May 07, 2005

Too Much on Poetry

An interested reader wrote and asked if it felt good to be speaking poetry once again. And it does. It is my native tongue. When I'm here I hear it everywhere. I hear people speak and it is natural poetry, I see the orchids on the altar and it is natural poetry, I move and it is kinesthetic poetry (only internally--I can't vouch for those of you watching).

Poetry is a native tongue and I have been speaking it too infrequently in the past several years. I am glad to be back and I have to thank for it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the constant creativity of Lofted Nest. Thank you.

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Space Regulations

As an average male
of standard height and weight
(and age) you shoud know the
regulations surrounding
personal space. Of course as
an American, these are
roomier by far than
say your every day run-
of-the-mill Italian,
absolute luxury
compared to the knee room
of your standard Japanese.

The perimeter defined
as sister-like woman
you would not hit on--norm.
Standard measures require
adjustment for woman
you would date (not measured)
but approximately
two-thirds the distance. Then
there's wife, fiancée, or
woman who is surely wife
material- one-half to

As known by clear
instinct, the space expands
rapidly when setting
a boundary defined
by contact with any
other male (one and one
half to three-minimum
four times for cases of
unusual dress or
body odor). All rates are
subject to change without
notice due to unknown
or combination factors.

Some exceptions occur
for nonregulation
persons, relationships
or conditions. As these
are oddly variable
only experience will
attune you to requirements.
Expect anomalies.

© 2005, Steven Riddle

Possibly the first of a series. I'll wait and see how the Lord leads.

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God Calling

Although you can't see him
you know by the itching
underneath your skin that
He is there. Patiently
or not so waiting for
you to come around. And
so long as you deny
it, He'll be there waiting.
And you will know no end
of itching until you
stop and call on Him to
let you in. And he will.

© 2005, Steven Riddle

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May 06, 2005

The Dangers of Religion

Always perceptive, Unapologetic Catholic writes about the potential for alienating people from the Church, from the truth. He makes some very good points.

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Writing a Novel

Not me, but Ron who is blogging less as a result. Stop by, read, and give him some encouragement. We need as many catholic voices in the literary marketplace as we can muster--AND Ron is writing in a genre that can reach a great many people--the mystery. Go and read about it. It is tremendously exciting.

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May 05, 2005

Love Poem

where you were
you are not
now begins
time and our
minutes are
muted only
the space you
once filled speaks
in ways you
never did

your warmth is
absence your
whisper cold
your eyes my
comfort blue

© 2005, Steven Riddle

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Poem for Ascension

after William Carlos Williams

So much depends
on a

Great God Savior
who graced

by death ascends
to joy

among all his

© 2005, Steven Riddle


so much ascends
with a

Great God Savior
who rose

from the dead to
bring joy

to his people
on earth

© 2005, Steven Riddle

Which goes to show you the tremendous art and difficulty of Williams's little game. I love "Red Wheelbarrow" as a slight imagist game, but that is how it should be regarded--delightful for what it is--a trifle. In this case, I think we can dispence with all of those specious arguments about Williams'a poem. In this case, it is very easy to argue that so much does depend on ....

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Rock Collecting

For Samuel

He hands me another rock, his brown eyes
wide and says, "Daddy, what kind of rock is
this?" And living where we do the answer is
nearly always the same, "That's a limestone
sweetheart." And I expect him to drop it
and say, "Again?" Instead he slips it so
carefully into the pocket of his
jeans, you would have thought I'd said, "A ruby"
when he'd asked.

But searching the ground, he stoops
again to pull a raw white treasure from
the earth. I rejoice that the same answer
is always new to him. Limestone, white rock
does not stop him from looking as he walks
picking now a pebble, now a stone, all
his, in a whole new world made just for him.

© 2005, Steven Riddle

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What I Learned from Blogging--Part DCCCCLXXV

I was stunned to learn something today, that had I taken a moment to ask any one around me probably would not have come as any sort of shock at all. In fact, if I had bothered to look back on my life at all, it would be immediately evident.

