Christian Life/Personal Holiness: August 2004 Archives

Seeking Angels Unaware

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Glancing through the unread books that litter too many shelves in my house, I found this one. Leafing through the pages, I found some insights worthy of my attention. Likely it will be next on the list after Dallas Willard.

from A Tree Full of Angels: Seeking the Holy in the Ordinary
Macrina Weiderkehr

I am concerned about he many people today who are lured to extraordinary spiritual phenomena that are manifested, it seems to me, in sensational ways. Stories abound about visions and trances, weeping statues, rosaries turning gold. Celestial beings are emerging everywhere, and angels are in danger of becoming trendy. The fast pace of our lives makes it difficult for us to find grace in the present moment, and when the simple gifts at our fingertips cease to nourish us, we have a tendency to crave the sensational.

A second concern is this: As we pine for angels and the otherworldly, there is the danger of missing a precious aspect of Christiianity. We are an incarnational people. The Word was made flesh in our midst. We are rooted in an earth that God has proclaimed good. Here on this good earth we have become flesh with the seed fo God hidden in us. THe greatest of all visions is to see Christ, indeed, to see God, in the frail and glorious human family of the world.

Too easily I tend to dismiss the everyday, the very essence of God's speech to us. How often have I overlooked His direct word to me in the events of the day, seeking extraordinary guidance by a word, a sign, by bible roulette? I cast about seeking God, and He is right there before my eyes. I need only open them and see His Will displayed in every event, in every action of the day. I numb myself to the world, buying into the Manichean tendency to separate the spiritual (=good) and the material (=bad). Although I know better, I cannot seem to overcome my naturally dichotomous mind. I know the spiritual is good, and that good must have an opposite--the opposite of spiritual is material and the opposite of good is bad. But I deceive myself with the facile syllogism. The reality is that spiritual does not mean necessarily good. Satan and his fallen angels belong the spiritual. Hence, the dichotomy is false; and yet it is embedded. Nevertheless, there are moments when God's sense breaks through and I am enfolded in an epiphany of His revelation in the goodness of the world around me. Hence, the need to open my eyes and to be continual enfolded in the events He has caused to be my life. To learn once again what it is to rejoice in the goodness of the world. To become, in this sense, the litle child for whom all things are wonder and light.

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TSO made an excellent point about the plethora of great Catholic Classics available for us to read. In large part I agree with him; however, I sometimes find that the Catholic Classics fail me, not because they are not good works, but because so few of them come from a time near enough to address the issues I face every day. Yes, they teach immortal principles and should be read for that reason alone. But sometimes it is good to hear a voice, like that of John Paul II who faces what I face today and who gives me some guidance as to how to deal with. For that reason, I do read a variety of spiritual works from all times, not wishing to succumb to chronological snobbery in either sense.

That said, suffice to say that I abandoned the Monks of New Skete, largely because of the company their publishers decided to have them keep. I hadn't noticed the "publicity" on the jacket and when I finally looked I noticed overwhelming acclaim from Rev. Frank Griswold and Peter Gomes. From what I have seen of other works by these two men, I find myself in disagreement with their approach to the Bible, and in all likelihood much of their approach to spirituality. (As to this latter I cannot definitively say as no single work is likely to have spelled out their complete view of spirituality. But as they tend to take the guidance of scripture somewhat lightly, I have sufficient grounds for discontinuing my reading. ) After the first shock of those recommendations wears off, I will likely return to the book. But because I had Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart at home anyway, I thought I would pick IT up in preference to the Monks of New Skete for the time being.

from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

We must make no mistake about it. In thus sending out his trainees, he [Jesus] set afoot a perpetual world revolution: one that is still in process and will continue until God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. As this revolution culminates, all the forces of evil known to mankind will be defeated and the goodness of God will be known, accepted, and joyously conformed to in every aspect of human life. He has chosen to accomplish this win and, in part, through his students.

It is even now true, as angelic seraphim proclaimed to Isaiah in his vision, that "the whole earth is full of His glory,” the glory of the holy Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). But the day is yet to come when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14, emphasis added).

The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character., which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, and habits of choice, as well as their bodily tendencies and social relations. It penetrates to the deepest layers of their soul. External, social arrangements may be useful to this end, but they are not the end, nor are the fundamental part of the means.

