something in this very fluid sibilant language and my reaction was, "Thank you very much for that." No translation, no clarification, nothing comprehensible.

And yet, though I never spoke in tonuges, I attended every meeting and every gathering of these great people that I could. In their presence, I experienced God in a way that I never did in any other place. While they were all singing or praying in tongues, or dancing, or doing whatever the spirit led, I was led to an inner sanctum, a place of utter calm and quiet. It was as though this fence of prayer set up a boundary between distractions and prayer. I was at my most contemplative in the core of silence that surrounded this hub-bub.

I don't know what tongues is--I refused the gift I suppose. But I do not think everyone receives the gift, regardless of the insistence that it is given. However, I was given a tremendous, powerful gift of silence. The "white noise" of prayer all around me did lead me to a much closer relationship with God. I was able to nurture and foster my Carmelite vocation amid the charismatics.

Now I attend a Mass that would drive most of St. Blog's insane. All of the music is a Taizé-like chanting repetition of a simple phrase, or powerful new music that lends itself to the same strain, or simple gospel tunes, or even Calypso. When I sing, "Our God is an awesome God," at Mass, I encounter a reality that eludes me in the "standard music" of the non-Latin mass. I am engaged at a heart level and I am actually participating in Mass. And, it is so much more powerful when there are any number of people singing and raising their hands in prayer. Okay, not everyone's cup of tea, but I sense the Charismatic strain in all of this, and I am perfectly, wonderfully at home.

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On Switching Horses Too Quickly

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Yesterday was the first day in a while that I had heard nothing from anyone and I was puzzled. Normally in the course of a day I hear something--generally over the pieces of fluff that I include, or perhaps a dissenting voice to one of my more strident opinions, so this silence intrigued me.

I went over the posts from yesterday and the day before and realized that I am once again entering the silence. That, in itself, is very encouraging because I have felt long excluded from it and it seems I can approach somewhat closer now.

But really, you can talk among yourselves. Too much silence too suddenly is disconcerting. One wonders where the readers have gone. (I don't have stats that are dynamically updated, so I've no way of knowing whether people still stop by on days when nothing is said.)

I shouldn't even publish this, but I will because I've adopted a version of Mark Shea's motto--"that no idiotic stray thought go unrecorded."

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Celebrating Autumn

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The Blog from the Core - A Fall Bouquet of Poetry II

Mr. Lane Core gives us a sampling of poetry that celebrates the autumn, and some very nice things in it indeed. Go and enjoy. Thank you Mr. Core.

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More Advice from the Psalms


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness
and come before His presence with singing. . .

How much better a world this would be if we would do this even 10% of the time. How much better each of our lives would be. How much better for all those around me. Perhaps this is a commitment I should make.

The other day at Disputations Tom was commenting that we don't do a very good job of preaching Jesus and Him crucified. Perhaps this psalm gives us a place to start that teaching. We start when we make a joyful noise unto the Lord. What better preaching is there than joy that comes from God alone, shared and spread to everyone we meet?

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Come, let us sing to the Lord . . .


and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.

Every day for more years than I can count, I have started the day of prayer with this psalm

Come, let us sing to the Lord
and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.
Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving
and sing joyful songs to the Lord.

Every day, year in year out, I trudge through this Invitatory because it is the gateway to morning prayer. After the first few times it becomes almost painful to repeat it. After a year or so of pain, it becomes numbing, and your lips and mind simply hum through it to get to the point.

But this is the gateway to the day. This is the morning offering you make upon entering morning prayer. This is the practice of the presence of God. Come, let us sing to the Lord. What good advice--no matter what the circumstances of life. When I sing to the Lord I am drawn out of myself and the problems of the day. I am made better simply by not being me--or, said better, by being who I really am rather than who I make myself out to be.

"And shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us." How many of us shout with joy in any sense each day? How many of us leap up in spontaneous praise and worship? Yet, we can "train" ourselves to do so. I can make a practice of joy, or recognizing the presence of God in my life and joyfully give thanks. My face can beam the radiance of joy to all around me. Joy is not something I sustain, it is sustained by grace. All too often, I take grace for granted. It is some invisible, intangible thing that I "bank" as I participate in prayers and sacraments. But grace is more than that. In one version of the translation of the Sanctus we sing, "Heaven and Earth are filled with your Glory." I like this version because it suggests a never ending supply. "Banking" grace is like banking dry ice--you'll open up the vault to find it empty. Grace is replenished as it is expressed in our living with others. When I take a moment to make someone's day better, I am depending upon grace. Grace is "spent" and immediately regenerated and refilled. Indeed, "my cup runneth over." Grace must be expressed. Grace is given to accomplish God's work in the world and in my own life. I can't store it up, like manna, it doesn't keep for more than the time it is needed. But when it is needed (at every moment of the day) and "used" it is never "used up." When we "shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us," we express that gift.

Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving. . . From Father O'Holohan I learned a truth that is inexpressibly valuable--the grateful heart cannot be an unhappy heart. When I express thanksgiving, when I am grateful for who I am and what I have been given, I am expressing joy in the gifts God has showered on me. I have written God a little thank you note and God who gives ever generously, even without thanks, delights in giving more to those who at least recognize that all is gift. Praise likewise takes us out of ourselves and directs our attention to the Persons who give us everything worth living for. Praise broadens us and makes us firmer vessels of grace because it encourages true humility. Praise can only properly come from one who knows his place in the scheme of things and has rightly ordered his life to reflect that place. Praise lifts me up toward God because it allows me to be who I really am and to know where I belong in the scheme of things.

Joyful praise and thanksgiving are expressed in our morning song. Even if I do not sing, I sing when I act for God. In The Simarillion and The Kalevala which it much resembles, the God of creation sang everything into being. While our own scriptures do not mention this mode of creation, I do not find it at all unlikely. Everything around me swims in the rhythm of divine song. I think of Bach's Four Part Inventions or Art of Fugue and extend the voices infinitely until there is between every living thing, and all those things and people who have passed before a woven connection of musical themes. We sing to God because it adds to the texture of the melody of creation. God made us to sing. God made us to praise. God made us to love and to be loved. God made us to be vessels of grace. God made us to be God for other people, to lead them to Him, to bring everyone home.

A grateful, praising heart is fertile ground for God to plant the seed of His Word, divinely spoken, begotten not made, one of the Three. And where there is one, there are all three.

So, it seems, the gateway to prayer is itself an entire world of prayer, properly seen. If I could keep this verse in my heart through the day of chance encounters and frustrations, I would grace those arouond me and I would "practice the presence of God." I would give Him praise and delight Him, simply by bringing Him to mind.

Come, let us sing to the Lord
and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.

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An Aphorism Along the Same Lines


Better the scraps from the Master's table than a feast of my own making.

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A Sobering Prospect--Personal Holiness


I was writing a meditation on a gospel passage this morning when a sobering thought occurred to me. We serve the Lord more by who we are than by what we say. People who see us and know that we are Christians judge both us and the Christ we proclaim by what we do. The look at the concurrence of words and actions to see what it is we proclaim.

What does my life say of Jesus? It isn't a consideration I like to give much thought to. If I am honest, the Jesus I present to the world must be a thin and weedy thing indeed. A spindly weed of a man who pipes up now and then with some heartening consideration about the kingdom of heaven. His Presence hasn't much presence in my day-to-day world.

I am who I am--there is little enough I can do about some things. But does my life convey the joy of knowing Christ? And if not, what can I do about it? To the former question, I can only quake in fear at the answer--if people knew the enormity of my sinfulness and unworthiness, it would make a mockery of Jesus. But as to the latter, I do have an effective answer. As weak as I may be, as sinful and worthless a man as I might present to the world, I can be otherwise through prayer. I cannot change myself for good, but I can be changed by submission to and continuing in prayer. I will remain a sinner, but I will be a sinner who is honest host to God Himself, seeking always to remain in His presence. "If the bridegroom is present, can the wedding guests be in mourning?" In prayer I can be transformed to be a true messenger of Christ. If I spend time with Him, I will become like Him.