I do not make my choices solely, or even predominantly by reason. I use reason to inform my choices and my decisions, but ultimately I trust more how I feel about something than how I think about it. This is life experience. In every case how I feel about something has been far more trustworthy than how I thought about it. Thinking about it makes me like a lawyer, I can find a million ways to shape my thought and reason to justify anything I want to do. But the reality is, how I feel about it is what I should be trusting. Without revealing too much personal information I can tell you that I was once in a situation when I knew in my heart that one choice I could make was a poor, perhaps even a sinful choice. When I considered the matter "reasonably" I considered all of the factors, God's law, family solidarity, possible outcomes, potential meaning, and all the information I could pour into the decision. I made a choice to go ahead and to this thing about which I had grave misgivings. It ended disastrously, with a fragmentation of unity and hard feelings all around. This was the ending my heart saw, not the one I could come to in my thinking.

Reason is a pretty bauble. It makes lovely designs and constructs elegant constructs. The problem is that reason is based on a whole series of underlying propositions you must accept if you are to enter the argument. Once you have accepted them, then you must discover what they are. As you expose more and more of them, you find principles that you question from the very start. For example Aquinas postulates that reason itself is a positive good. On what evidence? It is, in fact, a postulate. I could equally well postulate that reason is a gift--certainly good, but that the good is not complete--that it is the use to which reason is put that confirms its goodness or its ill. I might be wrong in the proposition, but for every thing "proven" by Aquinas, there are several dozen hanging questions about the underlying principles of the argument.

I like well constructed arguments. I love chains of reasoning. But I love them in the same way I love mathematical constructs, for the essential beauty of them not for what they say or do.

But through my life I have been persuaded more by my heart than by my head. I'm told by those around me that this is unreasonable. (In fact it is not--it is merely nonreasonable.) But is nonreasonable necessarily bad? For those who depend on reason to reach their decision its is. But I suggest rather that there are many ways to come to truth. Reason may be more certain, but "Blessed are the pure in heart." The heart will get us to the same end. Obviously we cannot reject reason where reason is clear. But where there is doubt, where there is uncertainty, where there are many possible ways to travel, the heart is as good a guide (for me) as reason is.

Why does this come as such a surprise. Well let me list the pros and cons--I am a trained scientist and an amateur mathematician. Reason is highly prized in both. I am able to reason well, and when I understand all the terms comprehend and accept an argument constructed by reason. However, as a scientist, I was always miles ahead of the facts. My chief way of working was to leap ahead and then backtrack to find the chain of reason that led to my conclusion or that broke down when I tried to connect my conclusion to the known information. I rarely traced a set of data to a conclusion, rather I developed six or seven different models that would fit with the known data and worked backward from the one that "seemed" most probable to the data. When I got there, I was able to understand the arguments that led there.

I am a poet. Poets certainly can be reasonable, but poets tend to rely on intuition and on perceptions of things beneath the surface.

And every major decision I have reached I have always reached by moving beyond the logic to what "felt" right.

Sorry folks, but there it is. My modality is emotional. Anyway, I discovered this in another conversation and also discovered that there are many different modes of knowing and that reason is often a bully--using name-calling and imputations of other people's guilt and sinfulness to force one to accept its ends. Of course emotion is as much a bully saying that such people are hard-hearted and ignorant of the way of being human. We must avoid both such. Those who are led by the head should certainly follow the lead. But those led by the heart should not feel inferior or diminished in comparison.

Some people have claimed that as Catholics you have to check your mind at the door, I find much more often we are asked to check our heart at the door. Reason devoid of passion is the law, and the law kills, just as the spirit enlivens. But the heart without reason is a tyrant, a tenderness that leads to euthanasia and genocide. Every person is a balance of these tendencies. In most one dominates. Be true to it--it is what God has given you to get by on. It is your gift for you and for those around you. I will no longer be ashamed when I make a decision based on how I feel about something. It is as valid as any amount of thinking about it. For another it may not be. We are not all made from a cookie press, so accept who you are and how you come to terms with the world around you. Most of all don't let anyone convince you--head or heart, that it is somehow deficient. And also avoid criticizing those who choose different rule of engagement--even though you will be denigrated by them as one who is anti-intellectual or anti-reason. It simply isn't so--you are simply pro-emotion. Remember, that even as the Church needs its Aquinas's, so too does it need its Bernadettes and its John Vianneys and its Thérèses.

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Newsflash: And the Winner is. . .

TSO who gave me my 3000th comment. Boy, certain things certainly are getting commented.

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Just Wondering

This is just one of those things that I wonder about. Please don't take it to be indicative of anything but probing at the mysteries of God and Church.

If, in Genesis we are told that God told people to be fruitful and multiply and fill all the Earth. And throughout the old testament we are told what a great blessing children are and how they add to the glory of the house and of the family. And Jesus did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it, and part of that law was that men should marry and with their wives produce families why is it that we so laud virginity and celibacy? Where does that come from? From a single line of Paul--"It is better to marry than to burn." (And one gets the feeling from Paul that perhaps marriage isn't all that far from burning. And as we know little of Paul's life, yet he was one of the leaders of the people in religious discourse, did he have a wife? Perhaps his marital relationship was akin to that of Socrates and Xantippe. All of that is beside the point. I have read elsewhere how greatly exalted a state virginity is and I must wonder why that should be. If everyone at the time of Jesus had pledged virginity there would be no human race to praise God. Virginity is physically fruitless--not that it is bad, nor is it to be denigrated. But is it exalted because celibacy became the rule.

I just wonder. It would seem to me that both states are exalted if they are the state that one is called to. Why is one better than another--both are sealed in sacrament.

I won't go on because other thoughts might prove too disturbing to some out there. But I really have to wonder about this exaltation and obsession with virginity; it suggests to me a certain hidden dualism--that the flesh is somehow not good.

And perhaps there is just something about me that chafes at a preferential treatement for a few. That is according to the idea of vocation, God picks out His favorite children and holds them in exalted state. (A kind of reverse double predestination.) I prefer to think that God's exalted children are those who fulfill his will most completely--married or celibate. And, if all things are equal in terms of fulfillment of vocation, then perhaps the argument that the celibate life is superior holds some merit.

But then, that is my wayward thinking, and from now on I'll just rein it in.

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Knowing Tomorrow--a Broken Sonnet

No measure I could make of today could
tell me what tomorrow holds, neither heat
nor height, rain nor depths, clouds nor width, none would
tell me what's in the day ahead. I see
not through a glass darkly, I do not see
at all, and count myself blessed for blindness.
If I knew all that lay in store, courage
would fail me. In this silence God gives rest
from the world, its woes, its wealth, its well
of sorrow, poverty, despair and strife,
and awakens joy in the day--a swell
of gratitiude that overshadows life.
Seeing our future might seem a delight
but God is good to keep tomorrow night.

© 2005, Steven Riddle

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May 04, 2005

Riddle's Theory of Blogging

I've probably said this before, but scouting through the blogworld tonight I am reminded of my central tenet in blogging.

The most interesting thing about a blogger is the person him or herself. There are many ways to tell people about who you are, but the most interesting way is simply to tell me something about your life. Not intimate details, thank you so very much. But moments--how your dog sleeps, what it looks like out your window right now, what you watch on television or listen to. All of these things are much more profoundly interesting to me than commentary on the news or politics. Of course, I learn much from these as well, but I learn the diversity of being human, being Catholic, being a parent from those bloggers who are willing to share from their experiences. I also admire the boldly opinated--Talmida, Nathan, and Erik. I like people with the courage of their convictions even if we might not see eye-to-eye on everything--sorry Erik no monarchy constitutional or otherwise. Differences of opinion add spice so long as they are shared charitably.

So, be yourself, write who you are and don't be afraid to be. I know I'm not and God knows you've been with me long enough to know that you can expect just about anything from the appallingly idiotic to well the somewhat-less-appallingly idiotic. As Dorothy Parker commented about Katherine Hepburn's performance in a play called "The Lake"--"She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." Yep! Vers-a-tile describes me to a T! If I don't slap you upside the head with God one way, I'll find another.

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You were sent to a city of ashes
a people more dead than alive.
I said, "You show them my mercy."
You said, "Lord, will I survive?"

You ran from my mission of mercy,
I sent you a storm and a fish,
three days and three nights in darkness,
before you said, "Lord, as you wish."

Nineveh, city of ashes,
you wandered from east to the west,
in three days journey across it,
you spoke and you did all your best.

Nineveh heard your preaching,
he summoned his councilors near,
he said, "All people in sackcloth,
that the Lord's anger visit not here."

At repentence my anger abated,
I spared the city its doom,
but you saw my mercy as weakness,
and now you sit here in gloom.

A bean tree for shade I gave you,
The bean tree I withered as well,
Now you sit here in anger,
saying, "Lord just send me to hell."

My mercy, dear prophet, is boundless,
would you think I'd leave them to fall?
Should I not pity that city
where people know nothing at all?

© 2005, Steven Riddle

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An Amusement for the Day

An Amish boy and his father were in a shopping mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart & then slide back together again.

The boy asked, "What is this Father?" The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is."

While the boy & his father were watching with amazement, an old lady hobbled slowly to the moving walls & pressed a button. The walls opened & the lady moved between them into a small room.

The walls closed & the boy & his father watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number & then the numbers began to light in the reverse order. Finally the walls opened up again & a gorgeous 24-year-old blonde stepped out.

The father said quietly to his son,"Go get your mother."

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"The Lord is My Shepherd"

Psalm 23 (NIV)

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Psalm 23 (KJV)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23 (NAB)

1 A psalm of David. 2 The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me;
3 you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
4 Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.
5 You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

Just three examples of one of the most widely known of the Psalms to show the difference translation makes.

You are probably all aware that Psalm 23 is prayed at many Protestant funerals. It is prayed as spontaneously as the Lord's Prayer, not because it is used as frequently, but because it falls into a regular rhythmical, if not metrical pattern. The NIV preserves some of this, but the NAB has the bland regularity of most free verse--nothing rhythmical, nothing metrical, nothing really accented. Just pure bland translation--there is no hook to grab you and keep you in the recitation of the psalm.

I suppose part of my contention is that if the Psalms are to be prayed, they should be easily memorizable. I think this was one of the function of Gregorian Chant. The Chant imposed a rhythm on the Latin that makes the words fall into place. The verbal mush which constitutes the NAB cannot possibly flow into a memorizable pattern. Now, this same verbal mush could very well be a much better translation for study--in those matters I am no expert. And I'm not necessarily claiming that the KJV is the very best for these purposes (prayer). However, I am saying that there is a distinct difference in the way things are translated and the use to which you wish to place the particular piece of scripture should govern the translation you use. If one is sufficiently more accurate to encourage clarity in study, then it should be used. If one works better as part of your "internal vocabulary" of prayer, then it should be used. I often find the Liturgy of the Hours a real chore, not because the prayers are difficult, tedious, or unimportant, but because the translation is so leaden it resists any urge on my part to enliven it. The words seem merely words on the page--they do not sing. My feelings about it do not inhibit my continuation of it, but they do make it more of a penitential exercise than it need be.

Yet another reason why poetry matters--God speaks to us in it.

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May 03, 2005

News That Made Me Unaccountably Feel Better

I don't do business with E-Bay. Can't afford to with my voracious appetite for books and such. MamaT got this welcome news today:

We understand that the listing of the Eucharist was highly upsetting to Catholic members of the eBay community and Catholics globally. Once this completed sale was brought to our attention, we consulted with a number of our users, including members of the Catholic Church, concerning what course we should take in the future should a similar listing appear on our site. We also consulted with members of other religions about items that might also be highly sacred and inappropriate for sale. As a result of this dialogue, we have concluded that sales ofthe Eucharist, and similar highly sacred items, are not appropriate on
eBay. We have, therefore, broadened our policies and will remove those types of listings should they appear on the site in the future.

Praise God. And thanks to Julie D. I'm off to thank E-bay

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Which Composer Are You?

No, no quiz. I just decided to stake a claim before it all became the rage. So--if my blog were to be compared to a composer I would most like it to be compared to:

Wait, a moment of suspense. Perhaps I should list my reasons why before I tell you who?

My all-time favorite composer--able to capture light in music in ways unattained since--truly the symboliste or imagiste of the musical worlds. His music is the perfect accompaniment to impressionism, post-impressionism, and imagist and symbolist poetry. It even goes well with Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy (less so with Dali, who is much more de Falla or Granados.)

Given that the imagist school is one that I love dearly and which I have followed in much of my own writing (though, of course, not in every detail). I am pleased to announce that the composer I would most like to be compared to is

Yes indeed, Claude Debussy.

Okay, now y'all can choose your own.

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Modern Poetry--Footnotes to Emptiness

Yesterday I meant to say something about modern poetry. I had checked two books of The Year's Best Poetry out of the library to see if trends had changed yet.

The answer is, unfortunately, no. The Academic community appears to have poetry still firmly in its death grip, determined to choke the life out of it. And but for places like this and Lofted Nest, and other appreciators of poetry scattered around, they might well succeed. Although they tried the same with the novel, but Beckett, Robbe-Grillet, and their ilk could not kill a genre so entrenched in the popular mind. However, as we enter the age of the post literate, it appears that they may have their way with the novel yet. (My only hope comes from the popularity of The DaVinci Code, which convinces me that the academics have a ways to go before they can overcome the lure of truly poor writing.)

But, back to poetry for the moment. Flipping through this book of best of, I came upon a "poem" that consisted of nothing but blank pages with a small line and a series of footnotes. The postmoderns have triumphed in making modern poetry as vacuous and empty of delight as most postmodern art. There's no point in belaboring this--what the academic community has served up as great poetry has all but killed the genre. There is no delight in language, the is no sense of joy in discovery. Instead, we have the apotheosis of the confessional poets, staring in the mirror and noting what they see as footnotes to emptiness.

In these anthologies, there was not a single poem in a classic mode. Nothing that required the skill and artifice of a villanelle, a sonnet, or even a haiku. Free verse, and less, made up the entirety of the contents. And this is a shame because there are a great many poets producing poetry of substance that cannot make it into the market because of the academic stranglehold.

Dana Gioia asked the question some years ago as to whether poetry were dead or not. It's not dead, to that I can testify, but it's looking a lot moribund. I can only hope that the establishment eventually peters out and poetry is recovered by poets who (a) have something to say and (b) say it in a way that is memorable.

No wonder poetry has so small an audience. It's a shame because as children we have Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein and endless other wonderful, rollicking poems to read that vanish as we head toward adulthood. Perhaps children's poets should enter the market and take over. A Child's Book of Verse for adults--think about the potential. I have no doubt that nearly everyone out there can think about snippets of stuff they liked as a child. It was merely the first whiff of modern free verse that we instinctively recoiled at.

I look at the great forked road in poetry--Dickinson on one hand, Whitman on the other. And though I used to be a partisan of the latter, I discover now my affinity for the former. There is less and less of Whitman about me, and more and more of Dickinson, and I consider that a blessing.

So it leads me to my new motto--Free Verse! Write sonnets

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May 02, 2005

The Theology of Sin

Statements like this always bother me.

from My Way of Life
Fr. Walter Farrell and Fr. Martin J Healy

Anything that lessens freedom therfore will also make the sin less grievous. The cold-blooded traitor sins more than the soldier who betrays his comrades under torture.

Fortunately, Tom stops by often enough to explain how a revelation under torture constitutes sin. It seems to lack the key ingredient of will--not under durress. That it is a natural evil, I can believe that it is a sin, and the soul of one tortured might be damned were he to pass on in the course of torture--that strikes me in something like the same way as double predestination. It certainly would give the lie to the statement that "He will not test you beyond your endurance."

Any way, if anyone can explain to me why such a statement extracted during torture is a sin, I would truly appreciate it.

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Meta-Haiku Compressed NOW with More Homage (Proportionally)

words wasted
to make lines work--doomed
to failure

words wasted
to fill lines--reduced
to white noise

to fill lines
words wasted--flaccid

Too many
words to make the count
poems flabby

add words--force
lines--chaos--can't get
your wordsworth

© 2005, Steven Riddle

I was talking about how the Japanese compose haiku and how in some cases the lines consist of a single word and its identifier particles. I had read it suggested that the syllabification for an English form that presented the same challenges would be 3-5-3--reducing 17 syllables to 11. Above is the transformation that occurs when it is tried on the admittedly poor hiaku of the previous version.

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Interpretation vs. Application

The way we can be sure of our knowledge of Him
is to keep his commandments
1 John 2

I was talking to a friend recently who suggested that one of the reasons her group does not read scripture more often is that they are afraid of the implications of private interpretation of scripture. As we all know, the Catholic Church differs from the protestant churches in this as well as other matters. The error of private interpretation looms so large that they fear the scriptures, and yet they need not.

What does this mean? The Church does not forbid studying the Bible privately, in fact, she actively encourages it. (I had one friend who told me that prior to Vatican II she had a priest who explicitly told the congregation NOT to read scripture for fear of what it might do to their faith. I once believed this to be the norm; however, I have come to understand that this was really an exceptional circumstance in the Church.) If we read the Bible privately and study it, we HAVE to interpret it. As the interpretations for single verses of scripture are, with rare exceptions, not explicitly defined in Church doctrine, how does one avoid the error of private interpretation?

It seems to me that there are two ways that are really branches of one way. The first is to interpret scripture and before you make any public revelation of your conclusions to test your understanding against the understanding that the Church has from her other teachings. That is, contra Luther and other protestant reformers, the Bible cannot be interpreted outside of the understandings of the Church Fathers. So, if in reading the Bible you come to the conclusion that the only basis for understanding scripture is scripture alone, not only are you being ascriptural, but you are flying in the face of 2000 years of received tradition. You can be pretty certain that no matter how bright you are, when your conclusions oppose two-thousand years of understanding and discernment through the Holy Spirit, you are the one who is wrong. Under those circumstances, you abandon your privately received revelation and read the Bible according to the Church's understanding. Thus, while the Church defines the meaning of very few individual scriptures, the traditions of the Church preserve intact the meaning of the whole of scripture. When one of your thoughts about a verse varies from this and you trust in the Holy Spirit for discernment, you will readily see it. Formation as a Catholic in the Tradition and doctrine of the Church, and the invocation of the Holy Spirit before reading scripture will preserve you from this form of error.

Another way to have private interpretation be in line with Catholic Church doctrine is private application. That is, the interpretation you have arrived at is meant for a specific application in you own life without being shared with the entire world as a doctrinal surety. For example, my reading of the scripture suggests to me that violent aggression against others is forbidden ME. The Church clearly teaches that there are occasions and instances when violence may be used in the preservation of some larger good. Thus, I cannot say that pacifism is a Catholic Doctrine--that is clearly false; however, I can, in good conscience say that I may be a pacifist--that there are no instances for me, as an individual, in which use of violent force would not be a sin. Were I to expand this to say that Christ demands it of the Church as a whole, I would be in error.

But even in private application, the whole must NOT be in conflict with Church teaching. That is that the Church teaches that violent force MAY be justifiably used, but she does not teach that it must absolutely be used. If my private interpretation of scripture led me to the conclusion that Jesus Christ were married and had children (a la ˇThe DaVinci Code", I would, of necessity, have to reject the conclusion because that is not the understanding of the Church. I encounter this difficulty every time I read a scripture about Jesusí "brothers and sisters." I know how I want to understand that scripture, but I also know that it stands in direct contradiction of Church Teaching. I bring myself back into line reminding myself of the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Mother.

In most cases, private application of scripture will not be so broad as to entail such errors. For example, you may read of the rich man who approached Jesus and was told to "sell everything you have and give to the poor." You may decide that the meaning for you, at this time, is to sell part of your stock portfolio and give to a local crisis pregnancy center. You should probably take such a conclusion to a spiritual director or companion and share in the discernment of the decision (although this is not strictly necessary, it acts as a good safeguard). But this application in no way contradicts Church teaching. Similarly, one could read Jesusí words about faith the size of a mustard seed and conclude that they are encouragement to undertake some task that is before us in faith.

As I said before, for any large judgments it is probably best to seek a discernment partner to assure that you are not just following your own lead. But for most scripture studies, you'll find that the applications are very small, very personal, and very doable. For example, the scriptures may serve to convict you of certain wrongs in your life, and you conclude to add that thing to you next confession list and to pray for help in not returning to it. The Bible may serve to encourage you. "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, Rejoice!" You may conclude from this that you should be more mindful of God in your everyday life.

The important point is that whenever your "application" flies in the face of received tradition, you should assume that you are incorrect in your understanding. With discernment (either individually over time or with a partner or group) and prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and understanding you can rest assured that you will be preserved from wandering in error.

Pride is the chief sin that leads us into private interpretation. Humility and obedience are the specifics against the pride that would destroy faith. Just stop and consider, "How can I know here and now what has not been known in two thousand years of thinking about God?" Stop and consider, is your mind the caliber of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, or even John Paul the Great? If not, then one would do well to listen to them and to those concurring opinions than to assume that the Holy Spirit is going to plant on you some revelation that flies in the face of 2000 years of history and tradition. Simply recall who you are before God and in the communion of Saints, and you will quickly return to the proper understanding of scripture--the understanding promulgated by the Church. But whatever you do, do not let fear of private interpretation keep you from reading, listening, and understanding what God has to say to you in His Word.


This is from a response to a post in comments. I thought it important enough to ally it with the main body of the post in the vain hope that when I wanted to revise this (if ever) I'd find all of the pieces together in one place.

But that is another problem I didn't mention. Scripture should be interpreted in the context of all of scripture. No single piece should be isolated from the fabric and then have it said, "This is about X." It would be like cutting a black square out of a checkerboard and then explaining what the pattern is. All of scripture needs to be addressed when we interpret any piece of it. Interpretations out of line with the plain meaning of the entirety are also suspect. I should have mentioned that up top.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:11 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

More Books

In the same ill-fated expedition described below, I also purchased a few other items of interest.

Because of a post some days back by TSO and a recollection of a statue/shrine to her in a Church I used to attend for Carmelite meetings in Columbus, I purchased a biography of Blessed Margaret of Castello. She sounded interesting enough to know in more detail.

Because of my devotion of the English and Welsh Saints and Martyrs of Elizabeth's time, I also picked up a slender volume on St. Margaret Clitherow. I hope to get to both of these soon and share with you some of my findings.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 03:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

My Way of Life

I have seen a lilttle book of this title ten thousand times when I go to the Shrine Bookstore. I always pass it by because it is incongruously placed with all those little prayer books and Novena books (against which I hold no animus, but I already have so many of them that the side of the house where they are stored lists). So, as a result, I have never picked it up.

Samuel has been taking an interest in books of late--mostly of the "Captain Underpants" variety, but any time we go to a store, like any child, he wants us to buy him something. Today he decided that this little book was just the right size for him and picked it up.

I initially had him put it back, but then I looked at it and saw that it was published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, a group for whom my admiration has increased without bounds since encounter Father Keyes at The New Gasparian. This interest caused me to look further and I discovered that it was written by Father Walter Farrell, who also wrote a multivolume commentary on the Summa that I was lucky enough to purchase a few years back. And as I looked further, the book purported to be a condensation of the thought of the Summa. Indeed, it is subtitled, The Summa for Everyone. Well, that provoked me enough to buy it.

I've dipped in here and there and all I can say is that while the whole Church should follow the teachings the Church has approved of St. Thomas, not everyone is up to reading the Summa. For those who are not, I'll let you know, but this seems to be an excellent remedy to that one failing.

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