What I liked particularly about this description is the revolution of Jesus as a revolution of character which does reflect itself in the transformation of the world, but not a revolution in the world that affects transformation of character. I think it rightly sets the matter in order. First we change, and then through our change we effect change in the world. It is one of the reasons that restrictive laws with regard to very popular things have so little effect--prohibition and anti-pornography legislation come to mind. But the focus on individual transformation in Christ seems exact. What is even better is that Willard suggests, as those of us within any Church community already know, that this transformation does not take place in isolation but in the community of believers. We are affected by what happens around us, good and bad. Witness the calamitous and still reechoing effect of the scandals a year or more ago. We will be living with the pain of that betrayal for some time to come--it inflicted a grievous wound to the Body of Christ.

We understand the communal nature of salvation and of transformation. And again, Willard uses the proper term for this when he speaks of Spiritual Formation, which can only rightly occur within the bounds of a community. (In a sense, this is where the old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child," is fundamentally true. We need a rock-solid foundation in the faith, and part of that comes from seeing different ways of being believers and still functioning in the world. The community of faith offers a great many models for us to observe and to take our lead from. Hence, the Church is especially blessed in her continued recognition of the Communion of the Saints--extending our community of models into eternity.)

I suspect that I will read this book very slowly, and I do hope to share some of the fruits of that reading with you. However, I do expect to read it exceedingly slowly. So expect reports over a fairly long period of time.

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On Epiphanies


(in the Joycean sense)

from In the Spirit of Happiness
The Monks of New Skete

Life never seems to prepare us sufficiently for epiphanies. By definition they come upon us suddenly, dazzling us by their raw power. They are not magical intrusions from another world, but reality, naked and without shame. Their very ordinariness shimmers with unexpected depth, which is why they take us by such surprise. It does not matter whether they occur in the majesty of Hagia Sophia or in the elegant simplicity of a wooden chapel, the effect is the same.

Indeed, when God breaks in, it little matter what the location, His presence is profoundly felt.

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On Richard Foster

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Since I'm apparently on this kick:

A site for the organization that Richard Foster helped to found--I don't know much about the organization and I have a strong suspicion of "convenant" kinds of things (comes from my days in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist mode. However, I do recommend Foster's writing--most particularly a magnificent little book called Simplicity--a heart-felt practical guide as to how to attain a simple life.

A brief description of Richard Foster's life and work.

An excerpt from one of the newsletters on the Renovaré site.

From a Pastoral Letter by Richard Foster

You can probably detect that I am not overwhelmingly encouraged by the popular expressions of Spiritual Formation today. I’m not; too much is too faddish and too formulaic for me to be optimistic. And yet, we stand at a moment of great opportunity. Human need today is so obvious and so great that no honest person can deny it. People stagger under the burden of human wickedness. Evil is an open, oozing sore. Therefore superficial, half-answers will not do. Not anymore. Today, there is a great new fact in the contemporary interest in Spiritual Formation. And I view it as a source for enormous hope. This great new fact is the widespread belief that we can no longer bypass authentic, pervasive, thorough transformation of the inner life of the human being.

Add to this the fact that the many “spiritualities” that have arisen in our day do not answer the question of how we can become a good person. Nor do they possess the power to make a person good. But genuine Christian Spiritual Formation does answer the question and does possess the power to bring it to pass. And it is an answer and a power that shines brightly throughout the pages of history. It is no accident that the blazing light and life of Christian faithfulness overcame and supplanted all the “spiritualities” of Rome in the early centuries of the Christian Era. They offered a life—a formed, conformed, transformed life—that the Roman spiritualities simply could not match.

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More on Dallas Willard

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TSO commented about Dallas Willard and I hadn't thought about it, but I suppose because he doesn't do televangelism, he may be one of the lesser known names in protestant Philosophy and Theology. I can say that with Cornelius Plantinga (whose relative runs the CCEL site), Richard Foster, Charles Colson, and a few others, Dallas Willard has given me tremendous and powerful insights into the spiritual life. What he writes is profound, insightful, and beautiful. If acted upon it can be life-changing in a substantive Christian way.

For those who wish to see more of his work, this link will take you to an array of his articles.
Truncate it to visit his main site.

It appears that he has an article in a book coming out about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ:

Jesus fully understood the limitations of what could be accomplished by power as understood among human beings. In fact, he had gone through all that with Satan in his famous "temptations"—to food, fame and governmental power—at the opening of his public life. (Matthew 4:3-11) When he now approached his "passion" there were no new issues for him to face. The "ruler of this world was coming upon him," as Jesus then told his closest friends (John 14:30), "but there is nothing in me for him to get a hold of." And that was the reality of the struggle in the Garden. Gibson's film does much to recapture the understanding of the early Church on this point. The Garden was Satan's last chance to keep him from the cross and to foil the execution of The Divine Plan for shutting down the kingdom of evil.

