November 01, 2003

For All Saints

from Parochial and Plain Sermons Number 32 "Use of Saints' Days"
John Henry Cardinal Newman

I have not yet mentioned the peculiar benefit to be derived from the observance of Saints' days: which obviously lies in their setting before the mind patterns of excellence for us to follow. In directing us to these, the Church does but fulfil the design of Scripture. Consider how great a part of the Bible is historical; and how much of the history is merely the lives of those men who were God's instruments in their respective ages. Some of them are no patterns for us, others show marks of the corruption under which human nature universally lies:—yet the chief of them are specimens of especial faith and sanctity, and are set before us with the evident intention of exciting and guiding us in our religions course. Such are, above others, Abraham, Joseph, Job, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the like; and in the New Testament the Apostles and Evangelists. First of all, and in His own incommunicable glory, our Blessed Lord Himself gives us an example; but His faithful servants lead us on towards Him, and confirm and diversify His pattern. Now it has been the aim of our Church in her Saints' days to maintain the principle, and set a pattern, of this peculiarly Scriptural teaching.

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November Poem-Alexander Pope--Hymn

It was fantabulously difficult to find a poem for All-Saints. Don't know why--I suppose I could have picked any individual Saint. Be that as it may, this hymn came up in the course of search and I thought it wonderful.

Alexander Pope

Thou art my God, sole object of my love;
Not for the hope of endless joys above;
Not for the fear of endless pains below,
Which they who love thee not must undergo.
For me, and such as me, thou deign'st to bear
An ignominious cross, the nails, the spear:
A thorny crown transpierced thy sacred brow,
While bloody sweats from every member flow.
For me in tortures thou resign'st thy breath,
Embraced me on the cross, and saved me by thy death.
And can these sufferings fail my heart to move?
What but thyself can now deserve my love?
Such as then was, and is, thy love to me,
Such is, and shall be still, my love to thee--
To thee, Redeemer! mercy's sacred spring!
My God, my Father, Maker, and my King!

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Today is the Carmelite meeting, followed closely by a celebratory luncheon for my wife, overlapping with a celebration of the second issue of the local historical society's publication (this time I have some poetry being published rather than acting as editor). A full and wonderful day.

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October 31, 2003

Yet Another Nail in that Coffin--Obedience

from St Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

Ironically, in rejecting an external infallible authority we are encouraged to embrace the most fickle and fallible of all authorities--our own judgment. We then cling to our opinions like a shipwrecked man clings to a splinter of wood, and before long, our opinions are unassailable. In the end we don't have one objective, infallible authority but millions of subjective "infallible" authorities, and in this absurdity, we rejoice.

While one could read this to referto non-Christians, I find the indictment as pointed, and perhaps more so for Christians--because we ought to know better. I often act as if I am in ignorance of this critical aspect of Christian Life. Sometimes, I think my lack of obedience is due more to my thickheadedness, not understanding what is being said to me. But sometimes I wonder if I simply ignore the all-too-obvious messages that get reiterated time and again because it is convenient to me to do so. To wit--should I stop blogging. I blog because I love it, and yet the calamities of recent days, my reading, "incidental" and "accidental" posts, and any number of bits of circumstantial evidence conspire to suggest that perhaps the suggestion is something stronger than a suggestion. What then does obedience demand?

First, it would seem that obedience demands clarity. To act of suppositions, whims, distortions, and feelings is hardly a substantial basis for obedience. On the other hand, how does one properly discern the proper way to go. I honestly don't really know. I must assume that prayer will put me in the right place and short of that nothing can resolve the dilemma.

So, too, it would seem with all situations calling for obedience--discernment is often difficult, so I ask you all to pray. For several weeks, evidence has been mounting that suggests that perhaps I should remove myself from the blogging world--there is nothing here that cannot be found elsewhere in perhaps more charitable climes. Please pray as I try to figure out what these events are saying. Are they gentle nudges saying,"Clean up your act" or a forceful shove that says "Get off the stage." Obviously you can't answer that question, only God can, please pray that I hear what He is saying and can find the strength of will to act upon it.

