April 03, 2004

Charles Williams E-books

The least known and unjustly neglected member of the inklings available as e-text.

My very favorite (an apparently a favorite of T.S. Eliot) All Hallow's Eve

Descent into Hell

Many Dimensions

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Praying Constantly

Tom expresses some legitimate concern that from the Dominican point of view it may seem as if Carmelites get too wrapped up in the extraordinary experiential aspects of prayer.

I can see how that might occur. I can also say that there is as little to be done about the concern as there is about the equally legitimate concern that arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas on "quickening" are frequently used by supporters of abortion both within and outside of the Church. Some Carmelites may well be caught up in the problem sited; however, St. John of the Cross, and the other sainted Carmelites were not among them.

John's seeming obsession about the experiential aspects of prayer stems from the fact that he was writing many of his works as spiritual guidebooks. He was identifying for many the roadsigns along the path of prayer that indicated the times to stand pat and the times to move on. Naturally his focus would be on the experiential aspects of the prayer life.

However, these guidebooks stemmed from his true statements about the spiritual life, his poetry. And his poetry is a series of lovesongs of the soul for God. These are not about extraordinary prayer (although John uses them as launching pads for his teaching), they are about simple acts of love and living in the abiding presence of the beloved.

Thus much of his work stems from poetry. The language is likely to be overblown, fanciful, or metaphorical. Tom particularly questioned my use of the expression "experiencing heaven on Earth," which will obviously mean different things to different people, depending on their image of heaven. He asks whether this is the goal of everyone or even the proper goal of a Carmelite. And it is a legitimate question. I answer it by saying that the way i see "experiencing Heaven on Earth" might be described in the simpler phrase of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection--"the practice of the presence of God." For me, the experience of heaven on Earth is to abide in the presence of God all the time. As St. Paul tells us, "to pray constantly." Not to pray in an overt prayer that sounds like a prayer, but to pray in the way Mother Teresa did--in acts of service to the poor, to the oppressed, to the voiceless, and in acts of actual prayer, such as the Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration, and the Rosay, and in acts of showering and even sleeping. To make prayer so much an ordinary part of every day that no action can really be separated from it. I have not achieved this goal--but to my mind this is what all the talk about extraordinary states and manifestations is about. It is about knowing that the God who loves me intensely is with me every step of the way and it is about living as though I really believe that. It is about life becoming prayer, not about prayer (in any one form or another) becoming life.

This still probably doesn't alleviate the misunderstandings that are possible, but for that I would suggest consulting Garrigou-Lagrange and allowing a Dominican to explain the Carmelites to another Domincan. Therese--thanks so much for the book, I never knew how handy it would be.

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Popcorn Critics Entries

If you enjoy that sort of thing, see Popcorn Critics for my recent reviews of Billabong Odyssey and Le Conte de Monte Cristo.

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Special Prayer Request

Third Order Carmelite Nancy W. from Kansas City has just had back surgery. It is thought the surgery went well; however, she is in a lot of pain. Please pray that medications will help with the pain and that she will not become addicted to them. Also please pray that she will receive a complete healing and be relieved of pain.

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Prayer Requests 4/3/04

Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests

For Tom of Goodform and Fathers Know Best for his new-born son Andrew that the heart murmur detected be remedied

For those struggling against self to attain holiness, that the Good Lord will raise up new Saints for our times, visible beacons that draw all people toward Christ.

For C.A. in her struggles

From TSO:For my premature nephew, who got an infection from his feeding tube and now is on antibiotics and morphine (the tube now is in his head). Now the doctor fears he has meningitis

Against the hardness of heart and head that prevents some from allowing themselves to be chosen

Please pray for Franklin's Father's continued recovery


for Alicia's sons Marc and John who are discerning life decisions

from Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda:"A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers. "


Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.


For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

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Daddy's Blog

A new blog by St. Blogs fathers, Fathers Know Best, please see. Thanks.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Half-Way or All the Way

For the following to make any sense whatsoever, you first need to read the post below and Tom's response to it. (I apologize, I can't figure out a way to link to it) I started this response in the comments box and then decided that it said enough of what I wanted to say that it would be worthwhile to preserve it at an upper level.

Dear Tom,

You are correct in this, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think:

But what I'm willing to say, which I don't think you are, is, "Half-way to union with God is as far as I'm going to get before I die, and that will be enough, since my hope in Christ is that God will cover the rest of the distance then."

I am not willing to say it, not because I don't recognize the truth of it in the case of nearly everyone, but simply because it isn't good enough. And by that, I mean for myself. Yes, you are correct, half-way may be as far as I get, I pray that it is not; I know that it WILL be sufficient because I do believe that is what the Church teaches. So I don't think my salvation depends upon achieving this goal.

However, as a personal matter, I do not want to disappoint the Father who knows I can do this and who calls me to it. The thought of that is probably worse than the thought of sin. Here is one who loves me and trusts me with an enormously valuable and important mission and gives me every possible help and aid in completing it. And I, through my own faults and failings, do not so so. My heart literally breaks at the thought of it. For me to hear the call and not respond with everything I am and with every hope of attaining the end is like spitting on Jesus. (I'm not censuring others, please note, I'm just trying to say how it feels in my gut.)

I do not think anyone should be willing to allow that to happen. I think it is proper to recognize that everything is in God's hands as far as all of this goes. And it might be realistic to assume that by my own efforts I will not advance far along the path. But if I start off thinking that way, then I doom any efforts I may make. So I cannot see the goal in those measures.

But I must make clear that I don't see this as a salvation issue. It is an issue of calling, and God wants us all to do our best along the road to union, recognizing that we are faulty and failed people. He will not punish us for trying and not succeeding. But we should not doom our efforts to failure with the thought that it is not likely that we shall advance.

I guess, just as the Dominicans are the "Hammer of Heretics," the Carmelites might be called the "Hammer of the Half-Hearted." Our job is to evangelize those who are already on the road to salvation, letting everyone know what lies within the realms of possibility, if not probability, for all. The sense of the good news that we convey is that not only is the path open to all, God gives us all that is necessary to walk it. If we start with full measure, we still may not make it, but we at least dispose ourselves to allowing grace to carry us farther along.

I don't much care whether one takes the Carmelite road, the Franciscan Road, the Jesuit Road, or a road that has no name whatsoever. What I do care about is that whatever road is taken it is undertaken full of joyful hope and expectation (not presumption) that there is some possibility of walking it. What I want everyone to garner from any of this is that here is one way the road has been marked out. The trail has been forged and in this way you can find the path to where you want to be. If you choose to follow another guide--God Bless. Follow him or her whole-heartedly and do so with all of your heart, your strength, your mind, and your soul with Love of God the sole destination.

As to your last point--I think the spirituality of the desert fathers is our example. Love of neighbor demonstrated itself not in sitting in your cell, but working in community and offering hospitality. These things are not incompatible with apophatic mediation. Indeed, I think success in the latter requires a concentrated effort to love one's neighbor in substantive ways. Remember, I'm the one who keeps pointing out that for St. Therese love is not idly sitting by and thinking slow and wonderful thoughts about another. Love is active and love has its works just as does faith.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Perfection in our (life)Time

My chief problem with Tom's critique of what I write about St. John of the Cross is not the critique itself, but "penumbras and emanations" to use judicial language.

There seems to be a very strong suggestion that not everyone is called to be a Saint. And here, if this is truly representative of his thought, he and I must disagree. Everyone is called to be a Saint. Very, very few of us choose to answer the call. And perhaps not all of the Saints are called to the honors of the Altar--that is, to be exemplars for others.

Tom says, "not all of us are called to perfection in contemplation in this life.
Just to keep things complicated: Note I wrote that we aren't all called to perfection in contemplation. I do believe we are all called to some level of contemplation, because contemplation is for everyone. " This in itself is innocuous. But when coupled with the following response, it suggests other meanings.

Of course the goal is perfection in intimacy with the Lord. But not everyone's goal is perfection in this life. Mary chose the better part, but that doesn't mean Martha's part was unnecessary. Nor does it mean that Martha was never able to listen to Jesus.

If we are not all called to perfection, why then did Jesus say, "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." It would seem that the highest perfection, the most important point on which to obtain perfection is not in how you raise your garden nor even necessarily in how you serve the poor (to the best of my knowledge a great many saints never directly served any poor), but in how you love God. It would seem to me that, in fact, this is the perfection to which Jesus is calling us and which MUST be possible because Jesus is calling us to it. That perfection in intimacy is not possible without a perfection in the prayer life, which implies entry into higher forms of prayer and communication with God. I readily admit St. John's way may not be universal--but that actually is a debate for another time.

I take exception to the suggestion that many of us can choose to go only half-way and that's enough--that perfection is not a calling for all in this life. We are not all Marys, but I believe that suggests a false dichotomy--we must be either Mary or Martha, when in fact we must combine the better aspects of both. We cannot be so Mary that we never lift a finger to help those in need, but neither can we be so Martha that we don't ever hear God.

I truly believe every single person is called to perfection of love of God in life AND in prayer. I also believe that not achieving that perfection is in no way damaging to our salvation, so I would acquiesce that perfection is not a prerequisite for Heaven, but, it sure wouldn't hurt.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 02:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Meaning of the Dark Night of the Senses

One must wonder what the purpose of this detachment is, why go through this dark night? Why subject yourself to the terrible provisions of detachment?

from The Science of the Cross
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

In the beginning this being inflamed in love is not commonly perceived. The soul feels rather only dryness and emptiness, sorrowful fear and concern. And if she does feel any of the love, it is as a painful yearning for God, a smarting wound of love. Only later will she recognize that God has purified her through the night of the senses and wished to make the senses subject to the spirit. The she will exclaim: "Oh happy fate!" And she will clearly see what gain the "unnoticed esacpe" means for her: it has freed her from the servitude in which the sense had kept her, and little by little she is detached from all creatures and attracted to eternal goods. The night of the senses was for her the narrow gate (Mt 7:14) that leads to life.

Nothing more need be said. While we live it, we do not know how enslaved we are to our senses. When our love of God is greater than our love of His Creation, we will be led toward Him and through His grace and mercy we can undergo this purification that allows the senses to become subordinate to the spirit. We will finally see clearly.

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"Not Creating It to Be a Waste. . ."

For thus says the Lord,
the creator of the heavens,
who is God,
the designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it to be lived in. (Isaiah 45: 18)

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. (Isaiah 45: 18-19)

I thought a pause in our headlong rush through St. Teresa Benedicta and St. John of the Cross was called for. A momentary pause, or to quote the poet:


A Moment's Halt--a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste--
And Lo!--the phantom Caravan has reach'd
The Nothing it set out from--Oh, make haste!

The purpose of the pause is to clarify what St. John of the Cross teaches and what he does not. This was inspired by an e-mail exchange with a friend in which the friend brought up some points I thought he might have inferred from reading these posts. It turns out rather that he got them from a mission given by Opus Dei priests in his community. Here is his summary of impressions:


For example, the priest last night kept talking about finding ways to make ourselves more uncomfortable, to constantly deny ourselves even basic needs, such as a glass of water when we're thirsty (the priest even make a crack about people who constantly carry around what he called "baby bottles", to ensure that they're never without water), in order to please God. This is why I made the comment I did about fasting until my prayers are answered: if we're called upon to actively cause ourselves pain, then there can be no end to it until we die. Escriva sounds to me like a modern day flagellant. The priest even mentioned that he would try not to see the beautiful, which you counseled against, by averting his eyes when riding through a countryside.

[here follows an excerpt of my reply]
I find the view you describe repugnant, Jansenistic, and very nearly manichean. It suggests a hatred of physicality that is unhealthy. . .I'd like to talk about what St. Teresa Benedicta and St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila were NOT talking about, and what you describe is precisely it. I think if you view it in the way St. John of the Cross does you find a much more faithful way of approaching creation. We do need to mortify the senses by choosing the less appealing rather than the more appealing, but we needn't shut our eyes to the glory through which God speaks to us. That strikes me as just short of sinful--a denial of the [essential] goodness in creation.

As much as I respect the works of Josemaria Escriva and other followers of the Opus Dei prefecture, I've always been a bit cautious regarding their personal approaches to the world. If this priest represents mainline Opus Dei teaching, then indeed caution is called for. I rather hope he expresses extremes of the view. The reason for this is that it strikes me that such suggestions and actions come very close to blasphemy.

The Lord made the world and made it good. He made it to be a world to be lived in. And throughout all creation is the imprint of the Maker. His signature can be found everywhere in nature--in running streams, in sweet grapes, in the scent of orange blossoms or the sea, in the touch of spring-warm breeze, in sunsets, in the sound of the wind in the trees, etc. The Franciscans were well aware that the glories of the Creator were signs of Him and means of access.

To go out of one's way to deny oneself basic needs, to make oneself miserable in the world redounds to whose glory? It is one thing to undertake basic mortifications (the fast prescribed by the church, or such small fasts as we are called to make in the world) but to deliberately shut your eyes so that you cannot see the glories of creations. While this is a severe mortification, if also approaches Manicheeism. It seems to suggest that there is something wrong with participation in the world. And what I quotes from Isaiah above indicates clearly what the Lord thinks about the world--He made it to be lived in, not fled from. We are not called to make ourselves miserable or full of pain. The world will do enough of that for us, and when it happens, we are called to joyfully accept it. However, why go looking for trouble--living presents enough pain and suffering as it is?

No, it strikes me as foolish not to acknowledge what is around you. I don't think the good Lord calls us to make ourselves hurt every day as some sort of memorial to him. In fact, elsewhere in Isaiah don't we hear about the kind of fast the Lord wants?

5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rearward.

(Isaiah 58:5-8, KJV--sorry Bible Gateway doesn't offer Douay Rheims)

There, the Lord speaks through His own prophet saying we should feed the hungry. Well, why should we do that if the Lord wants us all to suffer for Him? Wouldn't it be far wiser to leave them to be hungry because they are already suffering? So too with the yoke of oppression--why throw it off? Just let those who are under oppression throw it off. In fact, if we take the doctrine above to an extreme, we could say that it is our duty to oppress so that there can be greater suffering for all.

Nonsense. This seems, as I said, at best suspect, and at worst something that should be suppressed. I have no interest in administering "the discipline." I have no desire to return to the glory days of mortifications unto sickness.

Nor do the Carmelite Saints. St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thérèse, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross do not teach this and roundly teach against it. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity said that if we suffer and can find some alleviation from it, then it is right to do so; but if the suffering is irremediable, we should accept it gladly and unite it for the betterment of all to the sufferings of Jesus on the Cross.

Carmelite teaching is not that the things of the world are bad, but, in fact that they are so good we tend to want them too much. We need to mortify the senses. And by that I believe St. John to mean that we must not seek out sensation, not that we are to blind and deafen ourselves, but that we are to accept the things of the world without taking delight in them. That is to say, we don't seek to linger in the sensation, but we let them pass on by and we continue our pursuit of the path of God. We don't deliberately not look, but we also don't seek to look. This is a world apart from deliberately not looking at God's glorious creation. It may seem subtle, but it makes all the difference in the world.

To be fair to Opus Dei, I've never seen any hint in the writings that we are called to make ourselves miserable. St. Josemaria is said to have administered the discipline frequently, but I don't know if that is the rumor of detractors or what it really means. Nor does it mean we are necessarily to follow his example. Saints can be unhinged and still be Saints--St. Dymphna comes to mind, as do certain actions of St. Rose of Lima (quicklime on the face and broken glass to mar her beauty and prevent vanity). And I do believe that the deliberate infliction of inordinate pain is a sign of illness, not of health in mind and body. A fast, a small mortification, fine; but to daily seek to live a life of misery and pain--that is a definition of mental illness and you can find it clearly delineated in the diagnostic manual.

We need to remember St. Teresa of Avila danced with her nuns at recreation and played tambourine. St. John of the Cross is said to have dearly loved the scenic vistas of Medina del Campo and the Spanish Countryside. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was a master pianist, awarded a number of awards at her school. St. Thérèse's sister was an accomplished photographer. John Henry Newman an accomplished poet. These are all joys and creations of the world, and so long as we do not make them the end-all be-all of existence, participation in them and delight in them is a good thing. We learn again about God.

So, lest there were any apprehension about what one is called to in the Carmelite way, I thought I would make this clear distinction. It is one thing to "see without seeing" it is another to deny yourself water because you can suffer more. As Christine said elsewhere, the call to suffering is a gift of the Lord that not all receive and I don't think it should be considered a universal salutary practice. The acceptance of such suffering as comes (and cannot be avoided) with equanimity and with joy, on the other hand, is a practice that leads to wholeness.


Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Prayer Requests 4/2/04

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands,
Serve the Lord with gladness,
and come before His presence with singing. (Psalm 100)

Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests

For C.A. whose husband has announced that he is going to leave her and take their young daughter

From TSO:For my premature nephew, who got an infection from his feeding tube and now is on antibiotics and morphine (the tube now is in his head). Now the doctor fears he has meningitis

Against the hardness of heart and head that prevents some from allowing themselves to be chosen

From Franklin--My father will be undergoing surgery today to remove his gall bladder and perhaps part of a kidney. Please pray for a successful operation that will restore him to health.

for Alicia's sons Marc and John who are discerning life decisions

from Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda:"A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers. "

For Stuart Buck, a young man (29) who appears to have had twin strokes over the weekend.

Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

For all of those suffering from stress and depression who sometimes act out against others without even being aware of it, may the Lord grant them perfect awareness and peace.

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.


For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

Dying to Self--(Continued)

From St. Teresa Benedicta, again. (Please, restrain the applause, the wild hoots of enthusiasm, I only do my humble best as does she.)

from The Science of the Cross
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

The peace God produces in the spirit through the dryness of the sensory being is "spiritual and most precious" and its "fruit is quiet, delicate, solitary, satisfying, and peaceful, and far removed from all earlier gratifications which were more palpable and sensory." So one understands that only the dying of the sensory being is felt and nothing is experienced of the beginning of the new life that is concealed beneath it.

It is no exaggeration when we call the suffering of the souls in this state a crucifixion. In their inability to make use of their own faculties they are as though nailed fast. And to the dryness is added the torment of fear that they are on the wrong path. "The live in the belief that they will have no more spiritual blessing and that God has abandoned them." Then they strive to act in the former manner, but as unable to achieve anything and only disturb the peace that God is working in them.

They should do absolutely nothing other than "perservere patiently in prayer without any activity whatsoever; all that is required of them here is freedom of soul, that they liberate themselves from the impediment and fatigue of ideas and thoughts, and care not about thinking and meditating. They must be content simply with a loving and peaceful attentiveness to God, and live without the concern, without the effort, and without the desire to taste or feel him." Instead of doing this, because they lack competent guidance, they strive in vain, and possibly plague themselves with the thought that they are only wasting time with their prayer and ought to give it up.

Were they to remain peacefully surrendered to this dark contemplation they would soon experience what the second line of the song of the Night calls the inflaming love. "For contemplation is nothing else than a secret and peaceful loving inflow of God, which, if not hampered, fires the soul in the spirit of love."

There you have it. That's where I want to be. That is what I long for, what I desire above all desires. And, of course, that is part of the problem, because the process of detachment means that I must learn not to desire this in order to attain it. I long for union with God and a loving, intimate living with Him, and if I wait upon Him without longing, then it will be happen. But so long as I seek the consolations of His presence the sweet delight of intimacy, I can know nothing other than my own desire. Our desires blind us to God's will. This is the theme St. John and St. Teresa Benedicta continually center around. We must come to terms with our desires, slay them and remain faithful and true servants of Our Lord. Only in this is the path up Mt. Carmel and the presence of heaven on Earth. But to get there we must pass through Earthly purgatory (only possible with His grace and help.) But such is our goal and to achieve it, we should set our hearts not on the goal, but on loving Jesus and proclaiming the love of Jesus throughout the world. This love comes at a cost. People are frightened of it. Witness the lack of comments regarding this--and yet I know that people are visiting. I do not lament the silence, but I cherish it, because I believe it means that the words are sinking in, and they are hard. Hard words are frightening and there isn't much to say about them. So I accept what is not said as a tribute to the Truth of them. God is good.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Guide to Making a Good Confession

From Ecclesia et Mundi this very nice guide and examen of conscience for making a confession.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

From In Conversation with God

We should read our Lord's Passion constantly, said St. John Chrysostom; what great benefit we will gain by doing so. Even if you are as hard as stone, when you contemplate that He was sarcastically adorned, then ridiculed, beaten and subjected to the final agonies, you will be moved to cast all pride from your soul.. . .

One day while he was visiting St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas asked him where he had acquired such good doctrine. . . It is said that St. Bonaventure showed him a crucifix which was blackened from all the kisses he had given it, and explained This is the book that tells me what I should write; the little I know I have learned from it.

How much have I learned from this book? How much does it show? Do I have a crucifix that has been so much as smudged, much less blackened, by the attentions shown it? Do we even pay attention any more in the presence of the Crucified? There is a tendency to take for granted what we see too often. Perhaps we should be more attentive, in our homes and at church. If this is the book that taught St. Bonaventure, how much might we also learn from it? Perhaps the greater part of wisdom is the humility to be taught by what we no longer pay attention to.

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

Prayer Requests 4/1/04

I call to God the Most High,
to God who has always been my help.
May he send from heaven and save me. . .
May God send His truth and love. (psalm 57)

Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests

For C.A. whose husband has announced that he is going to leave her and take their young daughter

From TSO:For my premature nephew, who got an infection from his feeding tube and now is on antibiotics and morphine (the tube now is in his head). Now the doctor fears he has meningitis

Against the hardness of heart and head that prevents some from allowing themselves to be chosen

From Katherine--Please pray for Franklin's father, Bill. he is 80, back in the hospital. This time for gall stones. Once the CAT scan results are in, they may do surgery immediately. They have been waiting on another surgery because of his weakened condition and the impact of general anesthesia. So, this is a serious situation. Thank you for your prayers.

for Alicia's sons Marc and John who are discerning life decisions

from Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda:"A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers. "

For Stuart Buck, a young man (29) who appears to have had twin strokes over the weekend.

Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

For all of those suffering from stress and depression who sometimes act out against others without even being aware of it, may the Lord grant them perfect awareness and peace.

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.


For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 31, 2004

"Who Would Save Their Life Must Lose It"

"Deliver us from evil,
--and from slavery to the senses, which blinds us to goodness."
(from the intercessions of Morning Prayer--Wednesday 5th Week of Lent)

How providential that our subject from St. Teresa Benedicta this morning is presaged by the intercession from morning prayer.

We don't like to face the truth of Jesusí dictum, but it is important for us to do so. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it " (Matthew 16:25). In short, we can't do it ourselves. Moreover, we should not expect it to be either easy or without unpleasantness--dying isn't a particularly easy process. But dying to self is critically necessary for advancing in real life.

from The Science of the Cross
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (and St. John of the Cross)

To take up battle against it [the animal spirit] , or to take one's cross upon oneself, means entering into the dark night actively. The saint [John of the Cross] gives several concise directions of which he himself says: "A person who sincerely wants to practice them will need no others since all the others are include in these." These directions are:

"1) Sustain always the desire to imitate Christ in all things and to bring your life into conformity with his. You must therefore study his life in order to imitate it and behave always as he would.

"2) In order to do this well, you must deny yourself every pleasure that presents itself to your senses, keep it far from you if it is not solely directed to the honor and glory of God.

"And in fact you should do this out of love for Jesus who knew no other joy and had no desire in his life other than to fulfill the will of his Father. He called this his food and nourishment [Jn 4:34]. If, for instance, some amusement offers itself to you in hearing of things that do not contribute to the service of God, then you should neither have pleasure in them nor wish to hear them. . . . Likewise, practice renunciation in regard to all your sense for as much as you are able to refuse their impressions readily. Insofar as you are unable to ward them off, it is sufficient that you take no enjoyment when these things approach you. Take care how you mortify your senses and preserve them from being touched by any inordinate desire. Then they will remain alike in darkness and in short time you will make great progress."

"The follow maxims will serve as a thoroughly effective means of mortification and harmoniously ordering the four natural passions: joy, hope, fear, and sorrow. . . . Take care that your inclination is ever directed:

not toward the easier, but toward the more difficult;
not toward the pleasant, but toward the unpleasant;
not toward the restful, but toward the troublesome;
not toward the more, but toward the less;
not toward what brings you more joy, but what brings displeasure;
not toward what prepares consolation for you, but toward what makes you disconsolate;
not toward the higher and more valuable, but toward the lowly and insignificant;
not toward what wants to be something, but toward what wants to be nothing."

. . . No further explanation is necessary to see that this active entry into the dark night of the sense is synonymous with ready willingness to take up the cross, and with persistence in carrying the cross. But one does not die from carrying the cross. And in order to pass completely through the night, a person must die to sin. One can deliver oneself up to crucifixion, but one cannot crucify oneself. Therefore that which the active night has begun must be completed by the passive night, that is, through God himself.

Always remembering that passing through either night is only possible with the generous assistance of Grace.

We don't like to think about these things. We would prefer to squeak into heaven, on a technicality if necessary. Who really wants to die to self--to give up the pleasures of the world, to not find joy in the little things that are around us? But I look at the lives of the Saints who chose to do this and fact of the matter is, their lives were filled constantly with a far greater joy than I can summon up from any created thing (except, perhaps, Samuel--but that's another matter.)

We don't want to do the work of sacrifice. We'll give money, we'll look to buy our way out of real self-giving, but it isn't sufficient. To truly serve God and to claim His greatest gifts for us we must die to self. There is no compromise. If we are to live the life God has for us we must abandon the one by which we protect ourselves from God's agency. We must shed the self-created life and assume the one that God has had for us from the beginning. It will either happen here on Earth or in the life to come. But it will happen. It seems to me that I would rather choose the joys the Saints partook of than the ones that I have daily, the ones that more and more taste of dust and ashes. The joys of eternity are available to us but we must be open to receive them and to receive them, we must love God more than we love ourselves. Loving God is the only thing that makes entry into the active dark night possible. We cannot do it by will, though we might start. We cannot do it by our own power, though we must contribute to it. We cannot do it without grace. And even with grace, if we do not allow grace to feed and fan the fires of love we cannot do it. Only love can draw one through the dark night. God's intense love for us is the magnet and our love for Him must transcend all earthly loves (even while it incorporates a great many of them). If we do not love God most of all, we cannot enter into the night, our strength and our courage will fail. And God wants us to enter this night so He can share how much, how intensely, how completely He Loves us. We cannot know this while senses are dulled by all the glittering attractions of the world. We must abandon our love of it (even as we continue to live in it) and direct all of our devotion and attention to God. In this we purify the senses, and like John of the Cross we will begin to truly love the vistas of creation, not for creation itself but for and by intense love of our creator. Our eyes begin to see what is really there, our ears to hear, our sense to actually touch. The weariness of the world washes away from them and we, like Lazarus are called out of the tomb into the real world--the world "charged with the Glory of God." That is our goal, that is ultimately our destiny. Why would we want to put it off until later? Why would we choose a lesser love over a greater?

But if we would choose this greater way, it will be hard to walk because of our fallen nature. Nevertheless, I, for one, want to open myself to God's call and to find Him here and now. I want to walk in the Garden in the evening and to be reborn into His image of me. He dreamed me into existence from the beginning of time, I want to fulfill His dream. I want to realize His dream for me.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Prayer Requests 3/31/04

Let your every creature serve you;
for you spoke, and they were made,
you sent forth your spirit, and they were created;
no one can resist your word. (Judith16:13)

Blessed be God, the giver of salvation
who decreed that mankind should become a new creation in Himself,
when all would be made new.
With great confidence let us ask Him:
Lord, renew us in your Spirit. (from the interecessions from Morning Prayer)


Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests


From Katherine--Please pray for Franklin's father, Bill. he is 80, back in the hospital. This time for gall stones. Once the CAT scan results are in, they may do surgery immediately. They have been waiting on another surgery because of his weakened condition and the impact of general anesthesia. So, this is a serious situation. Thank you for your prayers.

for Alicia's sons Marc and John who are discerning life decisions

from Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda:"A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers. "

For Stuart Buck, a young man (29) who appears to have had twin strokes over the weekend.

Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

For all of those suffering from stress and depression who sometimes act out against others without even being aware of it, may the Lord grant them perfect awareness and peace.

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.


For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

A Conservative Site for Peace

Stumbled in on this site and about three or four entries down there's a quote from Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. That's enough to make my blogroll.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hard Words for Hard Times

Oh, you didn't think you got away from St. Teresa Benedicta so easily did you? Thanks to the resounding silence (perhaps the highest of compliments, considering the material) I have determined to post more, as she must be making an impact. In this passage she refers to the beginning of the Dark Night of the Senses and why one embarks upon it, indeed, why it is truly necessary to embark upon it.

from The Science of the Cross
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

On the other hand, something entirely new is begun when the Dark Night starts. The entirely comfortable being-at-home in the world, the satiety of pleasures that it offers, the demand for these pleasures and the matter-of-course consent to these demands--all of this that human nature considers bright daily life--all of this is darkness in God's eyes and incompatible with the divine light. It has to be totally uprooted if room for God is to be made in the soul. Meeting this demand means engaging in battle with one's own nature all along the line, taking up one's cross and delivering oneself up to be crucified. Holy Father St. John here invokes the Lord's saying in this connection: "Whoever does not renounce all that the will possesses cannot be my disciple" [Lk. 14:33].

And it is in this last line that the true hardship of the word comes. It isn't that we can't be saved or we can't enter into heaven, but at times that seems like so small a goal compared with that of serving the Lord as Disciple. And discipleship is costly. I would recommend Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship were it not so virulently anti-Catholic. But he points out in the course of the work that many of us want a costless or cheap discipleship. Such a discipleship is inauthentic--and that makes sense. How can carrying a cross be cheap or costless? If we wish to serve Christ in this world and in the world to come, it will only be at great cost. Consider the very short parable of the man who found a pearl of great price and sold all that he owned to purchase it. That is the cost--all that we think we own, all that we think is ours, all that the senses "possess," these must be completely surrendered to God as the "cost" of serving Him. And the cost yields a valuable rebate. No matter how much we give up and give to Him, He returns countless amounts more in the freedom, peace, and serenity of serving Him.

The gradual shedding of the world's hold on us is a necessary prerequisite to focusing our attention completely upon the Crucified One. And what other meaning in life is there? If Jesus is not the complete focus then we are not seeing anyway--so what loss is our sight of this world?

(Tomorrow, perhaps, I will include the précis of what is required to enter the dark night of the senses--other than the call by grace, of course.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Word to the Wise is Enough

Terry at Summa Mamas made mention of In Conversation with God--a work I had known about but had not paid much attention to thinking that it was another of those questionable works of half-baked piety and rancid new theology. (This is the "word" referred to in the header.) But her recommendation provoked me into looking more closely with the ultimate result that I bought the volume for Lent and Easter. There I found this piece of advice this morning:

from In Conversation with God--Volume II
Francis Fernandez

We Christians must seek the remedy and the antidote--just as the Israelites bitten by the serpents in the wilderness did--in the only place that it is to be found: in Jesus Christ and in his saving doctrine. We must not cease from contemplating him raised above the earth on the Cross if we truly want to reach the Promised Land that comes as the end of this short journey. That is all this life really is. And as we do not want to reach our destination alone, we will strive to get many others to look at Jesus, in whom is Holy Humanity, contmplate him in the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, in the Way of the Cross, in the scenes that the Gospels narrate for us, or in the Tabernacle. Only if we have great piety will we be strong against the harassment of a world which seems to want to separate itself more and more form God, dragging with it anyone who is not on firm and sure ground.

Later: Mr. White's note in the comment box reminds me that I did not make explicit my clear endorsement of this wonderful series. I've only used it a couple of days, but it has added immeasurably to my devotional life. Highly recommended. (Scepter is a publishing house for Opus Dei works. I have been greatly blessed by the works of St. JoseMaria Escriva, even if I have some reservations about some reported penitential practices.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On Television

Forget for a moment that the post refers you back here, Mr. Appleby has hit the nail on the head, as did Neil Postman some years ago, and he starts with this delightful quotation:

"Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home.óDavid Frost"

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

For those distraught over Mr. MacFarlane's Actions

Here is something you can do about it. Consider the opportunity prayerfully, and please keep Mr. MacFarlane and his wife Bai in your prayers. There is a great spiritual battle in this seemingly small event and it can only be fought with the help of grace, prayers, and the holy angels that God will send.

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

Prayer Requests 3/30/04

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
who desires not worthless things,
who has not sworn so as to deceive his neighbor. (psalm 24)

Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests


for Alicia's sons Marc and John who are discerning life decisions

from Peter Nixon at Sursum Corda:"A friend who is a longtime reader of this site wrote me yesterday to tell me that he has been diagnosed with renal cancer. I would ask you to keep him in your prayers. "

For Stuart Buck, a young man (29) who appears to have had twin strokes over the weekend.

Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

For all of those suffering from stress and depression who sometimes act out against others without even being aware of it, may the Lord grant them perfect awareness and peace.

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

More Religious E-Texts

Here's a site that has a great many e-books some in PDF, some in HTML, and others as TXT which can be modified to be read on palm devices. This includes a slew of G.K. Chesterton, the Catechism and other important works. For those who are not aware, it is possible to get a PDF reader for Palm from adobe. It requires that you convert ordinary PDFs into palm-readable PDFs, but it is very, very nice. (It also allows you to carry around many of the books from the Broderhof collective.)

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From St. Louis de Montfort

First part available in its entirety here

from The Secret of the Rosary
St. Louis de Montfort

Saint Gregory of Nyssa makes a delightful comparison when he says that we are all artists and that our souls are blank canvasses which we have to fill in. The colors which we use are the Christian virtues, and the original which we have to copy is Jesus Christ, the perfect living image of God the Father. Just as a painter who wants to do a lifelike portrait places the model before his eyes and looks at it before making each stroke, so the Christian must always have before his eyes the life and virtues of Jesus Christ, so as never to say, think or do anything which is not in conformity with his model.

It was because Our Lady wanted to help us in the great task of working out our salvation that she ordered Saint Dominic to teach the faithful to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ. She did this, not only that they might adore and glorify him, but chiefly that they might pattern their lives and actions on his virtues.

See here for more Montfortian works online.

And here is an interesting prayer--The Fiery Prayer for the Apostles of the Latter Times by St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort.

It's a shame so much of this great Saint's work is co-opted by sedevacantists and other schismatics, as it is both profound and salutary.

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On Reading Spiritual Books

Some books pose a real danger to one's complacency. For each person these books will be different, but they all threaten in the same way--they force one to think about God and how one is living life with respect to Him. This is not something I do readily. Often I go out of my way NOT to think about God because it will get in the way of what I really want to do. It's a whole lot easier to get along if God doesn't keep nosing in.

However, the spiritual life is not that way. In fact the spiritual life is enough to make one think that Freud actually got something correct in his hypotheses about the functioning of the personality. We have all experienced St. Paul's, "†For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (KJV, Romans 7:19) This suggests that there is an internal battle raging constantly between our fallen nature and the nature God wants us to take on. Spiritual reading, properly done, spurs yet another encounter in the battle. This is why many avoid it.

Of recent date one book that has had the full strength of convicting force is St. Teresa Benedicta's work on St. John of the Cross--The Science of the Cross. Perhaps because the work is about poetry, perhaps because it is about St. John of the Cross, perhaps because it is written by St. Teresa Benedicta, but certainly because the Holy Spirit is using some connection between the work and my personality, nearly every line of the book speaks to me. Were I underlining it, the entire text would be underlined and annotated. It is one of those works I wish were readily available in electronic format so I could copy out sections and write all of my thoughts on it. It is a work that calls me to really think about Christ and God. It forces me out of comfort and complacency and into the challenging arena of spiritual warfare.

There are many books like this. Through time some have been tested and found excellent by many sources. The Imitation of Christ is chief among these. While there may be passages that do not speak to you at this very moment, there will be others that direct your attention to things you'd really rather nor look at. I am reminded of the scene of Judas's death in The Passion of the Christ. Just prior to it we are offered a brilliant image of the nature of sin in the form of a maggot-ridden, fly-blown corpse so distorted it is difficult to say what kind of animal it is. We very naturally don't want to look at such things. Nevertheless it is necessary and salutary work. If we are harnassed or shackled to such a thing, surely we would want to be aware of it. And we live in a world of people harnessed just so.

Another work that has helped many has been Fray Luis of Granada's A Sinner's Guide. So too with Scupoli's Spiritual Battle. These are all works that convict. But even those that do not address sin straight on, can still convict. St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary Jean-Pierre de Caussade's Abandonment to Divine Providence, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Story of a Soul, in fact all the great works of the saints are designed with one purpose. They are designed for the sole purpose of any great Christian writer: to get you to open your eyes and walk toward God and to get you to see, if only momentarily how far you are from where God would have you be. And then to prompt you to move toward Him. This is true of the works of Flannery O'Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene (at his best), and Walker Percy. When you read this fiction, you should stand convicted.

All reading should be spiritual reading and all spiritual reading should be directed toward the transformation of life. Yes, I know there is a place for eutrepalia, and yes, there is a place for leisure. Nevertheless, we would do far better for ourselves were we not to coddle and nurture these notions. Time spent with what does not lead to God is time wasted. Surely eutrepalia is as possible and even as likely in great works that lead to God as in the collected opera of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton. Indeed, I think these latter works, and others as well, serve more to insulate us from God than to bring us to Him.

Whatever it is we do it should be directed toward God's glory. This includes even those little choices such as what to read and what to watch on television. When we surrender to God it must be all the way. It isn't just part of us that goes to heaven, but the entire person. So spiritual reading, as uncomfortable as it may be, should occupy a major portion of our reading time. We should seek our joy and consolations in the presence of the Lord. And where there is great beauty, there also is the Lord. Reading any worthy work with the idea of learning more about God will likely result in learning more about God. Thus, much of our reading can become spiritual reading (assuming of course that the work is worthy to begin with.)

It's obvious I've strayed from my initial point, but these notes should help a bit. Perhaps in the future I'll share some of my favorite works of spirituality. It seems that there is a great hunger in St. Blog's for advice concerning these matters. Or perhaps not. Even if no one else should ever cast an eye over these ruminations to myself they are fruitful as a reminder of the path I should be following. I pray they may also help those who are really seeking after God's will in all that they do.

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Prayer Requests 3/29/04

Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power,
majesty, splendor, and glory. (1 Chronicles 29: 11)


Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests


Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

Wonderful New (to me) Blog

Look at this wonderful blog by a resident of Ireland. It is truly a religious blog, focusing on religious and spiritual topics and providing rich articles and links. Please visit and say hello to this wonderful and gentle visitor.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Missed Opportunities

Lent is drawing to a close and I am overwhelmed with the sense that I have not taken full advantage of the spiritual riches of the season. As with every year, though I anticipate Easter, I almost wish the season could linger a week or two or three. The disciplines instilled, the expected focus, the deliberate positioning of oneself in the way of grace all strike me as critically important, and six weeks is hardly enough to make something of them.

However, this season, the Lord has spoken to me very clearly through my friends in the blogosphere and through the works of His saints that He has had me stumble over. He has given me St. Katharine Drexel and her wonderul fiestiness. He has given me also Romano Guardini and his careful reminders about prayer and the mass. He has given me St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and her magnum opus--The Science of the Cross. He has given me the blessing of one man's devotion in a moving icon (twice) and He has asked me to reflect upon it. In addition he has showered upon me untold and unexpected riches in the world--responsibilities and opportunities.

Now, I look at this last week and I ask God to sustain me in the vocation to which He has called me. I look forward to Holy Thursday with it's memorial of the installation of the Eucharist. I look forward particularly to Good Friday with its somber reminder of What was done and Who was harmed to make good my sins. I look forward to the joyous season of Easter, and ask God that in its great joy, I do not forget the lessons of Lent, but I sustain them in my heart and in my practice.

Lent is not yet over. I always anticipate too much. But I am half-fearful and half joyful at its drawing to an end. I pray that the disciplines of the season are something I can take away with me and can make a permanent part of my life.

I pray also for all of you that this Lent has been a blessing and that the experiences of it alter your lives so that your paths are more ordered to God's will and to serving Him unstintingly in every facet of your lives.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Prayer Requests 3/28/04

Please make a special effort to remember all of the intentions of the St. Blogs community that I cannot gather together here, or that have not been expressed in writing, but rest in the hearts of the writers.

Requests


Please pray for Bud MacFarlane to come to his senses and defy, rather than buy into, the culture of death, that offers such easy outs. Dear Lord, remind him of this

Nathan asks for prayers for a seminarian friend, Theo, with a heart condition and for a protestant friend who is working through the difficulties that attend conversion to the Catholic Church

For Father Joe who has left the active ministry of Priesthood after a number of difficult experiences, for discernment, strength, and a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit

From Therese a request for Mark Cotter,SF0, 50, just diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He has 2 children still in school.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For our children, that they grow up in security, comfort, and the certain knowledge that they are loved and that they be released from any bonds of darkness, fear, anger, or sadness that bind and threaten them

For Dylan's return to health and return to us.

For all those in the process of discerning vocations to the religious life, for guidance, prudence and good counsel

For Amanda and the success of her book-designing business

For all those living under the curse of generational sins, that they may have protection and the inheritance of the past may be made void in their lives.

For all who are suffering from marital problems, most particularly those in our own families or communities, that the Lord may intervene and remind them that a marriage is of three persons.

For mothers and families that struggle with autism and autistic related disabilities: particularly for M'Lynn, Melissa, Christine, and Betty.


For families that desire more children

For the conversion or return of spouses and loved ones to the Catholic Church, most particularly for Amanda's husband

For Neil, Kris S., Derrick, and for all who are involved with darkness in any way that the Lord will help them see light

For Audrey, who is battling anorexia, and to her family which is suffering through very difficult times.

For the men and women of the American Armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families, may the Good Lord provide sustenance, support, compassion, and love that these separated families might continue to grow in strength and love.


Special Prayer Projects:


(1) Chris Keith, the young lady whose biopsy went poorly got the results of that biopsy--carcinoma of the liver. The cancer is metastatic from colon cancer. Surgery has taken place to treat the colon cancer.

I paraphrase her mother:

"We [members of the family] are standing on the Rock and are rock solid. We are all okay and we are looking for a few prayer warriors to help us in this battle." Because this mother means so much to me for the great good she has done for my friends, I plan to stand with her and her family in this battle, and I invite you all to join me. Expect to hear about this on and off over the next few months.

(2) For Katherine and Franklin, Janet and Louis, Peter Kucera, and for all who are seeking employment and suffering through difficult times as they wait.

(3)Healthy Pregnancies and good and safe deliveries: From Davey's Mom: I am with child once again and could use prayers for a healthy pregnancy. For Suki, for a healthy pregancy and a safe delivery. For Ashli and her child that doctors may find a way to help her carry her young one to term. For JCecil3 and Wife. For Pansy Moss. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us. Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

A very important request from a St. Blogs parishioner--"I found out recently that my friend's sister is pregnant for the fourth time. Her other three children have autism, and I know it would make her very, very happy to have a normal child." Please pray for this poor woman that she might have the joy of a healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy delivery and new infant. Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. St. Gerard Majella, Pray for Us.
Blessed Gianna, pray for us.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack