Steven Riddle: October 2005 Archives

Science Fiction Classics


Books hosted at

Such as The Black Star Passes by J.W. Campbell, works of Andre Norton, Lester Del Rey, H. Beam Piper, and Murray Leinster.

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Distraction may be the chief complaint levied about one’s prayer life. Regarding distraction, here is something from the two leading teachers of prayer in the Carmelite tradition.

from Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century
Ed. Fr. Keith J. Egan

“Contemplation and the Stream of Consciousness”
by Fr. Kiernan Kavanaugh

With little difficulty we can recognize the similarities between Teresa’s teaching on prayer and contemplation and John’s. Both admit to an activity on our own part, especially at the beginning, an activity of reading, thinking, and recollection. Both direct this activity to the loving knowledge of, or presence to, or relationship with Christ. In both, we find descriptions of the prayer of recollection active and passive, of quiet, and of union. Both admit that the wandering mind or imagination is an accompaniment to prayer and contemplation.

In fact, after a lifetime of distraction and pain from distraction St.Teresa finally has this advice to offer:

from “ Jesus Christ in Carmelite Prayer”
by Sr. Mary Dorgan

“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 too 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 “To be always withdrawn for corporeal things.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 with is the most sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ” (IC 6.7.6).

For Teresa and for John as well, this constant babble of wayward thoughts is part and parcel of who we are. To deny it is to deny who we are. I would go further to say that this constant stream of thought defines, in a special way, who we are. More than that, this constant stream of thought forms the ostinato against which the melody of prayer plays out. That is to say, that these very real, very present concerns are a real part of prayer. When they invade, they do so out of two causes—one is that we are insufficiently focused on our goal—thus they serve as the watchdogs of prayer. The other is that they are real and present concerns that define in part where we are in our day and in our lives. To deny them is, in a way, denying access to a real and important part of ourselves to the dearest friend we have. It would be rather like chatting about the weather to our best friend just prior to the time we are going to enter the hospital to have some serious medical tests. We haven’t told our best friend and we are screening out that concern. Only it is worse because our friend already knows about these concerns because He lives within and sees them flitting about batting their wings against the cages we try to make for them.

What then to do about distractions? Accept them. Don’t welcome them, but accept them, and turn back to the conversation. Think about a conversation on your front porch on a fine spring say as your children are running on the lawn and playing. If your children are normal they are up on that porch at least as much as they are kicking a ball or playing catch or hide-and-seek. However, it is a fine day, your friend as much as you enjoys the sounds and sights and presence of the children, and when they break into the conversation, He doesn’t regard them with exasperation, but with the loving, doting look of one who has sat many a time watching them play. When the concerns of the children are finished, the matter of a moment or two, we return to the conversation.

That is the important point—we may be dragged off-course, but always return, gently, lovingly, longingly, to the conversation.

On a personal note—I have often been battered by distractions. Until recently they would completely derail my efforts at any sort of coherent conversation. And then, suddenly, as in a coup de grace, they became integrated into my prayer, they would appear and drop away and I would not worry myself about their intrusion, but, as in contemplating the mysteries of the Rosary, I would allow them to sound and then gently fall back below the surface. They continued throughout the prayer, but the prayer continued as well. No, I didn’t achieve transports of union—but then I’m not there at this point. I am still learning to talk and to listen and to offer who I am and what I am concerned about.

So my advice for those distracted in prayer—don’t focus on the distraction, focus on the person with Whom you are conversing. He knows what is playing through your brain. He knows who and what you are, and He is patient and welcoming to all of you—distraction, intentions, and conversation. Don’t worry about it. Prayer will not be perfectly quiet until it is time for it—and then the Lord will lead. Otherwise, don’t fret. Through her entire life, St. Teresa of Avila was plagued with distraction, and yet she is no less a saint for all of that.

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Psalm 122 1:4

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:

Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.

In what should we rejoice?

In all things at all times. But we must not confuse rejoicing with happiness, contentment, or any number of other earth-bound "good" reactions to things. Rejoicing can take place in the midst of deep sorrow. Rejoicing is possible in deep pain. Rejoicing is even possible in the darkest of dark nights, when we are not even certain that God is there or ever has been--St. Therese of Lisieux showed us this. When sorely tempted against the faith, she rejoiced in the temptation and chose God.

I rejoiced when they said to me,
let us go unto the house of the Lord,
Standing there O Jerusalem,
In your gates, unto the house of the Lord.

Today I rejoice in all my circumstances. I rejoice that God spoke to me a word of rejoicing. I rejoice that He asked me in the midst of pervasive and terrible pain to turn my life around. I rejoice in what He told me to remove and destroy and in the direction He has laid out for continuing.

If the true and the beautiful is not present, there is no purpose to pursuing it. In accordance, I will be dramatically reducing my time on-line. And it may come to pass that I dramatically reduce time elsewhere in St. Blogs. I have gone looking for a fight, and goodness knows I've found them wide and far. It's time to go looking for the good. And I know that I will find that wide and far also.

Praise God and thank Him in all that you do. In praising Him is the source of all joy, because He comes to rest in our hearts and to carry us home.

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Or, why keep it just for Easter. We need to hear these words every day.

Let now the heavenly hosts of angels rejoice
let the living mysteries be joyfully celebrated:
and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King.

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Following the Lead of Dappled Things



A neat mapping thing. Please feel free to add yourselves. Or not.

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Rejoice in the Lord



Okay, so it is a sermon from a Baptist Minister and you will need to overlook a few things here and there. But in the main, this is right on target and wonderful for us today.

from a Sermon by Geoff Thomas

Rejoicing in the Lord does not mean we are not to rejoice only in the Lord and not in all of God's temporal mercies to us. We can trace them all back to the goodness of the Lord. We are told to rejoice in the wife of our youth, in food on the table and full refrigerators, in oil to anoint the face and wine to gladden the heart, in deliverance from dangers, toils and snares, in arriving home at a journey's end, in healthy newly born babies and in long life, in feasts and birthdays, in the victorious end of just wars, in recovery from illness, chemotherapy and operations, in a harvest safely gathered in, in examinations passed, and jobs obtained. When you have found a delightful present for a family member at the right price you rejoice. When you find something at last that you have searched for half the morning you rejoice. When you look through some old photograph albums, or slides, and see the children as they used to be, and all the joy of earlier times comes flooding back, you rejoice. We join with the world in rejoicing in those things. Rejoicing for us is gratitude to a living personal God who is the author of such blessings and ten thousand more.

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A Request for Prayers


I don't know if I made a point about this before, but even if so, it never hurts to renew a request for prayer.

I have recently volunteered, and ultimately been accepted, to take on pro tem the duties of both the Regional Coordinator AND the Regional Formation Director. As to the latter, I feel that the requirements of the duties fall well within my skill set. As to the former, administration is not something that comes to me naturally. I will need a lot of help, both corporal and in the realm of prayer. I'd greatly appreciate it if you would remember me and more particularly my duties and responsibiities in this capacity in your prayer. I am not a particularly capable leader where the every-day issues and messy adherence to regulations is called for. Nevertheless, I know without doubt that with God's help I can do enough to keep our region moving forward.

So, please just remember my region and pray that I might be able to act for the good of the entire Carmelite community until such time as God raises up for us a capable leader.

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A Suggested Prayer

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speculative catholic

Speculative Catholic offers a traditional prayer for those "difficult people."

from Speculative Catholic

Would it hurt you to say it once?

O Lord God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the Precious Body and Blood of Thy divine Son Jesus, which He Himself on the night before His Passion gave as meat and drink to His beloved Apostles and bequeathed to His Holy Church to be the perpetual Sacrifice and life-giving nourishment of His faithful people, deliver the souls in purgatory, but most of all, that soul which was least devoted to this mystery of infinite love, in order that it may praise Thee therefore, together with thy Divine Son and the Holy Spirit in Thy glory for ever. Amen

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A Sigh of Relief


Against The Grain

This was one of those things I avoided as long as possible. But now it is now longer possible and I reveal the results of this:

"While the image is an inverse of St. Therese of Lisieux's "Elevator to God," it is, nevertheless an extremely appealing image. "

On your blog...

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to it).
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

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The Arrow of Desire


Flos Carmeli: Chains of Desire

I refer you back to this poem--published here previously. Today I delivered a talk to the Carmelites of my region gathered for a day of reflection on "St. Teresa and St. Ignatius." And I glanced at this poem before I spoke. Though it did not influence anything I said to those in the room, it did spark a thought I wanted to share here.

Desire is an arrow to God. God gave us this faculty for the express purpose of building in a homing signal. Our desires are disordered in this world, but all of our desires amount to one desire if we open our eyes to see it. Everything we want, everything we lust after has, at its core, one end--peace and security.

Desire, seeking peace and security, points directly at God even if we cannot see through the veil of things we want more than Him. As much as desire points the way, we thwart desire because we are afraid of what it will mean to want Him more than anything.

Desire points the way home. It misleads us, it betrays us, it confuses us. But it is the homing signal and it can be trained to truly home in on the One Thing Desirable.

Desire is good and honest and true, and we misuse it and pervert it and warp it, and yet we can never take away from it that if we learn to follow it truly, we will find the way home.

Desire is an arrow to God. It is a faculty for our good. It teaches us how to see Him, if we allow it to work with grace.

Our desires can overwhelm us, but not if they are directed as they should be. If we desire Him more than we desire anything else in the world, then desire resolves into the rocket to heaven.

I go on too long. But we must learn to train desire to seek the direction home, and then trust the Holy Spirit to carry us there.

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Alfred Adler


It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.

Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler was one of those "I'd rather not" people I had to deal with as i was studying psychology. I never quite "got" him the way I did Freud, Jung, Horney, Rogers, Fromm, and Skinner. Nevertheless, I stumbled across this lovely statement that characterizes so much of day-to-day interaction here and elsewhere.

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Suffrages for Hitler

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Or, the downside of the hope for universalism.

If it is possible that God saves every person, if we may hope for this, then it seems to me that the downside of this, the difficult part, is that there is an obligation on our part to see to it that these very unlikeable people are eventually prayed out of purgatory.

I know that I get slight queasy at the thought of praying Hitler out of purgatory. That's because I lack charity. I can apply suffrages to my mother, my grandmother, a friend's mother or other relative, even to people who I don't know well who served humanity in a neutral-to-good fashion. But, oh how hard it is to think about my prayers going to help Hitler, before say a lesser Mother Teresa. You see my point--there are so many who seem so much more desrving.

Well, what I amply demonstrate in this post is the type of judgment I am supposed to avoid. I have determined who is worthy and who is unworthy of the prayers for release from purgatory. I decide, I judge.

Lord, spare me from my own judgment. God alone knows who is "worthy" or who requires anything whatsoever, and it is He who decides how the trinkets we call prayers and suffrages are used in the economy of salvation. I am not allowed that liberty.

And so, it is best not to examine the matter too closely. It is best to pray our prayers and let God let them go where they go (except as they are especially needed for one of our own acquaintance.) When we pray for the poor souls in purgatory, it is better to cast a blanket of anonymity over the proceedings so that we are not inclined to judgment or to withholding the good we can do.

I know that no one ever gives this serious consideration. I haven't up until recently, and after this post, it will sink back down into the background. But I think the Lord raised the issue so I could be intellectually honest. My reaction to this thought shows me that I am not so inclined to hope for Universal Salvation if I must do something about it for those who I think probably don't deserve it. Or probably better said, for those who fall low on my list of people I would like to serve in any way.

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The Open Library


The Open Library

Where e-book pages turn like real pages. A lovely concept, a future reality?

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I have not been a fan of Ms. Rice. I enjoyed the novelty of Interview with a Vampire. But I must admit to being put off of Ms. Rice by both her own writing and (more frequently) her most avid fans. The writing can be florid to the point of rococco, ripe to the point of decay. I recall picking up Ramses and wondering when we were going to cut through the fashion show of the prose to get the story moving.

But I have to admit that rumors of Ms. Rice's new book have me tremendously excited. The prospects of Christ the Lord:Out of Egypt have me excited and thrilled in a way that I haven't felt since hearing rumor of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Now, please understand, I don't expect from Ms. Rice what I had come to expect from The Passion of the Christ. But if this book comes anywhere near its potential, it will tell a story of a personal battle and conversion that will help millions of people struggling in darkness. That Ms. Rice has the courage to commit her career to this path (admittedly, it isn't a tremendous risk considering the success of her other work, nevertheless, it is a risk) is a great sign.

I will compare this to something everyone else will probably laugh at, but you have to remember the time. When Shirley McClain came out with Out on a Limb, I remember being thrilled that someone in Hollywood was taking spiritual matters seriously. It little mattered to me that the orientation was wrong--the fact was that the spiritual, supernatural side of life was being promoted as something important. Admittedly, it became merely another fad, but it was heartening at the time to see a sector of society that seemed to have no heart develop one.

With Ms. Rice, I have heard from others that recent novels have often been permeated with Catholic themes and concerns. Indeed, for a long time it seems that Ms. Rice may have been struggling with the truths of the faith. This work may be a result of that struggle. As such, I'm sure that it will prove interesting. But more interesting is her willingness to speak of Jesus in any way whatsoever. There is some fear of possible heterodoxy--and I suppose that is a possibility--but I haven't read the book yet and so such judgments would be premature. But I hope, I hope with great longing, that this really is what many would make it out to be. And it is my ardent prayer that it becomes another vehicle to tow those who are struggling against the current toward God. Of course, that is a huge expectation to heap upon so minor a thing as a novel, nevertheless, I pray that it is successful in supporting the faith of those who alrady believe and bringing to believe a great many who are struggling with God themselves.

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The Themes of Luke


from Following Jesus: A Disciple's Guide to Luke
Father William Kurz, S.J.

. . . [D]iscipleship is a life journey with Jesus. God does not intend us to live like atoms in random motion; we are called to follow Jesus in a definite direction, toward the Father. . . .

. . .[W]e need to face our fears. We need to trust the Lord and live one day at a time. . . . We must also be realistic about the cost of discipleship and be willing to pay it. . . .

. . .[T]he Holy Spirit empowers us for the Christian way. Through the Spirit we are enabled to do signs and wonders that heal and attract others to Christ. God provides the power and resources needed for our journey. . .

A book worth looking into. A Catholic priest adapts evangelical Bible teaching to solid Catholic practice. The very best of both worlds, what I so often wish I could hear from the pulpit.

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Good Advice


Live Like You Were Dying Lyrics - Tim McGraw

I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

Don't know about 2.7 second on a bull named Fu Man Chu: but for the rest--seems like good advice considering it is the truth. The Anglican Divine Jeremy Taylor long ago pointed out that Holy Living and Holy Dying were inextricably united--one informed the other inevitably. So perhaps if we think toward the end, we can extrapolate backward. There isn't a one of us who facing death will say, "I wish I had worked more. I wish I had taken more business trips." And perhaps we should be more aware of that all along the way.

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Neat E-books


Tennyson--Becket and Other Plays--I don't think I realized that Tennyson had a Becket.

The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales A lengthy anthology of the writings of the saint preceded by a short biographical sketch.

Slavery Ordained of God--a sad and sobering reminder of the extent to which religion can be perverted in the name of a cause.

Horace's Ars Poetica in English and Latin

The Greater Inclination--a lesser-known work of Edith Wharton. (Well, at least I've never heard of it, but then I'm not a Wharton Scholar.)

The Compleat Angler--The 18th Century Oddity of Izaak Walton.

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Via The New Gasparian


Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, O.P.

f we consent in prayer to be flooded by the river of life, our entire being will be transformed; we will become trees of life and be increasingly able to produce the fruit of the Spirit: we will love with the very Love that is our God. It is necessary at every moment to insist on this radical consent, this decision of the heart by which our will submits unconditionally to the energy of the Holy Spirit; otherwise we shall remain subject to the illusion created by mere knowledge of God and talk about him and shall in fact remain apart from him in brokenness and death.

A million thanks to Father Keyes for bringing this to my attention.

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A Moratorium

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Sometimes the things we say and do have unintended consequences. It has so happened recently and so, for a time, I may be posting less--simply notes of interest in the E-book and natural world while I struggle with saying things that need to be said and refraining from those that do not.

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Starting with public domain works and gearing themselves up, one assumes.

The Poets and the Poetry of the Nineteenth... - Google Print

The Age of Shakespeare (1579-1631) - Google Print

The Age of Shakespeare (1579-1631) - Google Print

And THIS is the beta page from which you can begin your searches.

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Putting History on the Web


Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web

A nice html source that gives suggestions and guidelines for putting historical material on the web.

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Current Reading

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The Spoils of Poynton--fascinating. A study should probably be made of how this work ultimately contributed to The Golden Bowl. There are so many similarities it is uncanny. Obviously, there are differences as well. But the story is very straightforward, the prose unusual shorn of the the Jamesian festoons and protuberances--almost as though he wanted to push this draft out to get on to other notions and ideas. Think of it as a latter day Daisy Miller, although on a different theme--this is his latter marriage theme strain.

Gideon--Remarkable in moments, quick reading, and yet not something I want to read quickly for fear that I might lose some of what it is suggesting. So I waver between this and

The Master--Don't know what Toibin is up to at this point. Hoping it isn't another novel drenched with homosexual angst and sturm und drang a la Michael Cunningham's The Hours. But given that there have been overt comparisons, I fear that it may be so. Hopefully, not so much as to detract from this story of James's ways of putting life into his work.

Anna Karenina--Except for the very short works, I can't think of a work by Tolstoy that it has taken me less than a year to read. I can only deal with so much of his prose at a time, and I really wonder about those who think War and Peace is one of the all time great novels.

I'm casting about right now for the spiritual book to read. I'm afraid that I am quite adrift at the moment and don't know quite what to turn to. Perhaps it will occur to me as I pray.

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Our relatively minor spinoff of Wilma flows by--it will continue throughout the day as she moves north eastward (Hopefully more east before north). And I think what a wonder these things are. Not a wonder I particularly enjoy participating in at the time, but it's great to talk about afterwards. I begin to understand the purpose and meaning of "hurricane parties" where people gather in large groups to wait out the storm. The sound of human companionship makes more bearable the terrible sounds that come from outside. They restore a perspective from primordial horror to major inconvenience; from waiting for the apocalypse to waiting out a bout of bad weather.

What is even more interesting about this storm is the huge, strong front that is driving it off. We're starting the morning at about 80 degrees and this evening we'll be down to 48. That's amazing for Florida, and almost unheard of for October. But it is another thing to thank God for--it is the whisk broom that forces this pesky storm out to sea so rapidly that we have merely two or three hours to endure of the worst weather. Like Charlie last year, it hits hard and fast and then is gone. There is probably nothing worse than what the Yucatan suffered--sitting under a glowering hurricane for hours upon hours on end.

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News You Can Use


Great Pumpkin Grows Up

Thank goodness for the diligent Priests of St. Blogs (nod to Dappled Things) who keep us apprised of these monumental <*ahem*> issues--a 1300 lb pumpkin threatens to take over New England! (How's that for a Tabloid Headline?)

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In his usual way, JCecil3 raises some interesting questions about the Bush presidency. I boil his central thesis down to the question in the title--Is Bush a Christian President?

My answer to this is simple. That is between Mr. Bush and God. It is presumptuous of me to do any other. I may take Mr. Bush at his word and assume that he is a good, Church-going believer.

Does his time in office make this a substantive reality in the world today? That is, if one had to go on evidence rather than assertion, would there be enough evidence to convict Bush on a trial for his Christianity? Not that I've seen. Everything in Washington is Politics as usual. There's a bit more of the relgious window-dressing and talking than there had been for a few words. Is it meaningful? Has it changed society for the better?

Honestly, not that I've seen. I don't see any surge forward in people loving one another as Christ commanded. I don't see the dawning age of new solidarity. I don't even see increased Church attendance as a result of the president's seeming endorsement of religion.

If Bush is a Christian President, it is a private matter that finds very little room for substantive expression in action. Yes, there may be prayer meetings in the White House and a nearly constant invocation of the name of God and the battle of Good and Evil. But the harsh reality is, the president is the president. He does as all have done before him if with a good deal less aplomb and a great deal more alienation. (Like any choice at the present time would have been better?)

Bush no more stands for Christianity than does Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, or the President of the Phillippines. Nor is he meant to--and those who would like to see him so do a grave injustice both to the office of president and to the Christian faith. There is a very, very good reason for "separation of Church and State" in the sense of not campaigning on your Chrisitianity--you besmirch the faith and often, assuming you live it, you will end up alienating everyone any way--nothing will get done.

I do not think religion should ever stay out of the public square--the issues it raises and the causes that it supports need to be constantly brought before the eyes of the world. But I do think it poor policy to make faith an issue or mainstay of your reign or rule. Inevitably either the reign will be short and poorly received, or Christianity itself will get another black eye. (Think of His Most Christian Majesty Vlad Tepes--as one among many sterling examples.) The proper role of Christianity is always contra mundum, we are in the world, but not of it. If Christianity loses its power to confront and provoke by being subsumed in the mainstream battle of political discourse, it will have lost much of its meaning. Christianity is a sign of contradiction and a constant call to improve, not a seal of approval or an endorsement.

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Koi Mil Gaya

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In Hindi, and probably about 15 other languages because dicipherable English phrases occur frequently throughout. Koi Mil Gaya is India's answer to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. Rohit's father is a scientist who is obssessed with communicating with space aliens. He sets up his computer to do so, but dies in an accident. His son, Rohit, is born brain-damaged and Forrest Gump-like, but in the best Hindi-film tradition capable of lapsing into song for any reason or none whatsoever. Jadoo, the alien, whose name means, (I think) magic, comes down from space and during a routine mission is left behind to afect the life of this young man and his friends. Really, take the plot from ET, dump it in the foothills of the Himalaya or some other extremely scenic mountain range in probably Northern India (I think the name of the town is Kuesali) and voila Koi Mil Gaya.

Somewhere along the line in the movie, there is a song that has the title in its lyrics, but I wasn't paying enough attention at the time, so I didn't capture a translation for you. But suffice to say that the film has an innocent, charming presence with enthusiastic, interesting actors and all of the trappings one has come to expect from Bollywood. I think Bollywood films are rapidly becoming a prime contenders for my favorite brand of foreign film--although the Japanese with their alarming disconnects from Western reality will probably remain ascendant. Indian films also show a sharp disconnect from Western Reality, but there is something joyful and ultimately appealing about them.

It's odd, but I've noted the same strain of "fatedness" without resignation in much of the literature that comes out of India. Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance could have been a real downer, but the sheer force of life and joy of the people who have been horribly treated by life makes it a wonderful celebration of life for me. The same is true of any number of other books and stories I have read of recent date. This form of disconnect from Western cynicism and angst, I find very easy to embrace.

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The Historian


Darn,it was close.

The legend of the vampire and particularly of THE vampire is rather difficult to make any addition to at this late date. Vampires have been sucked dry so far as romance, fright, and interest go. They've transmuted, become heroes, become anti-heroes, criminals, detectives, you name it, you can find a vampire novel for it.

I don't know what attracted me to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostovo; however, I am glad that I read it. It is a contribution to the legend and THE legend, and its a really fine one.

The novel is densely layered consisting of at least three different narrative voices told in five or six different batches of letters all centered around a young woman in Amsterdam who finds a mysterious book with only a single image in it--that of a dragon. As the story goes along, we find that these books are not so uncommon as we might think--we meet the owners of seven or eight of them.

In the course of the novel we're given tours of Hungary, Romanian, Turkey, and Bulgaria, with sidetrip to the French Pyranees, England, and the United States. We have all the usual suspects, and most of the classical trappings of the Vampire legend. And we have The Historian of the title. That's one of the charms of the book--the way in which the title takes on multiple meanings as you continue through it.

I suppose my one demurral from the whole thing is that the end is really very weak. After reading through six-hundred pages the "duel" at the end is a fizzle and the story peters out into an extended fantasia. It's a shame because the writing is very fine indeed and the story substantive up to that point.

If you're interested in the subject matter, recommended.

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It has long been a protestant slander that to be a Catholic one must check one's mind at the door. Obviously any protestant who repeats this calumny hasn't paid much attention to the Church I am accustomed to attend.

If the climate at St. Blog's is any indication at all, one is far more likely to be requested to check one's heart at the door. Reading in some of the reaches of St. Blogs, one gets the impression that if you haven't spent your entire life arguing yourself into full conformity with Catholic Doctrine on the basis on Natural Law and revelation, then you've been wasting your time and your life. If I wished to live a logically consistent life with everything exactly placed and exactly reasoned, I would have requested a Skinner Box in the early stages of my childhood.

I am far more often annoyed by the rigid intellectualists who admit of no part of the emotional life in the life of the Church. Everything done is to be done on the basis of sheer intellect alone. Our assent to doctrine is intellectual. Our reception of the Eucharist is the reification of a reality that the reason has already checked out and verified. Our very emotions are to be under the complete governance of reason.

Sorry, but the intellect does not dominate most people. There are quite a few who would like to think that it does, but the emotions have a life and a will of their own. How often have you actually talked yourself out of an irrational fear? For me, I don't think I ever have. However, I have prayed my way out many a times. I have relied upon the strength and the love of our Blessed Mother, not upon her intellect, to obtain for me the graces necessary.

No, I'm afraid one of my biggest objections since joining the Catholic Church has been the virulent strain of anti-emotionalism that circulates in some corners. Any hint of religion in emotion is seen as syrupy pietism, or devotional excess. Any questioning of the strict line of reason on the basis of any other than rigid Aristotelian lines seems to be looked down upon. The Charismatic Renewal is regarded askance both for their emotionalism and for certain pockets of questionable doctrine that can sometimes arise from the origins of the Renewal in the Pentecostal movement.

The reason is a good and powerful gatekeeper. It is necessary, right, just, and required that we cultivate it to the best of our ability. At the same time the reason uncut by the love (not merely the intellectual assent of will) demanded by one Christian for another, is the recipe for a horror. By all means, we must correct the errors of our brethren. I have been thankful time and again for course corrections offered by loving, concerned, informed friends. I have had very, very infrequent occasion to thank any polemical apologist for their unwarranted intrusion into my thoughts or life.

It is about balance. The reason must rule, but lest it is a tyrant, it must be kept in check by the heart. I absolutely must assent to the truth revealed by the Catholic Church, but it is the use of that truth that becomes a sticking point. Homosexual acts are defined as gravely sinful. If I follow the Bible and the strict rule of reason, I must therefore eschew any contacts with unrepentant homosexuals. And where, may I ask, does that leave them? Isn't my first duty to love my neighbor as myself and to conduct myself in that love. Isn't the first rule to pull the beam out of my own eye before I try to remove the mote in my neighbor's?

Sometimes when I hear some of the arguments and disagreements expressed among very good Catholics, it seems to me that we have abandoned the cardinal rule of love for the tyranny of reason guided by law. Not all of the time--but I find this problem far more pervasive than I find a problem of rampant emotionalism. (Though I must admit, I have found pockets of that as well, and it is no better--though, I suppose arguably, it might be a good deal less harmful to an outsider. Rather smother them in kisses than hand them a docket, a notebook, and a slide-rule.)

Just some half-formed thoughts upon looking into certain darker corners of the world of Catholic disagreement.

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That Library Thing Again

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LibraryThing | Catalog your books online

He just keeps on chugging. Here's my list of "books you might like" derived from similarities with my list and the lists of other public sites. As it turns out

Book suggestions for sriddle

1. The fellowship of the ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Book of Three (Prydain Chronicles) by Lloyd Alexander
4. The return of the king : being the third part of The lord of the rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
5. Ender's game by Orson Scott Card
6. The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
7. The adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
8. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
9. Leaving home by Garrison Keillor
10. Le Morte D'Arthur, Vol 1 by Thomas, Sir Malory
11. The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Part 2) by J.R.R. Tolkien
12. Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
13. Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by John Steinbeck
14. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
15. Persuasion by Jane Austen
16. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis
17. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide: Complete and Unabridged by DOUGLAS ADAMS
18. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
19. The elements of style by William Strunk
20. Taran Wanderer (Pyrdain Chronicles) by Lloyd Alexander
21. Emma (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen
22. The name of the rose by Umberto Eco
23. The High King (Pyrdain Chronicles) by Lloyd Alexander
24. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
25. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
26. A Wind in the Door (Time Quartet) by Madeleine L'Engle
27. Lake Wobegon days by Garrison Keillor
28. Candide by Voltaire
29. The robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
30. Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart
31. A Brief History of Time : From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen Hawking
32. A wrinkle in time by Madeleine L'Engle
33. The Black Cauldron (Pyrdain Chronicles) by Lloyd Alexander
34. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
35. The grey king by Susan Cooper
36. Five complete Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie
37. Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables) by L.M. Montgomery
38. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
39. How the Irish saved civilization : the untold story of Ireland's heroic role from the fall of Rome to the rise of medie by Thomas Cahill
40. Morte d'Arthur, Le : Volume 2 (Penguin Classics) by Thomas Malory
41. The problem of pain by C. S. Lewis
42. Lies my teacher told me : everything your American history textbook got wrong by James W. Loewen
43. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
44. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
45. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
46. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
47. Sense and sensibility by Jane Austen
48. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
49. I capture the castle by Dodie Smith
50. Watership Down by Richard Adams
51. The hidden city by David Eddings
52. The Castle of Llyr (Chronicles of Prydain (Paperback)) by Lloyd Alexander
53. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
54. Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
55. Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 2) by Tad Williams
56. The golden compass by Philip Pullman
57. The Canterbury Tales, in Modern English by Geoffrey Chaucer
58. Madame Bovary (Bantam Classics) by Gustave Flaubert
59. MANY WATERS by Madeleine L'Engle
60. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
61. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
62. White Gold Wielder (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 3) by Stephen R. Donaldson
63. Domes of fire by David Eddings
64. Cyrano De Bergerac (Vintage Classics) by Edmond Rostand
65. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
66. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Yearling Books) by Madeleine L'Engle
67. The mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
68. Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables) by L.M. Montgomery
69. Winds of fury by Mercedes Lackey
70. Winds of change by Mercedes Lackey
71. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
72. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
73. Juxtaposition (Apprentice Adept (Paperback)) by Piers Anthony
74. Winds of Fate (The Mage Winds, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey
75. Out of the silent planet (Macmillan paperbacks edition) by C. S Lewis
76. The Martian chronicles (with a new introduction by Fred Hoyle) by Ray Bradbury
77. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
78. The Dilbert principle : a cubicle's-eye view of bosses, meetings, management fads & other workplace afflictions by Scott Adams
79. The One Tree (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 2) by Stephen R. Donaldson

All I can say is that I pretty much own all of them. Now, if there were just a way to use this list to import the titles into my own library and save myself thousands of hours of plugging in ISBNs etc.

Oh, almost all except Eddings (largely unreadable), Donaldson (largely unreadable) and Garrison Keillor. Will someone explain to me why otherwise perfectly sensible, level-headed, likeable people (such as TSO) can stomach this stuff? Is it some strange midwestern sickness? Is it a nostalgia bug? Is it some form of communicable disease? If so, is it either preventable or curable? I think my antipathy was contracted at the politcal lap of Prairie Home Companion. Every time I've heard it it has been an assembly of thinly veiled, unfunny, pandering, political diatribe. Is that of recent advent? Did I miss something back in the day that was actually worthy of my time? So many people I like and trust in so many things seem to like this and I'm so clueless.

But then Tom, of Disputations fame, was scratching his head a few years back of the concurrence of my complete Golden Age Set of Carter Dickson/Anthony Boucher AND my complete A.A. Fair. So I guess we are more than the sum of our consistencies.

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The List--SF Films

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Seen at both the Anchoress (?) and Siris. As with others, I have bolded the ones I have seen.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)

Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
(As with Clockwork Orange, people often make the mistake of calling this a science fiction film--while the subject matter may be, the director makes it his own. This is not SF, it is Kubrick.)
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

What is that 47, 48 of 50? Akira, and Ghost are both anime that I may get around to. And there are some that I am pretty sure I saw, but I wouldn't be placing on this list.

What might I add? Frankenstein, the Original, and not quite as campy progenitor of them all, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Gattaca, for sheer Space Opera Oddity The Fifth Element, Silent Running, and a slew of B Fifties films.


Doesn't appear to have been at The Anchoress. Was it perhaps Julie D, or the Little Professor. My head's aspin with things.

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Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor

"So the problems of the world become the problems of the saints in a most personal way. If the world is hedonistic the saints will, by their contrarian example, become ascetics. If the world is Albigensian ascetic, the saints will become as "hedonists". So be careful which age you're born in (rimshot)."
--TSO at Video Meliora

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Home Page of St. Teresa Margaret

For those who wish to know about St. Teresa Margaret Redi (of the Sacred Heart).

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The Great Teresas

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Seven People I Admire

If you're not reading Blog by the Sea and you're interested in things Carmelite, you ought to be. This merely links to the meme post of a few days back, but I got to thinking about all of the Teresas (and forms thereof) whom I admire:

St. Teresa of Avila
Mother Teresa of St. Augustine (Martyr of Compiegne)
Sister Teresa of the Holy Heart (Martyr of Compiegne)
St. Teresa Margaret Redi
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Teresa of the Andes
St. Teresa Bendicta of the Cross
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Those who have been blessed with the name Teresa (or its variants) are truly blessed by the models of you name. I'm sure there are a great many others, but these are the ones I know the best and love the most. These are among the women who have taught me the way of life of a contemplative. Do not attribute the poor qualities of the student to the teacher.

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Of Interest to Home-Schoolers


Project Gutenberg Titles by McGuffey, William Holmes, 1800-1873

The Gutenberg library of the Eclectic Primers Including readers, primers, and spelling-book. These often come with enthusiastic recommendations. I am a bit cautious. I wonder if they are lauded because they are good or because they are old. Older ways are not necessarily better ways. (Nor should one jump to the conclusion that they are necessarily worse ways either.)

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The Christ of Cynewulf

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The Christ of Cynewulf

Honestly, I don't know what to make of the offerings of I can't enthusiastically endorse all of them, but some of them have a peculiar interest both antiquarian and oddity.

The Christ is an oddity in mediocre verse with some interesting wood-cuttings or engravings. Some of the poetry sings, some thuds, I won't comment on the theology because I haven't read extensively enough, but it parallels much of the site there is enough there to be wary of. Nevertheless, these things hold an odd charm.

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Micrographia Restaurata



An explanation of Hookes observations through the microscope with resizeable lpage images. Nice for historians of science.

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Jesus in Islam

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Islamic Network

I do not know how much this site speaks for the main body of Islamic belief, but it records what I have understood from Muslims with respect to Jesus and His mission. Needless to say, it contradicts our scripture in major ways, and yet at the same time there are some important concurrences. Which is not to imply that Christianity=Islam or vice versa--merely to say that there are some surprising points of confluence.

We Muslims believe that one day the Antichrist will come, and then Jesus will descend from the heavens and slay him, and will live among the Muslims and rule them. During those times the earth shall be filled with justice and blessing. . .

Jesus will come again, and will marry and have children, and live for 40 years among us. And soon after he dies, the Day of Judgment will come.

These are just some thoughts peripheral to the discussion being carried on at Disputations regarding the article on the conduct of Cardinal McCarrick at a recent meeting. It is always good to know, as well as we can, the contours of the land.

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TSO Invites Us All to a Meme

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Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor


7 People I Admire (in no particular order):

1. Pope John Paul the Great
2. Blessed Mary Teresa de Soubiran
3. St. Anthony Claret
4. my grandmother
5. St. Pope Pius X
6. Mother Angelica
7. my wife

My Seven I admire most, in no particular Order:

1. My Grandma Smith
2. My Wife
3. John Paul the Magnificent
4. St. Therese of Lisieux
5. St. Maximilian Kolbe
6. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
7. St. John of the Cross (with St. Teresa of Avila running so close that it would be a photo finish--but to include both my grandmother and my wife I had to choose.)

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The Reality of Lust

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Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor

A quotation on TSO's blog from the inimitable Mr. Luse. Sometimes I read too quickly or perhaps too inattentively. I missed this and it is worth repeating:

Lust devours reality, because it's all about "me." --William Luse of Apologia

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Some Notes on Philippians


A few days ago, a correspondent wrote to me and suggested that perhaps the introduction of the letter to the Philippians was not so evocative as I seemed to imply. In the main, I could not disagree. But honestly, I had never prayed trough the introduction and asked God what He might have in store for me there. I wrote back and said that I thought the correspondent might be correct and my enthusiasm perhaps a touch of the over-the-top side. But below is a record of some of the things I derived from praying through the introduction. I hope they are as useful to you as they were to me. If you note any overt errors, either of doctrine or of grammar, drop me a note so that I might correct my thinking or language depending on which one is faulty. So much is just now.

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

The verses of greeting seem to offer little enough for prayer, and yet attention to every detail of scripture is rewarded.

Paul extends, as usual, a double blessing of grace and peace. These words are worthy of a moment or two reflection on their own. Grace--God's utterly unmerited gift to us, a gift so powerful and so much a part of Him that it flows from Him to permeate all of reality. Just as the sun cannot perform its fusion and do anything other than to give off light and heat, God, just in being God cannot but give forth grace. It is impossible for Him to withhold it because it is contradictory to His nature. This grace is focused through the Mother of Grace who gave birth to God's most comprehensive sign of His grace, His own incarnation. Mary is not the source of Grace but she is the vessel and distributor of grace. As we pray in the Hail Mary, she is full of grace. Or perhaps more dynamically, she is filled and overfilled with grace, which spills out through her upon the entire human race. The same lens that focused God into flesh and blood reality continues to focus the plentiful reality of God on all the people of today. She is mediatrix of all graces. She is the distributor, but she is so charged out of the love she has for her children and for good, so though she is tasked with the distribution of good, she is a pure and clean lens that in no way distorts, obscures, or denies to any seeker that grace which flows through her. Grace is the unmerited favor that bestowed a son upon a willing virgin. It is the source of all knowledge of good and righteousness; it is, thus, the perfect inheritance and privilege of the Christian and of all of God's children.

The peace with which Paul greets the children of Philippi is not merely the absence of strife or war, though these would be blessings in themselves. No indeed, it is much more than this. This peace is the shalom of integrity and unity. It is the peace of Jesus Christ, first bestowed by Him on the apostles and by the power of apostolic succession, given them to bestow upon the people of the world, which each one does with each prayer of Mass. This peace has as external signs the absence of strife and war between people, but it starts in a far richer, more complex internal reality. This shalom is the blessing of the integrated person--the peace granted is a healing of the breach caused in each of us by original sin. When we live this peace, we are walking the path of salvation laid out in the mysterious plan of our savior's birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and culminating in His second coming. This peace then is nothing less than the promise of God fully realized. It is the gift of salvation when lived to the fullest. It allows the old man to rest peacefully and cease warring upon the new man who attempts to live out Christ's commands. In these two words Paul offers to the people of Philippi and to those of us who are privileged to share in the message through our reading of the letter. Paul offers nothing less than the fullness of God's love and mercy. Everything that follows these words is simply an explanatory footnote--essential to our understanding and acceptance of the gifts offered in this simple benediction, but incidental to them. If we could, without them, realize and reify God’s gift, we would do so much better. This is what Jesus extolled in the approach of the little children to Him. If we could, in perfect joy and simplicity accept God's most precious gifts we would have little need of words piled on words. As it stands, that is not within the purview of most of us. So Paul goes on to tell us more--to gild the lily as it were with perfect joy.

Who realized that a greeting held so much? In the space of a few short words we are offered the most treasured gifts in the rich hoard of heaven's blessings, AND we a offered a shining example of what it means to be an apostle and a disciple.

And that leads us to the question of application. Are we not all called to be both disciples, or pupils, of the Lord and Apostles--those sent out, peculiarly charged with the duty of sharing the good news of salvation with those immediately around us why do not live it daily? If so, are we not responsible for carrying out the message so clearly spelled out for us in this letter and in others? In short, are we a sign of grace and peace to others? Is our prayer life outwardly projected onto the everyday? Or is our prayer life carefully sequestered and divided from our outward life? As saints, we are offered the gift. As disciples and apostles we are charged with making it manifest in our own lives and thus substantially sharing and transmitting this blessing with others. We are vehicles of grace and peace only when we begin to live the life that grace and peace bestow upon us.

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I have successfully implemented the suggestions initially reported by Talmida and then modified for MT by Jeff (The Curt Jester) in a comment to this post Unfortunately, because the text included real code, the parser actually reads it and you can't get the mods. If you e-mail me or Jeff, I can provide you with his original which I used for my modifications. Thank you, Jeff. I greatly appreciate it.

Next stop--'twould seem to me that a like strategy could be used for categories.

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Over in the comments box at Disputations, Marion linked to the excerpt below from the New Advent Site posting of the Catholic Encyclopedia. I thought it worth repeating. The truth must always be spoken in love. It is very rarely right to shout out another's errors from the rooftops (exceptions include public safety). God bless Marion and Tom for pointing out these important truths.

from Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Detraction"

Detraction is the unjust damaging of another's good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer. An important difference between detraction and calumny is at once apparent. The calumniator says what he knows to be false, whilst the detractor narrates what he at least honestly thinks is true. Detraction in a general sense is a mortal sin, as being a violation of the virtue not only of charity but also of justice. It is obvious, however, that the subject-matter of the accusation may be so inconspicuous or, everything considered, so little capable of doing serious hurt that the guilt is not assumed to be more than venial. The same judgment is to be given when, as not unfrequently happens, there has been little or no advertence to the harm that is being done.

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I just finished typing up the first of these posts and due to what I will explain below, I hit the wrong button and hence demolished it.

I have been suffering from a slight health problem over the past few days, the treatment of which has entailed using some pain killers that have made it somewhat difficult to spend time at the keyboard. Moreover, you will probably find a greater number of typographical errors through this period as my proofing ability diminishes with my clarity. Please forgive me. And please pray for me that the present treatment will knock this wretched thing out. I do not like to contemplate the meaning of it otherwise.

While you're praying, please add prayers for all of these in the path of our present Hurricane Wilma. I know I'm very, very tired of this season, and seeing that Orlando is squarely within the cone of uncertainty on this one, I'm somewhat concerned. NOAA's present forecast is that Wilma will be a short, sharp punch across the penisula. Please pray that it is so and that we will be done with this nonsense for the season. Tying records isn't exactly my idea of fun when it comes to weather phenomena. (Though, I must say, there is a certain thrill at the possibility of breaking such a record. And a false sense of reassurance because averages and probabilities suggest to the untrained mind that next year would HAVE to be better. Oh, unfortunately not so. But we cling to the perception of the law of averages rather than to the cold reality that we must have some high years to balance the low and average 12 storms rather than 21. Still, we're better off than Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune(?) all of which have storms that have lasted for the better part of 400 years--if we use the Great Red Spot and Galileo's observations of it as an indicator.)

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"You are a WASP/Convert"

You've been to a parish bingo game once. Don't
worry, we won't tell. After all, WASPs are
allowed in the Church as well.

We just don't trust you very much.

Provided by

Are You A Cultural Catholic?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Hopkins Set to Music


Gerard Manley Hopkins Poems In Musical Adaptations - Demo - Index

For fans of Gerard Manley Hopkins, an array of his poetry styled in different musical fashions. Pied Beauty as gospel/spiritual. Another as jig. Go and enjoy, I'm sure the artists would appreciate it.

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St. Teresa of Avila


Carmelite Sisters D.C.J. -- Teresa of Avila

The Lord doesn't look so much at the greatness of our works as the love with which they are done.

I am not a great fan of St. Teresa of Avila. For that you may want to visit Blog by the Sea. I find that I get more from St. John of the Cross and his descendants--St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Why she does not speak to as loudly as the others, I do not know. But despite the fact that I cannot hear her as well as some others, I love and admire her as much or more than almost any of the others (excepting St. Elijah and Our Lady). She appeals to me in a thousand small, human, comfortable, loving ways. She really is La Madre of my entire Carmelite practice. It is through her intercession, and that of Our Lady, that I am sustained through the difficult times.

So, while I may not appreciate her writing, I certainly appreciate her style. And what is remarkable is that the dynamic duo of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila seem to pack the one-two punch of Carmel. If one cannot capture you as a Carmelite, the other is sure to do so. Some argue that there is some great gulf between them--that Teresa taught method and John taught something else etc. In fact, neither really taught "method" as such--both taught focus and no matter who you are, it is likely that one or the other of them will speak to you. Not that you will become a Carmelite, but that you will learn something about what prayer is and how to pray.

But today, as we approach her feast, I just want to celebrate the life and the great gift God gave us in the person of St. Teresa of Avila, La Madre.

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Lectio Divina--Philippians

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Philippians Search Results

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog with any frequency that I am back again to my favorite book of the Bible (outside of the Gospels). If I could choose to do so all of myself, I would pattern my life most closely after the joy expressed in this Epistle.

Rather than reposting much of what I have done, I thought I'd just dredge it all up again and let you sample as you choose to do.

Last night I started reading Philippians again and was stuck for hours simply on the greeting. No, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the greeting to the letter, but the greeting simply activated my need to use the gifts God had given me and to begin to reflect more deeply on what He was trying to say to me in this letter. In the coming days if the signs are right, I may share something of that ongoing conversation. But as it stands now, it is perhaps better just to share some reflections from the past and allow the Lord to continue His good work in His good time.

Please pray for me with regard to this endeavor that what I do is what I should do and that the result be what God desires from me. Thank you.

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Continuing on a Previous Point


Ascent of Mount Carmel (iv.ii)

This is how John defines a "beginner" in prayer.

3. And this first night pertains to beginners, occurring at the time when God begins to bring them into the state of contemplation; in this night the spirit likewise has a part, as we shall say in due course. And the second night, or purification, pertains to those who are already proficient, occurring at the time when God desires to bring them to the state of union with God. And this latter night is a more obscure and dark and terrible purgation, as we shall say afterwards. (Ascent I.I.3)

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A Point of Clarification

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Reading a note on TSO's blog made me realize how things sound when those not part of a group are hearing an exchange between people who have a subtext between them that fills in a lot of gaps.

Teresa Polk wrote:

"In some respects it is the same as John's since both followed the same Discalced Carmelite Primitive Rule. However, Teresa is arguably more advanced than John in the level of prayer in her writings. The Carmelite Joseph of Jesus Mary and Benedictine Dom John Chapman both considered everything in Teresa's contemplative prayer to be after the Night of the Senses in John's writings. They considered John to be writing more of ordinary prayer, while Teresa wrote of higher ways."

And if you've spent 10 or 15 years studying Carmel, this is unexceptionable. St. John of the Cross in The Ascent of Mount Carmel claims to be writing for beginners. But he is very careful of his terms. The beginners he is referring to are most often those who have been admitted to religious life--so they've already gone through a great deal more prayer than any one of us generally exert in a lifetime. They are beginners on the path to union--sufficiently prayerful that meditation is beginning to be a chore and burden rather than a means of participating in God. They've mostly left off mortal and most venial sin and their concentrating on correcting faults etc.

Hence, even St. John of the Cross's "beginners" are by no means "ordinary" in the degree of praying. Certainly there are some not in religious life who are "ordinary" in the way St. John of the Cross describes. But the way to understand the distinction might be to think of St. John of the Cross as a handbook for the novitiate and preparation, and St. Teresa of Avila as guidance for the professed or the proficient toward perfection.

Do not despair if you aren't on St. John of the Cross's radar! His "ordinary" would be "extraordinary" to any of us in normal life. Which makes what St. Teresa of Avila writes even more extraordinary.

Thanks TSO. Sometimes you just don't know what something sounds like until someone chokes at one of your statements.

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How to Accomplish Miracles


The reality is, we can't.

That's the bad news. The good news is, the reality is God can through us. In a post below one of the readers commented and asked how much of our time should be spent focused on the things we need to do to clear the way for God.

The answer is almost none at all. The miracle of divine union is accomplished by God alone. There is very little we can do to aid its progress. There is remarkably little we can do to achieve detachment. There is very little we can do to deepen prayer.

But our little is the widow's mite. We offer it out of our poverty. And it is the greatest treasure God can have from us. As a father, one of the most precious things my son can give me is something, however naively done that has taken him some time. He has produced reams of art the paper the wall of my cubicle and each piece is precious because each piece represents a time when he was thinking about his daddy. So it is with our Father in Heaven. No matter how poorly done, our little widow's mite is infinitely precious to Him. Praise God there are no cubicles in heaven, but if there were, they would be peppered with these little offerings, the signs of our attention to our Heavenly Father.

So, how do we accomplish miracles? We turn to our Father in heaven and say, "Abba, Daddy, Please!"

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Sir Isaac Newton on Trials


Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust his skill and thank him for his prescription. ... Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

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Star Wars Person

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Princess Leia

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Don't you believe it. From Julie D.

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Prayer and Self Indulgence

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Blog by the sea has this rather sobering thought from St. Teresa of Avila.

Our Primitive Rules tells us to pray without ceasing. Provided we do this with all possible care (and it is the most important thing of all) we shall not fail to observe the fasts, disciplines and periods of silence which the Order commands; for, as you know, if prayer is to be genuine it must be reinforced with these things—prayer cannot be accompanied by self-indulgence.

Now one hopes that she refers merely to prayer in religious life, and yet, one suspects that this is simply a way around a less-than-pleasant reality. To be prayer it must be in an atmosphere of prayer, which rarely accumulates around a feast of bonbons and cupcakes while perched on your seat in front of the latest movie or football game.

We can fall back to the second position--"Well, St. Teresa of Avila is talking about advanced prayer." This is somewhat more comforting because one is willing to admit that the gates to advanced prayer have not yet been opened. As I grow toward advanced prayer, presumably some of these desires and indulgences will fall away. Well, no, not quite. While it may be easier to relinquish them, it still takes an act of will on my part to do so. Admittedly that act of will is promoted by and strengthened by grace, but nevertheless, I must desire God more than I desire the comfortable and lovely things He has created. I must be willing to forego self to serve others. I will readily admit that I have not made it there yet. Finally, even if all of this does represent an view of advanced prayer, isn't that the right and proper destination for all who claim to love God? It would seem so to me.

So I'm led to this conclusion--self-indulgence in all things must gradually fall away. I must want the One Thing Necessary more than I want all the distractions and beautiful things in the world. The goal of every Christian is to grow our of self into the Body of Christ and assume our right and proper position there. We do this through realization of our gifts and application of those gifts toward the betterment of everyone around us.

Realization of our gifts is a much more difficult task than we sometimes are willing to admit. It takes silence (not merely of the voice) and solitude, which is not merely isolation from others, but an encasement in God. One can be in complete solitude in the midst of a crowd--but probably not as a preliminary. One must cultivate both silence, or a listening attitude, and solitude, or aloneness with God to recognize one's full array of gifts.

I haven't done this yet. I have only begun to know the person God made me to be. Sometimes seeing that person makes me dislike the person I presently am--but almost never enough to effect the changes that will bring me closer to Him. That is an act of pure grace. In His own time God will grant me the grace and strength to serve Him in the way He deserves. Why He allows some to start at the age of 3 or 15 and others to wait through long life to arrive at a place of service, I cannot say. What I can say is that I do desire to arrive at this place. Presently, I do not know that it is the uttermost desire of my heart--and so I do not attain. As St. Teresa advises us prayer does not grow in an environment of self-indulgence.

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Bollywood Hollywood

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Take Pretty Woman add songs in Hindi and a grandma who spends more time quoting Shakespeare (appropriate or not) than speaking, add some Indian Female impersonators and voilà you have Bollywood Hollywood--a spectacular celebration in song and dance.

I really don't know what to make of this film except that it is so internally self-referential that it raises itself to metacinematic proportions. Does anyone know the origin of Bollywood? Are most films from India filmed in Bombay, or are the major film studios in Bombay?

Anyway, this movie was fast-paced, the English of the actors was accented in such a way that it was a little hard to follow (King of like most of Gosford Park. As I said before all of the musical numbers were in Hindi, and they were lovely. I've decided that if this represents some version of Indian "Pop" culture, I very much like it. I like the blend of instruments and voice even if I haven't a clue what they are singing.


Bookmark and Share :: What is your style of American Catholicism?

You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions. But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith, probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II. You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional, and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society that you see among your peers. You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature in your faith.

New Catholic


Traditional Catholic


Radical Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Liberal Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with

And how the heck does how I view capitalism dictate what kind of Catholic I am? I don't know what a "new Catholic" is, and frankly I don't care because I love the church--her traditions, her innovations, her many forms of Mass, her holiness, her guidance, her Joyous proclamation of the truth, her Saints, her leaders, and all of her people, New, Traditional, Radical, Evangelical, Neo-Conservtive, Liberal, and Lukewarm. I love the Church and thank God daily that I am now a Catholic!

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Ghent to Aix

To say that the man is an unabashed admirer of Browning would be to damn with faint praise. The poem is a marvel of rhythmic regularity. What is most interesting is that there are points at which the rhythm is subtly shifted as it would be in any natural ride.

No one has ever, so far as I know, criticised _Ghent to Aix_ adversely except Owen Wister's Virginian; and his strictures are hypercritical. As Roland threw his head back fiercely to scatter the spume-flakes, it would be easy enough for the rider to see the eye-sockets and the bloodfull nostrils. Every one has noticed how a horse will do the ear-shift, putting one ear forward and one back at the same moment. Browning has an imaginative reason for it. One ear is pushed forward to listen for danger ahead; the other bent back, to catch his master's voice. Was there ever a greater study in passionate cooperation between man and beast than this splendid poem?



I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
"Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
"Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit

'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Duffeld, 'twas morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with, "Yet there is time!"

At Aershot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray:

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence,--ever that glance
O'er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.

By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix"--for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

So, we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And "Gallop," gasped Joris, "for Aix is in sight!"

"How they'll greet us!"--and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

And all I remember is--friends flocking round
As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.

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E-Music from Banshee

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Aliens in This World--Free Opera

Include the following, and a great deal more. Some very interesting materials here.

"Hallelujah Chorus" from The Messiah by Handel. 1916.
Excerpt from Israel in Egypt by Handel. 1888. (The earliest known recorded music in existence.)

"Star Light, Star Bright" from Wizard of the Nile by Victor Herbert. Sung by J.W. Myers. 1896.

"Mattinata" by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, the first song composed especially for the gramophone. Sung by Caruso and accompanied by Leoncavallo.

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Moliere's Last Play

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Robert Browning: How to Know Him

A combination critical appreciation, biography and anthology of some of Brownings very best work. By far the most difficult of the Victorians, and likely one of the most difficult poets ever, Browning is a poet who has a surface smoothness that overlays enormous depths. He repays close reading many times over, and, at its best, his poetry is absolutely gorgeous.

One has only to glance at the printed page of _My Last Duchess_, and see how few of the lines end in punctuation points, to discover the method employed when a poet wishes to write a very strict measure in a very free manner.

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The California Missions

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A Biography of St. Augustine

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I encountered a hefty volume titled The Historian AND, more importantly a new series by Jasper Fforde.

This former is about a search for Vlad Dracul--always a matter of interest.

The latter is titled The Big Over Easy and is apparently about the MURDER of Humpty-Dumpty. And you thought it was an accident. It seems to be the first in a series of "Nursery Crime" mysteries. If it's half as enjoyable as Thursday Next it will be well worth reading.

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Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind


Yes, I have every intention of reading all those high-falutin' books I've written about. But I made a fatal trip to the library and picked up any number of diversions. This trifle was amongst them, and I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Miss Julia is a woman of a certain age whose husband, long the dominant (and dominating) influence in her life dies and leaves her fabulously wealthy AND in charge of a son he had by another woman. Thus starts this romp through prime and proper N. Carolina Mountain South.

This very brief excerpt will give you a notion of the overall tone:

"Oh, I believe you," I said. "He never discussed things like that with me, either. But don't worry about him being saved. He was a Presbyterian and therefore one of the elect, which makes me wonder about the election process. . . ."


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A French Progressive Blog


Pens�es libres de-rebus-variis le blog de Marie

Again, via Talmida. My French is fairly good--probably not good enough to write, but reasonable for reading, and this would give me reason enough to practice. It's nice to add a new member to the family.

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A Gift Via Talmida

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The Lesser of Two Weevils: Look at my Sidebar!!

Talmida points us to a blog that teaches us some useful code--drop down lists. Haven't tried it yet on MT, but I should think that there would be little enough reason for it not to work, simply make the appropriate string substitutions. We shall see soon enough.

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Long time readers of this blog know that I have a real problem with the Rosary. I view praying it as a penance rather than a grace, and I have to drag myself through the prayers most times.

The antiphon above is in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, and I thought I'd spend a couple of minutes writing about Our Lady of the Rosary and what she has done for me.

While I may not be of the right personality or demeanor to truly appreciate the beauty and wonder of the Rosary, I do have a solid appreciation for the power of its prayers. When I am stressed beyond my own ability to cope, frightened, anxious, worried, fearful, carried beyond the emotions that have a name into a realm I would rather not visit, my solid anchor is the Rosary. At that point the prayers become a sound of comfort and a promise of home. When things are going well, when I am coping reasonably well with life around me, when everything is looking up--the Rosary is a penance, a seemingly endlessly break in the day that cannot be prayed fast enough, and yet whose stately rhythms admit of only one possible pace.

When I am fearful those same tiresome rhythms, those same time-worn words, the exact same prayers that I can barely restrain my patience to pray become a lifeline. The rhythms calm the jagged rhythms of my own thoughts, they bring into line the wayward thoughts and heartaches, they restore balance. This is the gift of Our Lady to me. In times when I really need a Mother, she is there in all solace and comfort to hold me, reassure me, and guide me own my way by her prayers for me.

When I saw this morning the antiphon, "Come let us worship Christ, the Son of Mary," I was reminded once again of my brotherhood with Christ. Through my adoption into the family of God, Christ becomes both my brother and my Lord. I become part of the largest extended family in the world. It is within the bosom of this family that I am nourished and reassured, "Let nothing alarm you. . .all things are passing. . . God alone endures."

So, today I celebrate, along with all my Catholic brothers and sisters, the great gift of the Rosary. While I may not have been granted the grace or wisdom to appreciate it in all of its beauty, I have been given the gift of consolation in times of crisis--of finding a Mother when I need one.

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Reading Redux

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You probably don't care that much for any one person's reading habits, but I'll share with you my solution to the question as to whether I would read The Portrait of a Lady or Wings of the Dove. I decided in favor of The Spoils of Poynton largely on the basis of this introduction.

It was an ugliness fundamental and systematic, the result of the abnormal nature of the Brigstocks, from whose composition the principle of taste had been extravagantly omitted.In the arrangement of their home some other principle, remarkably active, but uncanny and obscure, had operated instead, with consequences depressing to behold, consequences that took the form of a universal futility. The house was bad in all conscience, but it might have passed if they had only let it alone. This saving mercy was beyond them; they had smothered it with trumpery ornament and scrapbook art, with strange excrescences and bunchy draperies, with gimcracks that might have been keepsakes for maid-servants and nondescript conveniences that might have been prizes for the blind. They had gone wildly astray over carpets and curtains; they had an infallible instinct for disaster, and were so cruelly doom-ridden that it rendered them almost tragic. . . .

The house was perversely full of souvenirs of places even more ugly than itself and of things it would have been a pious duty to forget. The worst horror was the acres of varnish, something advertised and smelly, with which everything was smeared: it was Fleda Vetch's conviction that the application of it, by their own hands and hilariously shoving each other, was the amusement of the Brigstocks on rainy days.

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Great Expectations


I don't know if this was my first time through or if I have merely forgotten a great deal of the plot, or if I only made it part way on one of my reads.

I don't think I need to recap the plot or provide any real detail. Most of you know it through direct acquaintance, or nodding acquaintance with one of the many films that have come from it.

In Chesterton's overview of Dickens's works, he remarks that Great Expectations is a work of Dickens's afternoon. I would say closer to late afternoon or evening. Chesterton also points out some of the charms of this book. He says it has a older, softer, rounder cynicism, a quality practically unknown in Dickens's works. He also points out that Pip is unique among Dickens's characters in being an anti-hero (although he did not have that word to use.)

My impressions--the story of maturing, and of the great loss suffered by those who choose to snub on the basis of some snobbery. A story in which the anti-hero ultimately rises to be a hero, but we hear nothing of his heroic exploits.

Beautifully written, Dickens at his very best--round, mature, fully ripened prose--not a sentence or description out of place. Dickens' may have written to be paid by the word, but he did not pad this work. Every word carries its weight and the end result is exceedingly weighty indeed.

If you have missed this work somehow, make it a point to take it up at the next opportunity. If you have read it before, set aside some time to reacquaint yourself with it. It is prose that rewards rereading and a story that has surprising depth and direction.

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Anna's Story

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Guides On-Line


Research Materials (By Era)

Among other things you'll find at this site at self-guided tours to a number of different battlefields. I note New Market, Second Manassas, Ball's Bluff, and Cedar Creek, in particular.

Not my cup of tea, but I suspect there are those who would appreciate these things. (Far more detail than any other than the die-hard fan can easily endure.)

Sample from second Manassas:

0300, King's Division may have withdrawn down Pageland Lane toward Manassas. And on the same day, between 0300 and 1000, Early's and Forno's Brigades of Lawton's Division moved into the fields northwest of the intersection about sunrise. The 13th and 31st Virginia were advanced as pickets just east of Stuart Hill on the other side of the nursery. Early was protecting Jackson's flank while looking for Longstreet. His men skirmished with the Pennsylvania Bucktails of Reynolds' Division.

During 1000 to 1200, Longstreet's Corps arrived from Thoroughfare Gap. He immediately placed Hood's Division in this area:
On approaching the field some of Brigadier General Hood's batteries were ordered into 9 position and his division was deployed on the right and left of the turnpike at right angles with it, and supported by . . . Evans' Brigade.
Reilly's Battery (Rowan Artillery) went into position on the ridge east of the nursery (Stuart Hill).

Wilcox's Division went into line on Hood's left (north).

Kemper's Division deployed south of Hood to the Manassas Gap Railroad Line.

D. R. Jones' Division moved down Pageland Lane to the south opposite Dawkin's Branch on the Manassas-Gainesville Road.

Then on 29 August at 1200 Lee established his headquarters on Stuart Hill (known as Munroe's Hill in 1862), just south of the turnpike.

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The Innocents


One of those early 60's films that were so effectively done--much like The Haunting, and it shares the same fault as The Haunting which is that it collapses the ambiguity into the original and leaves no room for the real questions raised by the original work.

The Innocents is The Turn of the Screw without the framing story. Deborah Kerr plays the governess, and does it superbly. The two children are quite good up to the end. I dare not say more but to state that the movie is completely true to the original work except as I've suggested above.

Turn of the Screw is a much more nuanced and productive work than a similar film The Rocking-Horse Winner. (May not be the title of the film, but that's the title of the D. H. Lawrence short story from which it is made. Both films have as their focus children and their "contact" with the supernatural world. The Turn of the Screw raises the question of whether the problem is located in the supernatural world or in the children themselves or in the mind of the governess. Like The Haunting of Hill House which begs the questions as to whether it is really the house that is haunted or the person, so Turn of the Screw offers this very ambiguous choice. Unfortunately the film unnecessarily collapses the choice and answers the question.

Despite this minor shortcoming, the film is beautifully done. Rich, crisp black and white photography that is never muddy or vague. Not a lot of extra "sountrack" music. A very plain, very stark, very beautifully done film. Highly recommended.

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Rum and Monkey: The Historical Lunatic Test

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

I've done this one before, but people change over time. Glad to know that I'm the same lunatic today as I was some time ago!

Thanks to Hot Carmel Sundae.

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"and a means of bestowing it." This newsflash comes to us via the person in charge of sacramental preparation. When she asked Samuel what a sacrament was and he gave a simpler version of the answer above she responded with a very curt, "No." It was the only time in the whole evening of maundering answers and lackadaisical responses that she had said an outright no.

I stopped her in her tracks with an, "Excuse me. When did sacraments become something other than this?" When I repeated Sam's answer she backtracked and said she thought he said something different and then, she asked a seven-year-old to explain what this meant. SHE couldn't explain it, but she needed to show up a seven-year old. I'm seething, I'm furious, and I'm calling the diocesan office tomorrow. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. If it hadn't been for Samuel mentioning it, grace would have received no mention at all. Her definition, a sacrament is an encounter with Jesus. Well that's lovely, but rather vague. Isn't prayer an encounter with Jesus? And yet prayer is not numbered among the seven sacraments. Isn't service an encounter with Jesus?

When the traditionalists complain about the "evils" of Vatican II, it is this kind of nonsense in particular, it would seem to me, that they would find troublesome. This is a perfect example of where the "spirit of Vatican II" teaching just goes off the rails and careens wildly out of control through acres of vague language and arm-waving.

Overall, the session was an excrutiating blend of vague namby-pamby nonsense and group encounter discussion about nothing of any relevance at all. I particular bristle at the fact that this will go on for three more weeks--an hour and a half of saying nothing worth saying each week. Teaching about reconcilation should take about an hour-and-a-half total and that includes memorization of an act of contrition.

I know that this lady is a paid relgious education professional. If she were a volunteer, I'd probably cut her more slack. But this is a monstrous abrogation of her responsibility to the parents and children of this class. If we had not been there, grace would have been left behind in the airy wisdom of "encounter theology."

If you can't tell it, I am furious. This teaching went in direct opposition of nearly everything we've been trying to teach Samuel in home religious eduation. Fortunately he was so tired I doubt that anything sank in at all. At least I pray it is so.

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The Lesser of Two Weevils

Talmida wishes the world a happy birthday! 5766 years ago today, by tradition.

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LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us. (KJV)

O Lord, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done. (NAB)

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I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people and his friends
and those who turn to him in their hearts.
(psalm 85 from Morning Prayer for the Feast of St. Francis)

I will hear what the Lord God has to say. Haring means more than receiving the sound. Hearing goes deeper than a passive experience. When I hear in the way the psalmist is claiming for himself I hear with the heart. I am changed by what I hear. I make what I hear my own.

And what a great gift it would be if I would open my ears to hear "a voice that speaks of peace." Rather than trying to create my own peace, my own separate heaven--I would enter His peace. As I pray this psalm, and I read these words, I prepare the ground of my heart for the blossoming of this peace, of this kingdom within.

The blossoming of peace has fruits that extend far outside my own interior realm. When I am at peace, and only when I am at peace, I can bring peace to the world. And the peace I can bring in such a state is not my own, but that of the Lord whom I serve. He blesses me with peace and hears me, not to shower His gifts merely upon me, but so that I may shower his gifts on all of His people. "Peace for his people and his friends." Peace first to those who spend the time to think about Him and talk with Him in prayer. But then also, "and those who turn to Him in their hearts." Even those who do not presently know Him by name, those who may not have become acquainted with Him in their lives--if they incline their hearts toward Him, He will see and hear and grant them also Him peace.

God cannot do other than grant peace. It is in His nature. It is part of what He is. You cannot encounter God and not reach peace. It is impossible to embrace Him and not be at peace.

If each of us were to give peace a chance to reign in our hearts, we would transform the world one person at a time. As my ever supportive wife said the other night when she saw my dismally wimpy results on the "Which General Are You?" test, "Perhaps if more were like you we would have no need of generals." I am not the example, despite her encouragement. Our example, our Peace and our Love, is Jesus Christ the Lord. In Him there is no shadow of turning.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

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Things I Delight in--Carpoids


The world of science is filled with oddities--such as the recently filmed Architeuthis. In the course of my explorations of paleontology, I have happened on many wonderful, beautiful oddities. Those of the echinoderm world are amongst the oddest. If you want to see some odd animals, google helicoplacoids some time. Or perhaps edrioasteroids.

But over chez Darwin the other day I had cause to remember the great carpoid debate. The center of the debate was taxonomic--were carpoids echinoderms or chordates. (Curiously, echinoderms are the only other major group of deuterostomes--if one holds by evolutionary theory, that would make them our closest relatives in the invertebrate world--how close that would be is still miles off--nevertheless. . . )

Anyway--get a load of these odd little guys. (Ignore the picture that says Tetragraptus, I'll get to the graptolites some other time.)

Anyway, enjoy this momentary excursion into the odd as the first of my morning offerings--a sign of the greatness and the profound love of God for His creation.

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St. Thérèse on Prayer

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Do not be afraid to tell Jesus that you love him, even if you do not feel that you love him. Prayer is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as in joy.

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The Prayer of Carmel

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from Carmel, Land of the Soul
Carolyn Humphreys

Of all human experiences, prayer is the simplest and the most profound. The school of Carmel provides people with a means to explore their internal depths for a lifetime of prayer. Two primary necessities in Carmel are silence and solitude. Places and times for silence and solitude are not easy to find in modern society. God-seekers on Mount Carmel face the battle and babbble of the ages as they continually turn from peripheral living to searching for God. To live in the midst of the world and be not of it is an ongoing challenge. Silence and solitude are supports that link the whole Carmelite family together. No one is really alone as he or she strives to pray, think with the teachings of Jesus, and respond as one imagaines Jesus might have done.

Interior silence and solitude are needed as guides to God that go beyond the absence of noise or people. Self-knowledge and faith are built on these supportive structures which are as lattices for growth in giving and receiving. Carmelites do not forget others, instead they stand alone in God's presence for others. Prayers for people are offered and a greater sense of God's goodness is received. God is sought through quiet waiting and pondering and is received by unknowingly drawing closer to Jesus. Eventually, Carmelites find themselves without masks, adonrments or devotional accretions and experience true freedom in the peace of Christ. Teresa said it well:"We need no wings to go in search of him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon his presence within us."

Were one to come to a third order meeting, it might occur to one that silence and solitude are the furthest things from the ordinary Carmelite's mind. One would be inaccurate in that supposition. Gregarious, as needed, every Carmelite I know is intense inward turning and reflective. I would say that they must be among the world's most introverted people.

And more than introversion, another characteristic I have noted among my brothers and sisters in Carmel is sheer dogged determination. Later Humphreys writes "It is soon learned that Carmelites are seekers of God who are never satisfied."

Obviously so. We cannot be satisfied until we know God. And as a Carmelite, we cannot be satisfied with knowing God until we know Him as we know ourselves. There is no end to our desire to know--but it is not the same desire to know that motivates a scientist or dectective. Rather it is the desire to know that we have when we are seeking out prospective life mates. The knowledge of God we require is the knowledge of His love, and we want to know that not in our heads, but in our hearts. And more importantly, we don't just desire to know it, we desire to live it.

Each Carmelite I know is driven toward intimacy with God. The old prayers are sufficient only in so far as they advance us in intimacy with God. When they have lost this effectiveness, when we cease to move forward, they must be discarded. (I speak here for the Carmelite living out the charism of Carmel, not for every believer.)

"Silence and solitude are the wings of prayer that provide the energy for service."

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Reaction to Bush's High Court Nomination - Yahoo! News

Rather than seeing how one interprets the law and sees the constitution, let's crawl inside their psyche and try to predict how they will judge every major decision likely to come before them. The Judicial Hearings with their emphasis on "reproductive rights" are a farce. Ruth Bader Ginsburg can take her seat without answering, but Planned Parenthood demands to know this woman's stand.

Frankly, all I need to hear is a firm commitment to interpret law and not to legislate from the bench. I don't need necessarily a strict constructionist--we live in the twenty-first century. But I'd like to know that the person interpreting the law is doing so in accord with the priciples laid down as the foundation for the law. AND that they are interpreting rather than finding new law.