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Thanks to Catholic Sensibilities

This site which is run by Christopher Scotese, one of the main names in the study of how Earth's contintental arrangement has changed through time. You can play with paleoglobes and explore other aspects of what I guess might best be called paleogeography. It's things like this that make me occasionally miss the world of paleo.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another Poem for the Day

Ms. Peony Moss offers "You, Andrew Marvell" by Archibald MacLeish, which I know I have read and which I largely remember for the title it gave to a science fiction story some time ago (I don't recall the author--perhaps Michael Bishop?) "And strange at Ecbatan the trees."

Go to her place and read it. I place it below so that I may return and savor it also in my commonplace book--thank you so much for this Ms. Moss.

You, Andrew Marvell
Archibald MacLeish

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
high through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:
And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .

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Most Important Post of the Day

Please remember the following in prayer:

For the repose of the soul of my son's teacher aid and her daughter, both found dead Wednesday Night--(Mrs. Moniz and daughter)

For the people of southern California for deliverance from fire.

For Ms. Schiavo and her family.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces who still risk their lives daily in the inhospitable wilds of Iraq and Afghanistan.

And most of all for Dylan who is going through a bad spell. He needs our constant intervention and intercession. Please make him a constant part of your prayer--even if only for a single bead of your rosary each day--Heaven must hear his name from us so that he may be returned.

Thank you.

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I don't know that I could ever fall completely silent so long as our good friend Dylan needed our prayers. I know I bring his name up too infrequently, but please remember him always.

Also, in easing the pain and perhaps anxiety of the indictment that I feel, I owe several people apologies for the hurt, pain, and confusion I have (I believe mostly inadvertantly) spread. Most particularly--Mr. Luse, who was more than a gentleman about the whole thing, Mary H., Ms. Moss (I forget which as both have chosen P-flowers--but I think Pansy) and others who may have been more than a bit bruised by my strident tones over the past couple of weeks.

Also, it is not so much by way of apology, but by way of explanation--I have noted that I do not seem to express my thoughts very clearly. This was made crystal clear by a post I read elsewhere in blogdom earlier this week in which the poster read clearly what I had written, but I had failed to write clearly what I had intended. It is lapses like this that seem quite frequent in recent weeks that make me ponder whether I am not one of the great offenders that Ms. Paglia indicts--perhaps a greater offender for the offense of knowing better and still committing the act. A great deal may be excused by ignorance--but as Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

I will try, to the extent possible in the limited duration I give this daily exercise to be more courteous and welcoming, less controversial and confusing, and more coherent and clear in the formulations of what I say. In addition, I will refrain from comment elsewhere--not entirely, but certainly I shall not comment with the abandon I have hitherto engaged in. It is in commenting that the worst offenses against the language and other people occur. Comments are not editable for the occasional linguistic excesses and hyperbole, whereas blog entries are.

Once again please forgive my haziness over the past couple of weeks--attribute it to the solar prominences and flares. I will endeavor to do better and to walk a good deal more quietly.

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Exciting New Texts

In Welsh, with a nice introduction and translation

Y Gododin--Aneurin

(Although I would swear that I had heard this referred to as Y Gododdin)

Courtesy of Alicia

An Analytic Bibliography of On-Line Neo-Latin Texts

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October Poem--Andrew Marvell--To His Coy Mistress

While I consider carefully the particulars of my indictment yesterday by recent circumstances and only secondarily by Ms. Paglia, the final October Poem. Nothing particularly autumnal about it, but a long-time favorite and a cache of wonderful phrases. (I particularly like the "vaster than empires and more slow," when critiquing the amount of time it can take some members of my household to prepare themselves. She is always quick to remind me, "The grave's a fine and private place.")

To His Coy Mistress
Andrew Marvell

            Had we but world enough, and time,
            This coyness, lady, were no crime.
            We would sit down and think which way
            To walk, and pass our long love's day;
            Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
            Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
            Of Humber would complain. I would
            Love you ten years before the Flood;
            And you should, if you please, refuse
            Till the conversion of the Jews.
            My vegetable love should grow
            Vaster than empires, and more slow.
            An hundred years should go to praise
            Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
            Two hundred to adore each breast,
            But thirty thousand to the rest;
            An age at least to every part,
            And the last age should show your heart.
            For, lady, you deserve this state,
            Nor would I love at lower rate.

                  But at my back I always hear
            Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
            And yonder all before us lie
            Deserts of vast eternity.
            Thy beauty shall no more be found,
            Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
            My echoing song; then worms shall try
            That long preserv'd virginity,
            And your quaint honour turn to dust,
            And into ashes all my lust.
            The grave's a fine and private place,
            But none I think do there embrace.

                  Now therefore, while the youthful hue
            Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
            And while thy willing soul transpires
            At every pore with instant fires,
            Now let us sport us while we may;
            And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
            Rather at once our time devour,
            Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
            Let us roll all our strength, and all
            Our sweetness, up into one ball;
            And tear our pleasures with rough strife
            Thorough the iron gates of life.
            Thus, though we cannot make our sun
            Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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October 30, 2003

A Dismaying Saying from Camille

T.S. O'Rama blogged this from Camille Paglia--an eccentric, egocentrical Valkyrie of a woman who, despite her lifestyle, I find myself much admiring. As I do admire her much, and as I have considered this before, I find her statements dismaying and tending to encourage me once again to silence. If blogdom is really this awful, do I do anyone a service by contributing to this surfeit of "political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric "gotcha" mentality. I find it depressing and claustrophobic."

Today, at least, I feel she is right.

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St. Bernard on Creation

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

God creates minds to share in himself, gives them life, so that they may experience him, causes them to desire him, enlarges them to grasp him, justifies them so that they may deserve him, stirs them to zeal, ripens them to fruitiion, directs them to equity, forms them in benevolence, moderates them to make them wise, strengthens them to virtue, visits them to console, enlightens them with knowlege, sustain them to immortality, fills them with happiness, surrounds them with safety.

Blessed be the name of the Lord who makes so great a creature and who sustains it undeservedly to life within Himself.

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Quote for the Day

"The brain may devise laws for the blood,
but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree"

William Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice"

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October Poem--T.S. Eliot--Preludes

T. S. Eliot


            The winter evening settles down
            With smell of steaks in passageways.
            Six o'clock.
            The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
            And now a gusty shower wraps
            The grimy scraps
            Of withered leaves about your feet
            And newspapers from vacant lots;
            The showers beat
            On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
            And at the corner of the street
            A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
            And then the lighting of the lamps.


            The morning comes to consciousness
            Of faint stale smells of beer
            From the sawdust-trampled street
            With all its muddy feet that press
            To early coffee-stands.

            With the other masquerades
            That time resumes,
            One thinks of all the hands
            That are raising dingy shades
            In a thousand furnished rooms.


            You tossed a blanket from the bed,
            You lay upon your back, and waited;
            You dozed, and watched the night revealing
            The thousand sordid images
            Of which your soul was constituted;
            They flickered against the ceiling.
            And when all the world came back
            And the light crept up between the shutters
            And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
            You had such a vision of the street
            As the street hardly understands;
            Sitting along the bed's edge, where
            You curled the papers from your hair,
            Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
            In the palms of both soiled hands.


            His soul stretched tight across the skies
            That fade behind a city block,
            Or trampled by insistent feet
            At four and five and six o'clock;
            And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
            And evening newspapers, and eyes
            Assured of certain certainties,
            The conscience of a blackened street
            Impatient to assume the world.

            I am moved by fancies that are curled
            Around these images, and cling:
            The notion of some infinitely gentle
            Infinitely suffering thing.

            Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
            The worlds revolve like ancient women
            Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

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October 29, 2003

A Reminder About the Efficacy and Necessity of Prayer

A reminder about our daily, hourly, minutely, secondly, duty, privilege, responsibility, and reward. Keep praying. Pray constantly. Pray without ceasing. Pray with trust and courage knowing that God will use your fervent prayer for the good of all as He sees it.

from Treatise on Prayer

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others.

But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.
In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleadses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

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Promise for the Day

I hereby promise not to blog any more on my obsession of the moment EXCEPT to reiterate requests for prayers, as Ms. Schaivo is not safe from our gentle justice system yet.

We now return control of your browser. . .

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October Poem--Edward Taylor-Upon a Wasp Chlled With Cold

Another Puritan (a sure winner in Erik's book :-), but a magnificent and much neglected poet. I've been hard-pressed to find much of his stuff on the web or in print. It's a shame. He has a series of meditations on Biblical Texts that are unmatched by just about anything from the time period. Note in the poem an extremely elaborate conceit that takes a while to settle into its proper outlines.

A couple of hints--

hasp--can mean many things but the most likely reading here is "to confine" or "to encompass."

fustian--can mean a cloth or bombastic language, so this initially threw me until I recalled that as an adjective it may also mean worthless, petty, pretentious; however, another intriguing reading is "made-up or imaginary"

Enjoy the poem--it is quite rich.

Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold
Edward Taylor

The Bear that breathes the Northern blast
Did numb, Torpedo-like,a Wasp
Whose stiffened limbs encramped, lay bathing
In Sol's warm breath and shine as saving,
Which with her hands she chafes and stands
Rubbing her Legs, Shanks, Thighs, and hands.
Her petty toes, and fingers' ends
Nipped with this breath, she out extends
Unto the Sun, in great desire
To warm her digits at that fire.
Doth hold her Temples in this state
Where pulse doth beat, and head doth ache.
Doth turn, and stretch her body small,
Doth Comb her velvet Capital.
As if her little brain pan were
A Volume of Choice precepts clear.
As if her satin jacket hot
Contained Apothecary's Shop
Of Nature's receipts, that prevails
To remedy all her sad ails,
As if her velvet helmet high
Did turret rationality.
She fans her wing up to the Wind
As if her Pettycoat were lined,
With reason's fleece, and hoists sails
And humming flies in thankful gales
Unto her dun Curled palace Hall
Her warm thanks offering for all.

Lord, clear my misted sight that I
May hence view Thy Divinity,
Some sparks whereof Thou up dost hasp
Within this little downy Wasp
In whose small Corporation we
A school and a schoolmaster see,
Where we may learn, and easily find
A nimble Spirit bravely mind
Her work in every limb: and lace
It up neat with a vital grace,
Acting each part though ne'er so small
Here of this Fustian animal,
Till I enravished Climb into
The Godhead on this Ladder do,
Where all my pipes inspired upraise
An Heavenly music furred with praise.

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October 28, 2003

Revisiting Great Poetry--Dylan's "Magnificat"

As I was doing some various clean-up work (I've got a bazillion posts to categorize) I came across a reference to this wonderful poem which reminds me once more why I miss him so much. Please continue prayers for his swift return.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 11:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

When to Nuance--Ms. Schaivo's Lesson to Us

Twice in recent days Mark at Minute Particulars has posted on the need for nuance. And I preface this with an apology to him if anything I say seems overly strong or harsh.

An excerpt from a recent post:

There is an understandable backlash at attempts to nuance situations that seem so utterly obvious. And, as I mentioned in the below post on partial-birth abortion, I know this backlash firsthand since I really don't see how anyone could find the doctor's words anything other than repulsive. What could possibly be nuanced here? What requires discussion? But I think such a reaction is simplistic and ultimately morally detrimental. Unless you think someone capable of this is the devil incarnate, there ought to be a way to express our moral concerns carefully and intelligently. Any hope of passing laws that will be upheld requires this; and, more to the point, any hope of converting hearts will fail without it.

And I don't have any real trouble with his point. My difficulty comes with the timing of nuancing. When we nuance someone to death we have created a far greater injustice than we can hope to rectify by our nuancing.

Nuancing has been horrendously abused by many post Vatican II reformers to support whatever the spin of the moment might happen to be. That in no way detracts from its importance; however, it does add a certain aura to the term and to the deed. Too many of us have been burned by "nuances" that have reinterpreted Church tradition and law out of existence. The Anglican Church is currently riven with nuance that basically is gutting Christian theology. Nuance has quite a disreputable patina.

Now, take this term that already has a certain weight and apply it to a situation which in itself is really not a case for a rocket scientist and the appearance you get is someone trying to justify the unjustifiable. Because I feel that I know Mark relatively well from his writing, I feel comfortable with the fact that this is not what he is trying to do. On the other hand, all of these arguments come back to us, and we find people saying, "Well Mr. Schaivo is her husband, and don't we believe in the sacramental nature of marriage." Our nuanced argument has just turned good Catholics who are fighting desperately to save a life into those who would overturn Catholic doctrine and sacraments.

The time to nuance our discussion is when Ms. Schaivo has been delivered from the army of Satan massed against her. We need to carefully consider all of the points that are under discussion, we need to thoroughly understand Church teaching and doctrine. But what we need more than anything else right now is straightforward, clear action, based on the circumstances here and now and not on hypotheticals and nuances that could result in a person's death

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Hentoff on Charles Pickering

Thanks to Chirp, I had the chance to read this wonderful article by Nat Hentoff. I don't know if this represents his usual clarity or thinking on matters, but I found it even-handed and remarkably free of diatribe and vitriol. Recommended.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

From Rev. Chalmer's Letter to the Carmelites

Father Joseph Chalmer, O. Carm. is the Prior General of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance. Some time ago, he issued the letter from which this excerpt comes--a celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Papal Bull Cum Nulla. This bull acknowledge the privilege of the Blessed John Soreth to aggregate lay people to the Carmelite Order, and so it is, for the Lay Carmelite family a sort of Birthday Celebration.

Many have asked what it means to be a lay Carmelite, what is required, what is expected. The following excerpt outlines some of that:

from the Letter--Into the Land of Carmel
Rev. Joseph Chalmers, O. Carm, Prior General

45. Within this common baptismal vocation, some lay people are called to participate in the charism of a particular religious family. Profession as a member of the lay Carmelites is an intensified repetition of our baptismal promises. By entering the Order they take upon themselves the Carmelite charism, which is profoundly marked by prayer. Therefore prayer, both liturgical and personal, is a vital and integral part of the life of the lay Carmelite. Participation, daily if possible, in the celebration of the Eucharist, is the source of the spiritual life and apostolic fruitfulness. The divine office, as a share in the prayer of Christ, is encouraged for the lay Carmelite and is also a source of great help on the spiritual journey. Personal prayer is vital for the life of lay Carmelites and the traditional ways, found in Carmelite spirituality, are particularly stressed, above all lectio divina, the prayerful listening to the Word of God, which is intended to open us to an intimate relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ. Devotion to Our Lady will be a mark of the lay Carmelite because she is the Mother of Carmel.

46. Like all Carmelites, the lay Carmelite is called to some form of service, which is an integral part of the charism given to the Order by God. Lay people have the mission of transforming secular society. They can do this in many different ways according to their possibilities. The great example for prophetic action is Elijah, whose activity had its source in a profound experience of God.

For the complete letter see here.

