August 24, 2002

Dylan's Poetry Review

Dylan's Poetry Review
Yes, once again La Vita Nuova hosts a lovely couplet. In this case a pair of poems. One by 16th century poet Thomas Campion, the other by Countee Culllen. These kinds of reasonable comparison completely defy those who wish for a rigid and largely exclusive canon. (Although, are there really any such unreasonable beasts, or are they straw men? I don't know sufficiently the shape of the academic terrain to say. But considering that in all books about the Western Canon I hear not a single word about the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Vachel Lindsay, or Paul Lawrence Dunbar, one must begin to wonder.) The Canon can take in an enormous amount and never bloat, and I would guess that Countee Cullen is more likely to speak to modern young people than Leo Tolstoy, Henry James, or several others commonly in the canon (although, in reality, given our current trends in education, most modern young people may emerge from school unable to read or apprehend any of them).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

Amphibious Goats and Other Unlikely

Amphibious Goats and Other Unlikely Wildlife

I trust you are are following the musings and meditations on Amphibious Goat's site. Here one is given what appears to be a profoundly Orthodox, feminist, Catholic viewpoint on issues of the day concerning women. Here's a sample of her musings:

It's good to hear that Germaine Greer is figuring out what Feminists for Life has known all along. "Forty-million abortions are a reflection that we have failed women -- and women have settled for less," said Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America. "It is time for us to systematically eliminate the coercive factors that drive women to abortion -- primarily the lack of practical resources and emotional support. We invite all organizations -- including women's organizations that differ with us on abortion -- to join us. Every woman deserves better. We don't have to settle for less."

For those interested in alternative but still strictly Orthodox viewpoints, you would do well to stop by the site. The blogmaster appears to know the subject matter very well and has links to all sorts of interesting places--Feminists for Life (could you even imagine it?) and other "Feminist" pages. Find out that feminism doesn't mean merely Andrea Dworkin and her ilk--there is a huge range of viewpoints and it's good to be aware of them.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Continuing on the Previous

Another poem by Countee Cullen--this one relates some of the feelings a person of color might have had at the time that he wrote his poetry. Once again, what an advantage it would have been to have been able to read something like this in a high-school literature course. Yes, I know there are innumerable wonderful things in literature, but I can recall a few things that made no sense of impression on me at all and could have been dispensed with. But here a cri de coeur which, like Rap Music, can be taken up by all who feel alienated from those around them. And heaven knows, youth knows enough about alienation.

from "The Shroud of Color"
Countee Cullen
(for Llewellyn Ransom)

"Lord, being dark," I said, "I cannot bear
The further touch of earth, the scented air;
Lord being dark, forewilled to that despair
My color shrouds me in, I am as dirt
Beneath my brother's heel; there is a hurt
In all the simple joys which to a child
Are sweet; they are contaminate, defiled
By truths of wrongs the childish vision fails
To see; too great a cost this birth entrails.
I strangle in this yoke drawn tighter than
The worth of beaing it, just to be man
I am not brave enough to pay the price
In full; I lack the strength to sacrifice.
I who have burned my hands upon a star
And climbed high hills at dawn to view the far
Illimitable wonderments of earth,
For whom all cups have dripped the wine of mirth,
For whom the sea has strained her honeyed throat
Till all the world was sea, and I a boat
Unmoored on what strange quest I willed to float. . .

Do yourself a favor and go and find the rest, it is worth your time, as will be any of the other poems you may find in a volume dedicated to his writings--"Christus Natus Est", "Judas Iscariot," and the wonderful narrative poem "The Black Christ." I think Dylan mentioned Countee Cullen as his favorite neglected poet--I owe him a great debt of thanks to the (re)-introduction.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

Multiculturalism--For Dylan and Ono I

I dedicate these to Dylan and Ono between the two of them I was moved to dig up a book and pull out these particular poems. The first consists of two of four short epitaphs by Countee Cullen. The second a magnificent sonnet that at one time was much more popular than presently; originally an outcry against racism in the inner cities, it was carried by a great many soldiers in World War II. Both are works by great, but largely neglected African American poets. Proponents of true multiculturalism seek to redress the gross injustice of the exclusion of such great work from the common heritage. We are all diminished when we choose to exclude such luminous voices from our cultural vocabulary.

from "Four Epitaphs"
Countee Cullen

For John Keats, Apostle of Beauty
Not writ in water nor in mist,
Sweet lyric throat, thy name;
Thy singing lips that cold death kissed
Have seared his own with flame.

For Paul Lawrence Dunbar
Born of the sorrowful heart,
Mirth was a crown upon his head;
Pride kept his twisted lips apart
In jest, to hide a heart that bled.

Only short samples, but I'm sure you can agree that they are quite lovely and to the point. I particularly like the poignancy of the image of Keats's kiss searing Death's lips.

If We Must Die
Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accurséd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Some decry multiculturalism. I decry its excesses, but I also decry the blindness that did not allow me to encounter poems such as these until well into my adulthood. I am glad that children educated today are getting a broader sense of the contributions made to literature by all peoples. My only wish is that we would choose works of quality, not merely works that are representative. There is no need to abandon the works of the Western Canon. Shakespeare can be taught alongside works like these, as can Keats and others. However, when left to the mulitculturalists, works chosen do not necessarily represent great works of literature, but agenda-supporting works of literary propagandists. Literature should be chosen for its quality, not for the political agenda it supports. In fact, it should be chosen IN SPITE OF political agenda, as I am sure I could not agree with the politics of Pablo Neruda, but I still admire On the Heights of Macchu Picchu.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

A Wonderful Prayer/Brief Mediation of St. Therese

This brief meditation stopped me in my tracks the first time I read it.

Ô Marie, si j'étais la Reine du Ciel et que vous soyez Thérèse, je voudrais être Thérèse afin que vous soyez la Reine du Ciel ! ! !

Trans: O Mary, if I were Queen of Heaven and you were Therese I would want to be Therese so that you could be Queen of Heaven.

This is one of those examples of humility that boggle the mind. I still am boggled by the implications of this simple thought. It is beautiful and reflexive and for some reason absolutely mind-bending. It's kind of a Carmelite koan or something, I just can't seem to encompass the perfection of its thought.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

Another Delight from the 18th Century

This from the progenitor of the melancholy Graveyard poets, Thomas Gray. It was unfinished at the time of his death and completed (more or less) by another. Still given two hands, this isn't at all a bad little poem.

Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude
Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

Now the golden Morn aloft
Waves her dew-bespangled wing,
With vermeil cheek, and whisper soft
She woos the tardy Spring:
Till April starts, and calls around
The sleeping fragrance from the ground;
And lightly o'er the living scene
Scatters his freshest, tenderest green.

New-born flocks, in rustic dance,
Frisking ply their feeble feet;
Forgetful of their wintry trance
The birds his presence greet:
But chief, the skylark warbles high
His trembling thrilling ecstasy;
And, lessening from the dazzled sight,
Melts into air and liquid light.

Rise, my soul! on wings of fire,
Rise the rapt'rous choir among;
Hark! 'tis Nature strikes the lyre,
And leads the general song:

Yesterday the sullen year
Saw the snowy whirlwind fly;
Mute was the music of the air,
The herd stood drooping by:
Their raptures now that wildly flow,
No yesterday, nor morrow know;
'Tis man alone that joy descries
With forward, and reverted eyes.
Smiles on past Misfortune's brow
Soft Reflection's hand can trace;
And o'er the cheek of Sorrow throw
A melancholy grace;
While Hope prolongs our happier hour
Or deepest shades, that dimly lower
And blacken round our weary way,
Gilds with a gleam of distant day.
Still, where rosy Pleasure leads,
See a kindred Grief pursue;
Behind the steps that Misery treads,
Approaching Comfort view:
The hues of bliss more brightly glow,
Chastis'd by sabler tints of woe;
And blended form, with artful strife,
The strength and harmony of life.
See the wretch, that long has tost
On the thorny bed of pain,
At length repair his vigour lost,
And breathe, and walk again:
The meanest flow'ret of the vale,
The simplest note that swells the gale,
The common sun, the air, the skies,
To him are opening Paradise.

Humble Quiet builds her cell,
Near the source whence Pleasure flows;
She eyes the clear crystalline well,
And tastes it as it goes.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

Agnostics You know, when

You know, when it comes right down to it, give me a good honest atheist any day--at least there's hope there. An atheist is every bit as religious as a theist, and even though they may not admit it, their system relies as much on faith as any theistic system. There is a leap of faith to say either "There is a God," or "There is no God," because neither proposition is ultimately provable to someone who doesn't accept proofs beyond the empirical.

But an agnostic is truly the opposite of a Theist or atheist. A person who truly maintains that they cannot/do not know and who seems to demand some sort of sign cannot be reasoned into belief. God Himself could appear to such a person and demand belief (and assuming His operations are as usual--open to free will) they would find a way to explain this as "a morsel of underdone beef, or a fragment of an underdone potato."

Agnostics have no real ability to believe. They have deliberately cut themselves off from belief, probably due to past traumas related to humans they have trusted. They have, in some sense truncated part of their humanness--the price they pay for freedom from a certain kind of pain. They cannot or will not see this themselves, but they have performed a sort of radical spiritual blinding with the notion that they will not be hurt by trusting again.

What amazes me is that they do continue to be hurt. They wonder why people do what they do. They demand accountability from on high for every minor infraction. The "boss" be he human or divine should be controlling all the factors that negatively impact them. They blindly trust in the perfect operation of human institutions and gawp when politicians are shown to be corrupt. They are outraged at corporate indiscretions. I always wonder why. You don't believe in anything at all, why would you believe that people would behave themselves in the absence of any belief at all?

Agnosticism is a tough nut to crack. But falling back on some favorite verses, we know that , "With God, all things are possible." When we find someone who does not respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we should pray hard and long--that our prayers will increase the resonance of the spirit within them to crack that hard exterior and to open up the hardened heart.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

We Are Amused Though I

We Are Amused
Though I suspect there shall be number in blogdom who are less than amused. You MUST see Dylan's riff on a currently controversial article. And, at core he's right. However, I have a friend who would read Dylan's article with an absolutely straight face, finish it, and respond, "That's they way I see it." And that's a shame.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2002

What's Wrong with Blogdom? Well,

What's Wrong with Blogdom?

Well, to quote one who is not a favorite of Dylan "The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity." Said another way, the blogs I am most interested in simply do not produce enough material around the clock to keep me entertained. I hold each of those listed in the column of the left PERSONALLY responsible, and I shall be investigating the proper authorities to whom to report this. Please be warned!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

What's Really Wrong with PoMo?

What's Really Wrong with PoMo?

Kairos, ever the idealist and optimist opines:

The danger in it, of course, lies in the famous Chesterton line that a man who believes in nothing will believe in anything. But that's also the opportunity. An honest postmodernist can only forestall the inevitable, not prevent it. At some point he must come to examine his philosophy that says "there is no truth but I will it so" and declare that truth, too, null and void. And when he does, he will hopefully find a Christian or a Jew standing nearby to rush into the vaccuum in his heart.

And, with all good intentions falls into PoMo's most insidious trap. For you see, in true PoMo fashion, it may be more desirable not to be honest, as a thrust against the hegemonic oppression of the pale patriarchy. In fact, as a lineal descendant of atheistic existentialism, the point of PoMo is that reality is an infinitely mutable series of texts with no real meaning anyway, so why try to conform to something that suggests structure-- you write your own script, define your own reality. As with existentialism, it is as valid to define yourself by negation as by positive choices, and "Hell is other people;" those looking in and redefining you. (Given all this I cringe whenever I hear someone talk about a significant other, because philosophically they don't know what they are bound into. There can be only One Significant Other--ultimately only His Opinion is of any substance whatsoever. Digression mode off) The universe is chaotic, so too is PoMo philosophy, without apologies.

Remember, you are talking the philosophy of Paul de Man, a known Nazi sympathizer, who had no difficulty with the removal of a few Jews in order to "tidy up the story," and of Michel Foucault, who, knowing he was infected with AIDS had unprotected sex with estimated hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand partners before his death--an act he defended as a radical rebellion against the hegemonic and oppressive script that sought to define him from outside his own "text."

These are the people who give us feminist studies with the enormously unlikely concantenations such as the "Lesbian Phallus." (I kid you not, use Google, and look up Judith Butler and Lesbian Phallus, and you'll see all sorts of accolades for this physical impossibility.) Talk about divorcing reason from even a vestige of reality!

No, PoMo is insidious, dangerous, and evil (a fact that Kairos readily acknowledges), but to think that one can argue a committed PoMo beyond his blinkered thinking is to think a great deal of oneself. On the other hand, as is hinted and suggested by Kairos, "With God, all things are possible." With God, even the defeat of the PoMo defense against reality is a possibility. But this doesn't come from reasoned discussion on their grounds or defined territory, it comes through prayer and evangelism of lifestyle.

Most PoMo know there is something seriously wrong. The philosophy is rooted in nihilism and they realize that there is no center and if you look too closely everything will fall apart. Not exactly a philosophy that makes one warm and cozy. By seeing a luminous life, a life in complete union with Jesus Christ, a life of prayer and serenity in the midst of the admitted chaos of the modern world, there is concrete evidence that something exists beyond the enclosing (we should say entombing) walls of the abyss that stretches out to claim them.

Our first apologetics lesson is hospitality--to engage a PoMo not on the field of intellectual battle, nor necessarily even semi-intellectual discussion, but rather over a cup of coffee (or a bottle of beer for those so inclined) in the kitchen or living room (whatever room of your house is most warm and inviting). It is offering to bring back lunch if you are going out anyway, or picking up a soda, or any other of a number of small kindnesses that may be shown (one must be very careful if this is a PoMo feminist, as all such gestures are merely extensions of patriarchal control mechanisms and objectively "rape" in the workplace (gack! it feels like a hairball in my gullet to even think these banal phrases into being).

No, Kairos, my friend, do not be too hopeful about any of the approaches reason offers. As Jesus said of a different case, "Such as these are driven out only with much fasting and praying." Don't get too close (intellectually), or when driven out, you may find them entering you! PoMo is powerful poison, deadlier than tetrodotoxin. Nevertheless, all that said--Kairos is absolutely 100% correct about the last thing he says. If a PoMo adherent does eventually realize the logical trap he/she is in, we need to be standing by, ready to haul that person out of the mire--just take care not to get pulled in yourself--let Jesus do the hauling.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Journals Again T. S.

Journals Again

T. S. O'Rama has another fine post on journals in which he says in part:

But it is the chronic situations, like a bad relationship with a co-worker, that writing about doesn't seem much to help because there is an aspect of "Groundhog Day" to it - the ventilation doesn't 'work' because the situation that lead to the flame-up simply reoccurs continuously.

Exactly right--and therefore these are the most valuable pages of your journal because they provide two things: (1) fodder for your next trip to the confessional and (2) a mirror. When you have a long-term antagonistic relationship with someone and you have a record of your run-ins and attempts to deal with it, what you are likely being given by God is a mirror. What you say about that person in your reflections is what you should be looking for in yourself. Nothing is more irritating to us that to see part of us in someone else--particularly a part we don't want to acknowledge at all. When we have the journal as a resource, we have an observational mirror. Change all the he/she/it/they, to I/me and read it again. Does part of it ring true? Now, sit down with that same journal entry and write it from the other side. What did they see that they were reacting to? What a wonderful source of presence and grace! Take what you find and go to the nearest priest offering confession (in some dioceses I realize this is hard to come by, but look, you'll find one), and confess it all and offer it all up to God for His greater glory, with firm purpose of amendment and of abandoning yourself (promising not to be defensive or offensive) in these disputes. Suddenly endless, roiling, seething, black, and ugly thoughts become the substance of grace. "For with God, all things are possible."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

Evaluating Our Prayer For those

Evaluating Our Prayer

For those not beguiled by the sweet strains of Medieval English (gad! could there be any such?) we bring you Renaissance English. Well not really, as The Sadness of Christ was actually written in Latin, and what we can read today is a translation of that original Latin. One of the causes of the Sadness of Christ, St. Thomas More contends, is that He is surrounded with two sorts of people--those who go to sleep on Him and those who betray Him. He didn't have a word for it in his time, but Thomas More might have talked about the former as "Groupies." These guys really liked to hang out with Jesus, but when the heat came, they were gone. He likens most of our prayers to these sleeping apostles.

from The Sadness of Christ St. Thomas More

I wish that sometime we would make a special effort, right after finishing our prayers, to run over in our minds the whole sequence of time we spent praying. What follies will we see there? How much absurdity and sometimes even foulness will we catch sight of? Indeed, we will be amazed that it was at all possible for our minds to dissipate themselves in such a short time among so many places at such great distance from each other, among so many different affairs, such various, such manifold, such idle pursuits. For if someone, just as an experiment, should make a determined effort to make his mind touch upon as many and as diverse objects as possible, I hardly think that in such a short time he could run through such disparate and numerous topics as the mind, left to its own devices, ranges through while the mouth negligently mumbles through the hours of the office and other much-used prayers. (p. 18-19)

It is amazing. When we're doing almost anything else, it would take an explosion to pull us away. But here we spend a moment, a fraction of a hour with the Creator of the Universe and we are bored out of our skulls, thinking about everything but praying--that itch, the tire on the car that may or may not need air, that strange sound--what is it like, kind of like an airplane passing overhead but echoey. You know all about it. Distraction prevails in prayer. Part of the reason is that we don't really take prayer very seriously, no matter what our lips say about it.

We figure, we get in our fifteen minutes plus Mass, and we're set, right? Maybe we can sneak in a Rosary after dinner, or at least some after dinner thanks, or maybe a "Thank you, Lord" at night. We are all stuck in the anti-Samuel syndrome. A Priest friend of mine once said that our prayers are always, "Listen Lord, your servant is speaking." And how often is that true. And even when we're doing all the talking, we're distracted by the next thing on the agenda--how quickly can we tick these things on the list off.

Is that how we treat our friends? Do we meet them in the street and tell them everything that has happened to us since our previous meetings in the street and then rush off to the next friend to do the same? No, we invite friends in to share our houses, our foods, our comforts, our families. We make them welcome and we carve out time--yes, time in our extremely busy schedules into which we cannot fit another thing, we make time. Shouldn't we be doing the same for God? Carving out a cherished place in time that could be spent in any of the incredibly important things we do in a day--like talking around the water-cooler, or watching 4-6 hours of substandard television.

Our prayers are impoverished because our attitudes are poor. You cannot have great prayers if you don't value prayer. You cannot spend time with God if it isn't a priority. And prayer, like conversation, is a skill that takes time to learn. Most of us are toddlers or very young children in prayer. We talk only about ourselves and say the same things over and over again. I suspect Our Father in Heaven rejoices when we introduce a single new word into our prayer vocabularies. Prayer takes time to cultivate, and it takes a willing heart. Both of these come from an initial attitude--Prayer is important.

Take some time, evaluate what you really think about prayer--is it as important as beer?, as football? , as the current scandal?, as what J-Lo is wearing to the Academy Awards?, as gossiping with the neighbor? Is it really? Because if it is, then we wouldn't be spending our time doing those things, rather we would be spending the time gently, slowly cultivating prayer. And like anything carefully nurtured and tended, we would find explosive growth--most particularly because this cherished gift is fed from without by the King of Creation Himself.

But, if you find yourself driven to distraction, recognize that it is part of the skill of praying to learn to accept those things as they come and offer them to the Lord, wordlessly. Simply, as St. Therese would say, "With a glance toward heaven." Prayer is an aspiration and an aspiration must be desired above all things, otherwise it is no aspiration at all, merely a thought, a throwaway, a worse than worthless thing.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

Okay, I Promise, This Is the Last One

This poem is such a typical, lovely evocation of the graces of Our Lady that i couldn't resist a brief excerpt. This time I'll provide a few explanatory notes, althought you can pick them up at the Teams site if need be. (Take heart, read it aloud, phonetically, and you'll be surprised at how easy it comes).

from "The Joys of Mary"


Heyle be thou, ladye so bryght:
Gabriel that seyde so ryght,
"Cryst ys wyth thee."
Swettyst and swotyst in syght, (sweetest and most fragrant)
Modyr and mayde of myght,
Have mercy on mee.

Hayle be thou, fynest to fonde: (fonde=to seek)
Jesu thy sone, y undyrstonde,
Of thee borne he was.
Glad were thou, lef in londe, (loved in the land--on earth)
Tho thou haddyst in honde (tho=when)
The prynce of oure pees.

Heyle, ladye, flower of alle thynges:
Ryally three ryche kynges,
Derely dyght, (Richly clothed)
Comely wyth knelynges, (beautiful in kneeling)
Broughten thi sone three thynges;
The sterre was lyght.

Hayle, gladdyst of alle wyve: (wyve=women)
Aryse fro deth to lyve
Thy sone, tho thou syghe.(tho= while)
Blyssyd be thoo woundys fyve
That made mannys soule to thryve
In heven so hyghe.

Heyle, joye in hert and in yghe: (yghe=eye)
Wyth yghe thy sylf thoo thou syghe (with your own eyes, though you sighed)
On Holy Thursdaye,
Jesu thi sone all upstyghe (upstyghe=ascended)
Hoom into heven so hyghe,
The apostles to paye. (paye=reward)

Heyle, ladye, full of all blys,
Tho that thou wentyst wysse (tho= when; wysse=directly)
To blys soo bryght,
That blys God lete us never mysse,
Marye; thou us wysely wysse (wysse=guide)
Be daye and be nyght. Amen. (be=by)

I'm half sorry, half overjoyed to burden you all with this because I find the language so beautiful and the sentiment so true. The richness of the imagery and the strength of the devotion of the poet are such that they cannot be doubted or questioned. I hope you've enjoyed the brief excursions, and I promise that other than a link in the side column, you will not be further burdened by my enthusiasm.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

Continuing Where I Left Off

Continuing Where I Left Off

Yes, I'm still excited by all the marvelous new additions to the Medieval English online texts. What is particularly nice is the addition of Walter Hilton, who along with Richard Rolle of Rumpole, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and the Author of The Cloud of Unknowing represent the finest flowering of the English Mystical school. His insights, despite the language are surprising fresh and useful to people today. In addition there is a certain beauty and music in Medieval English that tends to be lacking in modernizations of his texts. For some online versions of the modernizations check Blackmask. Meanwhile, please enjoy this marvelous excerpt from Book I.

from The Scale of Perfection Book I--Chapter 4 Walter Hilton

Contemplatif liyf hath three parties. The first is in knowynge of God and goosteli thynges geten by resoun, bi techynge of man and bi studie of Hooly Writ, withouten goostli affeccion and inward savour feelid bi the special gift of the Hooli Goost. This party han speciali summe lettred men and grete clerkes whiche bi longe studé and travaile in Hooli Writ comen to this knowynge, more or lesse, after the sutelté of kyndeli wit and contynuance of studie after the general gift that God gyveth to everi man that hath use of reson. This knowyng is good, and it may be called a partie of contemplacioun in as mykil as it is a sight of soothfastnesse and knowynge of goostli thynges.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2002

Ande iff thu kanst

Ande iff thu kanst rede this outen somme succour. . ."

Go then to the page mentioned below and look at the introduction to Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection. These are words for our times:

For wite thu weel, a bodili turnynge to God without the herte folwynge is but a figure or a likenes of vertues and no soothfastnesse. Wherfore a wrecchid man or a woman is he or sche that leveth al the inward kepinge of hymself and schapith hym withoute oonli a fourme and likenes of hoolynesse, as in habite and in speche and in bodili werkes, biholdynge othere mennys deedys and demyng here defaughtes, wenynge hymsilf to be aught whanne he is right nought, and so bigileth hymsilf. Do thou not so, but turne thyne herte with thy body principali to God, and schape thee withinne to His likenesse bi mekenesse and charité and othere goostli vertues, and thanne art thou truli turned to Hym.

Oh frabjous day, Caloo, Callay!
He chortled in his joy.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

Freshly-minted, Brand New Medieval Romances

Freshly-minted, Brand New Medieval Romances in HTML

I was about to blogout for the night when I happened upon a most glorious thing. These kinds of things make you realize how great is the Love of God for us. Out of nowhere, the TEAMs team at Rochester gave us perhaps a dozen new romances. Here's an excerpt of one:

Life of St. Katherine

Jesu Cryst, crowne of maydenes alle,
A mayde bare Thee, a mayde gave Thee soke;
Amongis the lilies that may not fade ne falle
Thou ledyst these folk, ryth so seyth oure boke.
With all her hert evyr on Thee thei loke;
Her love, her plesauns, so sore is on Thee sette
To sewe Thee, Lord, and folow thei can nott lette.

Also included in this great trove is the so-called "Prose Merlin," Walter Hilton's "Scale of Perfection," and numerous others with which I have not, until now, had the chance for intimate acquaintance. And now, as though by miracle, I have laid out for me my extra reading for the next several months. I am indeed, deeply grateful. God is so good! If you have failed to make the acquaintance of these great works and others, for shame! Hie thee hence, and be on with the great reading!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

For Our Spanish-Reading Population I

For Our Spanish-Reading Population

I stumbled upon fotos del apocalipsis a blogsite out of Argentina, if the URL is any indication. I'm afraid I only piece together Spanish from my large French and little Latin. I will probably add this to my blogsites once blogger has calmed down a bit. Every time I touch the template I seem to cause enormous rippling complications down the line. I end up having to recode more than half of it. But if you read Spanish, you may want to visit this site. I hope Mr. Gonzalez does not mind this plug.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

Bill White's Keen Saint Site

Bill White's Keen Saint Site

Mr. White, who runs the exemplary Summa Minutiae blogsite, has put together a remarkable page of that traces causes for beatification/canonization currently in progress. Also included are lists of Saints by orders. You MUST see this site. I'm sure Mr. White would gladly welcome all help!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

Food for Thought

This Post over at Video M... provided some fodder for rumination. I join the ruminants. It says in part:

If one uses a journal to vent or complain, perhaps that only serves to reinforce the sense of injustice that you feel in being wronged, rather than in forgiving that person and "moving on".

I have kept a journal for 30 or more years and I discover that in keeping the journal I pray more often and more deeply. I pray with pen in hand, waiting to hear what may be spoken.

Yes, I have used the same journals to rake people over the coals, but what I have discovered is that writing out my "complaint" gives me the ability to let go of it. I remember of one particularly unfortunate victim of my pique I wrote,

When you die no worms
will open the windows of your corpse.
You would melt the plastic violets
in an old lady's hat.

It went on from there, but vitriol is best contained in small vials and the continuation was simply bleeding out the rest of the wound. As a result of writing that poem I was able to forgive the person whatever unimaginable harm they had done me.

I use the journal to write "unsent letters" that spell out my grievances in atrocious detail. When I am finished, there is no need to send the letters and all has been forgiven.

But the plus side of a journal far outweighs the minus side. When I reflect on the Bible I can find truths that sometimes I am surprised to stumble over in later years, providentially at a time when I need to remember that aspect of God's Mercy.

However, I can see that a journal can be used to work yourself up from merely made into violent fury--to concentrate venom from a very minor infraction into virulent poison--to turn a mosquito bite into dengue fever. If you do not write as a normal thing, then a journal may serve as a repository of cherished feelings, and among the most cherished are the nursing of some grievous wound dealt you by some callous fraud. I'll be most interested in seeing how Mr. O'Rama plays this out.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Great Silence Well, now I

Great Silence
Well, now I at least understand it. In playing with my page I killed my commenter. Hopefully up soon.

Later: should be fixed now. We'll see.

Later yet: Actually it was the picture of St. Therese that killed the commenter--figure that. I guess Carmelites don't go in for a lot of chat--particularly those Discalced Carmelites--well if your feet were cold, you wouldn't want to be standing around chatting either.

Later Yet--No, it isn't St. Therese, God Bless her--it is the evil minion of bloggergremlins. They creep in and take out bits and bytes disrupting templates right and left--creating havoc and leaving behind ruin and tears, great weeping and lamentation, etc. etc.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Dylan's Challenge

Dylan's Challenge

Okay, I've waited all my blogging career to share some of my own poetry and here it goes. Technically it doesn't meet any of Dylan's requirements (delineated below) In point of fact, it doesn't meet any of them at all, but I thought I'd add it to the challenge.

-- Give me the most ridiculous rhymed couplet of pentameter, tetrameter, or the strangest haiku ever composed in the history of literature! Write it yourself, if you like. In fact, that would be good.

Here is the very best derivative double dactyl I've ever seen:

Battling Heresy
Righteous Pelagius
Got off his horse and
fell on his face.

Said Bishop Hippo quite
"Surely your doctrine
leaves some room for grace."

The rules of a double dactyl are elaborate and here's what I remember of them:
(1) scansion must be dactylic (stress and two unstress)
(2) there must be one line that is basically nonsense syllables and
(3) one line must consist of a single word
Here's a place for the complete list of rules.

Okay, so it isn't a very good double-dactyl (as if there is such a thing) violating as many rules as it does. In addition, this is made especially awful by the punning on the word Grace. This has been in my head so long (at least 20 years) I don't know whether it is mine or if it is the work of another that I have adapted. My apologies if I have appropriated your work.

There, that will teach you to issue a challenge for remarkably bad poetry.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

On God's Love

This is from a little book I found online at CCEL, listed only as being by a "Bishop Ullathorne. I would welcome more information on this person, and if anyone knows where I could find more of him online, I'd greatly appreciate that information as well.


There is no master so large-minded, so generous, or who is so well acquainted with you and your requirements, as God; no father so loving and bountiful; no friend so free from all jealousy; none who so completely loves you for your greater good. Whilst there is no tyrant so narrow-minded, so proud-hearted, so exacting, so suspicious, so utterly bent on keeping you to your own littleness, as the one we all know so well, of whose tyranny we have had such bitter experience, and who goes by the name of Myself. Yet God or yourself you must choose for your master.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

Back at Work Well, praise

Back at Work
Well, praise God, I'm still feeling wretched (that orange on a toothpick has become a watermelon on a rusty needle) but I'm back at work, so blogging will be less. And I suppose that must be a good thing because yesterday was my most extensive blogging day ever and I had the least response ever. What one learns from that is when one never shuts up people are hard pressed to get a word in edgewise. So I promise, no marathon blogging today.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2002

Fin du Jour We started

Fin du Jour

We started in joy and praise, and it has been a labor, but I am through the day. My head feels about the size of a hot air balloon and wobbles around like an orange on a toothpick. Spouse is home to care for child, and so I can take something that will help with this unpleasant sensation. But first this send-off from St. Thérèse.

Ma Joie ! St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Il est des âmes sur la terre
Qui cherchent en vain le bonheur
Mais pour moi, c'est tout le contraire
La joie se trouve dans mon coeur
Cette joie n'est pas éphémère
Je la possède sans retour
Comme une rose printanière
Elle me sourit chaque jour.

Vraiment je suis par trop heureuse,
Je fais toujours ma volonté....
Pourrais-je n'être pas joyeuse
Et ne pas montrer ma gaîté ?...
Ma joie, c'est d'aimer la souffrance,
Je souris en versant des pleurs
J'accepte avec reconnaissance
Les épines mêlées aux fleurs.

Lorsque le Ciel bleu devient sombre
Et qu'il semble me délaisser,
Ma joie, c'est de rester dans l'ombre
De me cacher, de m'abaisser.
Ma joie, c'est la Volonté Sainte
De Jésus mon unique amour
Ainsi je vis sans nulle crainte
J'aime autant la nuit que le jour.

Ma joie, c'est de rester petite
Aussi quand je tombe en chemin
Je puis me relever bien vite
Et Jésus me prend par la main
Alors le comblant de caresses
Je Lui dis qu'il est tout pour moi
Et je redouble de tendresses
Lorsqu'il se dérobe à ma foi.

Si parfois je verse des larmes
Ma joie, c'est de les bien cacher
Oh ! que la souffrance a de charmes
Quand de fleurs on sait la voiler !
Je veux bien souffrir sans le dire
Pour que Jésus soit consolé
Ma joie, c'est de le voir sourire
Lorsque mon coeur est exilé

Ma joie, c'est de lutter sans cesse
Afin d'enfanter des élus.
C'est le coeur brûlant de tendresse
De souvent redire à Jésus :
" Pour toi, mon Divin petit Frère
" Je suis heureuse de souffrir
" Ma seule joie sur cette terre
" C'est de pouvoir te réjouir.

" Longtemps encor je veux bien vivre
" Seigneur, si c'est là ton désir
" Dans le Ciel je voudrais te suivre
" Si cela te faisait plaisir.
" L'amour, ce feu de la Patrie
" Ne cesse de me consumer
" Que me font la mort ou la vie ?
" Jésus, ma joie, c'est de t'aimer ! "

God is so gracious and good, so deserving of our unbroken attention. The truly Simple requires the truly single-hearted--we naturally desire to move to union with Him.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Sadness of Christ-Redux Continuing my

Sadness of Christ-Redux

Continuing my reading in St. Thomas More's classic yielded this small gem:

from The Sorrows of Christ St. Thomas More And so among the other reasons why our Savior deigned to take upon Himself these feelings of human weakness, this one I have spoke of is not unworthy of consideration--I mean that having made Himself weak for the sake of the weak, He might take care of other weak men by means of His own weakness. He had their welfare so much at heart that this whole process of His agony seems designed for nothing more clearly than to lay down a fighting technique and a battle code for the fainthearted soldier who needs to be swept along, as it were, into martyrdom. (p. 17 of the Scepter Edition)

This is one of the first books I have ever read that addressed martyrdom in the real terms of human feelings, not in terms of some exotic ecstasy. St. Thomas More wisely points out that if God gives you the means to avoid martyrdom, by all means take it. If however, the mantle is thrust upon you, go with dignity and with the knowledge that Christ walked this road before you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Literature Teaches Everything All of

Literature Teaches Everything

All of this talk reminded me of a story in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (find an electronic version at Blackmask, listed in the side column). This excerpt comes from a story called "Hands." If you have not encountered the book before, it is highly recommended.

from "Hands" in Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson And yet that is but crudely stated. It needs the poet there. With the boys of his school, Adolph Myers had walked in the evening or had sat talking until dusk upon the schoolhouse steps lost in a kind of dream. Here and there went his hands, caressing the shoulders of the boys, playing about the tousled heads. As he talked his voice became soft and musical. There was a caress in that also. In a way the voice and the hands, the stroking of the shoulders and the touching of the hair were a part of the schoolmaster's effort to carry a dream into the young minds. By the caress that was in his fingers he expressed himself. He was one of those men in whom the force that creates life is diffused, not centralized. Under the caress of his hands doubt and disbelief went out of the minds of the boys and they began also to dream.

And then the tragedy. A half-witted boy of the school became enamored of the young master. In his bed at night he imagined unspeakable things and in the morning went forth to tell his dreams as facts. Strange, hideous accusations fell from his loosehung lips. Through the Pennsylvania town went a shiver. Hidden, shadowy doubts that had been in men's minds concerning Adolph Myers were galvanized into beliefs.

The tragedy did not linger. Trembling lads were jerked out of bed and questioned. "He put his arms about me," said one. "His fingers were always playing in my hair," said another.

One afternoon a man of the town, Henry Bradford, who kept a saloon, came to the schoolhouse door. Calling Adolph Myers into the school yard he began to beat him with his fists. As his hard knuckles beat down into the frightened face of the schoolmaster, his wrath became more and more terrible. Screaming with dismay, the children ran here and there like disturbed insects. "I'll teach you to put your hands on my boy, you beast," roared the saloon keeper, who, tired of beating the master, had begun to kick him about the yard.

What would a "zero-tolerance" policy make of tousling hair? Of any form of familiarity or comfort? Aren't Priests there, in part, to bring the comfort of Jesus Christ to the people? To paraphrase The Tempest, "These are such things as nightmares are made on, and our little world is rounded with a sleep." (Seems that incisive thinking has gone completely underground.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

A Sonnet from Spenser

A Sonnet from Spenser on Today's Themes

Edmund Spenser poet who composed The Faerie Queene, and for whom the Spenserian stanza is named composed a series of sonnets called Amoretti, from which sequence this is taken:

Amoretti LXVIII Edmund Spenser

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

A Lesser Doxology This

A Lesser Doxology

This was a hymn we used to sing nearly every Sunday in the Baptist Church. I've heard it variously referrred to--"Old Hundredth," "The Lesser Doxology," etc. However, it is very short and very beautiful for today.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I guess this is just a praising kind of day. I have been so fortunate in everything God has done for me. There have been great trials, and almost every trial has enabled me to help others. There have been periods of great consolation. I am thankful for it all today. I am even thankful that God has given me a sense of thankfulness. It is very hard to be an unhappy person if you are truly thankful. I don't pause often enough to thank God for all the blessings He bestows in the course of ordinary life. Praise Him!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Thank God for a Voice

Thank God for a Voice of Reason

This from Mark Shea's site in re Mr. Dreher's disappointment:

4. Arguments like Dreher's are very much a product of precisely the circumstance he criticizes: There is a lack of solid Christian formation. It seems that people who came into the Church (I don't know how Dreher did) through apologetics were totally unprepared for the current scandal. They believe because the Church is eminently believable; it makes sense intellectually. But when faced with sinful pastors, the intellect isn't enough to hold the faith together. Apologetics alone produces a weak faith. Catholic faith has to be based on love for a person, Christ, and trust in him and the knowledge that he is at the heart of the Church, which is his body. That requires prayer. When you know him you aren't as scandalized by some of the things that happen. You know that he is the Lord of the wheat and the tares (and this parable not only applies, it is in the Gospels in order to speak directly to today's situation as much as any other), the Lord who chose Peter and Judas, the Lord who made sinful men and not angels the ministers of his sacraments, the Lord whose ways we can't fathom. You believe with St. Catherine that his popes and bishops should be confronted privately, not publicly, you believe with St. Paul (and Christ in Revelations and JPII) that his erring churches need to be set straight through exhortation.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

Praise God in His

Praise God in His Great Mercy

Please continue to pray for Kairos and his wife, but the news on that front is tentatively good. Praise God!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

More Light, Less Heat Quoted

More Light, Less Heat

Quoted at Ad Orientem

The Pope Has Let Us Down

Rod Dreher writes in today's Wall Street Journal: Even if it has been possible to believe that John Paul had been ignorant of the rape of children, the worst of all scandals, that is obviously no longer the case. The situation of Catholics in Boston is enough to make one weep. Cardinal Bernard Law claims to have offered his resignation, only to have it refused. Rome allows him to remain in office, though his mendacity and corruption are there for all the world to see, and the credibility of the church in Boston is destroyed.

I am truly saddened to read things like this. (A reason I don't often comment on news). I am saddened not for John Paul and the Church, but for Mr. Dreher and his adherents.

And, what are we to make of this? Seems to me that it is an object lesson. If one of the most learned, greatest, and kindest Popes of recent years could indeed be so remiss in his duties, we shouldn't be surprised. Aren't we told that "All fall short of the Glory of God?" And more, aren't we told not to put our trust in Earthly Creatures, but in Heavenly ones? Perhaps this is God's way of reminding John Paul of his very human, broken nature.

If John Paul has let us down, and I'm not certain that I believe that, it is because we expected him to be more than a man. If one looks at the life of any Pope, any saint, one is likely to find episodes that are "disappointing." My question is, "Is this a proper topic of conversation, or is this simply spreading scandal?" If there has been a failure, shouldn't we be praying earnestly rather than spending all of our time blaming? If someone has fallen short of our expectations, are we so perfect that we can afford to point out the shortcomings?

This is the Pope who oversaw the destruction of Communist regimes in the west. This is the author of Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae. This Pope has been a powerful prophetic witness to the world, and now, more than ever, he needs our prayers and our love. Just as one would not throw out a family member no matter how grave the offense, it is time to stop hurling blame and pray the Church hierarchy back to health. Note: THE HIERARCHY, not the Church, because the Church is without blemish or fault, it is the Body of Christ and the Spouse of God. The Church is more than the hierarchy. Yes, we need to call people to account.

But please, where does invective, blame, ridicule, sarcasm, and spleen get us in this discussion? Prayer is the solution, not blame. Watchfulness and caution, not invective, are our chief weapons. God has given us this time of trial to see if we will turn to Him and trust Him. So far, we have trusted only flawed human judgments. Better to align ourselves with God in prayer and go the way He leads us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

Joyce Carol Oates Joyce Carol

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates has to be one of the oddest, and most engaging, people in the literary world. I have read many of her novels with great interest, repugnance, revulsion, fascination. She is an example of someone to whom language means a great deal. I happened across this little snippet from an article about her new book.

Why, I ask, did Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, refuse to have his book recommended by Oprah? "Well, he ultimately apologised to Oprah, but she wouldn't accept his apology because she was wounded in her pride." She pauses. "It was also a gender thing, because I think that Jonathan Franzen perceives the Oprah book readers as mainly women, and he would prefer a male readership." This softly delivered grenade hangs deliciously in the air for a second, then evaporates.

I love the way she very gently identifies some, not all, of Franzen's problem. I think Franzen himself probably served as the model for Chip in his book. At least his behavior much resembled what one might expect from Chip--eternally stranded in his own intellectual vanity, eternally adolescent, eternally irresponsible and unable to come to terms with it.

Anyway, in all of my encounters with Ms. Oates, she has been a true lady in manners and courtesy, and a truly intriguing speaker. Long may she write for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

Prayers for Kairos and Mrs.

Prayers for Kairos and Mrs. Kairos

From his site:

We are waiting for some info from the doctors that could be good, bad, or really bad, so prayers for me and Mrs. K would be very much apreciated. Especially if you happen to be seeing this in advance of about 8 am Wednesday.

You got 'em buddy!

May the Lord God Almighty, who made Heaven and Earth and all the things of the Earth, be your comforter, your companion and your guide, and may your spirits "mount up on wings of eagles--run and not be weary, walk and not faint." May He open the rich treasures of His healing grace and His merciful love. And may the Mother of Love Incarnate stand at His side, constantly whispering your needs in His ear. May Mary, Queen of Contemplatives, and Mother of God, hear your cause and bring it to the throneroom of the King of Mercy. Amen.

Shalom Kairos and Mrs (Sally) Kairos. His peace be with you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

Staying Home--Rejoicing Feel dreadful beyond

Staying Home--Rejoicing

Feel dreadful beyond words today, so I'm staying home--sinuses or virus--who knows?

But even so I'm reminded that it is a beautiful morning to give God thanks for all of His mercies. His greatest reaches to the heavens and permeates all the Earth. He hears our prayers and answers them. He guards us as the apple of His eye and we are carved on the palm of His hand. His love is to be cherished more than all the riches of all the world.

Is there anything that does not respond to the loving call of God. Even those who do evil, do so as a misguided reaction to Him. There is nothing that He does not control.

I am put in mind of one of my favorite passages of scripture. A prayer to offer to God every morning from the Song of Songs, a reminder of His abiding concern and Love.

Song of Songs 8:6-7 6. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. The coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. 7. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned.

Here the soul speaks to Jesus Christ who tells it, "Set me as a seal upon your heart, a seal upon your arm." In other words, become the slave of Christ to obtain your freedom. We are all mercilessly bound to the world until we set Him as Lord over us. We know the love of which we speak because it comes with a fire of most vehement flame--the Holy Spirit, who works within us to help drive out all the works of darkness.

This is the Lord we have. This is the God we love. Everyday, we should rejoice in another day. Yes, there will be problems. Indeed, there will be strife. But God is near, breathing life into us, guiding our footsteps, bearing us up "lest we dash our foot against a stone." This is the God we hold as our own. This is the Lord who is our master, and it is cause for constant rejoicing.

So, for a moment today, move your mind away from scandals, hypocrisy, and sheer human cussedness. Take in the beauty of a fountain, a flower,, the sky, and revel in the presence of the God who loves you!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)

Response to Dylan and

Response to Dylan and the "Crisis"

This morning Dylan seems a mite more peeved than a beautiful morning normally warrants (This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!). However, his causus belli seems just.

Am sick of the Law-bashing, & the Pope-bashing is a stretch. At the risk of being violently refuted: They're bishops, not cops or judges. [Addendum, whilst checking for errors: And they've helped thousands more than they've hurt.]

My extended response, not intending to give offense either to Dylan nor to the world at large:

This was the reason for my post on previous anti-Catholicism. You get to a certain point and an unabashed hysteria takes over. I am reminded of the events of the Salem Witch Hunt, and I am given to doubt that there will emerge a Samuel Sewall* to take responsibility for the ruined lives. I realize that it is a stretch, but all the points made in Dylan's post are true and clear. As I hear more and more stories I am reminded of the Maria Monks and the Sarah Richardsons of a previous time--our press is now on the hunt, the merest whiff of an impropriety, and we have a crime requiring the removal of good people. Yes, I concur, that there have been a great many things wrong. Yes, the priest who have done such things should long ago have been removed from office. But we are approaching hysteria. We get reports of convents of Nuns raping teen-age boys (by the way, this stuff goes way, way back to the Protestant reformation--it formed some of the pornography of the day.) Sheer, unabashed, irresponsible hysteria. Reporting should be done after the facts are established, otherwise it is merely gossip.

There can be no doubt that those accused of these heinous crimes should be called to account for them. Those who allowed it to happen repeatedly should be carefully reviewed for suitability for office AFTER they have developed some more sensible policy than the so-called Zero Tolerance, which in all likelihood may be victimizing people who never did anything criminal. It's very easy to make accusations. "Recovered" memories are always highly suspect. Don't get me wrong, there can be no question about some of these accusations. But for example the single accusation against Archbishop (Cardinal?) Pell, seems somewhat suspect to me.

As in all things, the best policy to take in these matters is prayer. In addition, parents who care about their children should not take hush money so that a criminal can continue his actions. I understand that part of the motive in the past may have been love of the church, but much of it seems like greed. This is very complex web of human fallenness, the only real solution to which is to pray constantly.

* On Samuel Sewall--At least reading this won't have been a complete waste if you didn't already know about Sewall.

The diary entries reveal little personal reservations or remorse concerning his own role in the conduct of the trials. In December 1696, however, Sewall wrote a proclamation for a day of fast and penance and reparation by the government for the sins of the witchcraft trials. Sewall publicly apologized for his role in the trials. Each year after 1697 Sewall set aside a day in which he fasted and prayed for forgiveness for his sins in the Salem trials.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2002

From a Lesser-Known Saint

From a Lesser-Known Saint

This is a double whammy, containing as it does the profound wisom of St. Eucherius of Lyons in the most recent English translation, that of (yes, HIM again) Henry Vaughn. You can find the complete document here. Enjoy.

De Contemptu Mundi
St. Eucherius of Lyons

I shall therefore speak unto you, not the wisdom of this world, but that secret and hidden wisdom which God ordained befor the world unto our glory. I shall speak with much care and affection towards you, and with very little respect and animadversion of myself; for I have in this attempt considered more what I wish to see practised in you, than what I am able to do in myself.

The first duty of man ordained and brought forth into this world for that end, -- my most dear Valerian! -- is to know his creator, and being known, to confess Him, and to resign or give up his life -- which is the wonderful and peculiar gift of God, -- to the service and worship of the Giver; for what he received by God's free donation, may be employed in true devotion, and what was conferred upon him in the state of wrath and unworthiness, may by an obedient resignation make him precious and beloved. For of this saving opinion are we; that as it is most certain, that we came forth first from God, so should we believe it, and press on still towards Him: whereupon we shall conclude, that he only rightly and divinely apprehends the purpose of God in making man who understands it thus, that God Himself made us for Himself.

It is then our best course to bestow our greatest care upon the soul; so shall that which is the first and highest in dignity be not the lowest and last in consideration. Amongst us Christians, let that which is the first in order be the first cared for; let salvation, which is the chiefest profit, be our chiefest employment. Let the safeguard and the defense of this take up all our forces; let it be not only our chiefest, but our sole delight. As it surpasseth all other things in exellency, so let it in our care and consideration.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

A Response to Mr. Shea

It is with some trepidation that I consider venturing into this nearly sacred area. I know how well Mr. Shea is liked, and indeed, I find his work enlightening and amusing, but occasionally a trifle harsh. This post is one that disturbed me.

Here's a bogus factoid from the article: "Sexual abstinence is nothing new, of course: it is prescribed for Muslims from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, Roman Catholics during Lent and Orthodox Jews during a woman's menstrual period."

"Of course"? I missed the memo from the Vatican instructing all Catholics to abstain from sex during Lent. Or might it just be that the reporter is yet another ignoramus from the NY Times who heard something once in a college bull session and now repeats it as gospel. Maybe she mistook the movie "40 Days" for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now, I do not claim to be an expert on Church history, nor on all the practices of the Church; however, it seems from all the medieval history I've read that abstinence during lent included abstinence from sex. It is a key theme in the Kristinlavransdatter series. Yes, I know it is medieval times, but I do not know whether the practice continued until the present day in remote areas or what Catholic teaching pre- and post-Vatican II may have been. However, I do wish to acknowledge that at one time this may have been common practice even it not church teaching.

The reporter certainly needs to update her records if she is reporting medieval cultural practice as modern church teaching, but I shy away from the language used to describe the reporter. Even if true, it is hardly charitable unless said directly to her face with the hope of correcting the dismaying trend observed by Mr. Shea. Didn't Jesus say something about calling thy Brother "Racha! Thou fool." I tend to take that admonition very seriously as I spend a goodly portion of each of my days being a fool, I don't know that I'd like to have it identified every time it happened. I haven't achieved that pinnacle of humility yet.

[Later note: The ever-courteous Mr. Shea stopped by and helped me to significantly improve the post above. He truly is an apologist and a gentleman. I mean that seriously, thank you, Mr. Shea.

Please visit and read Mr. Shea's very funny and very gracious revision of aforementioned post.]

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

No You're Not Seeing Double

No You're Not Seeing Double

Eventually the beatific face of St. Thérèse must slowly disappear down my column length, and then, eventually vanish into the archives. To forestall that hideous end, I have placed her in the side column a la T. S. O'Rama, thank for the idea!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

What's Your Order Via Mark,

What's Your Order

Via Mark, at Ad Orientem. Okay, I admit it, the dates and wild rice got me in trouble and I to go back and unFranciscanize myself. But I was borderline. Close call either way. Besides, I had to have this great picture of St. Thérèse.

what's your order?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

Letter to Carmelites

Letter to Carmelites

Courtesy of Jeff Miller over at Atheist to a Theist, we have this link to a letter by the Reverend Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Carmelite Order. (Note--If I have any readers from my region, I encourage you, very strongly to read the entire letter, but to pay special attention to pargraphs 37-58. Share it with your groups--discuss it.)

Here are some excerpts:

40. The main elements of the Carmelite charism are well known: prayer, fraternity and service. These three elements are bound together by contemplation. Above all, Carmelites are called to follow Jesus Christ and live the Gospel in daily life. In our following of Christ, we are inspired by two biblical figures: Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah. Every Carmelite, whether religious or lay, is called to live this charism. The way in which we put these elements together will differ according to our state in life. Lay people must live the Carmelite charism precisely as lay people. Jesus said that he was not asking the Father to take his friends out of the world but to protect them from the evil one (Jn 17,15). All Carmelites are in the world in some way but the vocation of lay people is precisely to transform the secular world.

48. Contemplation is what binds the other elements of the charism together. Like all members of the Carmelite Family, lay Carmelites are called to grow in their relationship with Christ until they become his intimate friends and as such will be a powerful transformative influence on the world. The traditional helps for the development of contemplation are often absent from our world, which is marked by frenetic activity. Therefore lay Carmelites must seek out times when they can lay aside the cares of daily life for a while and allow God to speak to their hearts in silence. Strengthened by this food, they can continue their journey and look at the world with new eyes. Contemplatives can see the presence of God in unlikely situations; God always precedes us and is present in every situation before we arrive. It is our duty to discover the presence of God in the midst of what is around us and proclaim this presence to our world.

50. In recent years as an Order, we have rediscovered Lectio Divina as a powerful way of prayer and indeed a way of life. Lectio Divina is the prayerful listening to the Word of God which, like all prayer, is intended to open us to contemplation. Our Lady is the model of one who listened to the Word of God. Clearly it is not sufficient merely to listen to the Word; Mary put it into practice and so must we (cf. Lk 8,21). In the traditional movement of Lectio Divina, there is a time for meditation on the Word that has been heard, and this pondering must lead to prayer which in turn leads to silence, a profound silence open to contemplation. St. John of the Cross wrote, "Seek in reading and you will find in meditation. Knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation." (Maxims & Counsels, 79).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Early Morning lament: Aubade (or perhaps Raga, depending on its length)

Blogging in the early morning is tough. It seems few bloggers have been active enough between the time I go to bed and the time I get up for me to comment on much of anything. Only Dylan at Error 503 seems to rise and blog before I do on a regular basis. Of course, that's good, because it is the one page on which I read every single word, and occasionally, words that are not there. This morning some excellent information on prose works by prominent poets. Dylan may eventually work his way around to convincing me that Dylan Thomas and e.e.cummings are actually work my time--he's made significant inroads (Moreover, I'm sure it's what he lives for.:-). Others I am significantly more dubious about. I'm afraid my taste in modern poetry is probably rather deplorable--I judge less well when it comes to modern times. My favorites are Roethke, Maxine Kumin, Linda Pastan, and Dana Gioia. I really like parts of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, but I have personal reservations about reading poets who spend so much of their time forecasting their own suicides. (Add John Berryman to that group). Dylan always gives me a chance to see something in a new light, and therefore proves a most delightful read. He seems to have read every major modern poet and a great many of those who have written in the past. If you don't read poetry (poor you!) you might want to skip over there right now and start your education. You'll find that when you don't have a fiercely autocratic teacher leaning over your shoulder asking you what it means, poetry can be a very enjoyable diversion.

Also, speaking of Dana Gioia, a must read for all people who have not already done so AND who are interested in the modern poetry world (note the boolean logic there) is Dana Gioia's remarkalbe excursion in criticism, "Can Poetry Matter?" Quite controversial in its time, I think much of what Gioia has to say is right on the mark. But perhaps Dylan would be so kind as to disabuse me of these prejudices as time continues.

Okay, now your turn--Aubade or Raga?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

Intro to More Apocryphal Gospels

Intro to More Apocryphal Gospels

Mr. Betts at Just Your Average Catholic Guy, despite any protestations to the contrary is anything but what the title of his blog indicates. His continuing series on Apocryphal Gospels and other small delights of the "considered but rejected" books of the canon is delightful. Not nearly so delightful as the works themselves Thus after reading his new columns of the "Sayings Gospel of Thomas," I encourage interested reader to "hie thee to Early Christian Writings and seek out the works themselves.

As a side note, many of the texts at the site are the translation work of the remarkable ghost story writer and New Testament Scholar M. R. James. Knowing this, one can better understand the sensibility that informs Mr. James's very finest works--"The Mezzotint", (which it seems to me may have been the inspiration for a segment in the original Night Gallery movie, "Count Magnus", "'Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad. . .'" , and the tense and remarkable little "Casting the Runes," subject of a Jacques Tourneur film (Curse of the Demon), which but for the end is quite effective, and an hommage by James Hynes in his book Tenure and Terror. All of which (and more) can be found at Blackmask.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2002

Seventeen Evidences of a Lack of Humility

Apropos of the remarkable discussion Kairos started yesterday on humility:

At the risk of violating number 8 below, I use leave this as a checklist on my wall at work. I cheer when I have shown as few as nine of the seventeen in a day. This is from the remarkable writings of Josemaria Escriva, soon-to-be St. Josemaria.

Furrow Josemaria Escriva


Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:

--Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say;

--Always wanting to get your own way;

--Arguing when you are not right or --when you are -- insisting stubbornly or with bad manners;

--Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so;

--Despising the point of view of others;

--Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan;

--Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own;

--Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;

--Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you;

--Making excuses when rebuked;

--Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you;

--Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you;

--Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you;

--Refusing to carry out menial tasks;

—Seeking or wanting to be singled out;

--Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige ... ;

--Being ashamed of not having certain possessions ...

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

For Chesterton Fans

It may be that this is available elsewhere on the web, but this is the first full version I've come across of "Lepanto."

I must immediately say that usually I'm not overwhelmed by Chesterton's verse, mostly workmanlike stuff. But this piece is nice for those of us taught in American schools where we really haven't an inkling of some of the important things have have gone on in the world before our naissance. It also has some sumptuous imagery and works as narrative (often a very difficult trick to pull off in poetry).

from "Lepanto"
G. K. Chesterton

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)

Meet the Press! As the

Meet the Press!

As the Catholic scandal winds down and the stories become more and more bizarre (and to my mind, more than a bit questionable), I thought of this delightful little classic of anti-Catholicism. A must-read for those who have not yet had enough of the scandals. Read all about it.

from Life in the Grey Nunnery at Montreal by Sarah J. Richardson CHAPTER XVII. THE TORTURE ROOM.

I remember hearing a gentleman at the depot remark that the very enormity of the crimes committed by the Romanists, is their best protection. "For," said he, "some of their practices are so shockingly infamous they may not even be alluded to in the presence of the refined and the virtuous. And if the story of their guilt were told, who would believe the tale? Far easier would it be to call the whole a slanderous fabrication, than to believe that man can be so vile."

This consideration led me to doubt the propriety of attempting a description of what I saw in that room. But I have engaged to give a faithful narrative of what transpired in the nunnery; and shall I leave out a part because it is so strange and monstrous, that people will not believe it? No. I will tell, without the least exaggeration what I saw, heard, and experienced. People may not credit the story now, but a day will surely come when they will know that I speak the truth.

As I entered the room I was exceedingly shocked at the horrid spectacle that met my eye. I knew that fearful scenes were enacted in the subterranean cells, but I never imagined anything half so terrible as this. In various parts of the room I saw machines, and instruments of torture, and on some of them persons were confined who seemed to be suffering the most excruciating agony. I paused, utterly overcome with terror, and for a moment imagined that I was a witness to the torments, which, the priests say, are endured by the lost, in the world of woe. Was I to undergo such tortures, and which of those infernal engines would be applied to me? I was not long in doubt. The priest took hold of me and put me into a machine that held me fast, while my feet rested on a piece of iron which was gradually heated until both feet were blistered. I think I must have been there fifteen minutes, but perhaps the time seemed longer than it was. He then took me out, put some ointment on my feet and left me.

Read all about it! Slaves for life, imprisoned with the dead, tortured and humiliated, forced to pray unspeakable prayers and perform acts that force the sane mind to the brink of sanity!

from Chapter 4--A Slave for Life But I am wandering from my story. Would that I might forever wander from it--that I might at once blot from memory's page, the fearful recollection that must follow me to my grave! Yet, painful as it is to rehearse the past, if I can but awaken your sympathy for other sufferers, if I can but excite you to efforts for their deliverance, it is all I ask. I shall have my reward. But to return to my story.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

Treasures of the East One

Treasures of the East

One of the great early hymnodists and poets of the Church was St. Ephraim of Syria. One source reports that Ephraim wrote up to 3,000,000 verses. This seems unlikely, but there is no question that he was a prodigious writer. Below is a fragment from the first of seven hymns that makes up a cycle called "The Pearl."

from The Pearl
St. Ephraim of Syria

On a certain day a pearl did I take up, my brethren;
I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom;
Semblances and types of the Majesty;
It became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand,
That I might examine it:
I went to look at it on one side,
And it proved faces on all sides.
I found out that the Son was incomprehensible,
Since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded,
And in its pureness a great mystery,
Even the Body of Our Lord which is well-refined:
In its undivideness I saw the Truth
Which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception,
The Church, and the Son within her.
The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him,
And her type the heaven,
Since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein his Trophies, and His victories, and His crowns.
I saw His helpful and overflowing graces,
And His hidden things with His revealed things.

What I love about this sequence is both its rich imagery and its intense association with "The Pearl of Great Price" mentioned by Jesus in the gospels. So, had we been the wise merchant, this is the pearl we would have sold everything for and purchased.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

The Dea(r)th of Good Prose

Okay, here's my chance to give equal opportunity offense, but please stay with me through this, it may or may not have a point.

I belong to two reading groups--one catholic and one noncatholic. Our noncatholic group tends to read a lot of contemporary stuff along with a good mixture of older prose. Recently I've noticed a really depressing trend in literature. The books that the critics are touting as "great" "worth reading," and so on tend to a prose style that verges on the prose equivalent of McDonald's. To take two recent examples, Bel Canto, and The Lovely Bones.

Now understand, I am speaking only of the quality of the prose, not the characters, plot or characterization. But I have noticed that these two highly touted novels suffer from a surfeit of Hemingway (who single-handedly managed wreaked the greatest damage on prose since Thomas Peckett Prest [who at least had the benefit of being lurid]). The prose is flat, emotionless, and uninteresting. I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that The Lovely Bones begins in heaven with a dead 14 year old girl. Would that she had learned something in school about what makes narrator's voices interesting! Would that she had not fallen into the pit of countless repetitive and dull sentences.

On the other hand Bel Canto is. . . dull. The prose does nothing interesting. Perhaps the story line dictates this. But I think it's another abominable critical trend. I look at Ha Jin's Waiting (I read it almost a year ago and I am still waiting). Not only is the prose flat, something that is probably forgivable in someone who is writing in language not his own, but the story is interminable. When i was finished with it, I was certain that I had been through War and Peace at least twice.

None of these writers has the sheer prose sparkle of a John Updike or a Tom Wolfe. As much as I found Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections pretentious, and the antics around its publication deplorable, the prose was at least supple. The author took chances with language, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but at least playing and trying things out--stretching the limits of what can be done in a novel intended for the mainstream.

You know you're in a bad prose situation when translations are presenting some of the very best English. The books of Perez-Reverte and the abominably post-modernist predeconstructed Corelli's Mandolin both sport prose that sings--it is lush and evocative, carrying the reader on the wave of language.

Yes, I know, most people want this quality in their poetry, but would prefer prose straight forward. Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking for the new Henry James producing sentences of such length and tortured convolution they require five or six readings just to make sense of them. But I would like more writers like Franzen, Updike, Wolfe, and, if she could ever get past her anti-American political agenda, Barbara Kingsolver. As unlikable as V. S. Naipaul may be as a person, A Bend in the River is remarkable, supple, and evocative prose.

I realize that I have committed the cardinal sin of simply espousing opinion without any real proof; however, the proof is in the books themselves. All of these books are worth reading and worth a careful reader's attention. But then compare them to the careful, ringing, and lovely prose of a Mariette in Ecstasy. Most of our novelists have eschewed true cultivation of language for the telling of story. The two need not be mutually contradictory, as centuries of writings prior to the present day show. Moreover, one breath of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Flannery O'Connor would show that vibrancy of prose had survived the transition to the 20th century.

Prose need not be dull, wooden, gray, or emotionless to tell a story. I'm afraid some of our very best story-tellers have not yet happened on to this fact.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

Combating Inequality Joshua at

Combating Inequality

Joshua at Little Latin, Less Greek asks the following cogent question:

To what extent is it the Church’s responsibility to combat inequality? How much of this part of fallen nature should we accept? Responses—I don’t expect answers or solutions necessarily—welcome in comment box below or by e-mail.

To which I reply: "What for of 'inequality' do we refer to?" Human beings are simply not equal in all aspects of their lives and to pretend otherwise is to cultivate a deliberate ignorance in the name of a certain brand of political correctness. All human beings are equal in dignity before the eyes of God and therefore ultimately "equal," and deserving of exactly the same treatment accorded to anyone else. However, an artist is not a scientist, is not an editor, is not a home-maker, is not a (professional) thief (most of the time), etc. etc.

It is the Church's responsibility and mission to speak out loudly and boldly regarding the innate dignity of each person. Because each person is an image of Christ to do otherwise is to compromise the mission of bringing the message of Jesus to the world. The Church, and the members thereof, is required by faithfulness to its mission to constantly alert the world to the dignity and oppression of the poor, to the value and importance of respecting life, to the sins of bigotry and discrimination, and to speak out against all crimes against humanity.

The Church has the right and responsibility to expect that every person would receive a wage sufficient to support him- or herself and all dependents. What the Church should not (and to the best of my knowledge does not) do is demand that all such compensations be exactly equal. Nor does she (nor should she) claim that all trades, employments, careers, jobs, and avocations are exactly equal. Very rightly, she considers the calling to a religious life a special and highly exalted calling from God himself to an individual. She deplores occupations that cause or inculcate or accede to oppression or destruction of individual liberties or lives (that is, she isn't keen on slave overlords, pimps, murderers, thieves, and other sundry avocations). She does not say that all talents are equally worthwhile (nor did Jesus, for that matter.)

The Church is one of the main voices for equality in all things that really matter--the innate dignity of a human being and the essentially equality of all people as images of Jesus Christ. She should not be a voice for equality in incommensurable qualities, nor for equality in defiance of reason. While she would maintain that all people have a right to and education, I do not believe that she would go further to say that all can or should obtain doctorates. These are qualities and talents that contribute to the remarkable diversity of the world, but they are not essential to every person, nor do they alter the intrinsic worth of the person.

Another example, while the Church might maintain that all people are entitle to liberty and respect; she would not go so far as to insist that multiple murderers or those who menace society in overt ways should be allowed to roam free.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

Sources of The Sadness of

Sources of The Sadness of Christ

The Sadness of Christ is the title of the last book written by St. Thomas More as he awaited execution in the tower. One of the central theses he proposes in the book is that we have a choice of how we follow Christ. We can either choose to be like the apostles who fell asleep or like Judas who stayed awake and plotted. He encourages us to be like the former, only to stay awake as well. One of the points he makes is that we do not spend out time well. We are not only idle and lazy, but often we are downright vicious.

from The Sadness of Christ St. Thomas More

Alas, how different we are from Christ, though we call ourselves Christians: our conversation during meals is not only meaningless and inconsequential (and even for such negligence Christ warned us that we will have to render an accounting), but often our table-talk is also vicious; and then finally, when we are bloated with food and drink, we leave the table without giving thanks to God for the banquets He has bestowed upon us, with never a thought for the gratitude we owe Him. (p. 1)

Certainly More is talking about our ordinary eating, but how much more so might he be referring to how unworthily we receive the Eucharist? How many sit in the pews, minds wandering all over the place, while our Lord is unveiled on the altar? How many think to give thanks and praise after receiving the Eucharist. I'm sure all the regular readers of this page do so; however, you all know people who probably do not. What is to be done? Pray.

Prayer is the answer to all ills, but most especially for this one. Pray that the Church gets back on track and forcefully teaches and acts out its belief that the consecrated elements are indeed the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Ask God to reveal Himself to any who seem to show no respect for what has just gone before. Above all, remember to thank and give holy supplication to the Lord who has deigned to be with us in such an intimate and personal way.

The Eucharist is the great banquet to which we are all invited. None of us is worthy, but it is perhaps better not to make a show of our unworthiness.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2002

Mary's Place in the Church,

Mary's Place in the Church, Mary's Place in Our Hearts

Sean at Swimming the Tiber, is having a couple of qualms about devotion to our Lady.

My feelings about Marian devotion are usually somewhere between uneasy acceptance and vague discomfort. I have come to believe in, and am genuinely excited by, the communion of saints. And, if I feel perfectly comfortable asking a saint for intercession on an issue, you wouldn't think I would have any problem asking Mary. Yet the whole thing completely 'weirds me out'. I have a Rosary, but I usually can't get more than one 'decade' into it before I give up out of a sense of foolishness or futility. Sometimes both.

Here is my response to the difficulties he expresses (with the advantage of having been proofread so that it actually makes sense):

I sometimes wonder if the Blessed Mother isn't everyone's favorite obstacle. And in fact, it isn't usually the blessed mother herself, but the occasionally misplaced devotion that would have you believe that some in the Church think that Mary is the Author of our Salvation.

I started where you are, or perhaps a good deal further back. (I was Southern Baptist to the core, except by the precepts of my own faith I had no choice but to become Catholic, as no one else interpreted John 6 properly. Why was everything else taken literally, and then suddenly when you get to this one chapter it was figurative language?) Anyway, I started with absolute zero devotion to Mary. I saw rosaries as one step away from voodoo dolls. But despite myself, I said to God, "Where you go, I will follow." I asked Him to change my heart and to show me what was proper and true with respect to devotion to Mary.

God responded gently, as He always does. It took probably ten or fifteen years, but now I am a member of the Carmelite Order whose patron is (you guessed it) Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I still have problems with some of the overstatements and exaggerations that occasionally surround the Blessed Virgin. But then I think about my own earthly mother and the things I am inclined to say about her and some of my irritability and uncertainty passes.

Don't sweat this. Simply be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and God will lead you where you need to go. Saying a Rosary is not necessary for salvation (although you may eventually discover that it really helps to make you aware of that precious-bought gift). Devotion to Mary is not a requirement, it is a wonderful present. If you're not ready to open it at this moment, leave it in God's hands--He'll lead you where you need to go, and He is trustworthy.

All of that said, I must say that having a heart for Mary is one of the greatest gifts God can give you.

Marian devotions are a treasury of rich meditative resources that always draw us closer to God. Mary always points to her son Jesus. Look at all the great Icons of Mary and you'll see that she is rarely, if ever, without Jesus. Sometimes she is comforting Him, sometimes proudly pointing Him out, but it is almost as though she is in the picture frame reluctantly--"Not me, Him."

Devotion to the Blessed Mother can only bring us closer to Jesus, and respect for the Blessed Mother can only endear us to Jesus. How many among us, if someone were to tell us what a great person our mother is, wouldn't feel some elevated approval or liking for that individual? So, too, with Jesus, particularly as she was one of His dying gifts to us from the Cross. He gave us His mother to care for us, pray for us, console us, and cry over us in the same way she did for Him.

Having a heart for Mary does not mean loving Jesus less, if anything, it means loving Him more. Because we are more integrated into His family, we grow into being inseparable from Him and His Blessed Mother.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

St. Thérèse on Prayer

St. Thérèse on Prayer

From Story of a Soul reprinted in the "Magnificat" as the meditation for the day.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux--Story of a Soul

How great is the power of prayer. One could call it a queen who has at each instant free access to the king who is able to obtain whatever she asks. To be heard it is not necessary to read from a book some beautiful formula composed for the occasion. If this were the case, alas, I would have to be pitied! Outside the Divine Office which I am unworthy to recite, I do not have the courage to force myself to search out beautiful prayers in books. There are so many of the them it really gives me a headache! and each prayer is more beautiful that the others. I cannot recite them all and not knowing which to choose, I do like children who do not know how to read, I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and he always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.

Ultimately prayer is not about petitions, although certainly those are good prayers, it is about being with God. It is "an aspiration of the heart." Such an aspiration is usually wordless--a glance directed heavenward has no syllables; you cannot say how you feel when you feel in love except to note that it is love.There are no words to describe the true changes, the turns the heart makes, when one loves. An aspiration of the heart is flung, wordless to heaven, and received there by the most receptive of Lovers, the kindest of Kings, who recognizing the value and importance of each of these gaudy baubles deigns to answer them with Love incarnate--Jesus Christ, sufficient for all needs.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

The Moral Lessons of Baby Jane

Sometimes cinema gets it right--more often in the past than in the present. I was writing this morning and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? happened to be the television. Whatever you may think of the movie, it is a powerful demonstration, in miniature, of what happens when we are determined to have our own way in things.

Every major character in this movie is manipulative. They push and attempt to control each other. Baby Jane has complete control over her sister Blanche who has manipulated the accident that confined her in a wheel chair--an attempt gone wrong to murder or injure Baby Jane, whose youthful success destroyed Blanche's childhood. Disagreement builds on disagreement, resentment on resentment. "Build on" is the wrong verb. "Erodes the foundation" is probably better.

The entire house of humanity is built on such sand--bitterness, resentment, revenge. We hold petty grudges and we allow them to simmer long enough to become obsessions and hallmarks of our lives. If we drop our masks of civility for a moment, we could not look in the mirror for the horrors we are.

Jesus Christ is the one way to root out these evils. There is no other way. We have the choice of lives that devolve into progressively more vile schemes of vengence and "getting mine back," or ascending with Jesus Christ as our help and mainstay. Most of us choose a path that alternates between these two strains--but how much better off we would be if we could clear our eyes and minds for just a moment and see where the one path leads. How much better if we would sense our own frustrations, aggravations, hurts, and pains, and give them over to our yoke-mate, the great Burden-bearer. Jesus died so that we would not have to carry these weights and so that others would not have to suffer because we were crushed to the ground under them. Wouldn't it be best if we would let Him do what He came to do, so that we would be free to be human?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

Other Important Trifles

Other Important Trifles

In case you couldn't tell by now I truly love books, literature, poetry, prose, reading. As a child I was the one who read the cereal boxes and whatever else didn't move fast enough. Thus, this prayer:

Bibliomaniac's Prayer
Eugene Field

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day,--
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They 'll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.

Okay, not great poetry--but, certainly apropos. Oh, and the Lowndes, referred to in the last line in a famous bibliographer just prior to Field's time. Eugene Field is most famous for a couple of pieces of poetry often associated with children: "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod," and "Little Boy Blue," both unabashedly sentimental--the popular poetry of a prior era.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

The Journal of John Woolman

Among the great classics of religious literature is this remarkable, slim volume. Written by a prerevolutionary Quaker, it is the story of a man who felt drawn to give up nearly all of his material goods in order to follow God. It is also a kind of window into a discussion that was very prominent in the founding of our republic--the evils of slavery. This excerpt comes from the record of a journey undertaken in 1746.

Excerpt from Woolman's Journal Two things were remarkable to me in this journey: first, in regard to my entertainment. When I ate, drank, and lodged free-cost with people who lived in ease on the hard labour of their slaves, I felt uneasy; and as my mind was inward to the Lord, I found this uneasiness return upon me, at times, through the whole visit. Where the masters bore a good share of the burden, and lived frugally, so that their servants were well provided for, and their labour moderate, I felt more easy; but where they lived in a costly way, and laid heavy burdens on their slaves, my exercise was often great, and I frequently had conversation with them in private concerning it. Secondly, this trade of importing slaves from their native country being much encouraged amongst them, and the white people and their children so generally living without much labour, was frequently the subject of my serious thoughts. I saw in these southern provinces so many vices and corruptions, increased by this trade and this way of life, that it appeared to me as a dark gloominess hanging over the land; and though now many willingly run into it, yet in future the consequence will be grievous to posterity. I express it as it hath appeared to me, not once nor twice, but as a matter fixed on my mind.

Joseph Ellis, in Founding Brothers, chronicles further evidence of this underlying opposition. The chapter entitled "The Silence" talks about a very early move toward abolition, proposed, once again by Quakers, in the 1790s.

True humility, true Christianity, means an uncompromising grappling with the present and obvious evils of this world. It means a deep self-knowledge that helps to understand that the evils we see around us are often exacerbated by our own actions. It also means taking definitive action, no matter how small, to help right some of these wrongs.

But true Christianity stems from a relationship with God. Such a relationship starts in prayer, continues in prayer, grows in prayer, and ultimately ends in prayer. And prayer itself grows, it grows from an endless listing of our needs and wants, into a meditative, voiceless prayer, and finally into a prayer of waiting on the Lord.

Too often, we do not pursue this track of growth. Too often, the riches of prayer are left unexplored. Too often our sense of God is confined to a place or event. Too often we deprive ourselves of the sense that God is everywhere and in everything. Too often, it seems, we are afraid to grow. We need to find our security and stability by holding onto the goods of this world. In so doing we limit our progress in prayer. St. Ignatius said (I paraphrase) that we should use the goods of this world insofar as they move us toward God. Once such goods begin to inhibit our progress, we need to cast them off.

John Woolman is an example of a non-Catholic Christian who followed this ancient, well-established path to closeness with God. If more of us did the same here and now we could change the world in prayer. We could serve as beautiful beacons of light and true receptacles of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is God's perfect gift of communication. He is always listening, always ready to hear from His children. He is always eager to hear from us and to send us many gifts of His love.

As the saints are our models in living, they are also our models in prayer. When we imitate their exterior actions without interior preparation, we may do good works, but we do not do perfect works. And perfect works are what God is after. Our growth in perfection is the life of the world in God. It is our contribution to making the kingdom of heaven present on Earth. This closeness to God is a gift open to all of God's people here on Earth. Not all achieve it in the same way or to the same degree; but, it is in achieving it that we in some small way fulfill Christ's commission to us to go and spread the gospel to all the world. The only way to spread the gospel is in Union with God and in perfect love for all the people around us. God doesn't expect perfection overnight, but He does expect that we would work toward this perfection. As an ardent Lover, God expects that we would delight in returning the myriad gentle signs of His love.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)