March 11, 2005

My Movie Character

From Vita Brevis

The latest craze is to disclose the movie character with whom you most closely identify.

Joe Gillis from Sunset Boulevard--I'll leave the parallels to your imagination.

Either that or Henry Higgins, and I paraphrase here, " And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl. . . . The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another." (From the Play, not the film)

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The First Supercool Thing

about Helena was a little known fact, that had I read it before, I failed to remember. I looked it up and found confirmation:

Sometime towards the end of 259, or at the beginning of 260, Valerian was caught and made prisoner by the Persians. It is said that he was subjected to the greatest insults by his captors and later executed. After his death his skin was stuffed with straw and preserved as a trophy in the chief Persian temple.

Now, I know Samuel (bloodthirsty little beast) would get a real kick out of that.

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Three Quotations

from an idea at Summa Minutiae

Here's a blogger challenge: describe yourself with three quotes - serious, ironic, humorous, whatever - from various literary sources, as I've done in the "About the author" section over in the right sidebar.

My quotations:

"H[is] changes change his changes constantly" Dante Inferno

"And such a want-wit sadness it makes of me,
I have much ado to know myself" Antonio Merchant of Venice

"Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone
a comedy tonight" A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Okay, this was really, really hard, and I may have to change it, but this comes close.

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I'm thrilled to have gotten my copy of Helena today. I hope as a novel it is better than most of Waugh's biographical writing. I'll look into it soon and let you all know.

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"Dare We Hope that All May Be Saved?"

There is a fascinating discussion going on over at Disputations which is well worth the time of anyone interested in the question presented above.

I need to be absolutely truthful. Were there not a specific interdict against it and anathema pronounced upon it, I would probably be a Universalist. At a time before I understood Catholic Doctrine as well as I do now (still not well), I believed that it was possible for God's love to redeem even Satan. I am obedient to the fact that the Church says this is not so. I am obedient because the Church is trustworthy and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Obedience does NOT stop my wayward soul from hoping that it could be true anyway. Hoping, not in the theological sense, but in the sense of some wild resolve. I know that what the Church teaches is the truth. The specifics of the anathema are against the redemption of the fallen angels and those who are already in Hell. However, the Church does leave me an out. I can believe that Hell's only inhabitants are the fallen Angels. I admit that my knowledge of human nature argues against this conclusion, nevertheless, I can hope that it is true, because my knowledge of human nature is far from complete and my knowledge of God's mysteries even more full of gaps.

But I think it only fair to say that at one time I was a Universalist in the condemned sense. I did not know that the Church taught against this. Knowing now that the Church condemns the proposition, (and yet still desiring that it be true), I can be obedient to her teaching because her teaching in these matters is faultless. Nevertheless, the mind does not control the heart, and the misguided heart still wants God to bring all things back to Him. Yes, He is simple and cannot be reconciled to anything that is not--and yet, with God all things are possible. So the heart says. But the head knows that this reunion is out of the question. So head and heart are at war in this matter. I think the most critical matter is that regardless of what I want (for whatever reason), what I want is not what is real. What is real is what the Church teaches and my desires will no more affect this than will my poor reason.

I don't know why I say this except that I felt the need to expand beyond mere "Yes it is, no it isn't" argumentation of the ambiguous "facts" of the matter to say what guides my interpretation of those facts. I admit that I will ever read scripture to say what most closely points in the direction of this conclusion--it is ingrained, part of who I am. However, I will also guard against ever going beyond the strict line of what the Church permits. Regardless of what the wayward heart wants, I must train it to desire what God desires, and much, if not all, of this is revealed through His teaching voice on Earth--the Holy Catholic Church.

(that little pythonesque voice pops up and says, "But it still doesn't stop me from wanting.")

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March 10, 2005

Blogging: An Ongoing Exercise in Humility

In the past two days I have received notes from two different readers correcting or adjusting my view on two different matters. I am deeply appreciative that both people took the time to write. One gentleman spent some time talking about the Center for Economic and Social Justice and the ideas thereon. As a quiz I took this morning put me at the extreme left of the economic scale (calling me, in fact, a socialist, which I think rather strong and not really representative of my views), I thought I might need to give the site an overview and arrive at a course correction in my economic understandings.

The second gentleman corrected an erroneous post I had made some time ago. Gavin Douglas did not translate The Aeneid into English, he translated it into Scots. My mistake was that I had no background material with the excerpt and so I read the text and found nothing out of the ordinary for Middle English dialects and leapt to an incorrect assumption. This of course is an unjust attribution, and I hasten to correct it here.

