February 01, 2003

As If It Matters Courtesy

As If It Matters

Courtesy of the blogmaster at Not For Sheep. . .

Which OS are You?
Which OS are You?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

Blood Oranges A fabuously rare

Blood Oranges

A fabuously rare fruit in northern climes. Or at least it used to be. In my entire time I don't recall setting my eyes upon one, unless you count John Hawkes's book of that title. But they are in season in Florida now, and they are wonderful, a taste of heaven. Much like an orange, though I don't think they ever sweeten. The flesh remains tart and if the climate is right "becomes bloody" as a much admired friend terms it. The skin is orange but the inside is deep, dark red, and the taste is unimaginable and wonderful. Oh, I was born to be a tropical boy--here I revel in the land of guavas, blood oranges, mangoes, papayas, and perhaps most wonderful of all key limes--the juice of which is extracted for that most delectable of confections. Glory be to God for exotic tastes.

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

My Promise to You All

Everyone who visits here is a blessing to me. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is encouraged to comment, and correct. I would hope that I do not err so badly as to provoke incivility (it hasn't happened very often--once that I can think of, some time ago). (From the tenor of this one might conclude that I was Episcopalian--the most gracious and most civil and pleasant of all of the faiths--but I'm not.) There is ample room for serious disagreement and serious engagement. And I promise all of you that I will do my very best to treat you all as the Lord has commanded, with respect, with love, and with tender care for your dignity and persons. If I am angered or otherwise aggravated, I will contact you privately and I will not make a public spectacle of it. I want this to be a place of serenity and even of some mid-level disagreement over things that are not central to our faith. And if I have offended by word or deed, first accept my sincere apologies, but also feel free to let me know by e-mail, it will go no farther than myself, and being one seeking detachment, I will appreciate the lesson in humility. (See, you have a Golden Opportunity to be Our Lord's instruments of Mercy.) I've already had several, and I will need countless more. And I want everyone to feel at home and feel comfortable talking to me as they see fit. I'm actually relatively difficult to offend so long as you aren't hawking anti-Catholic wares--so please, pull up a chair, pour yourself whatever you're drinking and rest awhile. I'd like to think that we have here "a momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste." Or at least a second-rate watering hole.

Our Lord's Shalom to all who visit.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O, Lord
And to their families peace, comfort, and sure knowledge of your presence.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

A Parting Reminder--Then To My Meeting

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel--Book 1, Chapter 6 St. John of the Cross

IN order that what we have said may be the more clearly and fully understood, it will be well to set down here and state how these desires are the cause of two serious evils in the soul: the one is that they deprive it of the Spirit of God, and the other is that the soul wherein they dwell is wearied, tormented, darkened, defiled and weakened, according to that which is said in Jeremias, Chapter II: Duo mala fecit Populus meus: dereliquerunt fontem aquoe vivoe, et foderunt sibi cisternas, dissipatas, quoe continere non valent aquas. Which signifies: They have forsaken Me, Who am the fountain of living water, and they have hewed them out broken cisterns, that can hold no water.[117] Those two evils -- namely, the privative and the positive -- may be caused by any disordered act of the desire.

We seperate ourselves to God alone, or we struggle always against the crushing weight of desire and ownership. There is no middle way. God really, really likes the Frank Sinatra song, "All or nothing at All." I often hear Him say, "Half a love never appealed to me."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

From St. John of the

From St. John of the Cross

An austere and beautiful reminder.

from The Ascent of Mount Carmel--Book 1, Chapter 4 St. John of the Cross

4. All the being of creation, then, compared with the infinite Being of God, is nothing. And therefore the soul that sets its affection upon the being of creation is likewise nothing in the eyes of God, and less than nothing; for, as we have said, love makes equality and similitude, and even sets the lover below the object of his love. And therefore such a soul will in no wise be able to attain to union with the infinite Being of God; for that which is not can have no communion with that which is.

The Ascent is available online here.

One heart, one mind, one goal--Union with God, and mysteriously that Union is completed only in the salvation of souls. I don't understand it, but I thank God for it.

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

Off to the Carmelite Meeting

Off to the Carmelite Meeting

I'm off to my meeting, so not much this morning, but I'll be certain that you all are mentioned in our intentions at morning prayer. And if there's anything a Carmelite knows how to do it is to pray. What a blessing each person of this wonder cyberparish is--what a magnificent and awe-inspiring blend of personalities--why, it's almost like the real world!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2003

Scientia Media A chance remark

Scientia Media

A chance remark in the comments box this morning spawned an entire day of thinking. (This was a day mostly dedicated to drone tasks so brain engagement was at an absolute minimum).

I have always wondered how one reconciled omniscience, presdestination, and free will. It always seemed an impossible quandary involving arcane postulations about just how much God chose to know and His manner of knowing it. Reading about scientia media provoked a thought--what if it is not such a conundrum after all--only appearing so much more difficult because we do not have to hand an essential piece of the puzzle.

What seems critical here is our hopelessly pedestrian view of time as a linear progression. The view of eternity might be quite different. Time might be like an infinitely anastomosing stream. If there are infinitely many branches representing choices, decisions, options, and events, we could consider it in this fashion. As we move down this stream, once we move past the entrance to a particular distributary, or choose to enter the distributary, the other option is closed off. Thus our choices down the line pinch off as we move along. God knows all the options and all the possible views of these streams all the way to the end of the stream in Him. All of those options remain completely open and God knows completely all of the possibilities of outcomes, thus, "knows" the end choice that is not decided until in linear time the last sidestream is passed.

This leaves open every choice, it also does not limit God's omniscience. It doesn't resolve the trickier problem of the fact that God could choose to know or does know where this may end up. But it at least is a start that takes into account what I believe may be a more reasonable look at time from an eternal viewpoint. At least it makes for a good speculative suggestion.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

On Examining this Blog I

On Examining this Blog

I had cause to return to a post from earlier in this week and concluded that I would not want to fall behind in reading this because you might just give up. Which leads me to wonder if I might not be overproducing for the audience. After all, it is to be assumed that we all have lives and we all do things other than hang around blogdom.

I'm astounded by the throughput on several sites and speculation beyond the veil of Charity leads me to ask whether people who produce sites like this have a life or whether they're slaves of the keyboard? And if the latter, wouldn't that effort be better placed doing something else?

Oh well, we go, more or less, as the Lord leads.

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

Ascent of Mount Carmel II

In all humility, I offer these guiding questions for anyone for the benefit of any who can use them.

St John of the Cross
Study Guide for Ascent of Mount Carmel II

Read pages 123-122 Chapters 4-6. Be sure to annotate with your own heads. Numbers below refer to numbered sections of the text.

Chapter 4—Why you need to pass through a dark night of the senses to come to union with God.

1-2. Why are people attached to creatures unable to achieve union?
3 What does attachment to a creature cause to happen to a person?
4 John talks about being, beauty, grace and elegance, goodness, and wisdom and ability. What is his point in each case?
5 Compare and contrast the two paragraphs of this section. What must one do with human wisdom?
6-7 John continues his comparisons. Make a list of all the items John has compared and then note which of these is the cause of your greatest attachments. Which of these do you most prize?
8 What happens to souls in love with things of the world? Reflect for a while on the passages from Proverbs. Read it several times and write down what it says to you about people trying to grow close to God. Then read John’s explanation—how does it compare with yours?

Chapter 5—John offers biblical examples and further evidence for the necessity of the dark night of the senses..
1-2 John says over and over again, “Love produces equality and likeness.” Restate this in your own words. What do your attachments make you like?
3-4 What does the episode of manna in the desert mean in our lives? How are we like the Israelites? What do we need to do about it?
5-6 What is the chief lesson we are to gather from Moses on the Mount? What does it call us to do?
7 What is the purpose of ascending the mount? What must be accomplished for it to happen?
8 What happens to anything base that tries to dwell with God (for example the idol John mentions). What might be the effect in a soul of this? Would God do this to a soul? What implications does that have for us?

Chapter 6—The types of harm caused by attachments
1 What are the two forms of harm caused by attachments? (The word privative is an adjective meaning “depriving” or “causing one to lack.” What is the nature of this privative harm?
2 How can one add to an already full vessel? If something is filled to the very top, what must be done in order to add anything? If the substance being added is likely to destroy the vessel if it touches any of the previous substance, what must be done? What does this call us to?
3 How do appetites get in the way of the Lord?
4 What is more difficult for God creation or purgation? Why?
5-6 How is the soul wearing and tired by attachments and appetites? Name an example in your own life. What does this call us to?

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

January 30, 2003

The Continuing Conversation I

The Continuing Conversation

I am often stunned by the wisdom, charity, and depth of spirit to be found here in blogdom. Pursuant to a few hardly original comments I made here the other day, Father Jim and Mr. Contrarian have added to the discussion in most fruitful ways. I have learned a tremendous amount from these generous-spirited posts. Go and do likewise!

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

On the Jesuits

My, my, the Jesuits are getting a drubbing here and here. And I will explicitly state that this is not to take either of these two authors to task.

It is true that some Jesuits go awry. But what about the Jesuits who run Ignatius Press, Fr. Fessio, my own, very dear, very Holy Fr. O'Holohan, and countless others who have been loyal and faithful to the magisterium? All orders have their renegades and their diffiuculties: witness Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, and there are several in my own order that I will not name as it smacks of a certain disobedience. Someone has recently said that to find truth faith one must forget the old orders and look to the new. I don't think so. However, I do say that the superiors in Orders that have straying members should be called to account and perhaps removed from the seat of authority if they do not redress some of the nonsense.

It isn't Jesuits, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, or any other group--it is simply wayward people--people who need to be reminded about why they joined Holy Orders and what the purpose and meaning of vocation, humility, and obedience are.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

It Would Seem In the

It Would Seem

In the entry below I asked:

Again, can a higher loyalty override the loyalty to the state (render unto Caesar. . .) thus, in Bonhoeffer's case, does a loyalty to God override a loyalty to Hitler?

Using the mathematical guideline that a single negative instance disproves the conclusion, one can conclude that this statement can never be true in committing an action specifically prohibited by God (i.e. murder). It can be true in commiting an act prohibited by the state. For example it ALWAYS a sin to bomb an abortion clinic or to cause harm to any member of that clinic staff deliberately. It may not be sinful, and it may be righteous, in opposition to unjust laws and unjust legislation arising from the improper source, to block the entrance to an aboriton clinic (legal disclaimer: not an action I would encourage as there are other legal means toward accomplishing the same goal). So we can say that while it may be proper to attend to a higher authority when the action tends toward His will, it is never appropriate to do so when the action is in direct opposition to His stated will (let's say, the 10 commandments). This still leaves open the whole question of the definition of the situation (assassination, etc.). But the answer to the question is fairly obvious and should have been before I asked. You can never commit a sin for purposes of achieving a good. Sometimes my foggy brain suggests possiblities that are not. Oh well.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

More on Assassination The help

More on Assassination

The help received from all has been greatly appreciated and I think the crux of the issue is succinctly stated:

I guess my point is that the enormity of the victim's crimes does not turn an act of assassination into a moral act. It might be a justifying circumstance for an otherwise neutral act, but it cannot make something evil into something good.

With this I must agree--the act is objectively evil. Now we ask another question--is it necessarily a sin? It would certainly be a sin for me to either participate or to suggest this as a solution to any problem. But is it always and everywhere a sin? I think the answer to that must be "No." And this is one of those rare instances that demonstrates the flip side of the problem I was having over at Disputations a while back discussing good. Could assassination be an instance of an apparent good that while objectively evil carries with it more of the real good than many other apparent goods? Now this is dangerously close, no, it is stating the the end justifies the means--which is false. But somehow there is a calculus of the evils involved in this. Certainly one might acknowledge that the act is often evil, but there are circumstances under which it is required (a la just war) thus, acting in conscience, one might not actually commit a sin in doing something of this nature, but one would be committing an objectively evil act. (Just as in the same way a woman who procures an abortion under protest and duress commits an objectively evil act but does not sin in the course of it.) But where does such an argument lead?

I don't know why I think of this. It just puzzles {n.b.: originally bothers, see comments box} me that God would look as harshly upon one who put an end to the slaughter of millions by one death as He would upon the slaughterer.

Then there is another question--if in the course of a war or battle one person is singled out above all else--is THAT assassination or is it enemy combattant. And yet another question--if the assassination stems from one having no loyalty to the one assassinated--let's say the Hitler assassination was committed by Slovenians--is that covered in the course of war or in the course of battle? Again, can a higher loyalty override the loyalty to the state (render unto Caesar. . .) thus, in Bonhoeffer's case, does a loyalty to God override a loyalty to Hitler? What do we make of the case of Judith and Holofernes?

Oh, it is a complex issue isn't it?