Unless you're just allergic to all protestant writing (I know that Erik, for one, is sneezing up a storm) Dallas Willard is one of several modern writers worthy of your time. I think of him and of Richard Foster in the "C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity Mode." Much of their writing is not about what is different between us, but what unites us all on our Christian Mission.

If you all are aware of others that I should add to my repetoire (this is for you Neil) please don't hesitate to suggest them in the comments box.

P.S. Here's an interesting interview of Dallas Willard by the remarkable contemporary Christian Poet Luci Shaw. Worth your attention.

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St. Augustine on Judgment

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In the chapter on contemplative prayer in The Holy Way, Ms. Huston discusses St. Augustine's opinion about judging.

from The Holy Way
Paula Huston

St. Augustine believe that one of our most important tasks as human beings is to clean that lamp so that our perceptions are as clear as they can possibly be this side of heaven. In their book Purity of Heart in Early Ascetic and Monastic Literature, Harriet A. Luckman and Llinda Kulzer talk about what he meant. For Augstine, the say, love of one's neighbor "purifies the mind to an incredible degree." They quote his own words on the subject: "When he [the seeker of tranquility] arrives at the love of his enemy he ascends to the sixth step where he cleanses the eye through which God may be seen in so far as he can be seen by those who die in the world as much as they are able."

Augustine, however, believed that to truly see clearly we must go quite a bit further: We must actually embrace a paradox, then try to live in the company of two antithetical notions. . . . [H]e tells us that to see well, we must stop judging our neighbor and ourselves "in the light of the truth." How can we know anything if we stop judging? Isn't it our ability to discriminate that allows us to become wise? Augustine goes on to say, "On this step he so cleanses the eye of his heart that he neither prefers his neighbor to the Truth nor compares him with it." "This state," Luckman and Kulzer add, "brings about peace and tranquility." . . .

This is not merely a restatement of the Gold Rule; apparently our vision is seriously distorted by our habit of passing judgment. We tend to exaggerate the bad in other people and minimize it is ourselves, a practice which Jesus seems to have been fully aware. . .

Though I could not fathom how one stopped judging--we evaluate everything and everybody a hundred times a day, after all--there seemed to be a rock-bottom truth buried here somewhere.

My judgment of others serves only to clutter mental space better used for other purposes. When my eye strays to the sins of my neighbor, it is no longer focused as sharply on the Glory of God. It may be that the Holy Spirit is leading me to reprove and correct; but far more often, it seems like the interference of the Evil One. Distract the person intent on God by showing him clearly the ungodly and the wickedness of the world.

The world is undoubtedly wicked, but for most of us reproving the wickedness leads neither to tranquility nor to deeper love of God. It proves a byway in which we are too easily trapped. We make a short pit stop in judgment and then decide to spend the week there. Next thing you know, we're building a condo near the beach. This is the chief danger of judgment--that it distracts us from more noble and more worthwhile pursuits. After all, isn't a life lead in perfect obedience to God reproof enough of much of the evil we encounter? Did St. Maria Goretti spend her time judging her murderer? Did Pope John Paul II with his would-be assassin? Their unconditional forgiveness served to heap burning coals on the heads of their attackers. Whether it brought about any change or not is not up to the saints, but to the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the culprits.

So busying ourselves with judging others is a distraction from the one thing necessary. It's yet another example of being Marthas in a world that needs more Marys. We don't need to judge and it disequilibrates us, making it nearly impossible to continue in peace and tranquility toward God. In a sense our prophetic mission is caught up in our vocation to Holiness. For most of us (those not granted the charism of Prophecy as vocation) it is the most powerful expression of the action of God in our lives, the most visible demonstration of presence and sovereignty, and the most powerful condemnation of wickedness possible. If our lives are rightly adjusted and lived they will serve as the chief instruments of the conversion of sinners--judgment is both unnecessary and draining.

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From this morning's Office of Readings:

from An Exposition on John
St. Thomas Aquinas

The Good Shepherd does not demand that shepherds lay down their lives for a real flock of sheep. But every spiritual shepherd must endure the loss of his bodily life for the salvation of the flock, since the spiritual good of the flock is more important than the bodily life of the shepherd, when danger threatens the salvation of the flock. This is why the Lord says: The good shepherd lays down his life, that is, his physical life for his sheep: this he does because of his authority and love. Both, in fact, are required: that they should be ruled by him, and that he should love them. The first without the second is not enough.