It is said that married couples through the years become more like one another. ( I suspect that is mostly in the bad things so that our annoying habits do not annoy so seriously. ) So, if we seek the Holy Spirit through the marriage of prayer and we keep the blessed trinity company through prayer, surely we will become more like them. Or to take another metaphor, one is judged by the company one keeps. The reason is that one becomes more like the company one keeps--it is a natural human inclination to blend in. What then could be better than to blend into the company of the blessed trinity.

Prayer will transform me to become a true disciple of Christ, preaching daily through my actions and through my love.

I have nothing to add to the deposit of wisdom that has been passed down through the ages. In truth, I don't understand a majority of that deposit. Unlike some, I have no wisdom or understanding to share. So I am driven by this to share the only thing I can know well--God's love. I share that not in my words, but by His indwelling presence and by my submssion to Him in the presence of His children. I serve God by loving Him and I love Him best when I show His love to His children--all of His children without regard to how I personally may feel about them.

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Many of you may already have received this announcement, but it is of such interest that I thought I'd share it here. My normal policy is not to share what arrives in e-mail, but there is an implicit permission in the body of the text itself, and it is perhaps best to allow the editor to speak for himself.

I am writing to inform you of a new initiative that I hope you will find very exciting and interesting. Throughout the past few months, a group of young Catholics (including myself) have been working to create a Catholic literary magazine targeted to students and young scholars. The name of the magazine is Dappled Things, and its aim is to provide a space for young writers to engage the literary world rom a Catholic perspective. There are SO many talented young Catholics out there, that we decided it was imperative to bring Dappled Things into existence as an outlet for this talent and as a means of nurturing more of it. The magazine is committed to quality writing yhat takes advantage of the religious, theological, philosophical, artistic, cultural, and literary heritage of the Catholic Church in order to inform and enrich contemporary literary culture. Thus, we are committed to following JPII's call to evangelize the arts and culture.

After much "behind the scenes" work, we are beginning our awareness campaign in order to spark interest in the magazine throughout the country. We seek to publish our inaugural online issue this advent, for which we are currently accepting submissions. We expect to release a print edition before the end of 2006. . . .If you are interested in our work, you could be a great help to our awareness campaign by informing your readers about the magazine, and providing a link to our website

where they will be able to find more information about our publication and how they may be able to make a submission. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

In a post script the writer points out that they had arrived at the name of the magazine itself before they were fully aware of blogdom and the coincidence of names is precisely that, a coincidence.

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TS/Hurricane Rita


Tropical Storm RITA

It seems as though the people along the water in Texas may have a visitor. These things are by no means certain, but let's pray that the visit be not so bad as our recent landfalls.

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From Julie of Happy Catholic:

You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

I do think they've got their numbers mixed a bit. I think I'm supposed to be 10% socially permissive and 65% economically permissive if their plotting on the graph is correct.

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Will All Be Saved?

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This is one of my favorite Sundays because it always gives rise to the speculative, hopeful side of me. The workers in the vinyard are all paid the same wage regardless of when they come to work. It is this that gives me hope that all of humanity decides to accept that wage. The "I" of TULIP is what I would invoke, were I inclined to flowery theology. As I'm not, I know that grace is a gift, and as with any gift, we can refuse it.

But I'll share something from the Gulley and Mulholland reading I've been doing:

from If Grace Is True
Philip Gulley and James Mulholland

Holiness and love are not competing commitments. God is love. His love endures forever. This enduring love is what makes God holy. . . .

Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). If this verse was [sic] a command for moral perfection, our cause is hopeless. Fortunately, this admonition follows a command to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Perfection is demonstrated not by moral purity, but by extravagant love. We are like God not when we are pure but when we are loving and gracious. . . .

The Holy One will never come in wrath.

The Holy One always comes in love.

I love elsewhere their concept of what holiness is. By their definition, and I don't know how well it fits with classical definitions, Holiness is God's ability to confront evil without being defiled. More they say that true holiness delights in restoring the impure. When I think of the great saints of the Catholic Church, they all had largely the same focus, though it may have been expressed differently. Every one of them wanted to save souls, to win souls to God, to confront the impure and to bring it to purity.

It is when I think about this--the holiness of God and yet His tender interaction with me, the greatest sinner I know--that I am most overjoyed. Talk about mercy. Talk about love. Talk about patient endurance. Talk about the shepherd going out looking for the lost sheep. Here I am and I don't seem to be in hurry to move closer. He comes to me. The father of the prodigal, the good shepherd, the Lord, the keeper of the Vinyard--all of these, He comes to me. He condescends to come to me, and most glorious of all, He doesn't even remind me of or think about condescension at all. He does not constantly remind me of who I am and who He is. What could be greater love? He is still the eternal servant. And very honestly, sometimes I treat Him as such. And still, He comes to me. Oh, what a gracious, loving Lord. Surely such a Lord would not allow one to escape His grace. So I hope, so I pray, so I believe is possible. But I stay firmly with the Church saying that we cannot know it to be so with anything other than hope inspired by the Holy Spirit. I will not be a universalist--but I'll get as close as possible, because it is in this image of God among His children that I most rejoice. And I want to be in that crowd of children.

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The Author Cloud

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LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

Look at the link above to see a survey of authors from the persons who have allowed their libraries to be public. The size of the author name gives an indication of the number of entries. Very gratifying to see C.S. Lewis and Gene Wolfe among those listed in larger type.

In a bit of a surprise Neil Gaiman's name rivals that of J.K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett. That is gratifying as well. I don't know what's wrong or right with Gaiman, but Coraline was a creepy masterpiece.

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John Mason Neale--A Romance

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from Happy Catholic, this quiz:

Your Element is Earth
Your power color: yellow

Your energy: balancing

Your season: changing of seasons

Dedicated and responsible, you are a rock to your friends.
You are skilled at working out even the most difficult problems.
Low key and calm, you are happiest when you are around loved ones.
Ambitious and goal oriented, you have long term plans to be successful.

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A Laudable Endeavor

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speculative catholic: Index Librorum Laudatorum

A list of recommended books. Perhaps there should be a central repository of these somewhere by year. I rather like the notion. Of course, I'd add a great many The Book of Her Life St. Teresa of Avila, Story of a Soul etc. But this is a nice short list to start with. I like it and I like the concept of it.

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Keeping Your Library Up-to-Date


LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

I know I've mentioned this site/program before. I hadn't quite made the decision to buy-in, not because of expense, but merely because I didn't know if I would bother to keep it up. But, I'm nearly sold. The CSV import is so seamlessly beautiful and neat that I can catalogue with ease by ISBN or Amazon lookup and download the complete catalague to my desktop for use in Excel, which means importing into Word, and ultimate use on PDA is possible. Or as a CSV I can use a Palm native DB and have my entire library list in hand. The prospect is almost too wonderful for words. Oh, when will I be cured fromt his bibliophilia?

Another nice thing--if you're browsing through anyone's library and there's a cover displayed, a click on the cover will take you to Amazon where you might be able to purchase said book.

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The Scholars

Finally an e-edition of the famous complementary volume to Dream of the Red Chamber. Like Red Chamber The Scholars is an 18th century novel in the realist tradition.

A sample from the very beginning:

from The Scholars
Wu Ching-tzu

The idea expressed in this poem is the commonplace one that in human life riches, rank, success and fame are external things. Men will risk their lives in the search for them; yet once they have them within their grasp, the taste is no better than chewed tallow. But from ancient times till now, how many have accepted this?

However, at the end of the Yuan Dynasty 1 a really remarkable man was born. His name was Wang Mien, and he lived in a village in Chuchi County in Chekiang. When he was seven his father died, but his mother took in sewing so that he could study at the village school. Soon three years had passed and Wang Mien was ten. His mother called him to her and said, “Son, it's not that I want to stand in your way. But since your father died and left me a widow, I have had nothing coming in. Times are hard, and fuel and rice are expensive. Our old clothes and our few sticks of furniture have been pawned or sold. We have nothing to live on but what I make by my sewing. How can I pay for your schooling? There's nothing for it but to set you to work looking after our neighbour's buffalo. You'll be making a little money every month, and you'll get your meals there too. You start tomorrow.”

“Yes, mother,” said Wang Mien. “I find sitting in school boring anyway. I'd rather look after buffaloes. If I want to study, I can take a few books along to read.” So that very night the matter was decided.

The next morning his mother took him to the Chin family next door. Old Chin gave them some breakfast, and when they had finished he led out a water buffalo and made it over to Wang Mien.

“Two bow shots from my gate is the lake,” he said, pointing outside. “And by the lake is a belt of green where all the buffaloes of the village browse. There are a few dozen big willows there too, so that it is quiet, shady and cool; and if the buffalo is thirsty it can drink at the water's edge. You can play there, son; but don't wander off. I shall see that you get rice and vegetables twice a day; and each morning I shall give you a few coppers to buy a snack to eat while you're out. Only you must work well. I hope you'll find this satisfactory.”

Wang Mien's mother thanked Old Chin and turned to go home. Her son saw her to the gate, and there she straightened his clothes for him.

“Mind now, don't give them any reason to find fault with you,” she charged him. “Go out early and come back at dusk. I don't want to have to worry about you.”

Wang Mien nodded assent. Then, with tears in her eyes, she left him.

From this time onwards, Wang Mien looked after Old Chin's buffalo; and every evening he went home to sleep. Whenever the Chin family gave him salted fish or meat, he would wrap it up in a lotus leaf and take it to his mother. He also saved the coppers he was given each day to buy a snack with, and every month or so would seize an opportunity to go to the village school to buy some old books from the book-vendor making his rounds. Every day, when he had tethered the buffalo, he would sit down beneath the willows and read.

So three or four years quickly passed. Wang Mien studied and began to see things clearly. One sultry day in early summer, tired after leading the buffalo to graze, he sat down on the grass. Suddenly dense clouds gathered, and there was a heavy shower of rain. Then the black storm clouds fringed with fleecy white drifted apart, and the sun shone through, bathing the whole lake in crimson light. The hills by the lake were blue, violet and emerald. The trees, freshly washed by the rain, were a lovelier green than ever. Crystal drops were dripping from a dozen lotus buds in the lake, while beads of water rolled about the leaves.

As Wang Mien watched, he thought, “The ancients said, 'In a beautiful scene a man feels he is part of a picture.' How true! What a pity there is no painter here to paint these sprays of lotus. That would be good.” Then he reflected, “There's nothing a man can't learn. Why shouldn't I paint them myself?”

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I started this note as a response to Talmida's cogent comment below about how one should read and understand one verse of the decalogue--often translated "Thou shalt not kill." It was getting too lengthy, and it started to raise issues that I wanted to discuss in more detail anyway.

You raise a good point in your first point regarding the technical translation. This has, of course, been said many times and I don't necessarily disagree with it. However, in the judgment of what it is actually saying,the question arises as to what is "murder." We tend to view it in a very technical legal fashion--however, when the state unjustly takes the life of a man who committed no crime, has murder been committed? I think so--a great many do not. When a person has been killed in the course of killing enemy combattants has murder been committed? I think so--a great many do not.

The point isn't so much who is right in the debate, but rather the extended difficulties of orthodoxy. The meaning of every verse of the Bible is (thank heavens) not explicitly spelled out. As a result, much is left to us to formulate. I read "Thou shalt not murder" in a much broader way than some might. "Thou shalt not deprive the innocent of life" would more accurately reflect my understanding. Now, I cannot ask anyone else to accept my interpretation, but as I read the Catechism, this seems to be the understanding they come up with for this verse of the decalogue. Problem is, someone else can read the same source and come to a different conclusion. Three priests explaining what is meant by this will come up with three different conclusions. Which one reflects orthodoxy? Usually, I assume the one that is closest to what I already believe. And that's part of the problem with orthodoxy--there is a tendency to take the answer closest to what we already believe.

However, there is a plus to this. Even if we accept the answer closest to what we already think, by accepting the authority of a voice outside ourselves, we have already shifted our own viewpoint to some degree. By slow steps, one hopes one reaches orthodoxy without stumbling into rigidity.

And there is another stumbling block. Is it possible to be orthodox without being rigid? By that I do not mean that a person holding to orthodoxy should be willing at a moment's notice to jump ships. But does being orthodoxy carry with it a certain baggage that might be off-putting to people who are not so far down the line? I don't think it necessarily must--but I do think, unfortunately, it often does. I think of some of my experiences with some apologists for the faith whose whole demeanor and approach is so alienating that I wonder what they think they are about. They are impolite, impolitic, and inconsiderate. (This does not by any means apply to everyone in the field of apologetics, merely a subset who so thoroughly alienated me early on that (1) I nearly didn't become Catholic in the face of such arrogance; and (2) the whole term Apologetics carries with it certain very strongly negative overtones for me.) The people I speak of were extremely orthodox; indeed, orthodox to the point that they no longer knew how to speak to someone who was not in a way that honored the sincerity of the convictions that they held. Not every person who is in error is stupid or is consciously following an agenda against the faith.

I've wandered off-track here for a moment, but one of the problems of Orthodoxy is the amount of time and study it takes to be and remain orthodox, and the wide spectrum of conflicting opinions as to what consitutes orthodoxy. Who has the clear definition? Where does orthodoxy lie? Some tell me Karl Rahner is a perfectly orthodox theologian--others imply that anyone after Garrigou-Lagrange is suspect. I know nothing of theology--how do I decide? If my opinion is shaped by some neo-rahnerian effusion, how am I to know it?

The desire for believing as the Church believes is real, but fully understanding precisely what it is the Church believes is a much more difficult task than it might first seem. For example, see below some comments about biblical inerrancy and what is required for it to be true. Who is right in the matter?

And with this I come back to my favorite theme. Some people are not daunted by the prospects I have outlined here. They wade in and sort things out fairly capably. Often they don't so in any way that makes sense to me, and so I'm left on the short wondering who is winning this alligator wrestling match. Most of us don't have the time or the inclination to study every point of doctrine in all of its nuances. As a result we don't study much of any point of doctrine, or study those that most need to resolved for us to find a comfortable place to sit.

The reality is, the only comfortable place to sit is at the feet of Jesus. And sitting on the ground, in the dust is only comfortable so long as we are caught up in adoring love. The solace comes from Kierkegaard who, paraphrased out of context, said, "Those who are comfortable with Jesus do not know Him." So a comfortable Jesus isn't really something we will every find. Perhaps this whole struggle with orthodoxy is a series of points and barbs that move us steadily toward the God who loves us. I have concluded that the only way I'm going to find my way is through longing, lasting, lingering, love. My brain threatens to explode every time I open a book of serious theology, so instead, I open a book of poetry, a book of nature, a book of art, a book of revelation beyond the mere word, and for a moment I am immersed in the immensity that is God. It is there that I will find Him, with the guidance of scripture and the Church, not in the thousands (millions?) of tomes of theology that threaten me like the amplifiers that towered over Quay Lood.

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Why Orthodoxy Matters to Me

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There is a tendency on the part of some to deride orthodoxy--to see it as the strict domain of the ultra-Catholic. Not many, but some. I thought I'd spell out why Orthodoxy is so important to me and why I do try to toe the line, if not always successfully.

I became a Catholic principally because I wanted a guide to what was beautiful and true. In my other faith life, I was told to read the Bible and it would tell me all I needed to know. There was really no reason for someone else to help you understand the Bible because it really was a "priesthood of the believer." In a sense, everyone was to fashion his or her own reality, and hence, in my estimation, his or her own perfectly suited God. This is an unfair representation of the reality and comlexity of Baptist thought, but it is what I finally made of it.

Orthodoxy is valuable to me because I want to believe what is true rather than what is comfortable. My strongest desire is to grab onto the truth and hold on for all I'm worth, because the Truth, ultimately is Jesus, who told us, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." If so, then to believe the Truth is the believe Jesus and to do anything else is to miss the mark.

What I've come to discover is orthodoxy is not so simple as all that. For example, as an Orthodox Catholic, I have as a set of clear guidelines to behavior the decalogue. Among the commandments encoded therein is "Thou shalt not kill." Thus, one could conclude that the orthodox Catholic would say, "Killing is wrong." However, we then face the question of just war and the death penalty, both of which are permitted by the Church (although the latter to be exceedingly narrowly interpreted and applied). Hence, "Thou shalt not kill" is not so clear as the four words might seem to say to the orthodox Catholic. I struggle with this because I want those four words to mean precisely what they say. But nothing is so simple. Everything must be interpreted and understood as the Author intends, rather than as I understand.

Orthodox faith is exceedingly valuable to me. But its articulation is never more valuable that a person. That is to say, where orthodoxy can be hurtful, I must believe the truth, but I feel as though I must not bludgeon others with it. When my opinion or belief is not directly asked for, and where that might hurt another's ability to speak with God, I should not advance it. (TSO posted something the other day that touched upon this, and started this train of thought, but I can't seem to find it now. Later: Here it is. I had merely placed it later in the list in my mind and hadn't gone searching far enough. Thanks TSO.)

Thus, I believe that the Church teaches that homosexuality and a homosexual expression of love is sinful. (Honestly, I struggle with internalizing this truth, but I accept it as the truth.) However, in dealing with a homosexual person, I am dealing first and foremost with a person, not with a walking sin. Sometimes, people I encounter treat the sin first and foremost and the person only secondarily.

Now, I need to make clear that there are those who are called and who have the dispostion proper to reproving and correcting. I do not fault anyone for following God's way. I just am all too aware of the glass walls of my own house to begin casting stones. I know how far I am from perfection of action, thought, or word. I also know that I will be a long time (with the aid of the grace of God) hauling that beam from my own eye--so I'm not out looking for my brothers' motes.

Even writing these words sends up warning flags--as though I am trying to say something about those who do correct and teach. Believe me, I am not. I am not more fit judge for them than I am for people who sin. I am an unfit judge even for myself. So I struggle to avoid judgment and to live, as best I can the orthodox life. And I always find myself overthinking the matter.

In truth, this is the story of my journey to Carmel. Carmel encourages me not to get lost in the incredible labyrinth of my own thought, but to look at God and love Him as He is--the God of love and life. I need to know enough to know Him truly, but I do not need to worry so much about all the details. I may err in my thoughts, as I did when I started out Catholic. But I have complete faith in God and in His good people, that these errors will gradually be remedied and corrected, that I will gradually be freed from the slavery of sin, and that I will eventualy find my way home to Him.

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Finally. . . Soseki


Soseki Natsume's Botchan on-line. One of the great Japanese Novelists, one of his great novels.

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A few weeks back, I commented on some difficult passages of the bible wherein we are told that God told the Israelites to slaughter all of a certain group of people for one reason or another. I have to be very, very honest. No matter what his sovereignty, I reject a genocidal god who goes back on his own word to his own people.

But, honestly, I don't think that is what the Bible portrays. I had to spend some time and ask myself, "How do I really deal with these passages without rejecting Biblical inerrancy?" My answer my be akin to verbal sleight-of-hand, I don't know, but it works for me.

Let me give the full answer. Most honestly, I largely used to deal with these passages by eliding them or pretending they don't exist. I still tend to avoid them because they provide a stumbling block, but as I considered the data and Church teaching, I think I've reached a conclusion that is viable.

What I say to myself in the course of these passages is that while the Holy Spirit inspired what was written, it was interpreted through faulty men and women who were desperately trying to understand God, but who had not yet had complete knowledge of God's revelation. These people interpreted events and actions and their understanding in such a way as we get these awkward passages--passages that hint at God's abiding love for at least one group of people, but which fail of the mark of true, all-encompassing love.

I go back to one of St. Thomas Aquinas's most persausive arguments (if I understand it properly) God is triparite, but uniate and simple. That is God is of one essense, there is nothing mixed in Him. Anger and malice do not blend with sympathy and love. When we say that God is Love, that is to say that God is entirely love--the essence of God is love. There is nothing about God that is not love. If God is love, God must be love for all people, not just for me. If I understand God ever to say that He hates anyone then I am just not hearing God, because God is simple, uniate, love. That God "hates" or rejects sin is entirely commensurate with love because sin rejects love, but that God "hates" a person is not commensurate with love, because a person is a creation of love.

So, when I hear someone say that "God hates homosexuals," I think I'm hearing a modern echo of part of the Old Testament. The rulers and leaders and military persons of Israel would naturally assume that God hated what was not Israel.

However, when we get to the prophets, while we still do not have the fullness of the revelation of Jesus Christ, we get far closer to the real message. Jonah is sent to the Ninevites--not a people of Israel, not one of the chosen race. Hosea writes to Israel, but reveals Gods tender and compassionate love, most particularly in chapter 11. Isaiah promises a savior to all of us, lion and lamb shall lie down together both literally and figuratively.

So, while I am an inerrantist, I am not, nor ever have been a literalist. There are faulty narrators and faulty hearing throughout the Old Testament.

Now, does this refute the fact that God may, indeed, choose to punish individuals? No. Entire nations? I am less certain--but I am absolutely certain that He would not do so through genocide. If we can bring ourselves to believe that, it is only a short step away to accepting abortion as a near-sacrament. Why would it be okay to slaughter women and children and yet we would be required to spare children in the womb? Obviously, it doesn't make sense. Nor does a God who, now or then, orders genocide to preserve racial purity (sounds frighteningly familiar, does it not?)

No, the way I see it is that the Biblical text is inerrant, but reading bits in isolation does not allow for the complete image of God. And the complete image of God MUST be simple, uniate, complete. God is love--it is impossible for Him now or ever to be anything other than love or to express anything less than love. It is not in His nature.

At least, this is how I talk my way around this extremely difficult passages. Maybe, as I said, a verbal sleight-of-hand. But I don't think so. I'll research it and come back some time soon if I arrive at any astounding conclusions or find anything that accepts or refutes the notions I have proposed above.

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Metablogging Thoughts

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These were appended to the post below, but they did not really belong.

I know you all tire of hearing the same broken record. But that broken record is part of what this blog is all about. In fact, one might say that my purpose in writing is to discover for myself the contours of what is meant by detachment and how one cultivates the right attitude so that detachment is not the same effort as it is when one starts walking the road of prayer. I daresay the majority of people I have met could benefit from small lessons in what is needful and what is desired. Even if others cannot benefit so much as I do, the lessons of this blog are intended chiefly for the audience of its author. If others benefit by that sharing, I couldn't be more pleased. But I do write to know and to explore and my writing is an invitation to everyone who reads to accompany me on the exploration. We will occasionally stumble down dead-end paths, but we'll all learn something in the process. I know over the course of this blog I have learned a tremendous amount and have wandered down countless blind alleys. As a result, I have a much keener estimate of my own abilities and failings, and for that self-knowledge I am much obliged to those who have seen fit to comment, correct, and advise.

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Reading once again in the marvelous anthology of essays Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century (ed. Keith Egan). I cam upon this marvelous observation:

from "Jesus Christ in Carmelite Prayer"
Margaret Dorgan

Teresa urges gentleness, no forcing. "Taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought is what I mean should not be done. . . . " She tells us that in regard to "this effort to suspend the intellect. . . labor will be wasted. . ." (BL 12.5). She warns against a kind of mental coercion to empty ourselves of thoughts in order to achieve a held absorption. St. Teresa was familiar with this experience in herself and in others, based on a too-demanding cut-down of outside stimuli, that could lead to quietism. "To be always withdrawn from corporeal things. . . is the trait of angelic spirits, not of those who live in mortal bodies. . . . How much more is it necessary not to withdraw through one's own efforts from all our good and help which is the most sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ." (IC 6.7.6)

In one stroke we are told two important things. Prayer is never our effort unaided. When we think so we become more Buddhist than Christian. Prayer is always an invitation from above to converse. WE needn't chastise ourselves because of our distractions, nor need we try to force ourselves to be empty of them. We need to pursue the invitation in the ways that allow us the best communication. As we no longer need those ways of praying, God will gradually remove them from us. When He starts to do so, we must be willing to let them go.

We are also told something tremendously important to the understanding of the nature of detachment. We are not disembodied spirits, as much as some of us would like to behave so (not me, I'm afraid I'm all too embodied as yet). Having corporeal needs, we must attend to them. It is the right use of created things to meet our needs. It is also the right use of created things to appreciate the goodness that is in them and that is meant for us. Jesus did not constantly eschew food, wine, and company. Indeed, several of His miracles provided food for hungry people desiring to learn from Him. Yes, he fasted, which is also proper use of created things. But He did not fast limitlessly AND he even advised those criticizing his disciples that "the time for fasting is when the bridegroom has left."

It is not the use of created things that causes a problem ever. When we become detached it isn't about trying to become like the angels, but trying to train ourselves to the proper use of created things. We need not empty our houses until they all resemble Japanses interior design (unless that suits us). Detachment is about ever refining our sense of what we NEED against what we DESIRE. As we become more aware of what we need, we become more capable of limiting or seeing what we desire as distraction from the One Thing Needful.

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Whatever Katrina may or may not imply about God's will, one would think that one thing we should have learned from it is humility. Instead, the great trumpets of hubris blow. "Bush is responsible for this by not signing the Kyoto accords." "Bush is responsible for this because he didn't plan enough." "Bush is responsible for this because. . ."

What is more to the point is something that I think we all need to take a heart-felt lesson about. Nature is big, savage, uncaring, and uncontrollable. Yes, we can continue to learn how to control. Yes, we can make better contingency plans. But when we do plan for that emergency, what natural disaster will there be that we have somehow overlooked. To suggest that we need to prepare for every conceivable emergency is to bind all the planning folks up in years of work that will have vanishingly small returns. Yes, let's make our plans for the coming Tsunami in Kansas. Yes, let's plan for the Earthquake in Florida.

What plans can you make that will address the devastation IF and when the New Madrid Fault let's go again. Last time it happened the Mississippi river ran backward in its channel for three days. On the day of the event churchbells were run by the waves as far away as Quebec.

We can plan until we turn blue in the face, but there are some contingencies, some things that we ought to have planned for that we will overlook.

I'll grant you, it is the height of misplanning for the local officials to have never considered the possibility of a category 4 or 5 storm (levees were bult to withstand a 3) making direct or close hit on a city on average twenty feet below sea-level. Those of us who are states' rights advocate do well to insist upon state responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the state to have planned, prepared for, and seen to the disaster. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government and all of the rest of us to assist when, despite all good planning things go awry. But to maintain that it is the Federal Government's responsibility to somehow have made these plans for Louisiana is overstepping the bounds of what the government should be responsible for.

Now, let me also make clear that I do not hold the government of Louisiana completely at fault. Yes, the contingency of a larger hurricane should have been considered long ago. But let's say that it was and that preparations had been made that prevented the levees from breaking but resulted in some other tremendous unforeseen difficulty.

My main point is that whether or not this is a "chastisement," it should be viewed as an object lesson in humility. Though modernism teaches us to think the world, and more, of ourselves and our abilities, the reality is that we are very, very small compared with the forces that drive nature. This is a horrifying, humbling catastrophe. I pray for those who were harmed by it, and I do what I can to help. But I also see it as a lesson in who we are before God. We think we can do all things, with or without Him who strengthens us. The reality is that on our own we are flawed, imperfect, and incapable.

Yes, more could/should have been done. But pay attention to the first lesson--we are not at the helm and we are not in control. We are pushed around by every stray breeze and drown in even a puddle of water. We are small, weak, and inefficient. It's a good thing to remember when we are tempted to think that "If Prez. Bush only did that, If the Guv'ner of Looseiana only did this. . ."

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You scored 9 evilness, 27 romance, 27 tragic, and 63 comic!

You are the fool from "As You Like It." Touchstone's name comes from an
Elizabethan word that refers to anything that could be used to test the
genuineness or value of something else. Touchstone tests the world by
making fun of it.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 15% on evilness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 17% on romance
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 37% on tragic
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 87% on comic

Link: The Shakespeare Character Test written by mandi_g on Ok Cupid
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Who Would I Be in 1400


The Prioress

You scored 7% Cardinal, 82% Monk, 52% Lady, and 29% Knight!

You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your
solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a
belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint
after your life is over.

You scored high as both the Lady and the Monk. You can try again to
get a more precise description of either the Monk or the lady, or you
can be happy that you're an individual.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Cardinal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Monk
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 84% on Lady
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 8% on Knight

Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

Found by mistake from Julie's Happy Catholic. But I'm always happy to know what my role might be. A little disturbing that I scored better than half of the population on "Lady" but, oh well, there were relatively fewer niches for the withdrawn in 1400.

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Linda's Birthday

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Soliciting prayers for a good, happy, healthy, fun day of home-schooling and whatever it is we decide to do this afternoon.

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The Wojtyla-Ratzinger Continuum

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Brought to you by your friend at Speculative Catholic. Of course, one can pretty much determine one's course through the quiz, but then, that's what makes it all the more enjoyable.

Wojtyla! You take after the energetic and
enthusiastic John Paul II (the Great). Your
vision is prophetic and BIG - when it comes to
saints, travel, or crowds you can't get enough!

Where do you fall on the Wojtyla-Ratzinger Continuum?
brought to you by Quizilla

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The Efficacy of Prayer


Some have argued that Katrina is a visitation of the judgment of God. I'm not ready to go there for a number of reasons--not because it can't be, and not because God might not do something like that, but because it would seem to me that a visitation might have been due Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot and any number of other tyrants (Kim il Jong, etc.) before it was due New Orleans. Yes, much bad goes on in New Orleans--I hardly think it compare with death camps and genocide, and I think God, if He were visiting wrath would probably weigh that in the scales. But the reality is that I must admit I do not know the mind of God and He may have something else behind this judgment if it is.

But the main point of this is that I wonder if those who were so quick to reach this conclusion would equally quickly embrace the possibility of the good that prayer can do. Can we, through concerted effort "pray away a hurricane?"

So far our lovely little friend Hurricane OPHELIA has wandered around and around the Atlantic--the shifting course making prediction of anything nearly impossible. First Jacksonville, then Savanah/Charleston, now the outer banks were the target. But look how it skirt the outer banks? Would our prayers be efficacious in moving it more? And how would we know?

Regardless of whether or not we would know, perhaps we should make a concerted effort to pray that this Hurricane miss landfall entirely. Katrina has visited enough destruction for a pretty good chastisement for some time to come. It would be better that no one else suffer because of the weather. Admittedly the storm is relatively weak in terms of hurricanes--but so was Katrina when 7-10 people died in the Miami area.

So, let us all pray together for this storm to follow some as yet untracked course away from land. Surely God can hurry the front along and push Ophelia away from all the possible harm she may do. And if not, then, "thy will, not mine, be done."

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A Trip to Boston


TSO shares with us some of the highlights from his trip to Boston.

I love Boston as a city. For one thing it is so walkable, and even where it is not walkable the T (is it?) goes nearly every place. (All of which is a good thing given that the rotaries are among the most horrifying traffic configurations to ever strike an urban setting.)

I love the Freedom Trail, the magnificent the museums, and the proximity of such things as Walden Pond, Branson Alcott's (and Louisa May Alcott--his daughter) Home, Hawthorne's Home, and Emerson's house which overlooks the field in which was fired "the shot heard round the world." And let us not forget the residence of the gone but not forgotten Dylan. May he grow to prosper and may he always be remembered in our prayers.

Of course, as you might guess from my present location, in my estimation it suffers a trifle in terms of weather. But that triviality aside, it is certainly one of the more entertaining cities to visit for those of us who like to poke about historical settings.

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Other Versions of the Widget

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Recent books with images

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Library Thing

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This has to be one of the coolest things I've ever seen for library keepers. A community of cataloguers. I found the site at Elena's (My Domestic Church) and am contemplating spending the enormous sum of $10 to catalogue as many books as I wish for as long as the owner keeps the site up.

Below is, I hope a blog-widget that gives a sense of what is so very cool about what's happening here.

Oh, and you can craft the widget to display what you want it to display--random books, most frequent authors, etc. Really, nice.

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From Speculative Catholic

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You are St Brigid's Cross: St. Brigid is an Irish
saint who hand-wove a cross,out of rushes she
found by the river. She made the cross while
explaining the passion of our Lord to a pagan

What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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The Death-Wake


The Death-Wake

Okay, I'll admit it. I include this one merely for one of the more bizarre titles I've seen in a long time:

"The Death-Wake or Lunacy; A Necromaunt in Three Chimeras"

Very, very odd indeed. With an intro by Andrew Lang.

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Baring--A Collection of Short Stories


Orpheus in Mayfair and Other Stories and Sketches

I'm doing this by quickpost, hence the separation of content. But that's okay, you'll be better able to differentiate.

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The PreInklings


A novel by Maurice Baring, the third member of the "PreInklings" consisting of Chesterton, Belloc, and their associates. You don't often find Baring's stuff on the web or elsewhere, so I thought I'd alert you.


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Predominant Faults

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Sweet music to my ears over at Father Jim's. Nothing I didn't already know, but nevertheless it is good to hear it confirmed. It is very disheartening to be repeating nearly the same thing week after week after week with no discernable progress. But, as Father Jim points out, there is good cause for hope.

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Horror: The Perfect Christian Genre

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Blogging Amusement


Given how many times I've started to make a comment and ended up deleting what I was writing, I'd really be interested in a counter that showed me how many started and how many completed. I wonder if there are a bunch of us out there who start to comment on all sorts of things we have no real business commenting on, come to our senses, and delete our comments. What would be even more interesting is a survey window that pops up when you cancel out a comment and asks you "Why did you decided not to comment?" My number 1 answer is "I was being a pretentious, self-important idiot and felt that I had already reached my limit on that for the week( month/year/lifetime)"

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Blogging Amusement

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Given how many times I've started to make a comment and ended up deleting what I was writing, I'd really be interested in a counter that showed me how many started and how many completed. I wonder if there are a bunch of us out there who start to comment on all sorts of things we have no real business commenting on, come to our senses, and delete our comments. Don't know, but it would be interesting to find out.

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I love history. Every city I visit, I seek out whatever they may have in the way of historical interest and go to see it. I love reading primary sources, and I love the whole sense and sweep of history.

WitNit, which has long been a favorite of mine, though I do not often refer to it, has found this wonderful link to a transcript of a lecture on the Federalist Papers.

For most of us the Federalist Papers were something we encountered as a mention in a high-school text and which we went out of our way to avoid in college. Nevertheless they are key primary sources for understanding issues in American History and issues that continue to affect us to this day. They are philosophical and practical. It is important to remember that they were written largely as information and propaganda as the constitutional convention was going about its work. They prepared the groundwork for moving from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution and may have been instrumental in the acceptance of the latter. They are wide ranging, talking about everything from a national bank and national debt to state's rights.

The short lecture details why these are important and even gives key papers to read if you are not inclined to spend time reading them all (although they would repay the careful reader many times over). Anyway, enough of my plug go and visit the lecture and/or WitNit--you'll be glad you did.

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What Does Vocation Mean?

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Sometimes I am a very slow learner.

It has taken me a long time to understand the meaning of vocation, and I'm not certain I understand that meaning in its fullness even now.

The Lord has raised up a great many orders with lay associations from which lay people who are called may profit mightily. However, those who are not called can often wreak havoc and distress the communities to which they wish to belong. How do we begin to discern a vocation?

I'm not sure I can answer that question in its fullness, but the other day, while pondering something in The Ascent to Love I suddenly realized one of the reasons I am called to be a Carmelite. Quite simply, I cannot do otherwise.

God uses all that we are--physical appearance, personality, intelligence, charisma, etc. When He calls us those things operate like homing beacons to hear the call. We will be naturally drawn to what best fits what God has made. So for example, it has been my experience that nearly every Franciscan I've ever encountered has been downright giddy. That's not meant to be judgmental, but rather a perception. What I perceive as giddiness is a manifestation of the Franciscan joyous charism. But my perception of that is distinctly negative--I don't want to be that. I don't mind other who are--in fact, I deeply grateful to them because they serve a critical role among God's people. But my temperament is not naturally suited to that sort of effusiveness. Cross the Franciscans off my list.

Then I turn toward the Jesuit/Domincan orders. These are people who are drawn to the rigor of logic and argumentation. (Not solely, mind you. No one is all one thing.) The method of Aquinas appeals to them in its organizational and logical beauty. The preeminence of intelligence and intellect in the approach to God is a hallmark. I thought for a while I was cut out to be a Jesuit or a Dominican. Truth is, I haven't the mind for it. I cannot pursue my quarry with such persistance, and the more I think about some things the more morose, estranged, and distanced I become from God. (As an example--"Just War" theory.) From this, in retrospect I conclude that I was not called to be a Dominican or Jesuit. Now, my comments here should not be taken to define the true Charism of either order--I do not know that because I do not belong to them. I'm only talking about perceptions.

The order that most appealed to me didn't appear to have a lay association. I found out later that I was wrong, the Cistercians actually do have lay associates--but I think that this knowledge was withheld from me until I had found a home. The Cistercian Charism might exacerbate my already extremely low receptivity to others. On most personality indicators and by most measures, I'm just about as far from extravert as one can be and still be breathing. I don't mind being around a small number of people, but I do not seek out company. The Cistercian turn of things might have amplified this tendency to a point where the pursuit of sanctity became impossible because of my reclusiveness. I don't really know. God alone knows why He called me where he did.

I ultimately ended up with the Carmelites. Now it's hard for me to identify why this feels so much like home. But part of the feeling comes from the certain knowledge that St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila described very clearly my early experiences in faith and prayer. They also struck a chord in that I recognized the road to God in their words. There is a certain melancholy, which is not to say depression, but a kind of pleasant longing, which may typify many charisms, but which I could recognize here. The whole idea of "dark night of the soul" and of "dryness" in prayer rang true to me. I knew in hearing it that it was the truth. Now, it may in fact be the truth only for certain types of people. That is, not everyone will go through these spells, nor will everyone need to exprience dryness to experience closeness with God. But, I suppose, in a sense, this "dryness" is honoring and tempering the desire to be alone that so typifies the extreme introvert. God let's us experience that fully without ever allowing us to be alone. I don't know why I am called. I just know that there is something in the charism that speaks in a way nothing else has. I recognized a call.

In recognizing my own vocation, I started to discern the whole sense of vocations. I've had some very promising aspirants to the Carmelite order, who were simply not called. They moved into the group hoping to change and transform it into something else--more charismatic prayer, more thoughtful discourse, more appreciation of the fine points of liturgy, more apologetic, more. . . You name it. Most of these people found for themselves that they were not Carmelite. Some found other orders, other found prayer groups or other Churchly associations that benefited from their gifts.

Sometimes people will say to me that they want to belong to an order. My question to them is, "Does God want you to belong to an order?" Belonging to an order is not a guarentee of sanctity. In some cases it may interfere with our life's journey toward God. Belonging to a lay association of an Order is not the only means to intimacy with God. For many it is not a good way at all. But I understand the longing to find people of similar ways of thought and similar dispositions toward prayer. I think this is what people have in mind when they say they want to belong to an order. If God is calling you, you will belong. However, God may not call you to an order, but may call you to service with others. I would love to belong to St. Vincent de Paul society. But every time I make strides that direction, I find my entire life derailed in one way or another. The limits of my ability to associate consist in giving the goods that the society will disburse to the needy. I am not called there.

And that is another very interesting point. There are a great many vocations that have nothing at all to do with Holy Orders or Religious Communities. Every life is a vocation. God is always callilng, always yearning for us to turn to Him. He calls each one of us and it is in careful listening that we ultimately begin to hear and shape our lives according to His will. For some, matrimony is a vocastion--but it does not end there. In matrimony some will have many children, some a few, some none at all--these circumstances in turn will shape our vocations. Those with few or none who have longed for them will find ways to care for children who would otherwise not have families. Or they will find ways to serve children and be around them as in daycares, nurseries, teaching, nurses, etc.

Our vocation is built into who we are and how God has crafted us. It is the homing signal He built into us to call us home. The very best thing we will be able to say upon entering heaven is "I heard you call and I came." Our vocation is a way of living in response to that call and it may or may not involve association with a group of like-thinking, like-praying people. More often than not, it does not--and yet those who are not called to these aseemblies are still irrevocably called to discern their vocation and to serve God.

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I've Seen This Before--Ophelia


Oh, how I don't like the present prediction of the track of Ophelia near the Florida coast. We're supposed to get about three days of exceedingly wet weather, which is not any big deal, but that big curling loop that seems to be forming is horribly reminiscent of Jeanne from last year. Present forecast discussion are quite naturally nebulous because the weather pattern is hard to interpret. They actually expect the storm to make a short loop and peel off into the Atlantic, which would be the best scenario for everyone.

So, while you all are praying for NO and the victims of Katrina, please throw in some good wearther prayers for the entire nation. I'm hoping the track means that Ophelia is being sucked into a vortex that drove Nate and Maria away, but it's hard to tell at this point.

Present forecast discussion are quite naturally nebulous because the weather pattern is hard to interpret.

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Reading List


Thread of Grace Mary Doria Russell
Martin's Hundred Ivor Noel Hume
A sheaf of articles on Opechancanough and the Good Friday Massacre of 1622
The Ascent to Love (Redux) Ruth Burrows--To paraphrase C.S. Lewis's dictum--if it's worth reading it's worth rereading.
The Clocks--Agatha Christie--revisiting some classics.

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Aridity and Apaethia


from Ascent to Love
Sr. Ruth Burrows

Almost always God's greatest gifts are wrapped up in the saking of painful self-knowledge. When we 'got on well' in paryer, when there was satisfaction in the mass and sacreaments, when we could talk inspiningly of spiritual things and other showed respect for our wisdom, we had no idea of the true state of affairs. Humility is acceptance of the truth about ourselves, not an effort to work up humble sentiments in spite of our obvious excellence!

I wish I could say that the state I have been in resembled this aridity. It more resembles sloth--that painful condition in which doing anything whatsoever spiritual takes an enormous effort of will and always manages to be distinctly unsatisfying to the point where one says--"Oh, why bother? He isn't paying any attention, why should I?" The truth is that He is paying attention and I am not, otherwise I wouldn't be in that condition.

It would be pleasant and easy to think that I had advanced so greatly in prayer that everything I did was embued with sanctity and I could now rest on the spiritual laurels and wait for the world to come to me for my magnificent, benevolent wisdom. That thought would release me from continuing to struggle.

As it is, I know what I am fighting--apathia or acedia is more the fruit of sloth than of prayer. And sloth exists in intention as well as practice. That is more where my own lies. I need to force myself to read spiritual books, to pray, to go to Mass. It is ever a temptation to give all these things a miss and move on with my own agenda. And I could attribute (in spiritual pride) all of these things to Aridity.

The odd thing is you have to "earn" aridity. That is, you must have been so faithful in prayer that God honors your faithfulness with a purifying fire that makes spiritual things difficult for you. It's odd that this is how it develops in some people (I don't think all, but then I'm not far enough along and it seems that in every Saint's life I read, I notice these lagging times that seem to suggest aridity.)

Aridity is the fruit of constant, faithful, devoted, involved prayer. Apathia and acedia are the result of viewing prayer and attendance upon God as obligation rather than privilege. I go through the motions without a lot of heart.

But part of the cure of any disease is to recognize its symptoms and to deal with the disease. There is much that can be done for this torpor. The first thing that must happen is repentence--both in the traditional and etymological sense of the word. I must think about the privilege of being a servant of God. When I realize what a tremendous opportunity I have been given, it sparks a willingness to see to all the attendant responsibilities of that station. This is grace in action. God reminds me that I am His own precious child and my petulanace and stubbornness are unbecoming the son of so benevolent a monarch. I can love because He first loved me.

Then I can fill my senses with all the things that remind me of His presence among His people--with beauty, with music, with prayer, with good company--all agents of His will.

But most of all, I can see my helplessness for what it is and cry out as did the man before Jesus, "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." For what cause could such a condition have except a certain unbelief--a certain lack of trust that God will take care of all things that need taken care of? In one word, the cause of sloth and of its attendant ills is that I do not, in some way, trust or believe the fullness of God's truth. I am no longer simple, one-hearted. I have become duplicitous because I love something other than God more than God. It does not good to try to find out what has become my idol because I'm clever enough to hide that knowledge from myself as it is convenient to do so. What I can do is pray that God show me the idol that has replaced Him and ask Him to remove it from my presence.

I suppose I shouldn't make so public my own failings; however, by so doing, I can encourage your prayers for me and for others in this community similarly afflicted. More, I can show what I really am--a vain, foolish, selfish, hard-hearted slip of a man--rather than what I appear to (some to) be. This is salutary--it puts the universe in right perspective and helps me start all over again.

I thank God for the Carmelite Charism that keeps me going in these weak times. Sometimes it is all that sustains the breathing of my spiritual life.

So if you've seen a dearth of the helpful, the insightful, or the spiritual--now you know why and I will continue to work as I pray. I will continue to write as God works with me and I will continue to ask your prayers on the journey--prayers to relieve the numbness and weariness that come from relying upon my own will to do what God wishes. Because in surrendering to Love, I will be made whole and I will be saved. And there is nothing short of surrender that can make any difference.

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Sorry, One More

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It's on days like these that you can tell I run this blog for me. I collect all these bits and pieces and put them into posts so that when I've forgotten where they are in my bookmarks, etc., I'll have a repository. Sorry.

But this site features a large number of e-texts--some by John W. Cample, Alan E. Nourse, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Andre Norton. All are claimed to be copyright cleared.

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Against the Neo-Malthusians

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An interesting text against birth control. I do not know its vintage, though it strikes me that much of the advise is incorrect and some of the physiology odd--so it may be turn of the century. (GSB is quoted--another clue.) It has this striking paragraph toward the end:

from Birth Control
Halliday G. Sutherland M.D.

There are thousands who know little of the Catholic or of any other faith, and thousands who believe the Catholic Church to be everything except what it is. These people have no infallible rule of faith and morals, and when confronted, as they now are, by a dangerous, insidious campaign in favour of birth control, they do not react consistently or at all. It was therefore thought advisable to issue this statement in defence of the position of the Catholic Church; but the reader should remember that the teaching of the Church on this matter is held by her members to be true, not merely because it agrees with the notions of all right-thinking men and women, not because it is in harmony with economic, statistical, social, and biological truth, but principally because they know this teaching to be an authoritative declaration of the law of God. The Ten Commandments have their pragmatic justification; they make for the good of the race; but the Christian obeys them as expressions of the Divine Will.

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Another E-Book Link


I found this yesterday and didn't quite know what to make of it. Was this an evangelical Matthew Fox? What exactly is Christian Hedonism?

But rather than continue to withhold, I thought you all might like to go and make your own evaluation. Given that it is evangelical, it could be anywhere in the spectrum from strongly anti-Catholic to nearly Catholic in sensibility. My sense of what I've seen is that the focus is "ecumenical."

So without further ado, I give you the library of the Desiring God foundation

A small sample from a book on fasting:

from A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer John Piper

Beware of books on fasting. The Bible is very careful to warn us
about people who “advocate abstaining from foods, which God
created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know
the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). The apostle Paul asks with dismay,
“Why . . . do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle,
do not taste, do not touch’?” (Colossians 2:20-21). He is
jealous for the full enjoyment of Christian liberty. Like a great
declaration of freedom over every book on fasting flies the banner,
“Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse
if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8).
There once were two men. One said, “I fast twice a week”; the
other said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Only one went
down to his house justified (Luke 18:12-14).

The discipline of self-denial is fraught with dangers—
perhaps only surpassed by the dangers of indulgence. These also
we are warned about: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not
be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

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Beauty Amid the Ashes


This couple really knows what hope and joy are all about. Join me in praying for a long and happy marriage for both of them. In the midst of tragedy they helped to remind a lost of people around them that there is still life and there is still hope.

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I Beg One Last Indulgence


For the Antiquarians--the online works of William Morris. Arguably a better poet and designer than prose artist. Nevertheless, once you slip into the oddities of style, there is something wonderful about William Morris's work. Definitely for the medievalists and pseudo-medievalists amongst us. Waters of the Wondrous Isles, translations of Old French Romances and Icelandic sagas, and some very, very, very fine poetry.

And for those more modern, a relatively early work by Andre Norton.

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Another Amazing Compendium of Books


I'm not certain what all the titles here have to do with one another, but there's sure a lot of them.

Online Library of Liberty

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For Only the Most Inveterately Irish


Dracula's Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood" Weird study of Dracula.


from Dracula's Crypt:"The Metrocolonial Vampire"
Joseph Valente

A founding insight of the Irish Dracula school of criticism has been that Harker's observations in Transylvania refer in whole or in part to the features of life in Ireland in the nineteenth century.3 I think it would be more accurate to say that Harker's observations in Transylvania seem intended to echo or recall prominent treatises, received wisdom, and well-worn remarks, not to mention canards about Ireland. His comment on the immodesty of a peasant woman's native dress, for example, rehearses Edmund Spenser's strictures on Irish women's attire in A View of the Present State of Ireland.4 Harker's complaint about dilatory trains and his comments on the "idolatrous" peasants kneeling by a roadside shrine in a "self-surrender of devotion" (11), like figures "in old missals" (15), would have been familiar enough from Anglocentric travel narratives about Ireland. So too would have been his sense of the general depopulation of the countryside.

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Michael Palin's Guides to Everything


He has his own Site. Seems to include complete text of many books and some Quick Time videos, maps, etc. Cool!

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A list of what's available via Gutenberg. There's even more in Australia Gutenberg.

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Fr. James V. Schall online


Another Sort of Learning. Includes links to a wide variety of essays and studies by this erudite commentator on literature, society, and learning.

Subjects include: Belloc, Chesterton, Sense and Nonsense, Augustinian Political Philosophy, Teaching and Learning, Christian Political Philosophy, Thomas Aquinas--each subject having a plethora of resources associated with it. Truly a treasure trove.

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They can be found here. It's nice that Gutenberg is doing something other than plain vanilla .txt files.

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Gutenberg Goodies--George MacDonald


I've been off-track recently in keeping tabs on my favorite online books.

Turns out that one of C.S. Lewis's favorite authors is having a Gutenberg bloom.

If you're interested go here and scroll down to August 11. Or go to the main page and look up George MacDonald.

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For Robert Hugh Benson Fans

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I am an admirer of Robert Hugh Benson. I enjoy his work. Unfortunately much is out of print or exorbitantly expensive. I'm hoping that this project will help to alleviate much of that problem. Soon to come out Come Rack, Come Rope. I'm looking forward to it.

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Thread of Grace

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Haven't finished it yet, but it just came to my attention so I'm alerting other fans out there. Mary Doria Russell has a new historical novel by the above title out. It is about the fate of Jews in North Western Italy during the Nazi occupation. I don't know how it will shape up, but it is the usual beautiful, wonderful writing.

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I love the beginning of the month. The way my stats work, it accumulates lists of places from which I get hits, so that as we near the end of the month and the spiders are more and more combing through the site, I have little opportunity to get back to visitors who stop by quietly and leave no comment. To my mind this is the one purpose site stats serve. I can't make head nor tails of mine most of the time because they are so overrun by automated search engines. However, because of the low number I was able to find some very nice, interesting sites that are new to me.

Your Pastoral Coach

And God's First

Speculative Catholic, who has an interesting entry on Science Fiction and Catholicism (thanks to Don at Mixolydian Mode).

Later: And they keep on rolling in

Darwin Catholic

If you're a visitor, just leave a comment anywhere. I'd really like to know you visited and would love to visit your site. I try hard to do so for everyone who comments and even for those who merely refer others to my site. You come by the most interesting places, people, and comments this way.


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Some Comments on Humility

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Here's a "more positive" version of St. JoseMaria Escriva's 17 evidences of a lack of humility. Brought to you courtesy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Blog.

Finally, to hear from one of our contemporary Saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Although immersed in an active mission, she indeed is a contemplative. Time for prayer and meditation is an absolute requirement for her and her sisters before they take on the duties of caring for others. In a book called The Love of Christ," she is quoted as saying to her religious the following: "These are a few of the ways we can practice humility" (which is the essence of meekness):

- Speak as little as possible of oneself.
- Mind one's own business.
- Avoid curiosity.
- Do not want to manage other people's affairs.
- Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.
- Pass over the mistakes of others.
- Accept blame when innocent.
- Yield to the will of others.
- Accept insults and injuries.
- Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.
- Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
- Do not seek to be specially loved and admired.
- Never stand on one's dignity.
- Yield in discussion even though one if right.
- Choose always the hardest.

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Shark v. Octopus


At first I thought this was a fake. But I'm now not so certain and I'm quite intrigued. (Warning: pop-ups).

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I hope that I am not breaching any confidence in sharing these communications, but there may be some of my Carmelite brothers and sisters who are not receiving these messages, and I think it is important to stress the urgent need for prayer for this Carmel, but for all of the people affected. I know you all know it, but this makes it family for me and I feel the need to share the burden. This is very, very hard.

From Sr. Andree of the New Orleans O. Carm Community

I am a distance from the devastation in New Orleans and am fine, Kevin. Yes, our motherhouse is underwater at lowest two levels. Angele and Gwen stayed there during the storm and were rescued by boat yesterday and shuttled to various transportation spots until they got to Baton Rouge where we picked them up yesterday. No one had heard from them all during the days so we weren't sure where they were. They were exhausted and in post traumatic shock with stories eventually to tell! Several sisters have not yet been contacted, but phones are great difficulty. Two of them are probably at the hospitals where they were working. They are probably safe. One sister we are not sure of. No one knew her plan. She could be fine somewhere, but communication is impossible. That is our hope.

My immediate family---siblings and their children's families are accounted for in terms of their plans for early evacuation, but still not able to get contact with all. They all lost all---their homes were near the motherhouse, near the lakefront where the levees broke and inundated the area. Total losses of all but their lives! It will be difficult months ahead.

All of our elderly sisters in nursing homes or in motherhouse were moved early and though they spent days in a school gym, we have now found a nursing home that could take them in Texas.

Loss of schools and ministries will have powerful impact on our future and its adjustments as a Congregation.

Pray for our perseverance and courage. Thanks for your concern.

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From the governing body in this province for T.O. Carm, please pray.

The first item is regarding the Carmelite Sisters in the New Orleans area of Louisiana. Sr. Libby and Sr. Mary (OCarms in the Lay Carmelite Office here in Darien) have asked me to share with you part of a message they are sending to friends and family.

"We haven't really been able to get first hand communication about the sisters in Louisiana. It looks as though mostly all of them left the area ahead of time, or, if they stayed behind, that they are safe. We do know of one sister who can't be located. No one knows anything of where she might be.

Television talks about the breach in the 17th Street Canal (just a few short blocks from our Motherhouse) but we are not able to tell by the TV images whether or not our Motherhouse and school have been destroyed. Perhaps when the water is contained and they continue showing videos of the area, we will have a better idea of our situation. Even our sisters who are in Louisiana (those who left the New Orleans area, I mean) don't really know a lot of what we see on TV regarding the flooding and devastation. "

Please keep in prayer all those, esp the poor (of which are are many in Louisiana!). It has been "our "tsunami" as one person put it. Massive and deep flooding is the primary disaster The area is below sea level, so widespread flooding damage from the broken levees are the worst nightmare in the New Orleans area after the storm had long gone!

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Steven Riddle in September 2005.

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