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

January 29, 2003

Leaving Blogger I have considered

Leaving Blogger

I have considered leaving blogger--but inertia triumphs. Finding a server installing movable type and figuring out how to tweak it. Developing my own style sheet. I'm half-overcome just thinking about it. Perhaps its because I do enough code wrangling of this sort at work, perhaps its because I have no greater purpose in doing this that requires my complete control over every circumstance. Blogger has served me well and faithfully with a few isolated outages. I think I shall rest on my laurels until I can no longer do so.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

A Question for Ethicists and

A Question for Ethicists and Theologians

As I was thinking about this Iraq situation and puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler were sore, I thought of something that is, I am certain not unique. I know that someone can clearly point the way to the answer. If there can be a just war, is it possible for there to be a "just assassination"? I am not suggesting this as a solution to this problem--but I was thinking about it in relation to the plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II. If the plotters had succeeded would they have sinned? Would Deitrich Bonhoeffer have committed a terrible sin if they had blown up Hitler? Would Hitler have been considered a combattant and thus subject to the casualties of war? If the war is just, then killing during that time must not be a sin, yes?

Anyway, anyone who knows where to find the answer, even if it is not clearly spelled out, please let me know.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

New-Klee-Are There is one word.


There is one word. It is spelled n-u-c-l-e-a-r and it is pronounced noo-klee-ahr. NOT noo-kyoo-lahr. Once someone told me that a nuclear family had a different pronunciation than nuclear energy. No. It doesn't. End sermon on pet peeve.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

Bad Blogger, Bad! Blogger was

Bad Blogger, Bad!

Blogger was very wicked this morning during my normal blogging time. Thus I was unable to post a number of things that have been swirling through my head. This evening, perhaps.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

More Joyous Dancers Before the

More Joyous Dancers Before the Lord

Or I suppose you could just think of it as exhibitionist dancers before the lord. Via the magisterial blog of Ms. Kropp these newcomers of interest:

Spiritual Pyromania

Disordered Affections (In Ignatian terminology, or for those into the Carmelite groove--attachments) No matter what terminology, I have a feeling that we'll be seeing some interesting insights from this blog.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2003

Comment for the Day In

Comment for the Day

In an age of Beethovens, you sometimes have to be a Debussy.

(No offense Beethoven admirers--brought to mind by the first piano concerto--blocky, chunky, and solid--quite beautiful, but not very graceful--the solid beauty of a Cleopatra's Needle--sometimes we just need filigree).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

Journey into the Heart of

Journey into the Heart of the Church

One of the things I found so impressive about Mr. Nixon's post noted yesterday is the trajectory it traces from our own willfulness toward obedience. I had resolved the issue of abortion and capital punishment before I entered the Church, and I entered partly because the Church spoke with a firm voice and with no hint of equivocation on these matters.

But as I entered, I thought that the Church was wrong in a great many of its provisions and understandings. I could not for the life of me understand why women were not priests and deacons. I could not fathom why there was such a focus on sexual teachings and why homosexual relationships were not acknowledged as loving and giving support relationships. I did my RCIA in a community associated with a University and so often these questions were not directly addressed. I moved to another state and joined and helped an RCIA director whose views approximated my own. We often had gay speakers at meetings and people pressing for married clergy and female clergy.

Through time, as I studied what the Church taught, and came to a clearer understanding of biblical revelation and teaching, some of these issues faded away. When I read the reasoning behind the question of why there are no female priests, I understood and assented. When I fully understood the Church's teaching on homosexuality, I understood, but could not quite assent. I have subsequently bowed in obedience, but still wonder about it sometimes. It puzzles me. The teaching on sexuality I have long pondered and wondered about the truthfulness thereof. I was involved for a while in a Charismatic community that saw no problem with birth-control and were highly suspicious of all manner of Marian Devotions. When I had escaped these influences and studied Humanae Vitae, Casti Connubii and Love and Responsibility I became more aware of my own pride and my own agenda driving much of what I thought.

I have great respect for those who come to the Church or belong to the church and have strong reservations about some of the teachings. I understand people who want one thing or another, but continue within the Catholic Church because that is the Church where truth resides. Sometimes it is difficult to draw the line between doctrine and discipline. This can be a source of much of the difficulty many people have. Is a celibate clergy a discipline or is it doctrine? Is it core and essential to Catholic Practice? (Those are rhetorical questions. I understand better the answers given by traditional and conservative Catholics.)

Ms. Knapp encouraged everyone some time back to have charity, compassion, and patience for all Catholic brothers and sisters, not to put up artificial "us and them" boundaries, but to accept them at their word--they are good Catholics in the sense that they adhere to all the dogma and practice of the Church. But they wish to see change that would completely alter what the Church is. We need less of division and more of strong nonconfrontational apologetics so that all will understand WHY the church teaches as it does and what the meaning of that is for each individual.

Yes, we often react in fear. There is a certain amount of fear of those who would change the very foundations of our Church. But we need to hear and understand what is being said in the way that the speaker understands it. We need to understand the most articulate proponents of views we do not hold and we need to gently but firmly respond with Church teaching. We need to continue to do this in all charity and respect engaging each individual as an individual and not as a cell in a hive-mind all focused on the utter destruction of what we love.

Perhaps we need to be proactive rather than reactive. We need to see the love that many who hold opposite views have for the Church and encourage them to explore more and seek to understand the underpinnings of the issues. We need to address dissent and disagreement, but we need to do so in a loving and logical fashion, bearing patiently with people who are struggling with the perceived injustices and flaws of the Church as She stands now.

So once more: we should all encourage each other to "stand ready to give reason for the hope that is within you." Sometimes those of us not skilled in argumentation might give simply the reason that it is church teaching and direct the person involved toward the catechism for further information and research. Those of us better equipped to discuss these things reasonably and logically should do so. But all should pray before speaking--for greater damage is done by uncharitable (but perhaps correct) apologists than by all the silent doubters in the pews in our Churches.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

Recidivism: Beginning to Understand Mortification

One of the most difficult aspects of the spiritual life is our constant backsliding. Now while I'm sure I'm not alone in this, I do know that many who walk this road have progressed far beyond me and what I say here is largely irrelevant. But those of us who are beginning, or even who are a bit progressed find that time after time we commit the same errors or sins regardless of our desire not to do so.

The only good thing about this is that it shows we are human. St. Paul tells us concerning himself, "The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Most of us who return to sin return to a sensual sense. That is the appeal to the pleasure principle is largely responsible for much backsliding. It only makes sense. If a sin causes pain, anguish, or mental difficulty, one is unlikely to repeat it over and over again. However, if a sin gives rise to some form of pleasure, be it gustatory, sexual, or otherwise, then we will be inclined to repeat the sin, not for the sake of sinning but for the sake of pleasure.

St. John of the Cross is always regarded as a very cold and austere Saint--one who might have supported various practices of mortification. In fact, he warned his adherents against excessive mortifications, and charted a road that is a model of moderation and caution in this regard. He pointed out the value of not allowing yourself to have something you greatly desire in order not to feed the fires of the passion that can lead to sin.

Practices of penance and mortification are good in small degree (so long as they do not become obsessions) in that they train us not to seek out the pleasures in life and to accept those pleasures that come without actively seeking them. When we experience a moment of pleasure at a sunset, a concert, or in any of the various activities of life, we should appreciate it and let it go. Mortification allows us to do this to greater degree. In some sense, we train our bodies to be more grateful and more appreciative of the good things that come to us. Fasting, for example, has numerous spiritual effects, but for those of proper frame of mind and prayer, one of the benefits is that it teaches us to be detached from the sensual pleasure accompanying food. This is not to say we should not enjoy the food we have, but we should not seek it out to the exclusion of all else.

In the document "Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics" mortification is described as

radical self-denial and wholehearted giving of oneself to God that Jesus called for when he told his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mt. 16:24). More specifically, mortification is a form of ascetic discipline that involves denial of some kind of enjoyment in order to gain greater detachment from one's desire. The goal of mortification is fullness of life, not death--freedom, not enslavement.

The word itself suggest dark, medieval practices from the "bad old days" of the Ancient Church. Monks with flagelli, etc. But it need not be so, and indeed, in some cases such practices carried things to such an extreme that mortification became an end in itself.

During Lent we are often called upon to "give something up." In modern Church discipline this "negative" approach has often been replaced with "doing something good." However, the discipline of giving something up, is very beneficial, and the proper practice of it can lead to lifelong spiritual benefits. If the point of the discipline is not simply to deprive oneself of a known good in order to be deprived but to use that deprivation to move closer to the Lord Jesus, "giving something up" can be a very good discipline indeed.

The long and the short of it--if you find yourself in a recidivist cycle, consult your spiritual director. Find out how to gradually increase your detachment from the object of desire, and use the whole practice to put yourself more thoroughly into the arms of our Savior and Lord.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

A Correction Yesterday at

A Correction

Yesterday at another blog I made a statement that is technically inaccurate. I said that I have read Proust's monumental work three times. That is not true. I have read the complete work once, in English. In French I have read Á côte de chez Swann once entirely and once in part (There was a shortened version reflective, I think of a movie of some time ago). In addition I read part of A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur. Sorry for the misrepresentation--it was meant to be shorthand, but I realized that suddenly it sounded like I spent my entire life reading Proust, which definitely is not true. Now, I shall go and have my madelaines and lemon tea, thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

A Mild Demurral I

A Mild Demurral

I will not second-guess our president, whom I must trust to determine the best course of action. But I do wonder what the rush is. What harm can there be in extending inspections time? It's hardly likely that while the country is being combed by these people the weapons can be readily deployed. More, I must ask myself, why this focus on Iraq when we know for a fact that North Korea is problematic?

But I do emphasize, this is the chorus that run through my head. One of the things I have learned in the course of spiritual training and life is that sometimes you must give up the right to know. Sometimes, in fact often, we must trust providence and God's grace. Sometimes we must trust the leaders who guide us, even if their own agendas differ from ours.

My solution to all this inquiry is to pray. In prayer we will find the way and in prayer we will make reparation for the wrongs that we do in ignorance and disobedience.

So, while I do have questions, I also know that I do not know everything, nor do I really want to. I trust God to guide the man who is set in charge over all of us through our own will. In God we trust.

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

Thanks and more prayers My

Thanks and more prayers

My thanks to all of you who prayed for the intentions of the other day.

And a request for more prayers:

Please pray for Franklin for success at an upcoming interview.

Please pray for Kairos Guy and family.

Please pray for Gordon who is actively seeking employment.

Please pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders.

Most especially, please pray for seeking and following God's plan and wisdom in world affairs.

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

Happy St. Thomas Day First

Happy St. Thomas Day

First order of business, to all our happy O.P. Bloggers out there, a blessed, joyous, fruitful, and fulfilling feast day today. I am certain that St. Thomas is praying for all of you, and prayers of such a wonderful saint will not go unfulfilled.

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

January 27, 2003

A Wonderful Post on a

A Wonderful Post on a Terrible Issue

Mr. Nixon of Sursum Corda provides insight and frank reflections on the question of abortion. Fresh air, well conceived (pardon the pun) and well delivered. (I know two in a row--but better well-delivered than well-executed).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

More Wisdom--On Archiving One

More Wisdom--On Archiving

One of the most consistently sane and gentle voices in blogdom presents us with another example of wisdom stemming from something as inconsequential as a blog. Please visit Ms. Knapp and see what she has to say. Yes, even a blog can be a lesson in prayer.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

On Discussing Matters of Controversy

On Discussing Matters of Controversy

Mr. Disputations has a brief comment on "progressives" in the Church, to which this was my reply:

On all of these issues, I hold with Church teaching. However, I have far greater tolerance for difference of opinion on some of them than on others. Moreover, one of the things that often disturbs me in this whole debate is the implicit assumption that those who hold a differing opinion are operating out of ill-will. Surely, there are the Frances Kisslings of the world, who would like nothing better than to see the Catholic Church lie in a smoldering heap. But the vast majority of people who hold some or all of these views do not do so out of ill will.

I will not speculate on what does drive such people, but I will give my view of it from outside. It seems that certain of the very good aspects of modern secular culture--the desire for people to live together without strife, the desire for equality of representation, the desire for individuals to be respected, intrudes into the religious realm where all of these things are true, but the trappings differ from what looks like true equality, peace, harmony, and respect. It is in seeking to redress these perceived inequalities that we get these various agendas.

I tend to agree about the coalesence of the endpoints of these agendas. But that does not mean that one is entitled to engage people with differing viewpoints with anything less than civility, respect for their integrity, and true charity that requires gentle reproof (if speak you must) and logical demonstration of the errors of the viewpoint. As I am qualified for the first, but not particularly well qualified for the second, I spend much of my time outside the great debate reprimanding both sides when the discussion departs from the bounds of propriety and civility.

To which, I now add, that if anyone discerns that I am treating my guests less than hospitably, I would greatly appreciate the courtesy of an e-mail that provides details of the needed course correction. We all like to think that we act in charity, but more often we act in our view of Charity. Charity must always respect a person as an image of God, and must welcome Christ in that person. But Charity does not sit idly by while someone enters serious error or sinfulness. It is not charitable to sit by stirring one's cup of tea while one's companion is plagued by demons. Nor is it charity to let someone continue in sin without a word. (Not that any of the views qualify as sin--I'm simply attempting to define the limits of charity.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

On Twain Elsewhere in the

On Twain

Elsewhere in the blogworld there has been a bit of type lavished on the unlavishable Mark Twain. Mr. Dylan frankly admits that he sees nothing admirable in the "chief claims to fame" of our venerable Mr. Twain. Plain-spokeness seems to our protagonist merely a guise for lackluster and soporific. Mr. Twain's undoubted anti-clericalism and anti-religion are certainly unappealing. His strong cynicism and later-in-life misanthropy are certainly off-putting.

Let me note that I am not a foremost Twain fan. I do recognize the value of certain works even if they are not among my favorites. For example Huckleberry Finn for many reasons is probably one of the more important novels of the nineteenth century. Looking back at it from my present venue, I can't claim to love it as many of its proponents do, but I must admit to admiring a certain sly humor that creeps into a book that is a relentless attack on the received wisdom of society.

My favorite novel, read and reread year after year is undoubtedly Tom Sawyer. It was the stuff of dreams of boyhood. I spent much time being Tom Sawyer on a raft on the Mississippi, exploring caves, etc. Youthful enthusiasm has carried over into adulthood and I read this often. The charm is not in plain-spokeness, nor is it merely in appeal to youth, but it is in the humor that permeates the whole in a way that is hard to describe. Tom Sawyer standing outside of Church purchasing tickets for memorizing Bible Verses because he wants to impress Becky. Then when quizzed to name two of the twelve apostles--well, reread it for yourself. Whitewashing the fence, observing his own funeral (how many of us as youngsters didn't think something along the lines of--"Well, when I'm dead they're certainly going to be sorry," and imagine to obsequies that would ensue?"), all of these are episodes with a certain charm.

Many of the short stories are grand, and much of the criticism including some comments on the German Language, an essay on James Fennimore Cooper, and several others are ripe with a certain irony and incisive wit. Mr. Twain also has tremendous insight into fallen humanity. The War Prayer and "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" were both of and before their time. In addition along with Charles Dudley Warner, Mr. Twain gave us the name of a particularly corrupt and unpleasant period of American History--The Gilded Age (although the novel itself is quite amusing in parts.).

Mr. Twain's enduring legacy was his humor and his sometimes uncomfortable straightforward speaking of his mind. I acknowledge his rank as among the first of nineteenth century American novelists. And this too he deserves because his influence was as profound as the influence of Joyce in the twentieth century. Some of the excesses of the prose of Cooper, Irving, Hawthorne, and Melville have been trimmed away. (By the way, I do admire the style of these three, but recognize it as a heritage of eighteenth century literature). And in trimming away, he doesn't just cut off the bush at the roots, but he provides a viable prose with which to move forward. It is sparer than that of authors delineated above, but it is not stark. (Compare any passage of Twain with any passage of Hemingway, and you'll see immediately the difference.)

No, Mr. Twain undoubtedly deserves his place in the pantheon of American Literature. Whether he deserves it for some of the reasons critics give, it is hard to say. But people today can still read and enjoy Twain in a way that they cannot access Hawthorne or other nineteenth century novelists.

However, that said, if one does not care for fiction at all, one will hardly be in a position to appreciate Twain or his influence. Now, I must admit, I'm still puzzling over not enjoying fiction--but I know enough of this type of person to acquiesce that it is not an isolated phenomenon, just one that is incomprehensible to me. I will admit to having difficulty with a great deal of nonfiction, although I do not dislike it as a category, so I suppose it may be largely a matter of taste. But my life would be tremendously poorer and much less vivid were it not for the fictional worlds in which I have engaged and learned much. (Hence a topic for a future discussion--guiding the reading of children.)

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

Prayers Needed Please pray for

Prayers Needed

Please pray for Kairos Guy and family.

Please pray for Franklin and for Gordon who are both actively seeking employment.

Please pray for my colleagues and friends on this most difficult of days.

Please pray for wisdom and discernment for our leaders.

Most especially, please pray for seeking and following God's plan and wisdom in world affairs.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)