As with every member of a relgious order, I thank God each day for the blessing of belonging to such an order. I am constantly blessed by the requirements and the expectations of being a Carmelite. I am constantly challenged. I fall and I get back up to fall again. But it is my privilege and joy to do so for the glory of God, and I pray that my falling becomes less frequent, and my periods of striding forward more. I pray that God will speak through all of my actions and all of my life, and I lay myself open to allow that to happen. I pray for the grace to be more open. And I pray for everyone here that God helps each person in his or her vocation, helps them to understand that however they may choose to identify themselves, each one is a precious child of God.

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October Poem-Christina Rosetti-The Three Enemies

The Three Enemies
Christina Rosetti, 1851


"Sweet, thou art pale."
"More pale to see,
Christ hung upon the cruel tree
And bore His Father's wrath for me."

"Sweet, thou art sad."
"Beneath a rod
More heavy, Christ for my sake trod
The winepress of the wrath of God."

"Sweet, thou art weary."
"Not so Christ:
Whose mighty love of me suffic'd
For Strength, Salvation, Eucharist."

"Sweet, thou art footsore."
"If I bleed,
His feet have bled; yea in my need
His Heart once bled for mine indeed."


"Sweet, thou art young."
"So He was young
Who for my sake in silence hung
Upon the Cross with Passion wrung."

"Look, thou art fair."
"He was more fair
Than men, Who deign'd for me to wear
A visage marr'd beyond compare."

"And thou hast riches."
"Daily bread:
All else is His: Who, living, dead,
For me lack'd where to lay His Head."

"And life is sweet."
"It was not so
To Him, Whose Cup did overflow
With mine unutterable woe."


"Thou drinkest deep."
"When Christ would sup
He drain'd the dregs from out my cup:
So how should I be lifted up?"

"Thou shalt win Glory."
"In the skies,
Lord Jesus, cover up mine eyes
Lest they should look on vanities."

"Thou shalt have Knowledge."
"Helpless dust!
In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust:
Answer Thou for me, Wise and Just."

"And Might."--
"Get thee behind me. Lord,
Who hast redeem'd and not abhorr'd
My soul, oh keep it by Thy Word."

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October 27, 2003

For San Diego County and Environs

An urgent and ongoing request from my friends in San Diego County who seem to be between two of the major fires burning there--please pray for everyone in the county and for God's intervention in the control of these fires that threaten a great many homes.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Truly Beautiful Post about Human Dignity

At Disputations a truly beautiful post on the meaning of human dignity and a cogent personal reflection on the issue before us all now. This reflection truly touched me and said something I strongly believe needs to be said. In the body of Christ a human being cannot be a burden and cannot be allowed to be a burden and cannot be allowed to think of themselves as a burden. Although we have no control over the thoughts of another person, we should never, never give them any reason to believe that they are burdensome.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Life as Pregnancy

As part of another study group, I'm reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. I understand its enormous popularity among protestants--Warren claims to have discovered what the Catholic Church has known for centuries--the purpose of life (to wit--prayer and loving God). So for the most part the book has gone without hitch. Yesterday I ran into a bit of protestant theology of the fundamentalist variety--"to become part of God's family, you must be born again." This was followed with such absurdities as "baptism is a necessary sign of this rebirth and everyone should be baptised." It often appears that our protestant brethren have lost the sense of grace.

But the encounter led me to another line of thought. I can legitimately claim to be a "born again" Christian. I had the experience, was baptised into the Baptist church and underwent some instruction there. But, I wonder--is this really what being "born again" is about.

It occurred to me that all of life is a vast pregnancy in the body of God. That is to say, we are born again only when we are born into the Kingdom, as it were. And what occurs here on Earth determines the outcome of that gestation--whether we are born to life or still-born. Not to go too far with this because it may be very far off track and I haven't yet considered it in the fullness of possible meanings--however, being born again is a life-time process that culminates only when we leave this life to emerge in the life beyond. and everything is directed toward that end. So if we fail and fumble in this life, we are as very small children--children in the womb even. And it is expected of so young that they might not progress much.

Thinking a little further in the metaphor, perhaps our saints are those who have been born into the Kingdom while still here on Earth. And what a stunning thing it is to think of them as infants and toddlers in the faith; however, it is how they always refer to themselves. Consider then what it will be like to be in heaven where we to some extent mature in Christ.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:19 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Recent Reading Raises a Question

As part of a book group I have recently read Henri Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son. Not a book I would recommend to everyone--seems to be very good for the depressives among us. However, the genesis of the book raised an interesting question that I thought I would ask of all:

If you had the leisure to spend a week or two weeks really examining and studying any one artwork, which would you choose and why? More importantly, would you spend a week or two examining just that one work? And what might be the good results of taking such time?

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October Poem-Gray--Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Not the glorious seventeenth--but surely a highlight of the eighteenth. It's a shame so few read it these days and so few know its noble rhythms and pithy turns of phrase. In this brief excerpt for your pleasure there are no fewer than three really catchy phrases. Find the complete poem here.

from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray (1751)

            Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
                  The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
            Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
                  Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

            Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
                  The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
            To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
                  And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

            Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
                  Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
            Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
                  And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

            The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
                  To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
            Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
                  With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

            Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
                  Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
            Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
                  They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

            Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
                  Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
            With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
                  Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

            Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
                  The place of fame and elegy supply:
            And many a holy text around she strews,
                  That teach the rustic moralist to die.

            For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
                  This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
            Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
                  Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?

            On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
                  Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
            Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
                  Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

Learning from Ms. Shaivo

There is much to be learned from this case--much of it heart rending--and judging from public reaction, very little of it given anything more than a knee-jerk reaction. But God does allow things to happen and to come to our attention for a reason--and I don't think that the fullness of that reason resides in alerting everyone to the necessity of advance-care directives (an exceedingly dubious prospect, if the persons acting on them act as they do in Ms. Schaivo's case.)

Part of what I need to learn from this is to trust God. One way or another, His will be done. I can't fathom the deep meaning of this case. I don't understand all the particulars of the law. But I do have a deeper and fresher understanding of the arrogance of both legalism (not the law, but the strict letter of it) and the medical profession. Statements are made with no substantiation and no means of substantiation--"There's nothing there." "She died thirteen years ago," "She's not coming back." The last of these may be true, but God willing, it need not be.

The point here is that prayer is the key. Trusting God with everything and that means EVERYTHING is what we are called to. We do need to work and to support what we think is right. We do need to exert ourselves to the extent possible to fight the evil that has crept into our very bones. But we also must trust that God knows what He is doing and that His perfect will is accomplished in this and in all things.

Only in praying for the will of God and working for what we understand the fullness of that will to be do we find the peace that is at the center of every event ordained by Him. From great tragedy comes great learning and we are called to give all our strength and will to God's fatherly hands, trusting that the ends that are already in process will redound to the salvation of all peoples.

Please continue to pray for Ms. Schaivo--the forces of the world at large are marshalled against her, and in her marshalled against all of us when we stand at a juncture where we cannot speak for ourselves. Or even when we can speak for ourselves, but only from the ignorant darkness of the world. May God forgive and bring to right mind all of those who feel they know so well what is best for Ms. Schaivo and may all right minded people be brought closer to the heavenly throne through this time of suffering-by-proxy. May our pain ease that of those immediately surrounding Ms. Schaivo and give them strength to continue to do what is right.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October Poem--Samuel Taylor Coleridge--Rime of the Ancient Mariner

A short excerpt from one of the great creepy-poems of all time.

The context--Death and his spouse Life-in-Death are casting dice for the lives of the crew of the ship on which the Ancient Mariner served. Death wins the majority, but LIfe-in-Death takes one:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip--
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

life in death.jpg.jpg

Wonderful illustration by Gustav Doré

Find the full version of the 1834 revision of the poem here

One last note--the context of the time makes this seem eerily appropriate. If we allow Ms. Shaivo to die in the name of the separate and equal balance of power, or of any number of things people seem to argue that she should die for, we will have killed the albatross, and it shall be hung about our necks, marking us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack