Ten Influences meme

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De Civitate Dei: My 10 greatest influences meme

I have been asked to name my ten greatest influences. Outside of God and Family. I will name ten, but I have to concede that order of importance would be a very difficult puzzle to work out. Also, I'm afraid this will probably come as a massive disappointment to all of you reading. But then, that is part of humility. I am judging influential by how they helped me make decisions at critical junctures in my history. Some have pervasive influence, others, the influence of a critical moment. But all have been crucially (and I mean that etymologically) important in my spiritual development to date. In addition, I have also chosen not to include the blessed mother in this list. While she is not God, her constant intercession is the sine qua non of life. Even if I do not show the devotion a son ought, I do love her, respect her, and admire her above all other saints, and above all other people, and above all creation, and above everything except God Himself. Too bad I too infrequently make it known.

1.St. John of the Cross--The Doctor of Spirituality. The high-point of the teaching of prayer. This quiet, gentle, generous man, abused, nearly killed in the political turmoil over simply trying to seek God most effectively--his writing called me to Carmel. His spirit speaks to me almost daily. I am convinced that his intercession wins for me daily visions of God's greatness in my own life. If I were to pick a saint to be almost exactly like, it would be this one. But instead, learning from him, I choose to be the saint God would have me be and thus to serve others--not as a copy but as a new example of the paths of sanctity. John of the Cross is my guide, my intercessor, my spiritual companion.

2.John Paul II--A saint, a genius, a man who could do it all and all well. When his prose did not speak, his poetry hit me between the eyes. His writing was magnificent, but completely back-seat to his example. Is it possible to truly forgive your would-be assassin? Is it possible to acknowledge past wrongs and seek present correction? Yes. His example taught the value of confession.

3. St Teresa of Avila--"God save me from sour-faced saints." "If you think you are having visions, perhaps you would do well to eat more." The utterly practical, utterly delightful, completely joyous nun who looking only to hide herself in God completely transformed an Order, the face of Europe and much of the Church. I am only beginning to appreciate the depth and power of this wonderful woman.

4. St Therese of Lisieux--I started out shying away from her and her legions of saccharine followers wandering with a hand out waiting for a rose. Discovered the iron core hidden behind the flowery prose and the lovely face. A lovely soul to match a lovely person. A tower of strength, a true teacher.

5. Coilin Owen--My Grad-School James Joyce Prof--Who, when I advanced Joyce's theory of the Church quietly said, "Well then, you're not at the end of life yet are you? And who knows then?" Perhaps it was unintentional, but he directed my attention to the eternal things.

6. My Little Sister in Christ, who shall go unnamed here. At a critical point in life simply sat me down and said, "Consider the evidence. And then consider it again." I did so I cannot repay her. She is so little aware of her influence and of the fact that her influence is most strong when it is most gentle.

7. Claude Debussy--The impressionists painted light, Debussy composed it. Without him no Durufle whose Requiem I want played at my own funeral. But more importantly, his symphonic poem, La Mer got me through the last three years of teenage life as at least remotely sane. Without him I cannot say. He taught me the beauty of the solid and the shifting, and that one need not make a nuisance of oneself to be a rebel.

8. Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Giorgio di Chirico and the surrealist school of painters in general--who, whether they intended to or not taught me that life is a great deal more mysterious than we will ever know and what we see hides a great cloud of what we do not see. And what we do not see is often more important in life.

9. James Joyce--A genius and largely a genius because of his pervasive, undeniable Catholicity. He became "agnostic" perhaps even "atheist" toward the end of life, but the Catholic Church so shaped him that He could not escape, and as much as he may have hated it or repudiated it, his short story "The Dead" and the first scene in Ulysses (among others)were instrumental in my journey toward Catholicism.

10. Albert Einstein--"God does not play dice." Science and religion are not at odds. The primacy of conscience in all areas of life (refusal to work on the Manhattan project.)

Again, if I have disappointed, I am most sorry. But it is better you see clearly the flaws before you try to appreciate whatever is given to me to convey. By looking at many of these models, you can see what a broken vessel I am. I'm just glad God sees fit to try to put me back together.

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That was great, and thanks for taking the time to do it. You're one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking people in St. Blogs, and always a pleasure to read. This was no exception (though I fully expected to see our beloved Carmelite saints included). ;)

Your comment about Joyce and "The Dead" is, no pun intended, dead on.

Um, Steven? On #10, I'm afraid I have some bad news.

Dear Tom,

My THAT is an alarming development in modern science. And that he should change his mind after all this time. . .





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 21, 2005 7:09 PM.

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