Like development of doctrine, this can be a very subtle and nuanced thing. The line between the growth of the old and the espousal of the new can be very, very vague--very difficult to define.

As to Ms. Miers, I know nothing of her and cannot find reason for opposition based solely on the fact that she is the President's friend. Not a recommendation for me, but perhaps a heartier recommendation for those who are more enthusiastic fans of the younger Bush.

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What I'm Actively Reading

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Three books:

Great Expectations Charles Dickens--reacquainting myself with a classic
Gilead Marilynne Robinson--I'm not finding this as compelling as some St. Blog's readers have done. There's another set in North or South Dakota by Leif (somebody) that I liked better at least initially.
Carmel, Land of the Soul Carolyn Humphreys

On Deck:

The Master Colm Toibin
Portrait of a Lady Henry James (Not sure about this one, may do either Wings of the Dove or The Ambassadors (It will be one from the later period of James's writing.)

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Keats and Philosophy

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Eve Tushnet, who I have somehow managed to overlook for all this time makes a post on poets and philosophy, with which I must take some small exception. (And as I'm far too lazy to e-mail, I figured I would just do it here.) My exception has to do with the particularly example of John Keats whom, she avers, has no "philosophical spine" to his poetry.

I would argue on the contrary that of all the Romantic poets he is, perhaps the most philosophical. For one example, in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" Keats "breaks" the famous platonic triad with his "Beauty is truth, truth beauty. . ." Goodness, as Mae West might say, has nothing to do with it. If this isn't a philosophical foray, I'd be hard-pressed to identify one.

Further, as can be sensed in a great many of Keats's poems, he is ardently a supporter of a philocophical aesthetic of intense experience. Even should that experience be painful, it should be completely embraced and indulged in. He referred to our present life not as "this vale of tears," but as "this vale of Soul-Making." If one reads "To Autumn" one is almost overwhelmed by the sense of ripeness and abundance overflowing the poem--a rich sensory overload. So, too, with "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" one is inundated with the lethargy also made famous in "Ode to a Nightingale."

In the Letters, one gets a much fuller sense of Keatsian philosophy. Indeed, his philosophy is so robust and so rigorous, it occasionally threatens to overrun his poetry. (For an example, take the fifth excerpt on this page, often used as an introductory read to the "Ode to Psyche.")

Now, that all being said, one might legitimately ask the question as to whether Keats's is a coherent or viable philosophy--which is quite another matter.

Contra Ms. Tushnet, I think nearly every poet writes out of a very strong philosophical melieu. I agree with her essential premise in that when I encounter a poet who has little or no world view--one who seems to be playing with words for the sake of play--I might momentarily be amused, but there is no "there there"--nothing to return to--the well is dry, with a thin sheen of water to deceive us that there is a depth to plumb.

In reading Keats's thought and philosophy, one must be careful not to overlooks the idea of negative capability as defined in one of Keats's letters to his brothers, George and Thomas Keats.

I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

While one might disagree with what he has to say, it undoubtedly constitutes a core or pillar of his philosophy. (If you google negative capability, you'll find a plethora of articles are arguing about what Keats actually meant when he used the term "negative capability."

Ms. Tushnet writes, "Keats, on the other hand, strikes me as a talented poet severely weakened by a tendency to lushness in absence of philosophy. (And this weakness of Keats in turn weakened Anne Carson's interesting mess, The Beauty of the Husband.)" I think what may be more to the point is that Keats's poetry is weakened (for some readers, not for me) by his philosophy which emphasizes lushness, or the primacy of experience as "soul-formative." I do think the statement holds true for some of Keats's poems. I've always thought "To Autumn," though lovely, was almost over-the-top in its "lushness" and its insistence on the sensory experience. That said, perhaps I should allow you to decide for yourselves. Without further ado:

To Autumn
John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

In sum, I think it fine not to care for the poetry of Keats. I would disagree. However, I don't think it is his lack of philosophy that makes the poetry weak, if it is so perceived. In fact, it may be the very essence of his philosophy that contributes to perceived weaknesses.

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Architeuthis Live and in Person

| - Scientists�photograph giant squid - Sep 28, 2005

Critically important news--from Eve Tushnet, I think. Thank you!

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A Blog from India

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Jesuvera: Spiritual Adventures of a Catholic

I love insights from people living in other countries--it serves to broaden my own rather laser-like perspective. The blog-owner in this instance hails from India--a place to which I look for the coming renaissance in literature worth reading.

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Carmelite Spirituality


I'm reading a treatise by Paul delaCroix, and it's conceivable that I may have something worthwhile to share tomorrow.

In the meantime, your prayers have borne a great fruit of personal peace. Thank you.

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Meditation on 1 John 4:8b


For God is love.
1 John 4:8b

8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

I don't think we can repeat this to ourselves often enough. This is the central lesson of the New Testament and the key revelation of our Lord. We do well to internalize this, to live as though we really believe it is true. And if true, if we accept it as revelation AND we understand that God is simple we are led to a single overwhelming conclusion--God is nothing other than love.

Now we have another passage of revelation that allows us to reflect more deeply on that mystery.

And of course I speak of 1 Corinthians 13

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I'll return to verse 3 later. For the moment let's consider the other verses.

4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

What does patience look like? How do we begin to fill in our portrait of God? You may find it difficult to believe, but in the entire Bible the word patient occurs only thirteen times (three times in the Old Testament and ten in the New.) The first occurrence is an incidental mention in the book of Job. However the second bears some mention for the insight it offers.

Psalm 14:17
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient.

We discover that patience is the opposite of quick-tempered and carries with it the further virtue of discretion. Discretion in this sense appears to mean moderate in emotions, even-tempered, perhaps easy-going. Ecclesiastes 7:8 reinforces this view of patience. To it is added that patience is a virtue opposed to pride and therefore allied with humility. (Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.)

From James (5:7-8) we learn that patience is the virtue ordered toward endurance and standing solidly against disorder and flightiness. He calls upon us all to

7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.
8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

The one who is patient does not take the crop before its time. Even though the early rains have come and the fruit has set and appears ripe, it is only after the late rain that it comes into its fullness and is ready for harvest. It is worth noting that James sees patience as establishment, steadiness, perserverance in place--calm waiting for the fullness of time, for the ripening of the fruit and the coming of the Kingdom.

From the Book of Revelation we find 4 verses (Rev 1: 9, 2: 2, 2:19, 3:10)which always contain the formula "patient endurance." Patience is the directed to length of days of waiting through times of great trial.

When we look instead to patience, we find a few more verses and learn a great deal about the fruit of being patient.

There are 19 verses. One of these and only 1 is found in the Old Testament.

Psalms 25:15
15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.

With patience, persistence, perserverence, complete dedication to the task a ruler may be persuaded. Patience is, therefore a virtue of tremendous power. By itself it can change the course of events. A dripping spot in the ceiling of a cave may over time develop into a thick, solid column of "living rock. " So patience attains its goal--"a soft tongue will break a bone." Patience makes the miraculous possible.

Luke 8:15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.

You bring forth fruit with patience. Patience, waiting through time, is all that gives life to the fruit. Time fills it to ripeness. Patience is rewarded in ways that nothing else is.

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Thoughts At Mass


God is passing by. He is not by passing. No, He is truly passing by in the great celestial parade. And that parade is eternal. But our time to join the parade is limited. God is passing by, every moment, every event, every heartbeat, every breath. God is passing by and calling to us continually--"Come, join the pageant."

Rev 22:17
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let him who hears say, "Come." And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

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WorldNetDaily: ACLU defends polygamy

And so it goes, precisely as Sen. Santorum predicted, from precisely the same cause. Lawrence v. Texas was a poorly decided piece of work which will have ramification for some time to come. (Which should not be read to say that I am in favor of anti-sodomy laws. They strike me as pretexts for the violation of other rights. But by having it struck down under the aegis of privacy, the door just may have been opened to a great many other ills--which people claimed would not happen.

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Elijah and Jonah

| - JONAH.

While studying with a Carmelite community yesterday, someone brought up the point that Jonah is considered in Jewish Tradition to be the son of the Widow of Zarapheth whom Elijah raised from the dead. In the course of this book is was further asserted that Jonah was the disciple of Elijah. There are some interestesting parallels in the stories of the two men that might suggest the writers of the two books in which the stories are told were trying to make a point of this relationship--for example Elijah rests for a while, depressed and unwilling, in the shade of a broom tree. Jonah rests in the shade of his bean plant. There is even a Jewish tradition that Jonah, like Elijah did not die, "while Ecclesiastes Rabbah viii. 10 holds that the son (Jonah) of the Zarephath widow never died. The "holy spirit" descended on him while he participated in the festivities of the last day of Sukkot. . ."

At any rate, I have no opinion on this matter other than to say that it was an absolutely fascinating connection that had never occurred to me before. I don't know what to make of it, if true, but I am captivated by it.

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So Who's Surprised?

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OKCupid! The Which Historic General Are You Test

A Hippie
You scored 55 Wisdom, 56 Tactics, 50 Guts, and 16 Ruthlessness!

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 21% on Unorthodox
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 28% on Tactics
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 27% on Guts
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 1% on Ruthlessness
Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on Ok Cupid

I may not have been surprised, but I'm very amused. I've seen at least 2 Scipio's around St. Blog's.

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I had the great privilege of admitting two members to temporary profession today. The Lay Carmelites have a period of two years of formation before admission to reception and then three additional years of formation before first promises. Final promises are granted three years after that and on rare occasions as granted by the Provincial Delegate, one may take vowa of chastity according to station in life and obedience.

This first profession is an extremely important step and the two people who took it seemed to be no end delighted. All I could think of was how unworthy I was to receive the professions of such people. In myself, I am unworthy, but I am made worthy by the grace of God and by the special delegation of the Provincial Delegate. Still, it is most humbling to stand in the presence of people so afire in the charisms of the order. Even though they were far older than I am, this was rejuvenating for me because I could see my own first fervor and taste once again that taste of newness and light.

It was a good thing at a good time. I thank you all for your prayers. Also a conversation I needed to have in the course of this went well, and I think I may have sparked some thinking on the part of a very capable person as to the appropriateness of a task for which she had been identified. Once again, all of this success is thanks in great part to the support of the community here. Thank you.

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About this Archive

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

Steven Riddle: September 2005 is the previous archive.

Steven Riddle: November 2005 is the next archive.

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