August 31, 2002

Now This Is Interesting

Now This Is Interesting

Mr. Betts at Just Your Average Catholic Guy has brought our attention to this article on a little known, little cared for word, which may have vanished from most translations of the psalms since the AV, or at least the early RSV. Selah. Interesting and intriguing stuff. Thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

Ammunition Against the Doubters I

Ammunition Against the Doubters
I love to pull things like this out against those who have received the wisdom of the world. Like the famous passage from Aquinas after Aristotle that proves without doubt that medieval scholars (hence those of the Renaissance and beyond) believed the world to be a sphere, this middle English poem announces the Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin. It is not a renaissance invention, nor is it an addition after the fact. This was doctrine as far back as the date of composition of the poem.

from "Poems in Celebration of Mary"

All haile, lady, mother, and virgyn immaculate;
Haile, Mary, most precious that bare our savyour Jesu;
Haile, clarified cristall, haile, wife mundificate;
Haile, rote of grace, our joy thow did renewe,
For the Holy Gost did clerely in the yssue.
Our soles for lacke had ells perresshed sore
Nere throgh the helpe of our highe redemptour. (Without the help)

All haile, whose solempne glorious concepcioun
Full of glorie and hye joye tryumphaunte:
Bothe celestyall and terrestriall gif laude with Jubilacioun
Of new joy and gladnesse with solace incessaunte.
Alhaile, whose nativité to us is solempnysaunte (festival)
Ferens lucem ut Lucyfer, lux oriens,
Dyademe angelicall, verum solem preveniens.

Alhaile be thy mekenes, sine viro fecunditas
Whose amyable Annunciacioun to us was redempcion.
Joye therfore be to thee, tu summa suavitas,
And glorified be the houre of thy incarnacioun,
By whome we advoyde the infernall dampnacioun.
So dulcour was the ground in whom Crist hym planted
O mater most illuminate, we myght not the have wanted. (we might not have done without you)

Haile, true chast virgyn and mother immaculate,
Whose pure purificacion to us was purgacion:
Haile, replete with all virtue angelicate,
Whose celestiall hye ascendaunte Assumpcion
Was oure gret joye and glorificacion.
Wherfore, dere lady, solistrice be for grace, (solicitress)
That we with thy son in heyven may have a place.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

Some Van Zeller True to

Some Van Zeller
True to his promise the prolific (ever notice how that word, broken into syllables is Pro Lif ic--probably from the icelandic or Anglo Saxon for Prolife) Mr. Dylan at Error 503 has blogged us some delicious excerpts from one of the books by Dom Hubert van Zeller. Go and read and enjoy.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

What an Archbishop! The newly

What an Archbishop!
The newly installed Archbishop of Milwaukee, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, has this to say to us: (via the delightsome blog of Karen Marie Knapp). Please go to Ms. Knapp's blog to find the link to the rest.

Excerpt of the Installation Homily
Archbishop Timothy Dolan

. . .No wonder the first public words out of me this joyful afternoon were, "Glory to God in the highest!"

The second thing you heard me say as your new Archbishop was: "Let us pray." Packed-words those are, as they can only flow from a heart filled with faith. So, we renew our profound hope in God's care, His call, His loving providence, our conviction that, without Him nothing is possible, that, with Him, nothing is impossible, that He is with us all days, even to the end of the world, that He never calls us to a task without providing us the grace to accomplish it. Faith! I propose to you that this Eucharist, as every other one, and that this installation liturgy is in fact an adventure in fidelity, and I invite you to embark on that exciting adventure with me. This adventure in fidelity offers us two towering challenges:

The first is: "Be not afraid!" We have a God who repeats Himself, and over and over again in His Holy Word, throughout the sacred saga of our salvation, He tells us: "Be not afraid!"

"Abraham, be the father of a great nation!"
"Lord, you've got the wrong guy!"
"Be not afraid, Abraham, I am with you!"

"Moses, lead my people into freedom!"
"Not I, Lord! I don't know what to say!"
"Be not afraid, Moses! I am with you!"

In today's first reading, remember?
"Jeremiah, renew my people!"
"Lord, I do not know how to speak. I am a child!"
"Do not be afraid, Jeremiah, I am with you!"

And then the most pivotal moment of all:
"Mary, you are to be the Mother of the Most High."
"Mary was deeply disturbed at these words . . ."
"Do not be afraid, Mary, the Most High will overshadow you!"

"The apostles shouted out in fright. 'It is a ghost!'"
"Courage, it is I," said Jesus. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust!"

And now –– may I be so bold –– He repeats it again:
"Timothy, I call you to be Archbishop of Milwaukee!"
"Oh, Lord, not I! I'm too young! I'm a Cardinal fan! I prefer Bud to Miller!
I don't know how to drive in the snow! . . ."
"Do not be afraid, Timothy! I am with you!"

And to you –– you're not off the hook either, for the Lord says:

"My people of my Church in southeastern Wisconsin, unite in hope with your new shepherd and embark on an adventure in fidelity!"
"Oh, no, Lord, not us! Haven't you heard? Haven't you watched the news and read the papers! We're in crisis! We've lost trust! We're demoralized! We're scandalized! We're cowering in the corner!"

"Be not afraid, People of God of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I am with you," repeats the Lord.

And there's the first charge on our adventure in fidelity: "Fear is useless! What is needed is trust!"

The second exhilarating challenge which our adventure in fidelity presents us is again from Jesus: "Cast out to the deep!" St. Augustine, on whose feast we gather, interprets this mandate of Jesus to "cast out to the deep!" as a call to profound union with Him through holiness of life, and that's my second summons to you.

My only reaction is, as glad I was not to be in the diocese when the Unfortunate Archbishop Weakland was there, it looks like I'm really missing out now. I have a feeling that like Archbishop Charles Chaput and Archbishop Fabian Bruskewitz, we are likely to hear and share a lot from the charismatic Archbishop. And for that among a great many other things, I say with him, "Glory to God in the highest."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

From the Apostolic Exhortation--Familiaris

From the Apostolic Exhortation--Familiaris Consortio

What would the day be if I allowed it to pass without a word from our dear Pope John Paul II--one of the great and profound thinkers of our age and one of the great teachers of any age.

from Familiaris Consortio His Holiness Pope John Paul II Man, the Image of the God Who Is Love

11. God created man in His own image and likeness(20): calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love.

God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.

Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is, in its own proper form, an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being "created in the image of God."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

A Celebratory Occasion This weekend,

A Celebratory Occasion
This weekend, tomorrow to be precise, your blogmaster has an occasion to celebrate. The nature of that occasion, I shall hint at with my posts. Well, hint is probably too subtle a word, I shall, then, bludgeon you with "until it be morrow." Your first clue--this charming excerpt from Edmund Spenser.

from "Epithalamion" Edmund Spenser WAKE now my loue, awake; for it is time, The Rosy Morne long since left Tithones bed, All ready to her siluer coche to clyme, And Phoebus gins to shew his glorious hed. Hark how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies And carroll of loues praise. The merry Larke hir mattins sings aloft, The thrush replyes, the Mauis descant playes, The Ouzell shrills, the Ruddock warbles soft, So goodly all agree with sweet consent, To this dayes meriment. Ah my deere loue why doe ye sleepe thus long, When meeter were that ye should now awake, T'awayt the comming of your ioyous make, And hearken to the birds louelearned song, The deawy leaues among. For they of ioy and pleasance to you sing. That all the woods them answer & theyr eccho ring.

My loue is now awake out of her dreame[s],
and her fayre eyes like stars that dimmed were
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beams
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere.
Come now ye damzels, daughters of delight,
Helpe quickly her to dight,
But first come ye fayre houres which were begot
In Ioues sweet paradice, of Day and Night,
Which doe the seasons of the yeare allot,
And al that euer in this world is fayre
Doe make and still repayre.
And ye three handmayds of the Cyprian Queene,
The which doe still adorne her beauties pride,
Helpe to addorne my beautifullest bride
And as ye her array, still throw betweene
Some graces to be seene,
And as ye vse to Venus, to her sing,
The whiles the woods shal answer & your eccho ring.

Now, in addition to giving a hint of the occasion, this poem should teach two things--the value of the apostrophe for showing possessives, and our great debt to Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster--noted lexicographers and orthographers.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2002

For those on the Trail

For those on the Trail of N.O.
For those interested there is a clue on this page (perhaps deliberately misleading) to the identity of N.O. I noted it at the time, but did not realize that so many were interested. So please feel free to look about. Hint, I am not Nihil Obstat. I have enough trouble monitoring my own grammatical and orthographical anomalies to spare time for anyone else's. Enjoy the hunt. The clue may provide the discerning reader with interesting material for inference--although it may not be true, who can know?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

Another Wonderful Prayer Mr.

Another Wonderful Prayer
Mr. Mooney at Xavier+ ( a blogsite that seems not to play well with the internet due to its title) has posted a wonderful prayer by Father Vincent McNabb. Go and see it. If you can't get there, I will (assuming Mr. Mooney's kind consent) copy it here--but hopefully all lines are open.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

In Our Continuing Series--The

In Our Continuing Series--The Wisdom of Fear

Another excerpt from the Holy Father in which he talks about "the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom." Read the full text here.

from Crossing the Threshhold of Hope "Be Not Afraid" His Holiness John Paul II The Holy Scriptures contain an insistent exhortation to cultivate the fear of God. We are speaking here of that fear which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, indicated in the words of Isaiah (cf. Is 11:2), fear of God is listed last, but that does not mean it is the least significant, since it is precisely fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom. And among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom holds first place. Therefore, we need to pray that people everywhere and especially people in our own time will receive the fear of God.

From the Holy Scriptures we also know that this fear-the origin of wisdom-has nothing in common with the fear of a slave. It is filial fear, not servile fear! The Hegelian paradigm of master-slave is foreign to the Gospel. It is a paradigm drawn from a world in which God is absent. In a world in which God is truly present, in the world of divine wisdom, only filial fear can be present.

The authentic and full expression of this fear is Christ Himself. Christ wants us to have fear of all that is an offense against God. He wants this because He has come into the world in order to set man free for freedom. Man is set free through love, because love is the source par excellence of all that is good. This love, according to the words of Saint John, drives out all fear (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). Every sign of servile fear vanishes before the awesome power of the All-powerful and all-present One. Its place is taken by filial concern, in order that God's will be done on earth-that will which is the good that has in Him its origin and its ultimate fulfillment.

"Every sign of servile fear vanishes" and "its place is taken by filial concern." For some reason I find this unbelievably lovely. There is a profound beauty in a child growing from seeing Dad as disciplinarian to seeing Dad as a loving and concerned member of the family group. We experience this transition as we grow in prayer. We may start our religious lives with a healthy fear of Hell, but a mature faith is driven by the desire to please Abba (Papa, but not the Pope). We are still children, but our faith can grow from fear or indifference to a dynamic, passionate love wherein all is for Christ. This is a goal of prayer and a good prayer life and it should be the goal of each person who strives to increase the capacity of faith. Fall in back into filial love with your Father. Spend time with Him, let Him teach you through the example of His Son and the leadings of His Holy Spirit. Isn't this truly "The Beginning of Wisdom?"

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

The Busy Little Bees of

The Busy Little Bees of Blogdom

My, my, Dylan's been a busy little blogger this morning. An exceptional poem by a person whose eccentricities made of her a poem. I honestly have found Dame Sitwell far more interesting than the vast majority of her oeuvre--but this poem is incredible. And Dylan is adept at pulling gems from places where I though offal only dwelt.

Once again I've been shown to have peremptory in my judgments, and it looks like I've found another place to go back and hunt for other gems. (I love this--it's incredible to realize that there are things right under your nose that you've overlooked for a long time.) Next I suppose he'll manage to pull something redeemable for the works of Sara Teasdale. He really is a marvel!

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

August 29, 2002

Visit Defensor Fidei Now my

Visit Defensor Fidei

Now my grousing over, my argument done, I sink to exhaustion. Mr. Akin, blissfully unaware of the virtual drubbing that may have occurred, will blog again, and I promise no more excoriations. But, I hope that everyone has gone over there to say hello and to welcome him to St. Blog's. I'm delighted that he has finally put together a blog. I'll put a link up shortly and I'll be visiting frequently--even if we do differ on what makes fine prose! His own is fine enough for me.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

My Comment Box is

My Comment Box is Getting Full

Tom maintains below that one form of writing in a simple sentence is better than another. I would contend that they serve different purposes. I will point out that the writer considered one of the Masters of American Prose, and writer of (I believe ) 4 of the top 100 novels of the century (according to the Random House List) violated these rules right and left. The following is an excerpt from what is considered his very finest work The Golden Bowl.

from The Golden Bowl Henry James

He handled it with tenderness, with ceremony, making a place for it on a small satin mat. "My Golden Bowl," he observed—and it sounded on his lips as if it said everything. He left the important object—for as "important" it did somehow present itself—to produce its certain effect. Simple but singularly elegant, it stood on a circular foot, a short pedestal with a slightly spreading base, and, though not of signal depth, justified its title by the charm of its shape as well as by the tone of its surface. It might have been a large goblet diminished, to the enhancement of its happy curve, by half its original height.

Now, you may choose to say that you do not care for this type of prose. But to imply that it would somehow be better to say

He handled it, making a place on the mat for it. He left the object to produce an effect. By its shape it was a bowl. It might have been a goblet diminished by half its original height.

is better writing is simply to miss the point of the prose. This is my central contention. We follow rules promulgated by the followers and admirers of Hemingway that are not always successful, true, or useful. I think one would be hard pressed to prove, by empirical proofs, rather than mere assertion that, "She spread the quilt, smoothing out all the wrinkles," is better always and in every context than , "She lovingly spread the quilt."

That is the sum of the argument. Writing is both a craft and an art. The rules of writing as art often undo those of writing as craft. I prefer writing as art when I have a choice. I'd rather read one sentence of a work by James than an entire Hemingway novel. (And it is likely that properly done, they would take about equal amounts of time).

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

One More Quibble Returning

One More Quibble

Returning to Mr. Akin--

For example, you don’t need to say “God is a good Father and so he lovingly provides for his children.” It is stronger to say “God is a Father and provides for his children” (note that we also got rid of “so he” in addition to “good”; this also makes it stronger writing)
Mostly agreed on all points. For most purposes, his second sentence is a better one. Disagreement, the first sentence does not require the "and so" conjunction. "God is a good Father who provides for His children" is an acceptable formulation, or even, "God is a good Father and provides for His children."
You don’t need to allude to the fact that bad fathers may not lovingly provide for their children. You don’t need to point out that God is good. Your reader can be expected to know that God is good at whatever he does, so if he is a Father, he will be a good one. The modifier “good” is unnecessary and weakens the writing.

I could not possibly disagree more, and this is the crux of the issue. Your assumption depends on the audience you project. If you are speaking to those who hurt deeply and who believe that their hurt is a result of God's actions or inactions, you may not convince with "Good" father, but I would flatly reject the statement that you don't need to point it out. You need to do so again and again, in so many words with as much evidence as you can muster. One thing one learns early on in any business is that labeling is everything. In today's society (and perhaps through all time) Father can come with a load of connotations, good, bad, and indifferent. The modifier MAY be needed depending on your audience. That is probably the center of my disagreement. All of these rubrics, rules, notions, and ideas must take into account the effect you are attempting to achieve AND the audience for whom the piece is being written.

In general, I believe Mr. Akin's rule holds for much expository prose. I believe that it often fails in the realms of narrative and descriptive prose. Different modes require different rules and different structural supports.

Okay, on and on, but this is a subject that I dearly love and an art I care about intensely. Too much damage is done with sweeping rules that do not take into account audience and purpose. We need to be more cautious about what we make general rules. Yes, generally overuse of modifiers should be avoided. On the other hand, properly breaking the rule can give rise to some surprising and interesting writing.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

A Welcoming Salvo to

A Welcoming Salvo to Mr. Akin
I hate to get on Mr. Akin's case so soon after he has joined our little community; after all, I truly appreciate the hard work and research that goes into his apologetics site and I like what he writes. However, he has chosen to spread one of the most poisonous false truisms in the literary world. A truism that has led to an explosion of hemingwayesque pap and cardboard prose indigestible to anyone with even a modicum of taste and education. In one recent entry on his blog, he trots out this little bit of advice for would-be writers:

One of the most common faults of beginning writers is the overuse of modifiers (adjectives, adverbs). You must resist this tendency. Overmodification of your nouns and verbs weakens the force of your writing. Beginning writers frequently add modifiers thinking that these will make their text more vivid and powerful, but they don’t. Consider these two sentences:

(1) The beautiful Francesca lovingly spread a treasured quilt on the green grass beneath the stately oak.

(2) Francesca spread a quilt on the grass beneath the oak.

The second is better writing. In the first, each noun and verb has been modified in a vain attempt to make the text more vivid.

This is the delivered truth from years of teachers whose sensibilities and refinements have been dulled by poring over the received texts--For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms. The second sentence IS NOT better than the first, it is simply bad in another way. It is flat, dull, lifeless, and nonindicative of character. The truth is somewhere between these two extremes. For example, one might normally pick a stronger or different verb, but what is wrong with the sentence

Francesca lovingly spread a quilt in the shade of the oak.

(Why do you need "on the grass" where else would she have spread it? On the air beneath? In the bramble and brush--one would assume that the blanket is being spread on a generally flat, vermin-free area.) One word speaks a world about Francesca, the quilt, and what she hopes this quilt may be scene for. It galvanizes an otherwise very flat narrative and enlivens what would likely be one sentence in an endless line of dull sentences.

She opened the picnic basket. She took out plates. She set them on the blanket. She closed the basket. She opened a bag. She pulled out a bottle. She closed the bag. She put the bottle on the quilt. She waited. She saw a figure. Giorgio approached. He sat down. She opened the basket. She took out the food.

This is not strength--it is simply a string of declarative sentences without impact, without panache, without style, and, ultimately without interest. Very few write this way, and no one should.

In addition the advice which follows, "Your writing will be much stronger if you avoid unnecessary modifiers," is again received wisdom that is, at its base, nonsensical. By definition ALL modifiers are unnecessary. You need not modify anything with something more than "this" or "that" in order to talk about it. We need to learn, "Your writing will be much stronger if you learn to use modifiers as they are needed to add detail to what you are writing." This is where the truth is. Moreover, all of these rules differ depending upon desired effect and audience--one accustomed to the leisurely jaunts of a Trollope, Dickens, or James, might be more amenable to reading prose with great descriptive capacity.

We need to weed out these imperatives that sap the strength from our writing. Remember to select strong verbs, vivid modifiers, and appropriate nouns. We need to place these in appropriate juxtapostions to make syntactical sense. Beyond that we need not pare down, strip off, or otherwise constrain our prose to fit the rules of those who think that they have some rubric for what constitutes effective writing. Effective writing is, at best, a subjective notion. You've seen from the interchanges between Dylan and this blogmaster, that things that are very effective and very moving to one of us may not inspire similar feelings in the other.

Sure, I think we all can buy that excess modification is detrimental both to meaning and to beauty. But to continue to preach this mode of writing is enormously detrimental to young people and new writers who need to find their own legs. Do yourself a favor, ignore the advice and read the fine prose of such writers as Mr. Akin, this will stand you in better stead than any number of checklists for journalistic/writing integrity.

My apologies for the raking over the coals Mr. Akin. You have, unknowingly, pressed one of those many buttons that results in the spewing of invective and much frothing at the mouth. I truly enjoy what I have read of your blog and your website and I think you are a very capable writer. However, having had to deal with the end result of teaching like that, and forcing people to open their prose up, I can assure you that the ultimate effect of these rules is to dissuade many capable writers from beginning because their prose is "too weak." Moreover it encourages blow-hards who write "tough, masculine prose" which in fact is merely a series of atrociously dull declaratives strung together to resemble a narrative.

Okay--so this is the closest I've to a harangue here. And you'll note it isn't on doctrinal matters. In fact, the only controversies you're likely to face here are artistic in nature. Hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into the differences of opinions that make up the writing world.

Oh, and welcome Mr. Akin, I truly look forward to enjoying your insights and apologetics.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

Meet and Greet Before

Meet and Greet Before Mass

This question has come up in many different places. Frankly, I have almost no opinion on this matter. If asked to do it, I would gladly do so. But I've wondered about some of the intense negative reaction this suggestion received. I do agree with many that one needs to preserve the integrity of a sacred rite. But I also think about Jesus's admonition that "If you have something against your brother, leave your offering, reconcile with your brother, and return to sacrifice." In a sense something like this can give us a moment of reconciling with our neighbor. I won't stir the pot. This is an issue that seems to stimulate deep feelings. But I will present a cogent thought on the matter from a relatively new blogger, Mr. Lugardo at Rosa Mystica.

What I would like to ask many of you is how do you reconcile your utter disgust with having to descend from the Mount of the Transfiguration for the apparently wretched duty of having to acknowledge your fellow Christian with whom you are about to enter into the deepest communion of Christ's flesh in the Eucharist, with St. Justin's assertion in his description of the liturgy in the year 155 (no, I did not leave out a digit there, we're talking about the second century) that the Christians, when gathered to worship, exchanged a kiss?

This is a profound moment when we are about to receive the blessed Sacrament. It makes sense to take a moment to wish peace to our neighbors at this time. And an appropriate way to outwardly (remember, we Catholics are all about physical expression of spiritual realities) demonstrate peace to a stranger is through a handshake, and a more intimate sign may be appropriate for those with whom we may be more intimately acquainted or more closely related. Mind you, I'm not talking about laughing and joking, and as I've stated elsewhere, having a great big "love-in". I mean taking a moment, in the Presence of the Lord, to acknowledge and share a loving sign of peace with our neighbor.

I think this succinctly spells out my thoughts. I have no objection when the Pastor asks me to do so, just as most of us have no problem sharing some "sign of peace." Yes, it can be abused. Yes, it can lead to nonsense. But it seems that one of the problems Catholics have when viewed from outside is that we so strongly value the sacred we appear not to value the individual. Go to almost any protestant Church and you will be made warmly welcome--in most cases embarrassingly so. Never, in any Catholic Church I have visited, have I felt that I was anything more than another person to be dealt with, however politely. I have never had anyone greet me in a parish not my own, no one talk to me or welcome me. Perhaps I've just chosen bum churches, but I've been to literally hundreds and with the exception of the Old Cathedral in San Antonio (at what I refer to, and not condescendingly nor contemptuously, but lovingly, as the Mariachi Mass) has anyone gone out of their way to do more than thrust a bulletin at me. Catholics, in general, do less to make one welcome than any other Christian religious group I've met with. (And I've met with a few, let me tell you!)

So my point is not necessarily to support this gesture before Mass, but that the reaction I see to the suggestion of it seems to delineate a place where Catholics could use some improvement. I love the Catholic Church and I love the people of the Catholic Church, but I think that every Catholic should attend an Evangelical Easter Sunrise Service or a standard service in nearly any mainline protestant Church. It gives one a substantially different notion of what community is about.

Ask yourself a pointed question and answer as truthfully as you can--if you were new to an area and you experienced a horrible disaster, would you rather count of the "community" of most Catholic Churches or your local Amish or Mennonite community for help? In your answer you will find the key to what community is really about, and why it so rarely surfaces in many Catholic Churches.

I agree with everyone about preserving the sacredness of Mass. But sacredness does not require isolation. In fact, if we are all members of the Body of Christ, sacredness requires incorporation--literally. So the exchange of a greeting and the acknowledgement of the existence of other people outside the circle of your family is probably not a terrible intrusion, if done appropriately. Again, all things must be done properly and in their place.

I realize what I've said is likely to be controversial, and I also understand that there are very good Catholic communities and individuals within the communities. But I would also like to say that personal experiences suggest that we could all do with improvement. (That all includes me, as I rarely take the effort to do any of the things I've outlined here. I'm as guilty or more so than anyone else). I mean no offense, and I would be delighted to hear that my impressions are largely incorrect, so please write and tell me.

One last note--it has also been my experience that my welcome in largely hispanic communities has been much warmer and much more gracious than in largely anglo communities. Perhaps part of what I'm indicting is that famous "American Individualism" that leads us each to forge our own way to salvation. Perhaps not. Again, my report is anecdotal, so I await other comments.

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

"Be Not Afraid" An excerpt

"Be Not Afraid"
An excerpt from the chapter of that title in Crossing the Threshold of Hope available online here.

from Crossing the Threshold of Hope "Be Not Afraid" John Paul II At the end of the second millennium, we need, perhaps more than ever, the words of the Risen Christ: "Be not afraid!" Man who, even after the fall of Communism, has not stopped being afraid and who truly has many reasons for feeling this way, needs to hear these words. Nations need to hear them, especially those nations that have been reborn after the fall of the Communist empire, as well as those that witnessed this event from the outside. Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world; Someone who holds the keys to death and the netherworld (cf. Rev 1:18); Someone who is the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev 22:13)-be it the individual or collective history. And this Someone is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16)-Love that became man, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present among men. It is Eucharistic Love. It is the infinite source of communion. He alone can give the ultimate assurance when He says "Be not afraid!"
Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

A New (Old) Version

A New (Old) Version of the Psalms

Below is one of my favorite Psalms as either translated or reinterpreted by a poet of the 16th century. What is so unusual is that the poet is Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. One is not often able to hear female voices speaking from such a time, so this is a relatively rare treat.

Psalm 139
Mary (Sidney) Herbert,
Countess of Pembroke

      O LORD, O Lord, in me there lieth nought
    But to thy search revealed lies,
            For when I sit
            Thou markest it;
    No less thou notest when I rise;
Yea, closest closet of my thought
    Hath open windows to thine eyes.
Thou walkest with me when I walk;
    When to my bed for rest I go,
            I find thee there,
            And everywhere:
    Not youngest thought in me doth grow,
No, not one word I cast to talk
    But yet unuttered thou dost know.
If forth I march, thou goest before,
    If back I turn, thou com'st behind:
            So forth nor back
            Thy guard I lack,
    Nay on me too, thy hand I find.
Well I thy wisdom may adore,
    But never reach with earthy mind.
To shun thy notice, leave thine eye,
    O whither might I take my way?
            To starry sphere?
            Thy throne is there.
    To dead men's undelightsome stay?
There is thy walk, and there to lie
    Unknown, in vain I should assay.
O sun, whom light nor flight can match,
    Suppose thy lightful flightful wings
            Thou lend to me,
            And I could flee
    As far as thee the evening brings:
Even led to west he would me catch,
    Nor should I lurk with western things.
Do thou thy best, O secret night,
    In sable veil to cover me:
            Thy sable veil
            Shall vainly fail;
    With day unmasked my night shall be,
For night is day, and darkness light,
    O father of all lights, to thee.
Each inmost piece in me is thine:
    While yet I in my mother dwelt,
            All that me clad
            From thee I had.
    Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine
    So inly them my thoughts have felt.
Thou, how my back was beam-wise laid,
    And raft'ring of my ribs, dost know;
            Know'st every point
            Of bone and joint,
    How to this whole these parts did grow,
In brave embroid'ry fair arrayed,
    Though wrought in shop both dark and low.
Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
    Thy all and more beholding eye
            My shapeless shape
            Could not escape:
    All these time framed successively
Ere one had being, in the book
    Of thy foresight enrolled did lie.
My God, how I these studies prize,
    That do thy hidden workings show!
            Whose sum is such
            No sum so much,
    Nay, summed as sand they sumless grow.
I lie to sleep, from sleep I rise,
    Yet still in thought with thee I go.
My God, if thou but one wouldst kill,
    Then straigh would leave my further chase
            This cursed brood
            Inured to blood,
    Whose graceless taunts at thy disgrace
Have aimed oft; and hating still
    Would with proud lies thy truth outface.
Hate not I them, who thee do hate?
    Thine, Lord, I will the censure be.
            Detest I not
            The cankered knot
    Whom I against thee banded see?
O Lord, thou know'st in highest rate
    I hate them all as foes to me.
Search me, my God, and prove my heart,
    Examine me, and try my thought;
            And mark in me
            If ought there be
    That hath with cause their anger wrought.
If not (as not) my life's each part,
    Lord, safely guide from danger brought.

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

Jan van Ruysbroeck I have

Jan van Ruysbroeck

I have heard this person variously referred to as "Blessed" and "Saint" so I do not know his present standing in the church; however, the Catholic Encyclopedia entry describes him as "the foremost of the Flemish mystics." That is certainly true, as I am uncertain that I have ever heard of any of the other "Flemish mystics." This excerpt is from The Sparkling Stone. It is available online at CCEL.

From The Sparkling Stone Jan van Ruysbroeck Chapter 1 THROUGH THREE THINGS A MAN BECOMES GOOD

HEAR now three things which constitute a good man. The first, which a good man must have, is a clean conscience without reproach of mortal sin. And therefore whosoever wishes to become a good man must examine and prove himself with due discernment, from that time onward when he could first have committed sin. And from all these sins he must purge himself, according to the precept and the custom of Holy Church.

The second thing which pertains to a good man is that he must in all things be obedient to God, and to Holy Church, and to his own proper convictions. And to each of these three he must be equally obedient: so shall he live without care and doubt, and shall ever abide without inward reproach in all his deeds.

The third thing which behoves every good man is that in all his deeds he should have in mind, above all else, the glory of God. And if it happens that by reason of his business or the multiplicity of his works, he has not always God before his eyes, yet at least there should be established in him the intention and desire to live according to the dearest will of God.

Behold, these three things, when they are possessed in this way, make a man good. And whosoever lacks any one of these three is neither good nor in the grace of God; but whenever a man resolves in his heart to fulfil these three points, how wicked soever he may have been before, in that very instant he becomes good, and is susceptible of God, and filled with the grace of God.

This puts me in mind of how very fortunate I am here. We have a local church designed to serve our large tourist base. This church boasts of having a priest available more than forty hours a week for confession. They announce this and encourage everyone to take advantage of it at every Sunday mass. The priests there have been magnificent confessors. They have been helpful in encouraging you to make a good confession, and they have been wise councilors about how to avoid the occasion of sin.

The Holy Father emphasizes over and over the importance of confession. I have seen some wording to the effect that there is a "crisis" in confession. This, I cannot understand. Why wouldn't you avail yourself of the strength and the grace that comes from this sacrament. I guess part of the reason is that many churches offer confession for an hour to a half-hour before the Saturday Vigil Mass, otherwise you need to make an appointment, and that is not always possible.

Part of the problem seems to be priests who think that everyone is basically okay and there isn't a lot of need for this morbid emphasis on confession. These people have their hearts in the right place, but I think they are hopelessly fuddled on the situation of the average person. Most of us are not "basically okay." Most of us are not necessarily in mortal sin, but we sure have enough venial sin piled up that the slide down to mortal wouldn't be all that difficult. Our vision of God is obscured through mirrored lenses that only allow us to see ourselves and our agenda. We are lost sheep, wandering around in a field of self-satisfaction, self-recrimination, and a generally poor attitude toward others. We are not only social conservatives, we are fiscal conservatives who have abandoned the Church's teaching on social justice and we toe the hard line in 2 Thessalonians, "If they do not work, they should not eat." We have all sorts of small waywardnesses that need to be constantly kept in check. The confessional provides for us a certain accountability. Knowing that I will be there each week is an encouragement to do better and not to do some of those things that I will have to confess. I know that this is not the best attitude; however, sometimes it is all that really keeps us from our falling into the vacuum of our self-centeredness.

So keep in mind the first of these three things--purgation from sin. As to the second, I find it most interesting the order in which van Ruysbroeck lists our necessary loyalty--God, Church, and conscience. We are required to form ourselves in this fashion. First is faithfulness to God, which is formed and informed by the teaching of the Church. We must be obedient to both of these first and foremost. When conscience and self comes into conflict with either of these, it is necessarily wrong and must be corrected. Being Americans we can argue ourselves into the "right" to almost anything. We have no rights save those granted by God alone, and such rights do not include self-determination--hard for an individualistic society to accept, but true nevertheless.

Note that the third guide is conscience. I read this to mean that conscience can place an additional group of things in mind, such as are neither strictly required nor forbidden by Church teachings. For example, so long as one holds to the Church teaching that there can be such a thing as a "just war," individual conscience may further dictate that any participation of the individual in war is not permitted. That is not to say that such an individual is then free to proselytize his particular conscience as Church teaching or as required by obedience to Jesus Christ. However, the person so convicted by conscience is required, upon pain of sin, to refrain from participation. And so on with less serious things and things not forbidden by the Church. For example, part of my conscience, formed by Baptist upbringing will not allow me to partake of any alcohol nor to give alcohol as a gift. I am not scandalized when others give or receive it, nor am I offended when someone unaware of my convictions generously gives me such a gift. However, other than in cooking, the use of alcohol is something I do not feel permitted. This is a hallmark of conscience--not the church, not God, but individual conviction. As such it is neither good nor bad, but it is an additional structure in my life. We all have them. The problem comes in when the dictates of conscience go against the teaching of the church. For example, if your conscience were to tell you that it is okay for people to have abortions if the child conceived is not wanted because every child deserves a loving home, your conscience would be monstrously malformed because of the secular agenda it has absorbed. Nearly every form of dissent is conscience in opposition to Church teaching and God.

A properly formed conscience cannot reasonably oppose either of these, and where it seems to, deep examination is required, because there are usually other factors of convenience hidden there. I note that the vast majority of these conflicts seem to center around the question of sex. It is a place where natural pulls work more persuasively to convince us that 2,000 years of teaching (more like 4-6,000 if you count Levitical Teaching as the forerunner) are simply wrong. Van Ruysbroeck makes it clear that our required obedience is (1) to God; (2) to Church and (3) our own consciences. Anything else is dissent and dissent borders on sin. A canonist or someone who truly understands the deep meanings of many of the moral laws and definitions would be required to tell whether or not. In any case, it will set the person in direct opposition to God and open the doors to further disobedience. Their prayers are likely to be self-delusional rather than true correspondence with the divine, and much of their lives will be colored by this dissent.

Okay, okay, I've tried your patience too much. But you can see how simple writing of people close to God can inspire great reflection, great understanding, and a much closer approach to God Himself. I pray for everyone who reads this and for those who do not, that God will draw you closer in and bind you to Him with ties of love. I also pray that neither pride nor a stony heart nor fear will prevent anyone from following His gentle lead.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2002

Something for Everyone a comedy.

Something for Everyone a comedy. . .

Jeff Miller at Atheist to a Theist gives us a very amusing, and terribly humbling litany. All that I would add is a series of anathemas.

"From looking every 10 minutes at the site stats,
Good Jesus, deliver us,
From combing other sites to find references to us,
Good Jesus deliver us,
From commenting elsewhere to drag people to us,
Good Jesus deliver us."

I'm sure you all have your own things to add to the litany--we may as well make it a group effort.

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

One More Time--Audience in Krakow

Here is a wonderful reflection from the Wednesday Audience held in Poland. The prayer at the end is, again, exemplary.

From the Wednesday 21 August 2002 Audience in Krakow, (?) Poland
John Paul II

4. My pilgrimage then took me to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the shrine dedicated to the Passion of Jesus and to our Lady of Sorrows. I have been attached to that holy place since childhood. I often experienced there how the Mother of God, Our Lady of Grace, turns her merciful eyes to afflicted humanity, in need of her wisdom and help.

After Czestochowa, it is one of the better known and visited shrines of Poland to which the faithful come even from the countries nearby. After travelling the paths of the Way of the Cross and of the Compassion of the Mother of God, the pilgrims pause to pray before the ancient and miraculous image of Mary, our Advocate, who welcomes them with eyes filled with love. Beside her, one can perceive and understand the mysterious bond between the "suffering" (patì) Redeemer on Calvary and his "co-suffering" (compatì) Mother at the foot of the Cross. In this communion of love in suffering it is easy to discern the source of the power of intercession which the prayer of the Virgin Mary has for us, her children.

Let us ask Our Lady to kindle in our hearts the spark of the grace of God and to help us transmit to the world the fire of Divine Mercy. May Mary obtain for all people the gift of unity and peace:  unity of faith, unity of spirit and of thought, unity of families; peace of hearts, peace of nations and of the world, while we wait for Christ to return in glory.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

A Prayer from--Well, You

A Prayer from--Well, You Can Guess

I stumbled across this lovely prayer while reviewing the Angelus Addresses of the Holy Father. The first line of this prayer is extraordinarily beautiful and seems the kind of prayer that I would like to add to my daily devotions.

from The Angelus Address for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary John Paul II

O Mary, Mother of hope, strong with your help we do not fear obstacles and difficulties; fatigue and sufferings do not discourage us, because you accompany us on the path of life and from heaven, you watch over all your children filling them with grace. To you we entrust the destiny of the peoples and the mission of the Church. Today especially, I want to entrust to you my pastoral journey to Poland on which, please God, I will set out tomorrow.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

New Virginia Candidates for Sainthood

New Virginia Candidates for Sainthood

Mr. Betts at Just Your Average Catholic Guy has this good news regarding the cause for a number of Jesuits who were attempting to work with the local Native Americans before "American History" actually started (1607, if you want the official date in the anti-Catholic Chronology). We don't acknowledge much, if anything happening in Virginia and the Carolinas before the Roanoke expedition, but these men were working among the Indians, and, in fact, brought Opechancanough (known in popular stories by his title--Powhatan) back to Spain for training. This is often used to help understand the attempted Indian Massacre of 1621-1622--Opechancanough was given enough of a glimpse of European life to realize what might happen to this continent as a result. Nevertheless, the work of these brave men (the Jesuits) has too long gone unrecognized in the public at large, and it is time to remedy that oversight.

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

A Meditation on the

A Meditation on the Meaning of Catholic

This piece from John Donne is not often considered in the light that he offers on the meaning of being part of a Catholic Church. But I think it may be one of the most beautiful things to emerge from the reading.

from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions XVII Now, this Bell tolling softly for another, saies to me, Thou must die John Donne

PERCHANCE hee for whom this Bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knowes not it tolls for him; And perchance I may thinke my selfe so much better than I am, as that they who are about mee, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for mee, and I know not that. The Church is Catholike, universall, so are all her Actions; All that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concernes mee; for that child is thereby connected to that Head which is my Head too, and engraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a Man, that action concernes me: All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume; when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke, but translated into a better language; and every Chapter must be so translated; God emploies several translators; some peeces are translated by age, some by sicknesse, some by warre, some by justice; but Gods hand is in every translation; and his hand shall binde up all our scattered leaves againe, for that Librarie where every booke shall lie open to one another: As therefore the Bell that rings to a Sermon, calls not upon the Preacher onely, but upon the Congregation to come; so this Bell calls us all: but how much more mee, who am brought so neere the doore by this sicknesse. There was a contention as farre as a suite, (in which both pietie and dignitie, religion, and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious Orders should ring to praiers first in the Morning; and it was that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignitie of this Belle that tolls for our evening prayer, wee would bee glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might bee ours, as wel as his, whose indeed it is. The Bell doth toll for him that thinkes it doth; and though it intermit againe, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, hee is united to God. Who casts not up his Eye to the Sunne when it rises? but who takes off his Eye from a Comet when that breakes out? Who bends not his eare to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a peece of himselfe out of this world? No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

One of the most beautiful thoughts in this passage occurs toward the end when Donne says "any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde." Similarly, any person's sorrows, turmoils, or difficulties, adds some little to my own burden and any person's joys, (righteous) triumphs and victories add to my own store of joy. It is part of being a communion of Saints that we either help other to carry their burdens or we unconscionably add to those burdens by our own actions. Whenever we become entangles in the affairs of the world and we participate in things that do not build up the body of Christ, we necessarily add to the burdens all of us carry. However, when we spend even a moment becoming closer to God, reflecting upon His Glory, and giving Him thanks and praise for all that He has done for us, we lighten the terrible load of every individual. Jesus tried to tell us this when He kept saying that the Kingdom of God was at hand. If that is true, so too the kingdom of the Other is at hand. Each of our choices contributes to one or the other, and in that way rings throughout eternity. How much time we spend adding to each other's burdens! How much time we spend wrangling and arguing and puffed up with pride. But, praise God, for most who read what I am writing, how much time we can spend building the Kingdom! How many opportunities we are given to forgive one another, prayer for one another, and elevate one another to bathe in God's glorious light. Given the choice of one course of the other, which seems preferable? Which seems more difficult? The truth of the matter is the second choice is both preferable, and due to our fallen human natures more difficult. But God has supplied even that need in the many channels He has provided for His sustaining grace--Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation--all these, and many others, serve as channels for the grace to sustain us when human will is insufficient. So, it is best to remember, "No man is an iland," what we choose to so has intimate connections to every person around us and ramifications for all of humankind. (Rather mind-boggling isn't it?)

(As one example of a burden, had to post this three times after a restart of blogger, which refused to take the original. Oh the traumas of blogging!)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

Memento Mori Perhaps the swiftest

Memento Mori

Perhaps the swiftest and surest remedy to any set of problems is to set them into proper perspective. All the turmoils, hubbubs and ados of everyday life become relagated to the back seat when you consider that ultimately each of us is going to die and render an accounting for the time we spent on Earth. Some sooner, some later, but the same fate awaits all and there is no missing out. Then we need to ask ourselves, what do our deeds look like in the echoes of eternity. The vast majority of us, in our day to day actions, will see that most things produce minor ripples and damp out. But important things, like how one loves and raises a child, how one loves ones spouse and friends, how one love ones neighbors--these things produce more than a ripple. Often, for good or ill they produce tsunamis. Some of these tsunamis carry others onward to glory, others rip and slash our homeland, leaving it weakened.

So to open the morning , a reflection by a saint on this subject. If the biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia is correct St. Robert Southwell (I believe he has been canonized) was relatively fortunate among the English Martyrs because he was merely hanged at Tyburn Tree in 1595. Fr. Southwell was a Jesuit, and quite a fine poet.

from Moeoniæ, 1595         Upon the Image of Death St. Robert Southwell

Before my face the picture hangs
    That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
    That shortly I am like to find ;
But yet, alas, full little I
    Do think hereon that I must die.

I often look upon a face
    Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin ;
I often view the hollow place
    Where eyes and nose had sometimes been ;
I see the bones across that lie,
    Yet little think that I must die.

I read the label underneath,
    That telleth me whereto I must ;
I see the sentence eke that saith
    Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet, alas, but seldom I
    Do think indeed that I must die.

Continually at my bed's head
    A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
    Though now I feel myself full well ;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
    Have little mind that I must die.

The gown which I do use to wear,
    The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
    Which is my only usual seat,—
All these do tell me I must die,
    And yet my life amend not I.

My ancestors are turned to clay,
    And many of my mates are gone ;
My youngers daily drop away,
    And can I think to 'scape alone?
No, no, I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Not Solomon for all his wit,
    Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
    Could 'scape but death laid him along ;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
    And yet my life amend not I.

Though all the East did quake to hear
    Of Alexander's dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
    To hear of Julius Cæsar's fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie ;
    Who then can 'scape but he must die?

If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart,
    If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
    Then I to 'scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
    My life may mend, sith I must die.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2002

Mysteries of the Universe and

Mysteries of the Universe and Closer to Home

Life is made better by things such as the Voynich Manuscript. Take a look at Xavier+ for the links. A little mystery, things that cannot be deciphered, or things that are less than fully known--the nature of the Ness phenomenon, where giant squid live, the Voynich manuscript, cryptozoology of all sorts--these things remind us that science, despite its claims, has not encompassed all knowledge yet, nor is ever likely to. Some things exist that do not necessarily have empirical proofs or explanations. We (Christians) have long known that--we call them "supernatural."

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

Christian Simpllicity There are several

Christian Simpllicity
There are several protestant writers today have an enormous amount to say to all Christians. Dallas Willard is one of them. His books The Divine Conspiracy and The Spirit of the Disciplines are remarkable guides to good Christian Living. (He has a new book which I have not yet read and so cannot comment on--Renovation of the Heart. If you care to, you can sample some of his works here.

Another such writer is Richard J. Foster. His best-known work is Celebration of Discipline; however, I found this survey of various disciplines too cursory to be of much help. It is excellent to understand the underlying theory of much of these writers' work; however, it is simply too brief to be very helpful. My favorite Foster book is his remarkable, Freedom of Simplicity from which I quote below. Foster identifies simplicity and living simply as perhaps the central discipline in Christian life. This makes a certain amount of sense because simple living makes us more like the God whom we adore. For any who have even briefly dipped into the Summa, one of the first questions we examine is the question of whether or not God is simple. (Which leads us to the delightful diversion that Chesterton includes at the beginning of his biography of Aquinas--'A lady I know picked up a book of selections from St. Thomas with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, "The Simplicity of God." She then laid down the book with a sigh and said, "Well, if that's His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like." ' The nice thing about blogdom is one need not be quite so disciplined as if one were writing elsewhere--though I suppose it would help.) Back to simplicity--simplicity represents singleness of mind, will, and heart, all directed to the ultimate goal of loving God here on Earth as we will love Him in heaven. An admirable and necessary goal--it may not be possible to attain the degree of perfection we will have in heaven, but it is necessary to try, both for our own sakes and the sake of those around us.

From Freedom of Simplicity Chapter 3 Richard J. Foster

Jesus Christ and all the writers of the New Testament call us to break free of mammon lust and live in joyous trust. Their radical criticism of wealth is combined with a spirit of unconditional generosity. They point to us a way of living in which everything we have we receive as gift, and everything we have is cared for by God, and everything we have is available to others when it is right and good. This reality frames the heart of Christian simplicity. It is the means of liberation and power to do what is right and to overcome the forces of fear and avarice. (p. 62 mass-market Harper edition).

What is most wonderful about Foster's book is that he doesn't leave us stranded in a limbo of theory. The second half of the book is dedicated to practical considerations in living a life of simplicity. Overall, a highly recommended book--if everyone would read this and one out of ten were to practice it, we would be a long way toward saying with Jesus, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

From the Catechesis on the

From the Catechesis on the Psalms
From the vast treasury of riches that has been given us in our current pontiff, a portion of the magnificent exposition of Psalm 148

from Commentary on Psalm 148 His Holiness John Paul II Heaven, earth and the depths of the sea

2. We find in the heavens the singers of the starry universe: the remotest heavenly bodies, the choirs of angels, the sun and moon, the shining stars, the "highest heavens" (v. 4), that is, the starry space and the waters above the heavens, which the man of the Bible imagines were stored in reservoirs before falling on the earth as rain.

The "alleluia", that is, the invitation to "praise the Lord", resounds at least eight times, and has as its final goal the order and harmony of the heavenly bodies: "He fixed their bounds which cannot be passed" (v. 6).

We then lift our eyes to the earthly horizon where a procession of at least 22 singers unfolds: a sort of alphabet of praise whose letters are strewn over our planet. Here are the sea monsters and the depths of the sea, symbols of the watery chaos on which the earth is founded (cf. Ps 23[24],2), according to the ancient Semite conception of the cosmos.

St Basil, a Father of the Church observed: "Not even the deep was judged as contemptible by the Psalmist, who included them in the general chorus of creation, and what is more, with its own language completes the harmonious hymn to the Creator" (Homiliae in hexaemeron, III 9: PG 29,75).

What a depth of understanding--understanding of scripture, understanding of literature, understanding of poetic structure. All of these are given in a simple exposition. We should surely be grateful for such a remarkable man.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:37 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2002

New Poll The last two

New Poll
The last two posts have inspired me to ask this poll question:

What is the very, very very, very worst piece of Catholic ficiton you have ever attempted to read? (Presumably if it were that awful, and you were a person of limited time, you would not have wasted the time trying to plow through the entire thing). I'd like to compile a list of titles to shy away from. Please comment or e-mail me!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

The Deplorable Fictions of Andrew

The Deplorable Fictions of Andrew Greeley

I very ill-advisedly agreed to read an Andrew Greeley book in a Catholic Book Group that I attend. I struggled and toiled and made it through all of fifty pages of a cliche-filled sex-drenched, tawdry, semi-family-epic entitled Thy Brother's Wife. Those who really enjoy Father Greeley's work, need continue no further as the following analysis is unlikely to be gentle on the work of this particular wordsmith.

I was appalled by the storyline which very early on introduced the idea that one of two brothers was going to marry a woman who had been brought up in the same house as a sister. If this isn't awful enough, the patriarch of this happy little group has determined that one of his sons will be a Senator and the other a Priest. Excuse me, how do you presume to determine that your son will become a priest? Isn't that kind of up to God? I mean, you can and should encourage any thought of vocation on the part of your children, but to dictate that they shall be a priest or religious is presumptuous in a nearly blasphemous way.

Those story points only begin the atrocities of this epic of bad writing. Every woman is gorgeous, every man virile, every encounter passionate, blah, blah, blah. I gather from the books that Father Greeley is probably not in what we might refer to as the Orthodox school of Catholicism (I know little to nothing of his opinions outside of this book and one ancient sociological study of the Church). Even given that, is an appropriate pastoral example for a priest to be writing books of this sort? What sort of message does this give the world of Catholicism? I would venture to guess that Father Greeley does for Catholicism what Bishop Spong does for Episcopalianism (I know I'm vastly overstating the case, but I think you understand my meaning). Why does he continue to do this? Why doesn't someone point out to him the image he is making of the church? Why aren't diocesan priests required to take a vow of poverty as with Religious Priests so that they will not be tempted to write long chains of awful, inflammatory best sellers? (That last wasn't a serious question--but I do say I have to wonder how much money Fr. Greeley has and whether it is entirely right for a priest to have that much money)

Anyway, just some thoughts after not successfully finishing one of the worst reads I've been subjected to in some time.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

Some Questions on Catholic Fiction

Some Questions on Catholic Fiction
What is the mission of the Catholic writer of fiction? Do Catholics have certain themes reserved to them, for which they would be the best expositors? On the other hand are there topics which are forbidden the Catholic writer? If your story requires infidelity, is it appropriate to describe this situation, and if it does not end unhappily, is it still all right to include it? How does one discern God's will in attempting to write?

Many writers seem to be topical--taking on issues of the day and letting fly. Certainly, that is one way to address the issue, but it seems, at best a rather scattershot approach. In addition, it tends to make for very short-lived literature. A Catholic writing at the time of the fight for universal suffrage who expended their entire energy on that topic, would not have much of an audience today.

Another approach, of course, is the Louis de Wohl approach. Take a famous figure from church history and write a fictionalized biography of the person. This sort of sugar-coated hagiography makes for good light-reading (I would recommend to you all almost any of de Wohl's books available from Ignatius Press) and I suppose it fills a gap, but it is certainly not the highest aspiration of the Catholic writer.

Being a Catholic writer, I think long and hard about these issues, and I've come to no real conclusions. Of recent date I have read some absolutely dreadful so-called Catholic fiction (see any of the sub-standard cliche drenched atrocities from the pen of Father Greeley), and there are others, more orthodox who are as bad or worse. I've also read some truly inspired work. I keep coming back to The Way of the Serpent which I recommend unreservedly. This is a story of the brutal multigenerational sexual enslavement of the women in a family in Sweden. How can this have any Catholic value? Read it and see. It's astounding the places in which grace can be found. That's what I want to know--how do you develop the eyes to see this grace hidden in the most dismal situations. I often enough have trouble seeing it in what would be considered by most a nearly enchanted life. In comparison to the rest of the world, I have been handed everything on Earth without question. But still it is sometimes hard for me to make out the substance of Grace in my life. How do I begin to see and appreciate it?

The only answer I have for this is the same answer I have for everything. Only in a life saturated in prayer can you either know grace or live your vocation. You can't live without prayer and then hope to pick up a pen and write about God in a grace-filled way. And the prayer called for is not the long laundry list of petitions and requests, but a prayer of presence, and prayer of waiting on the Lord. Prayer informs all writing, and those who choose to write fiction, prayer is even more necessary to inform your fiction and your good judgment so that those who read your work are led to the Lord.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

A Sample of Sidney

A Sample of Sidney Lanier--Georgia's Poet

Georgia is inordinately proud of this native son. He's probably best known for this poem, although he has many others very similar in tone and diction. I sometimes wonder whether these can be successful if you have never seen of what he speaks. Don't know, because I have, and it is lovely beyond any words--but these come close.

from "The Marshes of Glynn" Sidney Lanier

GLOOMS of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs, -
Emerald twilights, -
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn; -

Beautiful glooms, soft dusks in the noon-day fire, -
Wildwood privacies, closets of lone desire,
Chamber from chamber parted with wavering arras of leaves,
Cells for the passionate pleasure of prayer to the soul that grieves,
Pure with a sense of the passing of saints through the wood,
Cool for the dutiful weighing of ill with good; - . . .


Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Firm Compassion Kairos has a

Firm Compassion
Kairos has a compassionate, level-headed, and cogent response to much that has been making the rounds lately.

If Law resigned and were sent to some monastery to live out his days, he would give his testimony, then slip into a van and drive off to New Hampshire, untroubled by telephones and televisions, ignoring all requests for interviews, and sleeping without the need to look for cameras outside his bedroom.

As it now stands, he still preaches public masses, still presides over one of the most prominent Catholic dioceses in the country, and must deal with the daily public scorn of the chattering classes whose attentions he once sought. For a Pope whose principal concern is the redemption of souls, which would have been the better course to take: the institutionally-sound public firing, or the personally-redemptive public agonistes?

His post caused me to think a bit about motivations and meanings behind actions from the Vatican and it occurred to me that part of this whole thing is that they will allow for no easy outs. They denied the zero tolerance policy because it allowed bishops a bureaucratic solution for a problem that requires individual accountability and investigation.

There may be many reasons for an event we do not fully know about. If the pope did turn down Cardinal Law's resignation part of the reason may have been to have in full public force an object lesson in responsibility and accountability. The Pope has never been one for the easy out. He has apologized for things that some have debated the need for an apology for; however, he did the difficult thing and apologized. He appears to be a man who believes heavily in accountability. As Kairos suggested, perhaps part of this is accountability that leads to true repentence/change of heart and true change of behavior in the future. What is the real likelihood that Law will ever allow something like this again? After having been at the center of the largest whirlwind to rush through the church in quite some time, one's attitudes and life probably change significantly.

I'm gladly joining with Kairos in my prayers for Cardinal Law, that he have the strength to deal with the problems before him in a truthful, forthright, and responsibility-taking way, and that God uses this experience to let Cardinal Law know how much he is loved and how important his position and responsibilities are.

Thanks, Kairos, great post.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

Al Qaida and Asimov? Now

Al Qaida and Asimov?
Now here's an interesting news item(?) speculation out of the UK. Osama and his cronies decided to base their strategies on Isaac Asimov's Foundation Below, an excerpt. Enjoy!

In October last year, an item appeared on an authoritative Russian studies website that soon had the science-fiction community buzzing with speculative excitement. It asserted that Isaac Asimov's 1951 classic Foundation was translated into Arabic under the title "al-Qaida". And it seemed to have the evidence to back up its claims.

"This peculiar coincidence would be of little interest if not for abundant parallels between the plot of Asimov's book and the events unfolding now," wrote Dmitri Gusev, the scientist who posted the article. He was referring to apparent similarities between the plot of Foundation and the pursuit of the organisation we have come to know, perhaps erroneously, as al-Qaida.

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

The Importance of a Personal

The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

from Heretics Chapter 1 G. K. Chesterton But there are some people, nevertheless—and I am one of them— who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them. In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude; in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude, and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out. It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel; there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous. The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching the very same things which it made him a convict for practising.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2002

Thank You, Mr. Serafin Mr.

Thank You, Mr. Serafin

Mr. Serafin at Blogspot for Lovers has given us a beautiful and moving tribute to the Holy Father. A perfect anodyne, oil on troubled waters. Thank you, Mr. Serafin, it is, indeed, beautiful.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

Return to Medieval England

Return to Medieval England
But not courtesy of me, this time, I'm sure you're thankful. Ms. Knapp of From the Anchor Hold has posted a wonderful excerpt of that great blossom of Medieval English Poetry--Geoffrey Chaucer. Said excerpt highlights the qualties of a good shepherd. Hie thee there and partake of it!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

Another Swiftian Tidbit to

Another Swiftian Tidbit to Tide You Through the Day
This is from his prose work. Two works everyone seems well acquainted with are Gulliver's Travels and "A Modest Proposal." But Swift was as inveterate satirists (there are those that would call him "Bitter." Well, they're probably right, but who can tell. Maybe "accurate" for his time is a better description.) As with all good Satire, Swift did not usually target a person but an attitude or a general approach to things. Here is his insight from "Abolishing of Christianity in England."

from "Abolishing of Christianity in England" Jonathan Swift Therefore I freely own, that all appearances are against me. The system of the Gospel, after the fate of other systems, is generally antiquated and exploded, and the mass or body of the common people, among whom it seems to have had its latest credit, are now grown as much ashamed of it as their betters; opinions, like fashions, always descending from those of quality to the middle sort, and thence to the vulgar, where at length they are dropped and vanish.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

And Now the Less

And Now the Less than Gentle Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift is known for razor-edged satire. The following little fable has so many possible applications that I sha'n't burden you with naming a single one. However, knowing my place in the story, I believe that I shall choose to keep my my feet to myself.

The Sick Lion and the Ass Jonathan Swift

A lion sunk by time's decay,
Too feeble grown to hunt his prey,
Observed his fatal hour draw nigh:
He drooped and laid him down to die.
There came by chance a savage boar,
Who trembled oft to hear him roar,
But when he saw him thus distressed
He tore and gored his royal breast.
A bull came next (ungen'rous foe),
Rejoiced to find him fall'n so low,
And with his horny-armed head
He aimed at once to strike him dead,—
He strikes, he wounds, he shocks in vain,
The lion still conceals his pain.
At length a base inglorious ass,
Who saw so many insults pass,
Came up and kicked him in the side:
'Twas this that raised the lion's pride.
He roused, and thus he spoke at length,
For indignation gave him strength:
Thou sorry, stupid, sluggish creature,
Disgrace and shame and scorn of nature!
You saw how well I could dispense
With blows from beasts of consequence!
They dignified the wounds they gave;
For none complain who feel the brave.
But you, the lowest of all brutes,
How ill your face with courage suits!
What dullness in thy looks appears!
I'd rather far (by heav'n 'tis true)
Expire by these than live by you:
A kick from thee is double death—
I curse thee with my dying breath!

The Moral

Rebukes are easy from our betters,
From men of quality and letters;
But when low dunces will affront,
What man alive can stand the brunt?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Another Pope

(Titter) Couldn't resist the pun. Oh well. Many don't care for the poetry of Alexander Pope, they find it too rigidly regular, too uncannily metrical, stiff and inelastic, poems as chunks of concrete. To which I reply, Gustibus non est disputandem. I really like all of those aspects of Pope and his flair for finding just the right chink in the armor, just the right thing to say, as in this excerpt from the somewhat shorter Essay on Criticism

from Essay on Criticism Alexander Pope

Of all the Causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring Judgment, and misguide the Mind,
What the weak Head with strongest Byass rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing Vice of Fools.
Whatever Nature has in Worth deny'd,
She gives in large Recruits of needful Pride;
For as in Bodies, thus in Souls, we find
What wants in Blood and Spirits, swell'd with Wind;
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our Defence,
And fills up all the mighty Void of Sense!
If once right Reason drives that Cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless Day;
Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry Friend—and ev'ry Foe.

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

And now, Alexander Pope

And now, Alexander Pope
Rushing headlong, with breathtaking speed we careen from the seventeenth century (one of my favorites) to the eighteenth (Voltaire and his lot all but ruined it--but even so, there's so good stuff early on, before we got quite so "enlightened." This excerpt is from a much longer work by Alexander Pope. Pope also did a magnificent translation of both The Iliad and The Odyssey. The latter is currently available online at Blackmask as is "An Essay on Man," from which the following excerpt is taken.

from An Essay on Man in Four Epistles Epistle I Alexander Pope Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense, Weigh thy opinion against providence; Call imperfection what thou fancy'st such, Say, here he gives too little, there too much: Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust, Yet cry, If man's unhappy, God's unjust; If man alone ingross not Heav'n's high care, Alone made perfect here, immortal there: Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, Re-judge his justice, be the God of God. In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies; All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies. Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes, Men would be angels, angels would be gods. Aspiring to be gods if angels fell, Aspiring to be angels men rebel: And who but wishes to invert the laws Of order, sins against th' eternal cause.
Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

Some Salutary Advice Father Keyes,

Some Salutary Advice

Father Keyes, C.P.P. S. (forgive me if I've done the initials wrong) has posted an apropos excerpt from St. Catherine of Siena. Advice of such high quality, we would all do well to consider and follow.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Thou Art Peter IV I

Thou Art Peter IV
I was profoundly moved by the homily at Mass today which focused heavily on the need to be thankful for and to love our Pope, the true unifiying voice on Earth for the Church. We are called to love him, pray for him, and honor both him and his office. The Papacy is the defining feature of the Catholic Church throughout the world. It is the reason why the official church may speak with one voice and teach one doctrine that is officially Catholic. There are many in dissent, but they choose to define themselves by the doctrines they wish to negate, hardly a good start. But the Catholic Church is One because it has for so long honored one Earthly leader embued with that power by One Savior, Lord, and God.

Another Poem, particularly fitting for John Paul II, from John Paul II.

Words Spoken by the Woman at the Well, on Departing
John Paul II

From this moment my ignorance
closes behind me like the door
through which you entered, recognizing
all I do not know.
And through me you led many people in silence,
many roads, and the turmoil of the streets.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

Thou Art Peter III Viva Il Papa!

From the poetry of His Holiness John Paul II. (Find more poetry here.)

from Space Which Remains in You
John Paul II

(spoken by the apostle John)

Your arms now remember His space, the little head
snuggling to your shoulder,
for the space has remained in You,
for it was taken from You.

And shining never empty. So very present in You.
When with my trembling hands I broke the bread
to give it to you, Mother,
I stood for a moment amazed as I saw
the whole truth through one single tear
in your eye.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

Thou Art Peter II--Viva il

Thou Art Peter II--Viva il Papa

For the man who gave us "The Gospel of Life" and the "Splendor of the Truth,"
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who oversaw and lead the downfall of communism through his constant recourse to prayer,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who could forgive his would-be assassin,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who has held up a mirror of Christian truth and peace
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who oversaw the production of a new catechism to lead us out of the rebellion into which we had fallen,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who stands as an example of love and life
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who stands as an example of weakness and strength
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the Chief earthly Shepherd of Your flock,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who seeks to reunite Your broken Church
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who speaks your truth for all to hear
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man whose heart is torn by grief for Your people
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who humbles himself before You and prays for all people,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who begged forgiveness for the sins committed by members of Your church against others,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who proclaims the love of the Holy Mother of God,
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who has us crossing "The Threshold of Hope,"
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who speaks with one voice for all the faithful
Father, we give you thanks and praise.
For the man who stands against the culture of death
Father, we give you thanks and praise.

Thank you Father for this great man, this gift of intellect and heart, this dynamo who has galvanized great changes in your Church already. Assist him as he struggles with his greatest challenge and let him hear and always follow your gentle lead.


Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

Thou Art Peter I tried

Thou Art Peter

I tried this in one way earlier, but its resultant tone too deeply disturbed my conscience. So I try here from another, hopefully more congenial and hospitable angle.

Viva il Papa

Thank you for the gift of John Paul II, our brother, our leader, our guide,
head of your Church on Earth.
Through him you have given us a prophetic witness of your Gospel,
You have time and again used his voice to pronounce the truth.

Dear Lord,
John Paul, our precious Pope, needs your guidance and your health.
Around him are a great many voices,
let him sort through the noise and go
unerringly to the heart of the truth.
Guide him in ways to guide us from
these present difficulties into a time of lasting peace and growth
for the Church on Earth.

You have given us so much in John Paul,
let him know that we love him and unite with him
to oust the evil that has roosted in Your Church.

Lord, let John Paul continue to speak with Your voice,
and love with Your heart;
to lead Your people in truth and in the paths of righteousness.

Use him as an instrument to clean your Church and bring
us all back together in strength and in love.

We ask this of you, our one true and precious Lord, Jesus Christ,
in confidence that all asked in your name will be done.


Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest
The following exchange, an interview conducted by Lady Bracknell to determine the suitablity of Jack as a suitor is worthy of note today. Find the full online text at Blackmask (see left column).

LADY BRACKNELL. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?

JACK. Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

LADY BRACKNELL. I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?

JACK. Twenty-nine.

LADY BRACKNELL. A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?

JACK. [After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

LADY BRACKNELL. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?

JACK. Between seven and eight thousand a year.

LADY BRACKNELL. [Makes a note in her book.] In land, or in investments?

JACK. In investments, chiefly.

LADY BRACKNELL. That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during one's lifetime, and the duties exacted from one after one's death, land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land.

JACK. I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe; but I don't depend on that for my real income. In fact, as far as I can make out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.

LADY BRACKNELL. A country house! How many bedrooms? Well, that point can be cleared up afterwards. You have a town house, I hope? A girl with a simple, unspoiled nature, like Gwendolen, could hardly be expected to reside in the country.

JACK. Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham. Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six months' notice. . . .[break to reduce length of post]

LADY BRACKNELL. [Sternly.] Both, if necessary, I presume. What are your polities?

JACK. Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.

LADY BRACKNELL. Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate. Now to minor matters. Are your parents living?

JACK. I have lost both my parents.

LADY BRACKNELL. To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. Who was your father? He was evidently a man of some wealth. Was he born in what the Radical papers call the purple of commerce, or did he rise from the ranks of the aristocracy?

JACK. I am afraid I really don't know. The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my parents. It would be nearer the truth to say that my parents seem to have lost me . . . I don't actually know who I am by birth. I was . . . well, I was found.


JACK. The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

Indeed, Sunday Morning Wallace Stevens

Indeed, Sunday Morning
Wallace Stevens is a notoriously difficult poet, if you trust what you hear tell. But this, the eighth section of a poem entitled "Sunday Morning" seems eerily prophetic. For indeed, at the waning of his Life, that Tomb in Palestine, which lay empty, called him home to the Darkness which, in fact is so light that we cannot see it.

from "Sunday Morning" Wallace Stevens VIII She hears, upon that water without sound, A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine Is not the porch of spirits lingering. It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay." We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

An Old Favorite This

An Old Favorite
This poem (actually a piece of a much larger work entitled Milton) has been a favorite for a much longer time than I knew of the poem proper. My first acquaintance of it was in a very atraditional setting. It is a militant, strong, and still quite beautiful anthem on Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's best album Brain Salad Surgery. From that acquaintance I came to hear it once in an Episcopal setting (boy did that shock me at the time!) and later found the source in William Blake. No matter how it came about, and no matter that Blake was a rather queer (in the old and very full sense of that word) mystic (He used to have tea in the Garden with Elijah), it is a remarkable piece of work.

"Jerusalem" from the Preface toMilton William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:38 AM | Comments (0)