It intrigues me that our shepherds part with their lives in solidarity with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. As Paul says, "Making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." If this is so, with what a great and tremendous office they are invested--no matter how weak the vessel. One would do well to think twice about what one might wish to say regarding a person whose death contributes to the life of all in some mysterious capacity.

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That ever-popular Epistle of St. James--one of several New Testament books our good friend Martin Luther would have felt just as comfortable without it being in the text. Here's what James says of the tongue:

James 3: 8-12

8But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

10Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

11Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?

12Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Heading straight back to my theme--when we use a label to demean a person--to, in a sense, curse the person with the label itself, are we not cursing ourselves with the judgment we have wrought?

Some argue that we can know that a person lies. He can even know that the person lies habitually. What of it? Are we so pure that we can point to someone and with impugnity call him a liar? What do we do when we commit this act? In a sense we violate the spirit of the person so that we can lord it over them. Most labels serve a single function--to exalt ourselves at the expense of another.

James goes on to say this:

James 4:11-12

11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

To my mind that suggests false and easy labels. Someone tells you a lie. Does that make a person a liar? Absolutely. It does not make that person an habitual liar, but it certainly merits the label by definition. What do we get from labeling the person a liar other than a judgment stamped against us that labels us a hypocrite or worse yet, a judge of others? Have we some harvest of truth in labelling the person a liar? Has the cause of charity and the redemption of the transgressor been advanced?

Judgment is reserved to God alone. We have no right. When we assume the right, we usurp God's own power and become blasphemers. Many of our labels are a short-cut to judgment.

A person tells you a lie. You have several choices about how to respond to the matter. Let's assume that you decide to call them on it. Among your choices of repsonse are: "You are a liar." (Just the tone suggests both anger and judgment--at best an unhealthy combination.) Or, perhaps, "That is a lie." (Said in some degree of directneess.) Now the person can turn back to us with the second statement as say, "Are you calling me a liar?" And the absolutely truthful answer is, "No, I am saying that the statement you made was a lie." There is a difference, and the difference is enormous. In one case we are judging and discerning an isolated action--not the whole person. In the first case we have judged and condemned the person by applying the label.

Some will argue that there is no condemnation in calling someone a liar. But I would ask, if not, why do so? How is the action any different than saying, "What you said is a lie." The fact of the matter is that we know the difference to the core of our being. Calling someone a liar allows us to express our "righteous indignation" against such a profound transgression of God's peace and love. Not that we would ever consider so violent an act against the kingdom. Saying that a given statement is a lie is an objective verifiable or falsifiable statement regarding an action. It condemns the transgression without condemning the transgressor.

At what point does one who tells lies become a liar? I would suggest that it most often occurs when we get angry enough to apply the label. Is anger ever a good reason to do anything? Is calling a person a liar an act of love? I would submit that it is not. I would suggest that saying, "You tell a great many lies," summarizes the truth without the sting. That said, I will open the door a very small amount to say that it is conceivable that in order to be shocked out of behavior the stronger language may be used, but never as it is commonly used and only in the hope of correcting the fault. Hence, the frequent labeling (though almost never of individuals) in the New Testament Epistles. The point here is to use violent language that shocks the person out of his or her habitual slumber. So it is conceivable that you may call a person a liar and not be sitting in judgment, but only if this is done in charity to the person himself. Too often we apply our labels to persons "behind their backs." Rarely are we brave enough to say face to face, "So and so is a liar." More often we say to another , "He's such a liar." In which case we commit the grave injustice of gossip and rumormongering. This person is not present to defend their statements or their integrity. We are condemned by our own backbiting.

So I would say that the most general case calls us never to label, never to judge a person. It calls us equally to challenge those we see going astray by pointing out the actions that transgress, being always mindful about how we do so. Our goal is always charity and must always be the reformation of the sinner. (This label has a certain biblical and Traditional authority for all of us.) I think we should strive to correct the erroneous behavior--a goal that is rarely accomplished by verbally assaulting the person committing it.

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Last night I was reading Divine Intimacy (Probably the wrong week, as I use the modern calendar and don't know how it relates to the "weeks after Pentecost" calendar) when I stumbled across the passage below. I suppose it little matters if I were in the right week or not as the reading had a great deal of meaning for me.

"Judge not, that you may not be judged" (Mt 7, 1). Charity to our neighbor begins with our thoughts, as many of our failings in charity are basically caused by our judgments. We do not think highly enough of others, we do not sufficiently consider their manifest good qualities, we are not benevolent in interpreting their way of acting. Why? Because in judging others we almost always base our opinion on their faults, especially in those which wound our feelings or which conflict with our own way of thinking and acting, while we give little or no consideration to their good points.

It is a serious mistake to judge persons or things from a negative point of view and it is not even reasonable, because the extisence of a negative side proves the presence of a positive quality, of something good, just as a tear in a garment has no existence apart from the garment. . . .

I have said before, and will continue to say--we should not judge people qua people ever. We should have no hesitation in judging their actions, words, or expressed thoughts. For example, it is not only justifiable, but positively charitable to identify a given piece of writing as scandal-mongering and rumor-spreading. Perhaps the individual is unaware of this stream in the writing. However, to call a person a scandal-monger is to reduce the person to a mere label. So too with all of the labels we too-willilngly attach to individuals--fool, anarchist, liberal, conservative, bigot, homophobe, etc. Judgment is reserved to God, and when judge another it is nearly always ugly.

The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes that our judgments should be narrowly confined and reduced to those absolutely necessary for our integrity and the integrity of our neighbors. We are too willing to leap to judgment as to motives and motivations and seeming undercurrents in thought.

Jesus warned us that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but rather what comes out of him (Matt 15:11) because what comes out of him comes from the fullness of his heart. If our mouths speak this judgment, our hearts are full of it and this judgment weighs heavily against us.

I love the Egyptian sign of the judgement of the dead. In the presence of Anubis, the God of the Dead, the heart of the dead person is weighed in the scales against a feather to determine the path of the afterlife. A heart thickened in, subdued by, crust over with judgment is likely to rapidly tip those scales.

It is not judgment to discern that staying away from certain people is more conducive to our spiritual betterment, but it is judgment to say that those people are evil. How can they be evil if everything God has made is good? They cannot BE evil, but they can constantly and habitually do evil. They must be led from their evil ways by one who knows better, but they cannot be led by one who sits in judgment on them.

Hence we must not judge people with a word or a label. We must learn to separate the person (always beloved of God) from the action (often detestable to God) and love the person unconditionally without judgment even as we condemn the action.

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Late to the Table Again

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But I come with oh, so tasty a treat. A morsel, a soupçon, a tantilizing taste of a most remarkable book. To wit:

from The Supper of the Lamb
Robert Farrar Capon

But second, he will, by his fasting, be delivered from the hopelessness of mere gourmandaise. The secular, for all its goodness, does not defend itself very well against mindless and perpetual consumption. It cries out to be offered by abstinence as well as use; to be appreciated, not simply absorbed: Hunger remains the best sauce. Beyond that, though, it cries out to be lifted into a higher offering still. The real secret of fasting is not that it is a simple way to keep one's weight down, but that it is a mysterious way of lifting creation into the Supper of the Lamb. It is not a little excursion into fashionable shape, but a major entrance into the fasting, the agony, the passion by which the Incarnate Word restores all things to the goodness God finds in them. It is as much an act of prayer as prayer itself, and, in an affluent society, it may well be the most meaningful of all the practices of religion--the most likely point at which the salt can find its savor once again. Let Harry fast in earnest, therefore. One way or another--here or hereafter--it will give him back his feasts.

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Referred to in Paula Huston's book, taken from The Oblate Rule of the Camaldolese Benedictine Oblates

The "Little Rule"
St. Romuald

Sit in your cell as in paradise;
put the whole world behind you and forget it;
like a skilled angler on the lookout for a catch
keep a careful eye on your thoughts.

The path you follow is in the psalms -- don't leave it.
If you've come with a novice's enthusiasm and can't
accomplish what you want, take every chance you can find
to sing the psalms in your heart and to understand them
with your head; if your mind wanders as you read
don't give up but hurry back and try again.

Above all realize that you are in God's presence;
hold your heart there in wonder as if before your sovereign.

Empty yourself completely;
sit waiting, content with God's gift,
like a little chick tasting and eating nothing
but what its mother brings.

Much of Huston's book is a discussion of how this rule can be applied to those who must endure the rhythms and rigors of everyday life.

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On Simplicity

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This is one of the reasons that I am reading Paula Huston's book:

from The Holy Way
Paula Huston

. . . I've had to anchor myself in a single, central reality--my longing for God--an allow everything else to arrange itself accordingly.

In doing so, I 've made an interesting, if painful discovery: the path to simplicity runs right through the middle of me. In other words, the world may be a complicated and confusing place, but even if it were as serence as a Japanese garden, I'd manage to stir things up for myself. . . . Most of the clutter, in fact, has turned out to be internal rather than external, a result of the kind of person I am rather than the time and place in which I live.

Now, in point of fact, my internal lack of simplicity reflects itself all around me in my external environment. The interior environment inevitably leaves its marks on the exterior and the clutter I've mangaged to produce litters both landscapes.

Yesterday, praying a bit before Mass, I made the solid determination to return home and to weed out my collection of books. I was going to storm the shelves and relieve them of half of the clutter that simply remains there collecting dust. The reality was not so simple. Yes, they remain and to some extent collect dust--but what is left is too hard to narrow down. I was able to pull a few from the shelves, but really almost nothing in comparison to the huge stacks that fill the floor of one of the spare rooms.

Now logic dictates that even if I have read every one of those books (and I have not as more than half of them are Linda's and I tend to accumulate at a rate that greatly exceeds my reading speed) there is little likelihood of my return to them. And yet my past experience has been that every time I've gotten rid of some part of this core collection, I've spent a small fortune reacquiring it. Part of the collection exists because of the sheer beauty and interest of the books (old PBs of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair, etc.). These sixties paperbacks have panache, and interesting covers. I see nothing nearly as interesting as my circa 1968 cover of Agatha Chritiie's Sad Cypress. Covers that, in fact, greatly excel the contents of the books they cover. I also have a very painstakingly acquired nearly complete collection of John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson. My interest here is the enormous numbers of ingenious ways Carr found to have murders commited in essential locked rooms. Of course both Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale are his images of G.K. Chesterton--how accurate, I haven't a clue. And the covers--once again the sixties cover of The Sleeping Sphinx or Til Death Do Us Part are simply magnificent.

So, I've identified a central material attachment, one that will require long labor and much prayer to do away with--and of course a central commitment to seeking God's grace in the matter. But it is not a matter of my will. In this matter my own will is vanishingly weak, it is only through the grace of God that I will be able to achieve the distance I need from these books and turn this passionate love (mentioned yesterday) to a better object, the Author of Love Himself. Until then, I wait in joyful hope, knowing that He will deliver me.

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It occurred to me today as I was irascible and casting about for something to do (I've disallowed trips to the book store because I can't fit my books on the shelves available now) that if I loved God one-tenth as much as I obviously love books, I would not only have ascended Mount Carmel, but I'd have gone back and brought my buddies with me.

As you are all well aware, that hasn't happened. So instead of feeling bad about it, I suppose I should carefully examine the gift God has given me in my great love for books. Perhaps in understanding what exactly I love, I will be better able to move closer to Him.

Too often we leave unexamined what has become routine or ordinary. We never look beyond the surface of what is to discover the spiritual "why." Perhaps it is in the discovery of this why that we are freed to move forward.

I don't know, but I am most hopeful. God made me this way for a reason--now I simply need to seek His purpose in those most intimate channels where love speaks to the heart. Eventually love will speak to Love in those same channels if I only allow it.

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When I read this it really spoke to me, about life, about blogging, about how to deal with people.

Magnificat--August 2004--Fr. R. Garrigou-Lagrange

Among the causes of tepidity in lax souls, the tendency to derision should be particularly noted. Saint Thomas speaks of the derider when he discusses the vices opposed to justice: insult, detraction, murmuring against the reputation of our neighbor. He points out that to deride or to ridicule someone is to show that we do not esteem him; and derision, says the saint, may become a mortal sin if if affects persons or things that deserve high esteem. . .

Too often, we tend to use derision as a protective mechanism. It is often easier to ridicule than it is to formulate the statements that would be helpful to the person we are facing. I know that I am too often guilty of this--not usually here, but in my head. Sometimes it slips out of my mouth or through the censor that guides my fingers at keyboard. And it is a symptom of laxity. If I were more aware of the Person who dwells in each person who annoys me, I would feel less temptation to mock or insult. But the truth is, too often I am completely wrapped up in myself--in my hurt feelings and in the depths of my selfishness. I have no awareness of the great God whose spirit dwells in every person.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Christian Life/Personal Holiness category from August 2004.

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