October 05, 2002

Prayers for Kairos Guy and

Prayers for Kairos Guy and His Wife
Brian and Sally (Mr. and Mrs. Kairos Guy) need prayers through a time of tremendous sorrow and pain. Please help them through this time by your prayers.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

What is a Third Order?

Laura, in a comment below asks a question I too often take for granted and which I think requires something more of an answer than one might infer from writing:

Your blog says you are a member of the third Order of Carmel. What exactly does that mean? I became a full-fledged Catholic in my late 20's and so I don't understand a lot of the lingo. Are you a brother or something else that I am not familiar with?

When I joined the Catholic Church I did not realize the presence of Third Order members, or for that matter have a lot of background on First and Second Orders. I had been in the Church about 15 years before a friend of mine brought to my attention opportunities that exist to enrich your spiritual life. And that is what they must be viewed as opportunities or vocations to a particular spiritual direction.

Many orders have a rule or provision that allow people to live the rule in a way modified to accommodate the fact that the person is in the world and needs to make a living, take care of a family, and attend to other matters that may be part of their first vocation (for example, marriage). In some orders, notably the Benedictines, there is no division (or so I'm told) between First, Second, and Third order (Normally, Brothers or Priests, Sisters, and Lay people). The rule apparently is flexible enough to accommodate all Oblates. These lay people are indeed part of the order, but they are not Religious in the sense of a completely dedicated religious life.

In the Carmelite Order we recognize two major divisions and three groups within each. I'll talk only about the Old Order or O.Carm. group to which I belong. They have a separate rule for first and second, and a rule for lay Carmelites. What this means is that we are indeed part of the order, we are not religious in the sense of being brothers or sisters, but we practice the spirituality of the order and live by a rule that has been promulgated for the lay Carmelite. Our order requires daily prayer, monthly meetings, promises of Obedience and Chastity according to the Station in Life, and other odds and sundries that come down the pike. Our official "habit" you may see occasionally (if you go to Daily Mass, look for them on October 15) is the Large Ceremonial Scapular which is a two pieces of brown cloth about 5" x 5" in size connected by the 1/2" brown ribbon. On the front are the initials BVM and on the back IHS. (The ODCS--lay part of the other division may still be wearing ceremonial scapulars with no initials, I don't know). These are worn only on Feast Days of the Order. There are two such, with a minimal provision for a third this month--Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (October 1) and Feast of St. Teresa of Avila (La Madre-October 15). The wearing of the scapular on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, is, I believe, permitted. In addition, in correspondence not related to the order or to religious matters, we are not permitted to use the T.O. Carm or other designation. We reserve that only for certain internal communications and religious publications.

My personal practice, which is not required by the T.O. Carm rule, but highly encouraged is Morning Prayer, Office of Hours, Evening Prayer, and usually one of the minor hours that I squeeze in just before noon Angelus and Mass, and an additional hour (minimum)of meditative reading, scripture reading (lectio) and meditative prayer. Daily Mass is strongly encouraged but not required. As Carmelites we are called to follow the way of contemplative prayer as outlined by our Great Teachers--St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux. Now, I think it is very important to say that there is very little in these three saints that is not taught by nearly all of the teaching saints with regard to spirituality. What really differs order to order is charism, calling, and emphasis. In the Carmelite order we travel largely by what has been called (properly or not) the via negativa a way of detachment from worldly things and notions. It sounds very difficult, but it makes perfect sense once you understand the point. It's just very hard to put into practice alone. Thus we gather in monthly meetings to pray together, teach one another, and assist one another in advancing along the Carmelite way. It's very important to recognize that this is a vocation and not all are called to it. It takes time and careful discernment to understand whether or not you are being called. As a result the T.O.Carms have a year of preliminary teaching required before you are received and then an additional two years before you profess (fully join the order, requiring a writ of dismissal from Rome to leave). So once you are in, you are truly part of the order.

Hope this helps a bit. If you have other questions please ask. I forget how much I did not realize when I was discovering all that the Church had to offer. Most major orders have tertiaries or third orders--Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Benedictines all do. I hope others who are in a better position to know will let you know about other possibilities for lay people will comment in the comments box.

Shalom, and thank you for taking the time to ask.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

St. Francis Quotation Yesterday at

St. Francis Quotation

Yesterday at the sermon (I like the word sermon so much better than homily--Baptist and Southern background--homily sounds either like something one grinds up to make grits or something to spread on toast) the priest attributed the following quotation to St. Francis. Because he has always been accurate before, I have no reason to doubt him, and if St. Francis didn't say it, someone should have.

"The only reason for not smiling is if you are in mortal sin."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

Very Light Blogging Day My

Very Light Blogging Day

My sincere apologies, but real life intrudes and event his little time is precious. I shall be running to my Carmelite Meeting where I teach a class on St. John of the Cross and afterwards family matters. But I'll be back by evening, hopefully, with something worthwhile to share.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2002

How Can Satan Deceive?

T.S. O'Rama never fails to post fascinating and thought provoking things. My mind bubbles with all sorts of thoughts all the time and occasionally one struggles to the high-surface tension top of the liquid and explodes with amazing display, usually over some triviality. Not to break that sequence, I must comment on this comment Mr. O'Rama offers.

Perhaps the answer is this: everything but humility. If the Medjugorje messages said, "humble yourselves before your family & neighbor" instead of the unceasing requests to pray, perhaps that would be off-limits as a demonic strategy.

I think I would say, put no good thing beyond Satan's power. That is, if praying the Rosary will keep you at the same level of prayer and cause you not to advance, that is a victory for him. He would encourage you to be very devout in your prayer of the Rosary. If humility seems good, he can make it a marketable commodity, and suddenly people who were full of humility are measuring themselves against others and against a false standard. Satan can use all morally good and neutral things to ill effect. We can be tempted to spend hours round-the-clock before the Blessed Sacrament, indeed a good thing, to keep us from supporting our families and doing our duties in our married vocations. So Jesus told us not to judge by appearances or by what was said ("wolves in sheep’s clothing.") but "by their fruits you shall know them."

Now this becomes an extremely tricky business. Take the matter of the forthcoming canonization of Josemaria Escriva. I have read elsewhere that he encouraged practices that would certainly seem to overstep the bounds of what modern sensibilities could entertain or accept. But do a majority of cooperators engage in these? (Did he indeed encourage any such thing or are these scurrilous rumors? I do not have enough facts at my disposal to say for certain.) What are the fruits?

That is why I simply await the full investigation of anything--apparitions, sainthood, acceptable practices and prayers. Presumably both greater numbers of people and people with a great deal more experience examine these things before they are approved. I think we fall into a trap making assumptions about what Satan can and cannot do and we do better to err on the side of accepting what is traditionally taught. These new apparitions may not make their meaning known for some time. It took a long while before we knew and understood the full revelation of Fatima. Lourdes was not well accepted immediately in its time, and we may not yet have truly absorbed all that is there for us.

Thus my caution. Satan is a lot smarter than we are, with thousands of years of tempting and experience with human souls at his fingertips, I would venture to guess that there is almost nothing that he cannot corrupt, at least in practice. Obviously he cannot make invalid a properly consecrated Eucharist, but he can lead us to believe the lies many modernists would tell of it.

The best thing to do--set your eyes on Christ and do all that you do not for hope of heaven or fear of hell, but from pure love of God. You might be led astray, but it seems unlikely that He would allow it.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

A Poem in a State of Flux--Evening Gown

Here is one that I have wrestled with a great deal and still am not certain about some of the decisions made.

Evening Gown
Steven Riddle

Her shoulders
white against
starkest black--
a velvet

black promise,
the plump breasts
perfumed, ask
no questions,
and yet are
soft and wise
as eggs

as salmon
in the stream.
Rounded now
hidden now
revealed, seen
anew by
icy eyes.
senses now
perfect, now
and alone.

Forlorn and
neither speak
nor know the truth.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

New Philosophy Test Results I

New Philosophy Test Results

I retook the philosophy test (first edition here) when I was somewhat more conscious and aware of what I was doing and came up with results that I think are probably more indicative of my reality:

1.  Augustine   (100%) 
2.  Aquinas   (77%)  
3.  Ockham   (75%)  
4.  Kant   (65%)  
5.  Spinoza   (53%)  
6.  Prescriptivism   (46%)  
7.  Plato   (43%)  
8.  Bentham   (38%)  
9.  Aristotle   (37%)  
10.  Mill   (37%)  
11.  Cynics   (34%)  
12.  Sartre   (33%)  
13.  Noddings   (32%)  
14.  Hume   (30%)  
15.  Rand   (29%)  
16.  Stoics   (28%)  
17.  Nietzsche   (22%)  
18.  Epicureans   (11%)  
19.  Hobbes   (0%)  

I am delighted that Augustine is at the top (I would have sworn Aquinas would edge him out, but not so--there is hope for my hard heart!) I am ecstatic over the relatively low appearancce of the utterly abhorrent Hume, Rand, Nietzsche and Hobbes. Plato is somewhat higher than I like him to be considering his attitude toward poets in general. And I'm still flummoxed by the appearance of Kant (who like Goethe and the vast majority of Germans up to Mann completely eludes me) and Spinoza. But overall, I'm happy with the 1-2-3 of Augustine, Aquinas, and Ockham.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

Comments on Confessional Poetry (as

Comments on Confessional Poetry (as though you cared)

I know that you have been waiting with bated breath to discover what stunning revelation was forthcoming in these comments on confessional poets. On the other hand, you might wonder what a confessional poet is. If you belong to either of these two schools (note: not factions) or any in between welcome. Take a seat. I promise not to keep you long.

Confessional Poets--particularly those of the suicidal school--John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, are probably not completely responsible for the phenomenon, but do bear a burden of responsibility for the progressive diminution of poetry. Surely this started with J. Alfred Prufrock, when the poet started to become so practiced in omphaloskepsis as to preclude the general audience. To some extent poetry became a game for the intellectual elite rather than a recreation for the middle classes as it had been up to that time. Ordinary people read Keats, Wordsworth, the Bronte Sisters, and in the United States, Freneau, Bryant, and Poe. But starting with Eliot (perhaps a bit earlier with some of the symbolists, but at least in English with Eliot) poetry became the purview of the intellectual. "The Waste Land" with its voluminous footnotes, multilingual references and arcane allusions to other poems and structures continues to confound undergraduate literature students who have not been caught in the eddies of the multiculti movement.

However, the real diminution shows up with the concrete poets and the beats who reduced poetry to a few arcane tricks or to a rhythmic, rap-like mostly protest chant (think "Howl" as exemplary of the very worst in the tendency even though the poem is actually rather fine). But I hold the confessional poets most responsible. Where once a Keats could write an ode "To Autumn" or a Wordsworth could gives us "Tintern Abbey" and "Intimations of Immortality" (please forgive the abbreviated titles), all we can get from Sylvia Plath is "Lady Lazarus." Now, understand, Plath is quite an accomplished poet and much of what she wrote is quite beautiful. Anne Sexton perhaps a little less so. To my way of thinking John Berryman is just about unreadable. But these three poets took thriving metaphor and turned the subject matter in to the smallest possible thing--one personal self. Almost every poem is about, you guessed it Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, or John Berryman. Now Robert Frost could give us "The Silken Tent," "On Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," or the magnificent poem that Dylan blogged in part yesterday, "Birches" in which a personal message is couched in a language that allows it to become the possession of all who read it. The confessionals never allow you to touch the poetry. And for the most part, you need to consider that a VERY GOOD THING. If one were to climb inside a confessional poet's poem and take a read, your destination would be less than glorious. Take for example Sylvia Plath's thirtieth or fortieth suicide note "Lady Lazarus" in which she intones deadpan, "Dying/ is an art, like everything else. I do it exceedingly well.// I do it so it feels like hell./I do it so it feels real. I guess you'd say I've a call." I suppose a kind of cheery fodder for a crop of neo-goths, but hardly the kind of poetry that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading.

It is in the intense inward turning, this kind of biography in poetry (which Wordsworth did in "The Prelude" at massive length, but still quite beautifully) or, perhaps more like self-pity in poetry, that we see the ultimate diminution of poetic intent. It has been since the success of these ultimately inward-turning poets that poetry has struggled to be something other than a personal endeavor destined for most people's journals. Sylvia Plath convinced every person with writing ambitions that they could be a poet by sharing their innermost thoughts and secrets. (Which is a shame, because Plath was a skilled artist who could produce some marvelous things--she was not merely a self-indulgent, very depressed young women sharing her innermost feelings.) And if such poetry stays in journals, that is fine and probably therapeutic. But too often it escapes, and we have endless reams of poetry dedicated to telling me things about the poets that I don't really want to know. For a prime example, visit the poetry of James Dickey some time and you'll learn all about what those rural boys get up to in their off-time (believe me, you don't really want to know--just accept my word Deliverance gives you enough of an idea.)

So, what is my point? It is time for poetry to reclaim its audience and its territory. Poetry is the greatest of the writing arts because it requires both the greatest skill at compression and condensation and because it can speak so directly of universals. Certainly there is room now for confessional poetry, but we need more intense, deep, wide-ranging lyrics that reclaim the possibilities of Wordsworth and Keats. Wendell Berry skirts this territory at times, and it is not surprising because he lives in contact with Nature which we try to shut out.

God speaks to individuals in any number of ways. But throughout history many Saints have heard His voice in nature. I always think of two in particular--St. Francis and St. John of the Cross, but there are no doubt many other examples. In the wonders of nature we can see and make seen the hand of God, as easily. or perhaps more easily than in the wonders of human construction. Reclaiming the territory of nature allows us once again to range through the world of metaphor and to make poetry more apt for expressing the larger things that are possible--we can use metaphysical conceits, tame the pantheistic strains of the Romantics and the Transcendentalists, and employ the elaborate correspondences of the symbolists and imagists. We can use the vibrancy and rhythm of the best of the beats, and the intimacy of the confessionals, but we need to break out of the confining, suffocating, and ultimately self-defeating box created by the modernists and nailed shut by the confessionals.

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

Edward Taylor Redux In addition

Edward Taylor Redux

In addition to about 40 people seeking John Donne, I've had a fairly large influx (perhaps as many as 20 or so in the last few days) from all over the world seeking "Edward Taylor" and particularly "Meditation 1." For such visitors, please visit the site in the left-hand column under "Religion" entitled "Fire and Ice." Seek out the link to "Poems" and you'll find Taylor, Michael Wigglesworth, William Cowper, and a great many others. There are some explanatory notes, but little in the way of interpretation. Good Luck!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2002

Perhaps Coming Tomorrow I will

Perhaps Coming Tomorrow

I will provide proof that the confessional school of poetry has led to the self-destruction of American Culture and to every known ill in the modern world. Well that is, perhaps, overstating the matter, but I will say how it has contributed to some serious problems in modern poetry.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

Great New Website Tom Abbott

Great New Website
Tom Abbott at GoodForm brings to our attention a remarkable new web site devoted to Bible study. Casual inspection showed links to an extensive collection of sermons by St. Anthony of Padua, to Magisterial Documents on the Bible, to a version of the Catena Aurea available at CCEL, and other wonderful goodies. This site is going into my side column as soon as I feel like fooling with the template again. Thanks alot Mr. Abbott

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

On Medjugorje and Private Revelation

On Medjugorje and Private Revelation

T. S. O'Rama blogs at Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor blogs this with respect to the apparitions at Medjugorje:

So she is convinced the manifestations are of a supernatural order, and concedes they could be satanic. But if that were the case, why would the devil urge prayer and fasting on us? A strange means to a diabolic end.

To which my only response is: read carefully The Screwtape Letters and recall that the Devil can site scripture for his own purposes, so it sure wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for him to recommend these disciplines. Mind you, I am not saying that this is happening, merely that it can. On the subject of Medjugorje, I prefer to remain absolutely neutral until Holy Mother Church has made an official investigation and pronouncement, and even then, as subject matter of private revelation, I think I will be inclined to let others take up that banner. To my mind, there is a great deal too much in the treasury of the Church already for me to try to take in any more, better to explore those things that have been tried and true through the centuries. But that is only an opinion and not a law I enjoin upon any at the possible risk of factionalism. :-)

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

Helping a Swimmer in the

Helping a Swimmer in the Tiber
Sean Roberts at Swimming the Tiber blogs:

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our Parish does Eucharistic Adoration every Thursday after the 8:00 AM Mass. One thing that seems... strange .... is that the klutch of 'babushka-ed ladies' (as Therese Z. calls them) all start loudly praying the Rosary as soon the Eucharistic Adoration starts. It's as if Jesus walked into the room and all anybody can think to say to him is "Hey, where's your Mom?" Am I taking this the wrong way?

I know how disconcerting this can be. We have perpetual adoration at our parish and various groups kept up a nearly perpetual rosary, which, while a lovely idea, is intrusive on those who wish to adore in something approaching silence. Our pastor's approach was to confine the Rosary to the Church after Mass (we have a completely separate building in which there is an adoration Chapel). The only vocal prayer allowed in the adoration chapel as of now is the daily 3:00 pm Divine Mercy prayer.

I don't know if this is a good or bad idea, but I do know that when I avail myself of adoration at 4:00 am, I am at least assured of the same measure of silence I would be likely to find in my home at the same hour.

I have grown to love the Rosary, but it does seem anomalous to me to leap into the Rosary the instant the blessed sacrament is exposed. I far prefer this wonderful prayer that was news to me until Fr. Keyes, C. PP. S. blogged it the other day. You might suggest this as a devotion in which everyone could engage in the future. (Gently, of course, and not insisting upon your own way. After all, you don't want to overthrow years, or even months of tradition.)

Only an opinion, I realize, and perhaps not much help, but I while I do not find them contradictory, I do find them somewhat at odds.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Autumnal Poem--Wordsworth--Ode Intimations

There is something about this poem that always struck me as very autumnal. Though the imagery is not, they seem to be autumn thoughts--a gentle sort of melancholy and then recovery. The entire poem is over two-hundred lines long so I could not post the whole thing, so it came down to selection. Here is what I offer from one of those glorious, beautiful, and sometime overwritten Romantic era poems:

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
William Wordsworth

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
  The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
                Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                  And cometh from afar:
              Not in entire forgetfulness,
              And not in utter nakedness,
  But trailing clouds of glory do we come
              From God, who is our home:
  Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
  Shades of the prison-house begin to close
              Upon the growing Boy,
  But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
              He sees it in his joy;
  The Youth, who daily farther from the east
              Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
              And by the vision splendid
              Is on his way attended;
  At length the Man perceives it die away,
  And fade into the light of common day.

The theme of the entire poem is that while young we seem to have more direct access to the beauties and virtues of heaven. But as we age those things that once stirred us to great heights of emotion--love, devotion, delight, no longer seem to hold the same power over us. Read the entire poem for the resolution--it is truly one of the delights of 19th Century Poetry, and one of the poems that shaped much of the poetic landscape after it. Delight in Wordsworth at his very best.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

The Poetics of Science Fiction

The Poetics of Science Fiction

I recall in my graduate career taking a course with this portentous title from one of the most brilliant professors I ever had the pleasure to know. Ultimately the resolution of the course was that science fiction had and could have no poetics due to its foundational structure. I don't know that today I would agree, although I must say that I find little in that world that suggests the possibility of a great poetics. Much of the work seems to have no real love for language, but lavishes its love on ideas. Mind you, I like a great deal of science fiction, but I find that I weary of the "new" for the sake of the new, and I long for the occasional Ursula K. Leguin, or other exquisitely attuned writer to help me regain my childhood love of Science Fiction.

In the meantime, a piece that might fall in that mode, although I think of it more along the lines of Paul Klee's "Mechanical Bird," there is no question of its ultimate influences (viz. "positronic converters:).

Metallic Contours Steven Riddle

How long have you dreamed
in your paper-steel body?
Your glass eyes REM
in a bath of glycerin
and protective salts.
Bellows rising and falling,
diodes, capacitors, transistors, positronic converters,
warming your sensitive flesh.
Dreaming what dreams have you waited?
What dreams behind your
fine eyelids?
I wonder this when my hand traces your perfect metal contours
when I grasp your breast or pull you to me,
I wonder if I should love a machine
turned flesh.
I wonder what new things will
be born of such unions as ours,
half-metal monster
or strange dream of Man.

©2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

Jones Very A friend of

Jones Very

A friend of Emerson and Hawthorne, and a composer of some very fine poems, mostly found in ones and twos in obscure anthologies. In my tribute to the American Verse Project, I bring forward this intense, and quite frightening poem (at least to me), because in some ways it seems to describe the life of the average Christian in America.

THE SLAVE. Jones Very

I SAW him forging link by link his chain,
Yet while he felt its length he thought him free,
And sighed for those borne o'er the barren main
To bondage that to his would freedom be;
Yet on he walked with eyes far-gazing still
On wrongs that from his own dark bosom flowed,
And while he thought to do his master's will
He but the more his disobedience showed;
I heard a wild rose by the stony wall,
Whose fragrance reached me in the passing gale,
A lesson give—it gave alike to all—
And I repeat the moral of its tale,
"That from the spot where deep its dark roots grew
Bloomed forth the fragrant rose that all delight to view."

[Please pardon the somewhat melodramatic tone of what follows--the intent is not luddite, but cautionary.]

In my reading of this poem I see a person enslaved by themselves through small actions taken every day. The intent may be good, it may be harmful, or it may be utterly morally neutral, but the ultimate effect is to lead us off-track. Such things as this morally neutral medium, can, when it interferes with family life and the structure of time given to one's loved ones be a powerful instrument of darkness. When we shroud ourselves in an electronic envelop, be it one of television, radio, internet, mp3, cassette, CDs, or what have you, we effectively cut ourselves off from the direct revelation God has for us in the natural world. Many of the great Saints--John of the Cross and Francis come to mind immediately, had a great love for the sight, sounds, and rhythms of nature. We obstruct those and cast them aside, living in a world so artificial as to completely block the signals of God. How many of us today could write the Canticle to Brother Sun and Sister Moon without feeling utterly silly. How many of us really understand any of Keats's five major odes? Does "Nightingale" really make sense to us, much less "To Autumn." How many of us have any idea of what Jesus' Parables are about in real life? How many have handled a sheep, much less called one to him/her?

From this force-field of electromagnetic waves, we shield ourselves from the messages God has for us in the rhythms of nature. Now, we can get other messages through the medium, not available from God, and as with all things, properly used, the electronic media can enhance our appreciation and love of God. But most of us simply forge our chain link by link, blocking out important information that God would give us, and perhaps even more damagingly, putting cracks into the important relationships in our lives through neglect. The electronic media can be very addictive and quite insidious in the hold they have over us. Their use should be a matter of careful discipline and precaution. Now, I will shortly go to heed my own advice.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

Emma Lazarus The poet whose

Emma Lazarus

The poet whose oft-quoted line from a sonnet memorializing the Statue of Liberty graces a plaque on that island had a large number of poems that we have entirely forgotten. This is taken from the second volume of her complete poems (available on the American Verse Project page) and is a translation of an older poem by a Jewish author. What I like best about this is the first ten or so lines that seem to be extremely imagist in their thought and connections.


WILL night already spread her wings and weave
Her dusky robe about the day's bright form,
Boldly the sun's fair countenance displacing,
And swathe it with her shadow in broad day?
So a green wreath of mist enrings the moon,
Till envious clouds do quite encompass her.
No wind! and yet the slender stem is stirred,
With faint, slight motion as from inward tremor.
Mine eyes are full of grief — who sees me, asks,
"Oh wherefore dost thou cling unto the ground?"
My friends discourse with sweet and soothing words;
They all are vain, they glide above my head.
I fain would check my tears; would fain enlarge
Unto infinity, my heart — in vain!
Grief presses hard my breast, therefore my tears
Have scarcely dried, ere they again spring forth.
For these are streams no furnace heat may quench,
Nebuchadnezzar's flames may dry them not.
What is the pleasure of the day for me,
If, in its crucible, I must renew
Incessantly the pangs of purifying?
Up, challenge, wrestle, and o'ercome! Be strong!
The late grapes cover all the vine with fruit.
I am not glad, though even the lion's pride
Content itself upon the field's poor grass.
My spirit sinks beneath the tide, soars not
With fluttering seamews on the moist, soft strand.
I follow Fortune not, where'er she lead.
Lord o'er myself, I banish her, compel,
And though her clouds should rain no blessed dew,
Though she withhold the crown, the heart's desire,
Though all deceive, though honey change to gall,
Still am I lord, and will in freedom strive.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

Reintroducing Philip Freneau At one

Reintroducing Philip Freneau

At one time Philip Freneau ("The Poet of the Revolution") was well-known, taught, and well-loved in the United States. The poem I include here, I include because, despite some embarrassing sentiments regarding race (looked at with our normal chronological Chauvinism, nay imperialism) it spawned a series of similar poems throughout American History. Dylan may already have blogged Longfellow's contribution on the Jewish Cemetery, and of course Robert Lowell's "Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket." Lowell is a fantastically uneven poet, whom I cannot even pretend to like for the most part, but parts of Quaker Graveyard are quite effective. The poem is taken from an anthology by William Cullen Bryant (whose "Thanatopsis" I nearly blogged, but seemed too heavy for a morning made tremendously pretty by having all of our tropical air sucked into Lily) available on the American Verse Project Site.

Philip Freneau

IN spite of all the learned have said,
I still my old opinion keep;
The posture that we give the dead,
Points out the soul's eternal sleep.

Not so the ancients of these lands:
The Indian, when from life released,
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares again the joyous feast.

His imaged birds and painted bowl,
And venison for a journey dressed,
Bespeak the nature of the soul,
Activity, that knows no rest.

His bow for action ready bent,
And arrows with a head of stone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the old ideas gone.

Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way,
No fraud upon the dead commit;
Observe the swelling turf, and say,
They do not lie , but here they sit .

Here still a lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace
(Now wasted half by wearing rains)
The fancies of a ruder race.

Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far-projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires)
The children of the forest played!

There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair),
And many a barbarous form is seen,
To chide the man that lingers there.

By midnight moons, o'er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase arrayed,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer, a shade!

And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief and pointed spear,
And Reason's self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.

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

October 02, 2002

Odd Synchronicity In an odd

Odd Synchronicity

In an odd synchronicity, it seems that the entire blogger community has descended upon the idea of anger and personalized it in various ways. Dylan's post spawned my own, and Mr. Joseph, at A Christian Conscience, provides us with a very personal view of anger.

Odd the ways that providence works, hien?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

Orthodox Catholic Feminism--Not an Oxymoron

Orthodox Catholic Feminism--Not an Oxymoron

I promised the blogmaster at Musings of an Amphibious Goat has a tremendously long, informative, and wonderful entry today about Catholic Feminism. No, it isn't an internal contradiction--it can and does exist, and the site proves it. Please do yourself a favor and visit and read--you will be surprised at how much you may learn. (Or maybe not, but the endeavor will still prove worthwhile).

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

Josemaria Escriva on Humility

A reader who is very dear to my heart, asked about Escriva's writings on humility. I have this list tacked up on my wall at work.

from The Furrow Blessed (St.) Josemaria Escriva


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

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

—Always wanting to get your own way;

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

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

—Despising the point of view of others;

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

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

—Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;

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

—Making excuses when rebuked;

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

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

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

—Refusing to carry out menial tasks;

—Seeking or wanting to be singled out;

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

—Being ashamed of not having certain possessions ...

I hope this was helpful. It turns out that a better search term is "lack of humility."

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

Poetic Offering--Evening Conversation

I was going to post a little ditty called "Sybaritic Luxuries," influenced by imagist and symbolist schools of poets, but I fear that doing so would make already similar sites almost indistinguishable. So, enjoy the wonderful, exotic, almost overripe offering chez La Vita Nuova and then return for the following non-symbolist, non-imagist (well, at least nearly so) poem:

Evening Conversation
Steven Riddle

The chill evening--the conversation a grey fruit
gravid--with what seed and
future generation--
nightshade, hollyhock, belladonna, yew--
this ghost-breath filled nursery
is silent.

Not until the tick-tick-ticking of the cooling engine
plucks gently and asks,
"Where now, how far, where should we go?"
do you remember how dangerous the prospect
of transplanting any growth, and question
the wisdom of planting at this time
when the workers for the harvest are so uncertain.

But the spell of things now possible hangs thick
in that silver air, and the conversation
coils around again to separate the space from the silence.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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

Anger and other Assorted Emotions

Dylan has some excellent posts this morning regarding anger and its expression. I quote from one of them below to start my own reflections, because the points hit very close to home.

I've been pondering in recent days these issues of righteous anger vs unrighteous anger, thwarting injustice with a terrible swift sword, not wanting to be martyred or crucified or even offended in the more quotidian pedestrian ways. Of course, righteous anger exists. But I've been terrible throughout my life at "calibrating" the anger -- making it fit the provocation, or even defeating the provocation by a gracious sweetness of temper -- going overboard is so much easier, and more immediately satisfying!

I guess part of what I 'm going to do is go into broken record mode. I do this not so much for my audience, whom I assume must be much less dense than me (otherwise they would be writing this and I would be reading it) but for myself, as I need the constant reminders and occasions of remembrance. I wonder whether it is possible outside of Jesus Himself to have truly righteous anger. What are the sources of anger? I see generally two--one is fear, the other is selfishness. Our righteous indignation, if we dig far enough, may have much to do with someone getting away with something that we ourselves would like to do but feel too bound by laws and rules to get away with. I am not stating this categorically, but I do know from personal experience, I am most angry when I am thwarted in some desire or design. I am most judgmental when someone isn't doing something "by the book." Which is odd, because I don't do everything by the book. However, if someone stands through the eucharistic prayer, or refuses to exchange the sign of peace, I find a mild glow of anger and judgment developing. Why should I, is this righteous anger, or is this feeling slighted? I don't know for certain, but my suspicion, for myself, is that all anger can be sinful. But anger, like love, needs consent of will, and perhaps even a demonstration before it becomes an occasion of sin.

Two of Josemaria Escriva's "Seventeen Evidences of a Lack of Humility" are:

to argue with stubbornness and bad manners whether you are right or wrong

to give your opinion when it has not been requested or when charity does not demand it.

both of which are likely to occur in an occasion of anger.

If anger springs from fear, the sinfulness is, perhaps less, but the root problem remains.

So, having concluded that most occasions of anger are for me sinful or near occasions of sin, what then can I do about the root problem? What is the root problem?

I believe, as with almost all sinful behavior the root problem is attachment to the wrong things. We prize something above Jesus Christ--self, possessions, ideas, whatever. Jesus Christ is not at the center and through our attachments we make ourselves angry people. One of the attachments that is most difficult to eradicate and probably the most sensitive with respect to anger is our self-image. When someone challenges that image of self we are likely to become furious. When they challenge our authority, our integrity, our values, we are up in arms. But, if our center is correct, they can challenge Jesus all they want to and it would be like fighting the breeze. Eventually, they will have to surrender.

Most of the great Saints did not spend their time flying into furies at every slight or action. Perhaps there were a few who did so. But anger is not one of the traits of the saints. I'm convinced that part of this is because they have become detached from their image of self. If someone accuses them of something, they accept it and move on, seeking to make amends for the fault, real or imagined, before God.

So, the remedy to anger--develop detachment. Look at your self and see it for what it really is--a small, sinful, puling, angry, unkempt, screaming brat. Okay, I know most of you are not, but unfortunately, I spend far too much time in that child's body. I used to think it a virtue. I would become angry every time my sense of justice was challenged. Now I realize that I became angry because my personal authority was being denied.

Detachment--how to cultivate it. Well, God did give me the gift of fatherhood, and there is a place I can start to focus attention. When my small son pushes at the envelop of authority, how do I react? Let's be kind and say that I need work in that area, and it is a place I can start to practice detachment.

Obviously detachment is more than practice. It is something we grow into by loving Someone other than ourselves. In that love, we seek His grace and mercy more than we seek our own ends. So by constant prayer and constant practice, we grow in will to be what God has made us.

Detachment is utterly necessary to our assumption of identity in Christ. We cannot become everything we were meant to be unless we allow God to work in us and to show us why He loves each of us. We are each His own Son. We are in fact images of Christ, and God can see than in us no matter how thick the smoke screen we try to place between us. That is the reality that God is trying to bring forth. And because all good things reside in their fullness in Christ, though each of us is an exact, if distorted, image, not one of us is a complete, full image. Thus, when His beauty is brought forth, we will be unique in our identities. I should not strive to be St. John of the Cross, St. Therese, or St. Raphael Kalinowski--God already has one of those. What I need to strive for is to become St. Steven--a unique, complete, identifiable image of Jesus Christ. And that comes through letting go of anger, prayer and grace, practice of the will, and attention to detachment.

St. John of the Cross has many words of advice for us concerning how we might eventually develop detachment, but more of that somewhat later--when I have come more to terms with some of it myself.

October 01, 2002

The Many Treasures of Maurice

The Many Treasures of Maurice and Thérèse

Dylan mentions below giving Maurice and Thérèse by Father Patrick Ahern a miss the last time he was at the library. This book, along with an exquisite can-you-possibly-guess-the-century translation of Imitation of Christ are constantly to hand on my bedside table. Maurice and Thérèse dramatically changed my life and my attitudes about "The Little Flower." In these simple letters, the depths of her love and wisdom are brought forward dramatically. I quote below my favorite example:

I understand better than ever how much your soul is the sister of my own, since it is called to lift itself up to God by the ELEVATOR of love and not to climb the hard stairway of fear. I am not in the least astonished that the practice of familiarity with Jesus comes a bit hard to you. We don't get to this in a single day. But I am sure that I shall greatly help you to walk more evenly by this delightful way once I have been delivered from my mortal envelope; and soon you will say like St. Augustine, "Love is the weight that pulls me forward."

I'd like to try to make you understand, by a very simple example, how much Jesus loves even very imperfect souls who trust in Him:

I'm thinking of a father who has two children who are mischievous and disobedient, and when he comes to punish them he sees one who trembles and draws away from him in fright, knowing in the bottom of his heart that he deserves to be punished. His brother, on the contrary throws himself into his father's arms, protesting that he is sorry for hurting him, and he loves him, and that to prove it he will be good from now on. Then if this child asks his father to punish him with a kiss, I doubt that the heart of the happy father will be able to resist the childlike confidence of his son, of whose sincerity he is sure. He's well aware that the child will often fall back into these same faults, but he's always ready to forgive him, provided the boy always grasps him by the heart. I say nothing about the first child, dear little brother. Surely you know yourself whether his father can love him as much as the other and treat him with the same indulgence.

Wow! I gasped the first time I read this powerful insight. It helps me to understand that famous verse that became the title of a Flannery O'Connor book, "Since the time of John the Baptist heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by storm." Here is one of the violent, in love, taking Heaven by storm.

This books presents the letters from Thérèse to her missionary "brother." They go a long way to explaining why a cloistered nun is Patroness of the Missions.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

The Trinitarianism of Jesus Boy

The Trinitarianism of Jesus

Boy is that title a mouthful! But it is a wonderful summary of the promised second excerpt from Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

The Old Testament points to Jesus, and Jesus himself points to the Father. Or, more correctly, to the Trinity. Even when it concerns the New Testament, one can thus talk about a spiritual meaning. When Jesus cries "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34), he reveals not only the world's alienation from God, but also the endless space and chasms found within the Trinity between the divine Persons. One word, however, such as "The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:30) lets us have something of a feeling of the similarly inconceivable proximity there is between them.

I love paradox. Perhaps not in the same way as Chesteron appeared to relish it, but more for the glimpse of a reality that transcends our own. Paradox and the resolutions thereof treat of Gödel's theorem and the possibility of having statements that while provable are not provable within a closed system--empirical reality for example. Anyway, the chasms within and the proximity of the persons of the Trinity are exactly the kind of thing that feeds my prayer with awe and wonder. I am cast down from my exalted intellectual heights and left to goggle as a little child at the sheer beauty and magnificence of what I am seeing. This paradox puts me in "the little way" and lets me abandon my pretense at understanding and simply reach out for the beauty of the transcendent reality that is God.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:06 PM | Comments (0)

Great Thoughts from T.S. O'Rama

Great Thoughts from T.S. O'Rama

At Video Meliora... today:

I've been thinking lately about recent divisions within "St. Blog's Parish". Blogging is a mixed bag I think. The problem is that it is a 24-7 controversy-generator because controversy creates hits, and hits are seen (falsely) as a sort of affirmation of our worth. I believe controversy can be good or bad; the openness of the air can help an infected wound and also often brings out truth - but it can also be negative, in that it emphasizes our differences and divides us into camps.

I could not possibly agree more and I consider it a very serious issue. One thing I would prefer not to have on this site is any hint of factions. I hope that all feel welcome and at home. I would very much like this to be a place where people can experience Christ's Love, even if only in the distant and diffuse way dictated by the medium.

But then I got to thinking, what kind of factions might form on my site? A fiercely anti-estlinarian movement, ready to eradicate the slightest hint of typographical anomaly? Or a fiercely pro-metaphysical faction, ready to march into battle over the question of whether the metaphysical conceit is in fact the very finest poetic development since spoken language? I tremble to contemplate. So, I exhort, encourage, and enjoin, all of you, do not join factions, after all, "We're all individuals."

[Note: This change, made 2 October 2002, was produced as Mr. Gregg the Obscure, obviously overwhelmed by grammarian and semantic factionalism (the anti-humpty-dumpty faction which, unaccountably insists upon proper and comprehensible use of the English language; as opposed to those more creative, open-minded Humpty-Dumptyists who insists that a word means what I want it to mean when I use it) enjoined me to say what I was trying to say. The original final sentence, which featured spectacular misusage, is appended in its affected part: "So, I abjure all of you. . ."]

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:33 PM | Comments (0)

Blog and Learn--The Merits of Detachment

Unlike many people I know in the blogworld, at least according to their own reports, I tend to be a nicer person here than in reality (at least I hope that is true). I don't often answer people in the white heat of anger--I may start, but before I send anything, I very carefully consider it and usually delete one or two responses before I actually post anything. (Except when I'm talking about literature, and I doubt seriously anything I might say about poetry is likely to provoke enormous reaction.) I thought to myself, why do I have this restraint on the blogs and not in real life. The answer is two fold--part on it is that the answer or response need not be in real time. I don't have to answer every comment immediately or even at all.

The second reason is by far more important--I am detached from what happens on the blogs. I care about many people, surprisingly intensely considering my real lack of knowledge, but I don't need to control them. I don't need for them to do as I say. My identity is not wrapped up in whether Mr. X or Ms. Y follows my advice. I can advise and let it go. The person being advised can listen or ignore as the spirit leads them, and all is well. At home however, much is wrapped up in my identity as husband, father, coworker. I need to make this impression or that. I have to have validation from all and sundry. In short, I am terribly attached. As a result everyone around me suffers. I need to let go of that attachment. I need to break free from the need to identify myself in others (the Sartreesque "hell is other people") and identify myself only in God. I need to claim my identity in Christ wholly and to have that identity at all times in every place. I hope and pray that my conduct here is more indicative of what that identity in Christ is likely to be, because otherwise, I would be quite likely to be one of the "sour saints" that St. Teresa prays for deliverance from.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Prayer and Praise Report Thanks

Prayer and Praise Report

Thanks to all of you who were praying for Fiona and her family. Katherine called and told me that she came through the surgery with flying colors and was home before lunch! The whole family still needs prayers as Fiona will need to be carefully monitored over the coming weeks to assure that she indeed no longer needs the pacemaker. Thank you!

Please also continue to pray for the family situation. Thanks again!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

At Last, Someone Who Really

At Last, Someone Who Really Understands Billy Collins's Poetry

Okay, I suppose I shouldn't be mean, but reading this review reminded me that poetry need not be a choice between the indecipherable and the sophomoric; however, that is the palette spread before most people. Many fine poets can be found on the web. Stop by Dylan's place some time, or take a cruise by Mr. Core's spot on the web (see left-hand column). Poetry is an art, a craft, a discipline, and ultimately a means of communication. Some have deprived it of one or more of these qualities, prefering instead either that which toes the acadmic line, or that which toes the line of those entranced with half-poetry. I think Mr.Collins suffers most from lack of discipline, his poems are excellent sketches of poems that, for me at least, ultimately don't gel because they are at once too confessional and too confused in imagery and thought. Mr. Collins needs to carefully consider everything he writes, because within each is a wonderful poem just dying to escape the skin he gave it.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Dylan's Poetry Review

Dylan's Poetry Review

This morning Dylan has posted some remarkable poems, one by Gerard Manley Hopkins, the other a portion of "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

Some Short Pieces of Wisdom from St. Thérèse

Here are a few quotes to honor this great Saint:

To the pure all is pure (Titus 1:15), the simple and upright soul sees not evil in anything, since evil exists in impure hearts only and not in material objects.

You are wrong to find fault with one thing and another, and to seek that all should yield to your way of viewing things. We want to be like little children, and little children know not what is best, to them all seems well; let us imitate them. Besides there would be no merit [in obedience] were we only to do what would appear reasonable to us.

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk..

I am not always faithful, but I am never discouraged; I leave myself wholly in the arms of Divine Lord; He teaches me to draw profit from all--both good and ill that He finds in me. (St. John of the Cross). He teaches me to speculate in the Bank of Love, or rather it is He who acts for me without telling me how He goes to work, that is His affair and not mine; my part is complete surrender, reserving nothing to myself, not even the gratification of knowing how my credit stands at the Bank.

Now that I am about to appear before the good God, more than ever do I understand that there is but one thing necessary: to work solely for Him, and to do nothing for self or for creatures.

To write books of devotion, to compose the most sublime poetry, is of less worth than the least act of self-renunciation.

One could go on at great length, but this is a nice sample of thought, and even of some of the dry humor ("knowing how my credit stands at the Bank.) St. Thérèse is a marvelous, wonderful, sublime, and valuable gift to all of us. St. Thérèse pray for us! Please spend your heaven doing good on Earth for those of us who are weak sinners.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

Happy St. Thérèse Day! St.

Happy St. Thérèse Day!

St. Thérèse, is there any point in trying to say anything further about her?

Other than, St. Thérèse, pray for us, words have no capacity to speak of her wonders. This child lived a life in such a way that she became a Doctor of the Church.

I had long wondered whether what she taught really ranked her among those luminaries: Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, St. John of the Cross. I thought it was piety run rampant, a case of religious monomania, perhaps a momentary loss of perspective due to an overabundance of emotion. I was wrong. Had I ever listened to St. Thérèse herself, I would have discovered this. And when I finally did, I was bowled over. May any of you who retain your doubt and skepticism about her place in the church also have a similar experience!

A Prayer of St. Thérèse inspired by the sight of a statue of Joan of Arc

O Lord god of Hosts, Who has said in Thy Gospel: "I am not come to bring peace, but a sword," arm me for the combat. I burn to do battle for Thy Glory, but I pray Thee to enliven my courage. . . Then with holy David I shall be able to exclaim:"Thou alone art my shield it is Thou, O Lord, Who teachest my hands to fight."

O my Beloved! I know the warfare in which I am to engage; it is not on the open field I shall fight. . . I am a prisoner held captive by Thy Love; of my own free will I have riveted the fetters which bind me to Thee and cut me off forever from the world. My sword is Love! with it--like Joan of Arc--"I will drive the stranger from the land, I will have Thee proclaimed King"--over the kingdom of souls.

Of a truth Thou hast no need of so weak an instrument as I, but Joan, Thy chaste and valiant Spouse has said: "We must do battle before God gives the victory." O my Jesus! I will do battle then, for
Thy love, until the evening of my life. As Thou didst not will to enjoy rest upon earth, I wish to follow Thine example; and then this promise which came from Thy Sacred Lips will be fulfilled in me: "If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me, and where I am there also shall My servant be, and . . . him will My Father honor."

To be with Thee, to be in Thee, that is my one desire; this promise of fulfillment which Thou dost give helps me to bear with my exile as I await the joyous Eternal Day when I shall see Thee face to face.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2002

The Silence of God as

The Silence of God as Exgesis

For all I know, you may be sick to death of Wilfrid Stinissen, but on two pages I have found material enough for discursive meditation time for a month or more. I'll share one today and one tomorrow so I don't overload. But if you can afford to do so, you would do well to get this book, published by Liguori.

from Nourished by the Word Wifrid Stinissen

We can, for example, ponder why Jesus is silent when the high priest (Caiaphas) asks him: "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" (Mt 26:62) His silence is a direct exeges from God.

When humans will force God to speak, when they will manipulate him or seize him, he becomes silent. To our dumb, egoistic questions, God replies with silence. He does not solve our problems with detailed explanations. For those who have the fortitude to last out God's silence, it will eventually give all necessary replies.If God always gave direct replies, we would never cease to pose irrelevant questions.God's silence will get us to see that much of this questioning and wondering is meaningless, because it means lack of confidence and forgiveness.

Bring this particular revelation into contact with Shusaku Endo's magnificent novel Silence and suddenly even more worlds open up for us within the novel. God's silence as exegesis is one of those mind-boggling Chestertonian paradoxes that for some reason feels exactly right, perfectly situated. Now, to listen to the exegesis, must I find myself in a wadi among the Ravens?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

Poem of the Day--Tiers of Women

Another one from the vaults--ancient beyond reckoning. Okay, not that old, but old enough.

Tiers of Women
Steven Riddle

There is a churning
about everything she does.
A smoldering chaos
that folds
in tight coils in her wake.
The atmosphere is
charged by her
discharged by her
in slick
splits of light.
She doesn't know
where to go
or who to be

lets her soul
fly thread-bound
angel on its
silvery lead.
And wakes up
someone new
every day
forgetting the way
she used to be.

©2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

Prayer Request Please pray for

Prayer Request

Please pray for Katherine, Franklin, and most especially for their daughter Fiona who is undergoing heart surgery tomorrow to have a pace-maker removed (praise God!). She's only six, so this is quite an ordeal. Pray for peace for the parents and the rest of the family. Thank you!!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

One Must Go As One

One Must Go As One is Led

Yesterday Dylan blogged quoting this site's motto.

A beautiful three-step program that I should initiate :

-- Ignoring the imperfections of others
-- Preserving (or at least increasing) silence
-- Preserving continual communion with God.

There may be a cutback in my blogging soon, a diminution of the number of per diem posts. And the posting may continue to be per diem, and the reading of the other excellent blogs may continue to be per diem, but I can't elude the suspicion that I might be the better for a week-long retreat from the blogosphere in the not-too-distant future. I've done my share of generating heat, despite error503's stated aim of lowering the blood-pressure, and sticking to what's best in "Catholicism, poetry and culture."

It is an excellent, meritorious thought, and driven all by the right concerns. However, I hesitate, because silence, the glorious silence in which we meet with, engage with, sometimes wrestle with, more often commune with God, is not merely a matter of closing human lips. Silence, as with speech, is not simply cutting off communication, but saying what needs to be said and not saying what does not need to be said. We will be called to account for every idle word. Such words are not the words of splendid poets and great divines, they are not the words of saints, nor are they the words that in reflection we share with the world what we have experienced of God. They are not even the words of what we enjoy--baseball, football, movies, books, tennis, fine wine, you name it. These words build community, understanding, human solidarity. They help us to more readily "love our neighbor" because many of us labor to love an abstract, but someone with real concerns, hopes, joys, wishes, thoughts, desires, pains, this person we can approach more readily. The great Saints were able to discern all of these things without much conversation, but we are (most of us) not yet great Saints. We are saints in training. And some saints were particularly voluble and sociable, still preserving and virtuous silence--St. Alphonsus di Liguori springs to mind as one who has written more than I, in my lifetime, seem likely to be able to read, so too St. Francis de Sales. I also think of St. Philip Neri, the laughing Saint.

Thus, while I commend the motive and the thought, I bemoan the possibility. More, I wonder if such a silence, imposed from within, as it were, is effective in the way we wish it to be. It seems to me that points one and three of Dylan's plan lead very naturally to point two, without the imposition of a silence that might be frustrating, aggravating, or bothersome. Now, of course, that is from the outside. I am not Dylan, nor may I speak for him, and we must allow our consciences to form the ground of our being. If God so leads him, then I must not interfere. But I do speak to clarify. Our first duty is to ignore the rampant goings-on and detractions that can take place in a world where there is much communication, but very little identity. It is very easy to criticize, fault, and abjure, when one knows nothing of the individuals involved save a few random communications. Here we know only as much as people wish us to know through their postings. (Dare I say it, "We see as through some glass, darkly). Unless we are friends on the other side of the glass screen, we know nothing of the people posting. How much better for us then, if we refrain from any comments on the activities of others we cannot know. All we may legitimately comment upon are their words and their ideas. Mistaken notions must always, for the sake of the person holding them, be corrected--it is, in fact a Christian duty. But a person must never be diminished in the glory of personhood. Each person has a unique identity in Christ and an insult to the person is spit in the face, a crown of thorns, and a nail. Jesus told us that when we call our brother "Thou fool" we commit murder in our hearts. What a terrible thing! So, we must correct mistaken notions, all the while preserving the integrity and dignity of the person holding them. No person is discountable, no person is not worthy of our notice, no person is disposable. Every person bears within them the fractured image of Christ, and we should be assisting them in perfecting that image. So better to ignore goings on, to wander in the gardens of blogdom and pick such flowers as we may find in bloom.

So, the long and the short of this. We do well to ignore the goings-on that tend to distract us from the beauty of God that flows through each person. We also must preserve, to the extent possible, continual communion with God. This can be extraordinarily difficult to cultivate, and comes as a part of grace. But God is gracious, and He does help us when our intentions are directed toward Him. This communion comes in short glances among the pots and pans in the kitchen, while sewing, or indeed while blogging and thinking not only of God, but of the love He would have us share. This is a vehicle to spread that love far and wide.

Sometimes we must retreat into complete silence, I suppose, to more clearly focus and hear God. But more often, it is in talking and sharing our ideas that our communion with God is supported. We are not monastics, we are not cloistered from the world. Few of us have the ability to withstand the forces of secularity on our own. In this enclave, we build up a conversation and a communion that continually allows us to turn our minds toward God. That is why I don't visit some places in blogdom with great frequency. While they contribute a tremendous amount to the community, I often cannot bear what they are telling me. I often find myself succumbing to my very worst impulses, and so I retreat to this shell, the small part of blogdom I visit, that more often than not allows me to stand exposed to God rather than retreating into a shell, separating myself at once from the world and from God. Blogs like those I have listed, support me in my prayer life. They help me on the way to preserving that continuous communion with God. Good things and good words are posted that allow me to fly to God rather than away from Him. Blogdom has served to help me hone my prayer life because I have been able to talk to others and thus, more than anything, teach and convince myself. God convicts me of His love as I tell others about it.

Thus I encourage Master Dylan to follow the course of his conscience, but to bear in mind that his words, thoughts, passions, interests, and ideas serve a great many people each day, help to feed them news of God rather than news of the world. In many ways, those who serve in these far-flung outposts of blogdom, those that get a mere trickle of readers, the "tidepools" on the great ocean, perform an enormous service to all of us who seek a solidarity that can be hard to find moment to moment in the world at large. Any shrinking of that pool makes conditions a little less salutary for all. So while I speak to Dylan, I also speak to everyone out there who happens by--share the good that God has done for you because you will raise up the spirits of someone who reads in the course of a day. You are all valuable, unique, wonderful, supportive, loving, helpful, Spirit-filled people who have much to give to the world, both within and outside of blogdom, and I am exceedingly blessed at having found such a haven.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2002

Last Blog at least Until

Last Blog at least Until Evening

This is an example of a catalog poet--as if you couldn't tell from the title. The catalog poem is a very specialized subcategory of the imagist poem. Catalogs formed parts of longer poems, as in Epics and other longer poems. But the poets of the imagist school, following on Japanese and Chinese forbears elaborated the catalog poem into a genre unto itself. Needless to say, one would not want to read an entire book of these at a sitting, but they make for nice variety among other more structured poems.

A Brief Catalog of Farewells Steven Riddle

A perfume fountain
forms on the crest of
warm summer. The whisper
of kelp in sand,
of salt in air. The call of
foam and fire sunsets
dancing the blue-green waves.
Open kitchen windows.
From the pool two jade
divers surface.
Leaves swirl to hide a pond
and mist takes human form.
Notebook pages flutter. Fire
etches a stain on the window. A bat
snags a firefly in the dusk.
Sound of broken glass from
a frog jump. A narrow road crumbles.
Stones ripple
the sky in the pond.

The purpose of the catalog poem is to bring together images that suit the theme or idea. As such they do not withstand close scrutiny, although the juxtaposition of the imagery can lead to some interesting ideas and some sardonic commentary. Imagists were dedicated to recording "Things as they are." But, as Wallace Stevens so kindly informed us in "Man with a Blue Guitar" (which could be read as a commentary on imagist and cubist schools), "Things as they are/are changed upon the blue guitar."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

More Poetry--Surprise--Not Mine!

For those looking for some delightful light satire/verse, hie thee quickly to Catholic Light and see this post from Alexandra Baldwin's mother via the redoubtable Ms. Baldwin herself--"Sister Nouveau Mary Addresses the Statue of the Blessed Mother. " Enjoy!

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

Jonathan Edwards When you read

Jonathan Edwards

When you read through the great Puritan ministers you are likely to stumble across a great many things that will surprise you. And there is a certain irony (if I remember my family history correctly) that Rose Lathorp Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, prominent Catholic and founder of an order of Hospital Workers (?), is a direct lineal descendant of this great Puritan preacher. I really like Edwards's work. We all have been exposed to "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," for our portion of fire and brimstone, but here's something completely unexpected from that quarter.

from A Sermon by Jonathan Edwards A sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ's beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God's grace from the false.

Who would have thought that a puritan minister would lavish so much time and thought upon the question of beauty and God's beneficence as expressed in beauty. Thomas Dubay (The Evidential Power of Beauty) yes, Jonathan Edwards no. So, just as we encourage our protestant brethren to bury some of their presuppositions and ideas, it's well past time to vanquish some of our own. I do not encourage those who are not doctrinally well-founded to peruse these works. But if you are grounded in your Catholic Faith these brilliant and lovely sermons can only help to add to your appreciate of God's splendor and glory.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

Becoming Whole I am amazed

Becoming Whole

I am amazed by Wilfrid Stinissen. Some of the insights, while possibly not original, are said in a way that makes sense at a level I cannot explain. Perhaps it is because he is a Carmelite, perhaps he is just particularly gifted in writing about the spirituality of Scripture. Whatever the reason, some of the passages from Nourished by the Word really speak to me.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

Adam is an incomplete first sketch of Christ. Adam is created in God's image, but Christ is God's image. This relationship to Christ remains even after Adam's Fall. The most profound thing about him, that he is created in God's image, is not destroyed by the Fall. In an indirect way, we get right from the Bible's first chapter the consolation that even fallen humans have a likeness to Christ.Something in them is unaffected by the sin. All of our earthly life is a wandering, a seeking, in order to completely find our identity in this unaffected part.

All of life is a search for completion, which is why when we find that completion in anything less than God, there is a hollowness, a vaccuum that we cannot deny. When we try to stuff the God-shaped void with possessions, power, sex, glory, self, anything less than God, the hole remains, and now is more like an infected wound, we are aware of it--it aches and hurts all the time. We groan in our emptiness, unhappy ourselves and needing to share our unhappiness.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)