There is almost nothing in the world more wonderful than learning something new. My sincere appreciation and thanks to the two gentlemen who took the time to write to me.

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The Marvelous Gift of the Proper Practice of Lent

from "Sermon XL. On Lent, II." St. Leo the Great

V. And Still Further It Should Lead to Personal Amendment and Domestic Harmony.

But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues' exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God's mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the clays when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed offences wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth God for endless ages of ages. Amen.

Taming the self. What a concept. Abandoning what I want in favor of what another needs--what a strange new line of thought! This Christianity must be a very odd faith indeed if it asks us to look to the good of others before ourselves.

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March 09, 2005

One Last Post

You were probably wondering whether or not I would ever shut up today. This is it! Quite a day--quite a number of posts. God was very generous with inspiration today.

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10 Things

Okay, I've resisted temptation up until now, but like Oscar, "I can resist anything but temptation." So my list of ten things most others might not have done:

1. Won first prize in an annual James Joyce writing competition for a poem composed in a composite language modeled on Finnegan's Wake

2. Named a species of fossil after my wife. (It was a compliment not any implication about the spouse.)

3. Had dinner and a knock-down drag-out fight with Stephen Jay Gould over the theory of contingency and whether it properly understood was science or not. (Okay, I admit it, that's an exaggeration. Let us say an animated and lengthy discussion complete with table napkin drawings and other paraphenalia.)

4. Went to a poetry reading (and read) in a State Penitentiary

5. Demonstrated origami for International Children's Days on the National Mall.

6. Assisted in digs on Mount Vernon Grounds and Williamsburg.

7. Helped excavate a mammoth, a dog-faced bear, and a peccary the size of a horse.

8. Went on a field trip to San Salvador, Bahamas to study modern carbonate depositional environments and joined the islanders in an iguana and conch feast.

9. Sat on Sophia Loren's lap in a helicopter shuttle for Kennedy Airport to La Guardia.

10. Presented a paper in a National Geological Convention on the periodicity of Mass extinctions and was congratulated and assisted by no less than David Raup and Jack Sepkoski themselves.

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God's Universal Love

In the course of addressing what I believe to be erroneous assertions made at Disputations regarding the validity of Universalism, I came across this lovely passage.

from William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 65-67

Fourth, I believe implicitly in the ultimate and complete triumph of God, the time when all things will be subject to him, and when God will be everything to everyone (1 Cor. 15:24-28). For me this has certain consequences. If one man remains outside the love of God at the end of time, it means that that one man has defeated the love of God - and that is impossible. Further, there is only one way in which we can think of the triumph of God. If God was no more than a King or Judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if his enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only King and Judge, God is Father - he is indeed Father more than anything else. No father could be happy while there were members of his family for ever in agony. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all his family back home. The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love. The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by and in love with God.

Of course, I rush to reassert that these words prove nothing at all, but they do state for me one of the chief lynchpins of my hope in salvation for all.

Read the complete excerpt here.

While I acknowledge that I could be wrong in my belief and hope, I trust that God will look kindly upon the direction of the error and will note that I do not rest idle hoping that this will be the case but work, in my own way, toward making the free gift of Jesus Christ know to all.

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Hooray for Mel!

Our Senator from Florida is trying to intervene for Terri at a Federal Level--Praise God and keep praying.

See here

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Clean Films

Y'all may or may not be aware of a little organization called Clean Films, which takes popular Hollywood movies and reedits them to remove offensive content.

I'm of several minds about this service. First, how do they get away with it? I suppose Hollywood favors anything that makes more money, but I'd be surprised at the director who would release his or her film to be cut by someone else according to their standards. Does anyone have any idea how this arrangement is done?

But on the other hand, what a pleasure it would be to be able to bring a film into the house and know that the whole family could watch it without having to worry about language or nudity or any number of other things that can crop up in films as "mild" as PG.

It does seem an infringement on artist's rights, on the other hand, it is such a fine service to families with young children. A dilemma.

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Co-Redemptrix in the Seventeenth Century

from Good-Friday, 1613, Riding Westward
John Donne

If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?

Interesting isn't it? The Anglican Church took a long time to shake off the chains of Catholicism, and early on, and perhaps in some places even today, the respect and veneration for the Blessed Virgin remained quite profound, as well they should. And I've never seen it more succinctly or certainly phrased than in this lovely pair of couplets.

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A Reminder for the Tone-Deaf

There is a new, and uncommonly tone-deaf "inclusive" translation of the Bible, that does once again great harm to God's word and even greater harm to the English language. Those who cannot hear its dissonances (how in the world can you take the concrete "Kingdom" and turn it into "reign" and think that you have not done violence to the meaning?) are merely too enamored of their own agendas to recognize the damage they do to scripture and to language. Of them John Donne wrote the first four lines of this:


ETERNAL God—for whom who ever dare
Seek new expressions, do the circle square,
And thrust into straight corners of poor wit
Thee, who art cornerless and infinite—
I would but bless Thy name, not name Thee now
—And Thy gifts are as infinite as Thou—
Fix we our praises therefore on this one,
That, as thy blessed Spirit fell upon
These Psalms' first author in a cloven tongue
—For 'twas a double power by which he sung
The highest matter in the noblest form—
So thou hast cleft that Spirit, to perform
That work again, and shed it here, upon
Two, by their bloods, and by Thy Spirit one ;
A brother and a sister, made by Thee
The organ, where Thou art the harmony.

Modern translations seek to accommodate modern sensibilities, to update, renovate, and refresh what is ever new. There is a word for this--presumption.

Inclusivity need not be hideous, nor need it be so obsequious as to find fault in the word Kingdom. The Kingdom of Great Britain is ruled by a Queen--the word in itself has no gender, but the foolish rive it and find fault. (Rather like women and wymmin--or however it is "neutered.") It is also foolish to take the concrete "kingdom" and turn it into the nebulous "reign." A plot of land becomes a piece of time. This is not a matter of inclusivity--rather it is a paean to obfuscation and a grand example of what Orwell inveighed against in Politics and the English Language. This should be required reading for all who presume to improve upon past translations--they should be certain that what they do is actually an improvement, not merely an agenda. Inclusivity is NOT the issue, where the original lacks any sex or gender referent, so the modern can convey; however, it should do so gracefully, and not in a way that rends the fabric of language and meaning. Too few seem to understand the violence they do.

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God Speaks in the Metaphysical Night

John, Cap, 3. Ver 2.
Henry Vaughan

THROUGH that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o'er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glow-worms shine,
And face the moon :
Wise Nicodemus saw such light
As made him know his God by night.

Most blest believer he !
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see
When Thou didst rise !
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun !

O who will tell me, where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour ?
What hallow'd solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower ;
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity ?

No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carv'd stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
And lodge alone ;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

Dear Night ! this world's defeat ;
The stop to busy fools ; cares check and curb ;
The day of spirits ; my soul's calm retreat
Which none disturb !
Christ's* progress, and His prayer-time ;
The hours to which high Heaven doth chime.

God's silent, searching flight ;
When my Lord's head is fill'd with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night ;
His still, soft call ;
His knocking-time ; the soul's dumb watch,
When spirits their fair kindred catch.

Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel's wing or voice
Is seldom rent ;
Then I in Heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.

But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
To ev'ry mire ;
And by this world's ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night.

There is in God—some say—
A deep, but dazzling darkness ; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that Night ! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim !

* St. Mark, cap. I, ver. 35. St. Luke, cap. 21, ver. 37.

What I love about this poem is the metaphysical conceit that centers around Nicodemus seeking Jesus by night. It suggests either a zeitgeist or the dissemination of the teachings of St. John of the Cross. What is particularly lovely is the couplet:

"And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun !"

Thus Nicodemus was privileged, in a special way, to speak with the Source of Light under the cover of darkness. The brilliance of eternity comes only under the cloak of night, with the deadening of all the sensate world and the concentration on the things of God.

Once again, in an interesting trope, we see the day turned into darkness, and the darkness that blinds the senses and provides us with real and certain knowledge of God, becoming the true purveyor of eternity:

"And by this world's ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night."

And there is the final turn, the last stanza that wraps it all together and makes the conceit meaningful. It has within it an absolutely lovely turn of phrase, "There is in God--some say--/A deep, but dazzling darkness." St. John of the Cross says that true knowledge of God is darkness to the intellect because God cannot be comprehended by the senses nor by the intellect. The divide that separated us from Him in the fall separated us so thoroughly that we cannot by our own lights see Him in His glory--we can only make out the barest outline. But in the darkness of the intellect, the Light of God shines brilliantly and the knowledge of Him is made secure. Thus Vaughn concludes:

"There is in God—some say—
A deep, but dazzling darkness ; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that Night ! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim !"

That I might live invisible and dim in the light of eternity and not in the false light, which is really darkness, that I draw around myself when I pretend to greater knowledge than I have!

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More on Lent

from "Sermon XXXIX--On Lent, I"
St. Leo the Great

II. Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide.

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, that we may be able to overcome all our enemies, let us seek Divine aid by the observance of the heavenly bidding, knowing that we cannot otherwise prevail against our adversaries, unless we prevail against our own selves. For we have many encounters with our own selves: the flesh desires one thing against the spirit, and the spirit another thing against the flesh. And in this disagreement, if the desires of the body be stronger, the mind will disgracefully lose its proper dignity, and it will be most disastrous for that to serve which ought to have ruled. But if the mind, being subject to its Ruler, and delighting in gifts from above, shall have trampled under foot the allurements of earthly pleasure, and shall not have allowed sin to reign in its mortal body, reason will maintain a well-ordered supremacy, and its strongholds no strategy of spiritual wickednesses will cast down: because man has then only true peace and true freedom when the flesh is ruled by the judgment of the mind, and the mind is directed by the will of God. And although this state of preparedness, dearly-beloved, should always be maintained that our ever-watchful foes may be overcome by unceasing diligence, yet now it must be the more anxiously sought for and the more zealously cultivated when the designs of our subtle foes themselves are conducted with keener craft than ever. For knowing that the most hollowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulnesses are chastised, all negligences alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord's holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offence may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained.

What may be most helpful, and most a cause for thought and repentence, is the idea that if we cannot order ourselves and we cannot conquer self, we cannot hope to withstand any great trial. Lent asks for little sacrifices that in the age of indulgence seem monumental. It seems that most people cannot wait for Lent to end so that they may resume their former ways. But I have to admit to being a little sad at the ending of Lent because during this time we are all trying and working hard toward the goal. Afterwards, it seems, the tide of energy and intent is dissipated; every step toward holiness is dogged by the mire around my feet. In Lent, I am borne forward by the efforts of all of those trying to will one thing. Afterwards, in the "joyous" time of Easter, I find all of my efforts ineffectual, I slump back into my former mode--perhaps a little improved, but not sufficiently to be doing God's will as my heart inclines me. So, I hold fast to the fact that there remain two full weeks in the Holy Season (as of today) to improve my ability to resist self and go with God. Perhaps for part of that time, I will pray rather for the success of others and thus open my heart more fully to what God has in store. Keep moving forward! In this holy year of the Eucharist, God has great treasures in store for those who endure and deny self.

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March 08, 2005

I'm Always the Last to Know

Welcome back to Gregg the Obscure--Vita Brevis

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Boswell re: Johnson 1750

from Life of Johnson
James Boswell

With what devout and conscientious sentiments this paper was undertaken, is evidenced by the following prayer, which he composed and offered up on the occasion: "Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom is folly: grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not be with-held from me, but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others: grant this, O Lord, for the sake of thy son, JESUS CHRIST. Amen."

A prayer which Catholic Bloggers might do well to read and make their own as they continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

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On the Misuse of Fasting

The following most likely comes from the Sermons of St. Leo the Great, although it is rather difficult to be certain given the site I was using. It comes from Series II Volume XII of the Church Fathers.

from "Sermon XLII. On Lent, IV"
St. Leo the Great

IV. The Perverse Turn Even Their Fasting into Sin.

This adversary's wiles then let us beware of, not only in the enticements of the palate, but also in our purpose of abstinence. For he who knew how to bring death upon mankind by means of food, knows also how to harm us through our very fasting, and using the Manichaeans as his tools, as he once drove men to take what was forbidden, so in the opposite direction he prompts them to avoid what is allowed. It is indeed a helpful observance, which accustoms one to scanty diet, and checks the appetite for dainties: but woe to the dogmatizing of those whose very fasting is turned to sin. For they condemn the creature's nature to the Creator's injury, and maintain that they are defiled by eating those things of which they contend the devil, not God, is the author: although absolutely nothing that exists is evil, nor is anything in nature included in the actually bad. For the good Creator made all things good and the Maker of the universe is one, "Who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them." Of which whatever is granted to man for food and drink,' is holy and clean after its kind. But if it is taken with immoderate greed, it is the excess that disgraces the eaters and drinkers, not the nature of the food or drink that defiles them. "For all things," as the Apostle says, "are clean to the clean. But to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean, but their mind and conscience is defiled."

This is of particular interest to those who would argue the evil of material things. Don't think there's many of us about, but a few hard-line protestants and some renegade members of various Catholic camps.

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Talk about Your Fast and Abstinence

From that most remarkable of sort-of-Blog sites, a true compendium of learning, erudition, and on occasion amusement, Pepys' Diary.

"He discoursed much against a man’s lying with his wife in Lent, saying that he might be as incontinent during that time with his own wife as at another time in another man’s bed. "

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What Obsolete Skill Are You?

From Mixolydian Mode I discovered that:

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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An Excellent Note and Remedy

A Blogger's Examination of Conscience

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The Joys of Being Catholic

from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

Genuine transformation of the whole person into the goodness and power seen in Jesus and his "Abba" Father--the only transformation adequate to the human self--remains the necessary goal of human life. But it lies beyond the reach of programs of inner transformation that draw merely on the human spirit--even when the human spirit is itself treated as ultimately divine.

The reality of all this is currently veiled from view by the very low level of spiritual life seen in Christianity as now placed before the general public. That low level explains why there are at present so many psychologies and spiritualities contesting the field--often led or dominated by ex-Christians who have abandoned recognized forms of Christianity as hopeless or even harmful.

Recently, however, a widespread and intense interest in spiritual formation, under that very name, has arisen among many groups of Christians and their leaders. Why is that? It is mainly due to a realization--confirmed now by many thorough and careful studies, as well as overwhelming anecdotal evidence--that, in its current and recent public forms, Christianity has not been imparting effectual answers to the vital questions of human existence. At least not to wide ranges of self-identifying Christians, and obviously not to nonChristians. And spiritual formation has now presented itself as a hopeful possibility for responding to the crying, unmet need of the human soul. The hope springs once again for a response to the need that is both deeply rooted in Christian traditions and powerfully relevant to circumstances of contemporary life.

Recently Tom (of Disputations) remarked on the difficult transformation facing third Order Dominicans as they moved from being prayer groups to becoming formed and really part of the Order. The same is true for the Carmelites, and perhaps for many secular Orders. Attention has been focused upon spiritual formation of candidates for reception and profession into these orders. And while spiritual formation includes prayer, it also goes beyond vocal prayer to encourage the candidate to transform his or her inner life.

Catholicism may be one of the few places where there is an identifiably Christian spirituality still present and, in some places, vibrant. A tour through any local evangelical Christian bookstore will show the truth of Mr. Willard’s thesis above. Almost to a one the books on the shelves are religious varieties of "self-help books." Being a better husband, serving better, being a better father, mother, teen. And almost none of the advice that is given within these books really focused on following God's will. There is a lot of talk about prayer and awareness and petitions and action and any number of other topics related to getting closer to God, but very little substantive advice about how to do so. And this has been the trend for a long time. Everyone flocks to the Rick Warrens of the world because there is at least the hint of approaching God and surrendering to His divine will. But even there, the surrender is subdued to any number of other actions we must take. For a faith that professes "Sola Fides" there sure seems to be a lot of helter-skelter running about in Protestant Christianity. And I don't fault the Protestants of today as such--when you have been cut off from the streams of tradition that feed a vibrant spirituality you are going to end up with a very works-centered "spirituality." Warren's spirituality seem to be expressed by the number of people who he knocks upside the head with the Gospel story (though admittedly, he is much more gentle than that.) When you refuse the living water of sacred tradition, you will be stuck with the still water of what people can contrive to be spirituality.

The joy of being Catholic is that while there are still a large number within our own faith stricken by the paralysis that afflicts some of the Protestant Churches, there are nevertheless rich streams of devotional and divine literature that feed a healthy spirituality. (And so too even in the Protestant faith, if only they would look closer to the roots rather than to the tips of the branches--Quakers, Shakers, and Anglican divines have tremendous things to say to those who are not chronological chauvinists.) But God has especially blessed the Catholic Church by preserving her ancient traditions and encouraging newer, wonderful writers who lay bare those traditions and build upon them. While we have any number of ancient Saints whose writings support the foundations of the Church and the base of Catholic Spirituality, so too we have many modern writers who translate those documents into living realities for us today. St. Thér&egave;se moved St. John of the Cross from sixteenth century Spain into the 20th century. Thomas Merton explores Cistercian Spirituality for Modern readers. Vanier, Vann, Goodier, Healy, Merton, Day, Nouwen, and many, many others add immeasurably to the wealth of the Catholic Church and her deep spirituality. The list of writers could go on and on--Balthasar, Rahner, Knox, Claudel, etc. What we learn from them is nothing new, but it puts a modern face on what is ancient beyond time.

Catholic Spirituality is alive and well. What is a shame is that so few turn to face it and take any notice of it. Too often we are dragged off-course into the most recent irritations and outright scandals we face.

One of the great things that Ross King's book on Michelangelo did was to reveal the fact that there really hasn't been a "golden age" for the Church. They are all equally Golden and equally lead. In every age there are those who pay attention and follow the eternal and those who follow the promptings of their own minds. We are embroiled in the crisis of the day--as well we should be—that we fail to see some of the wonderful things that are taking place around us, even in the small world of St. Blogs. We must be ever mindful of how blessed we are. On NPR (of all places) the other day they had a short spot featuring the usual "Demise of the Pope" stuff popular in current media. One of the speakers there said that Pope John Paul has provided us with food for thought for many, many years to come--even if there were nothing else to consider during the entire time of his pontificate. And of course there is. Every soul that pays attention and responds to God leaves a mark on the world. Sometimes that mark is in the form of literature, sometimes in the form of action. Either way the marks can be read, interpreted, and followed into the House of the Lord.

So despite the alarums and excursions of the present day, the spirituality of the Holy Catholic Church is intact. It is there for anyone who really wishes to lead a life of holiness. The bottom line--there is no excuse. It is only our own laziness that stands between each of us and the sanctity and spiritual heights God wishes us to attain. He wishes this for us not for our own good, but for the good of all, because if each attain his or her appointed place, the world becomes more Christlike and the Body becomes a living, breathing, resurrected Christ transforming the world into His image.

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

March 07, 2005


It has been confirmed, I will be visiting Dallas at the end of this month. If any of y'all have advice about good places to eat/see while there please let me know. Generally on these trips we are not allowed to rent cars so I'm stuck with public transport and will be staying Downtown, downtown--a couple of blocks from the convention center.

Restaurant ideas are greatly appreciated!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A Mnemonic for Pi

This has been posted as a mnemonic for the digits of Pi. Somehow, I suspect that the mnemonic would be more trouble to memorize than the poem; however, the poem appears to be a very nice translation of Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite"

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Piece of Advice from CQOD

A long time ago, I don't remember when or where, I signed up for CQOD--Christian Quotation of the Day--to be sent to me daily. This is today's quotation:

Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg
His grace, to offer Him your heart from time to time, in the
midst of your business, even every moment if you can. Do not
always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or
particular forms of devotion; but act with a general
confidence in God, with love and humility.
... Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691)

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

Sobering Thoughts for Lenten Reflection

from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

Our life and how we find the world now and in the future is, almost totally, a simple result of what we have become in the depths of our being--in our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make our choices, beak forth into action, try to change our world. We live from our depth--most of which we do not understand.

"Do you mean," some will say, "that the individual and collective disasters that fill the human scene are not imposed upon us from without? That they do not just happen to us?"

Yes. That is what I mean. In today's world, famine, war, and epidemic are almost totally the outcome of human choices, which are expressions of the human spirit. Though vairous qualifications and explanations are appropriate, that is in general true.

. . . Accordingly, the greatest need you and I have--the greatest need of collective humanity-- is renovation of our heart That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed.

Indeed, the only hope of humanity lies in the fact that, as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also can be transfomred. Now and through the ages this has been acknowledged by everyone who has thought deeply about our condition--from Moses, Solomon, Socrates, and Spnoza, to Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Oprah, and current feminists and enivronmentalists. We, very rightly, continually preach this possilbity and necessity from our pulpits. Disagreement have only to do with what in our spirit needs to be changed and how that change can be brought about.

The key to transformation, as I am sure I will discover as I continue to read this wonderful book, is conformity to the image of myself that God has in mind. That is conformity to the daily crosses that shape and mold me to better fit into the places God wants me to occupy. Thus to effect transformation, renovation, if you will, I must not merely pick up my cross and carry it; rather, I must embrace it as God's will for me at the moment. I must hold it close to me and cherish it as God's gift to me, as that which will transform me and make we whole and complete in the body. The Cross is not something to be merely tolerated, it is something that we must desire. I begin to understand all the saints who prayed for things you and I would not think of praying for--greater humiliation, greater suffering, greater trial. They had learned to see that through these things not only do they share in the suffering of Christ, but they become transformed into His living image in the world. Right now, I am too timid to pray for such great hardships, but I do think I have worked my way up to really praying (and meaning) "thy will be done." Whatever I suffer now (in the realm of grace) I do not suffer later. The more I am transformed now, the less painful the later transformation will have to be. "Let it be done unto me according to thy will," knowing, all the while, that His will can only be good for me, no matter what it contains.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack