August 31, 2009

Ponderances

I'd planned, like Brendan, to be silent on the matter of Edward Kennedy's death, but two things fascinate me.

One is the seeming redemptive powers of a woman, a particular woman. I'm speaking of his second wife Victoria. It's a very, very rare thing for one spouse to change another, and Kennedy seemed the least likely candidate. He seemed to go from acting like Bill Clinton to an upstanding Harry Truman, at least in terms of his boozing & womanizing.

The other thing that interests me is his letter to the Pope, which Patrick Madrid blogged about here. Curious indeed. Humble and self-justifying at the same time (which is not to imply any of us are above that).

She Looks Like Us

The Queen of Heaven
came down to Mexico
disguised as a mestizo
meaning?
She would make herself look like you
or me
to win us to her Son.

August 30, 2009

Balthasar & Koontz Quotes

From novelist-turned-non-fiction writer Dean Koontz:
This world's beauty is a gift to sustain the heart, and infer the reality of mercy...This may be the primary purpose of dogs: to restore our sense of wonder and to help us maintain it, to make us consider that we should trust our intuition as they trust theirs, and to help us realize that a thing known intuitively can be as real as anything known by material experience.
And from Balthasar's The Christian and Anxiety:
Does not the Christian who takes sin and salvation seriously get lost in a dialectic with no exit, in which each increase in grace brings forth an increase in unworthiness, even guilt, so that in this tangled thicket religion becomes the real inferno? And does not all this furnish the most merciless psychoanalysis with an easy target?

It cannot be denied that something like vertigo can come over a man, even a believer, in this transitional state between fear and hope; after all, it is a routine fact. But Christianity cannot be blamed for this loss of footing; it has to be laid at the door of the man who does not want to take Christianity seriously. Christianity offers man, not a bottomless pit, but solid ground- grounding in God, of course, and not in self. To place oneself on this solid ground involves relinquishing one's own ground...Living, efficacious faith means to walk, to be under way. Everyone who walks has ground under his feet. Faith, love, hope, unceasingly offered to man, are the ground that is constantly being pushed under his feet...Whoever believes, whoever reaches out for faith, takes a real step, and while he steps he cannot simultaneously philosophize about the possibility of stepping, cannot reflect introspectively upon the passage from himself to God and have it in his grasp....The job of mastering this passage, from the Christian point of view, is no longer in man's hands. When man is really walking, God has already provided for the possibility of walking and solved the problem of continuity, and so all the paradoxes of the mind, about Achilles and the tortoise, are passe.

The uneasy conscience that many Christians have, and the anxiety based on it, do not come about because they are sinners and backsliders but because they have stopped believing in the truth and efficacy of their beliefs; they measure the power of faith by their own weakness, they project God's world into their own psychological makeup instead of letting God measure them. They do something that Christians are forbidden to do: they observe faith from the outside; they doubt the power of hope; they deprive themselves the power of love...faith is described in the New Testament as something tangibly sure, giving resat and security - certainly not as a flickering dialectic between sin-anxiety and assurance of salvation, trembling before the devil one minute and triumphing over him the next....
I've tended to be sympathetic to Martin Luther because he was scrupulous and had problems with depression but Balthasar doesn't seem to cut too much slack:
Luther...abided too closely by the Old Testament understanding of promise and eschatology and because he was unwilling to accept either a real deliverance from the anxiety of sin or a real participation in the anguish of the Lord's Cross.

From the Journal: a Vacation Day Last Week

Oh to be home! Under a rare uncompromising sun and adrift in my own thoughts or lack thereof, sitting under the sun, doing nothing at all, just stopping time though occasionally fending off the unsolvable thoughts: how to survive work again after you've seen paradise. (Dean Koontz offered that, post-Eden, work is a sort of repentance and that makes sense.)

Picked up Bob Evans' omelets and ate them on the still cool patio; then sat as the sun blossomed and became so steadfast. So richly textured through the fronds and leaves and I read long from Dean Koontz new memoir and the wonder-invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe book. Noon travelled to two which traveled to three, the hours falling like tokens in a slot machine, until we got Max & Erma's hamburgers. A nice vacation day.

Next morn went to St. Brendan's for 8:45 mass but it made me keenly miss dear old St. Patrick's and the comforting saintly images and stately rosary-sayers. "May the Divine Assistance remain with us always," goes the deep bass voice of the now familiar old man at St. Pat's. Feel a bit too dependent not only on daily Mass but on Mass at a certain place. St. John of the Cross said to get rid of your attachments - what if my attachment is to Mass at St. P's? What happens in the future when there are no priests? Don't borrow trouble, I'm told, today has enough of its own.

August 28, 2009

Links

The Columbus Dispatch just wrapped up a series that followed seminarian Robert Bolding through his final year of study at The Pontifical College Josephinum, which I avidly followed and enjoyed.
_____

George Weigel's latest column is an eye-catcher:
Sometimes, the veil slips.

It certainly did in a recent New York Times Magazine interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There, in the course of relating her surprise at the Court’s 1980 decision upholding the Hyde Amendment (which banned federal funding for abortion), Justice Ginsburg had the following to say about legal history, social policy, and political surprises: 'Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion.'”

August 27, 2009

Various & Sundry: the Last Refuge of Those Who Can't Think of a Post Title

Watched ex-Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters on C-Span's In Depth display his marvelous library - tall, broad shelves of medium-colored oak, all with the old beauty-spines of yesteryear. He loves the smell of books. The holding of them (and other things, he confesses, as all men's minds go to the female form). He goes on to praise all earthly things like wine, nature, etc...

He held an ornate book of the gospels and read a bit from the King James, which he says has the most beautiful language. He seems an epicurean with respect to religious texts & beyond, unabashed in his delight in the sensual, saying he could give it all up but since he doesn't have to he may as well enjoy it. Indeed. He seems a very happy individual. I report, you decide.

Spent a wondrous evening out on the back porch as dusk turned to dark and we turned on our solar-powered grill lights (i.e. reading lights) as I read Acedia & Me and my wife read There Is Eternal Life for Animals. Then Bill O'Reilly before bed. He's our Johnny Carson.
_____

One of the "interesting" lessons of late has been to keep a daily journal and to write down any fragrancies from God, so as not to take the latter for granted and for the improved mood corresponding to the former. Turns out I wasn't keeping a journal too frequently (i.e. once a week) but not frequently enough. A writer has to write. There's a reason Amy Welborn dominated dozens of notebooks after Michael died. I had begun devaluing the journal because it was becoming a complaint session rather than a session in wonder, but it turns out a complaint session is better than nothing.

From recent ameliorative Daily Office readings:
"He chose to become one of us, and brother in all things."
Which is an interesting analogy. Cain and Abel were brothers, as were Isaac and Ishmael. And the late Bob Novak described his relationship with Roland Evans - often rancorous and involving fights - as being "more like brothers than friends". We may fight with our brother but we love him. We may struggle with Christ, as did Jacob with the angel, but we love Him, or should.

Of course Christ is to us not only brother but friend, mother, father. In Psalm 35, the psalmist seemingly puts words into the mouth of Christ about us:
"When they were sick, I went into mourning, afflicted with fasting. My prayer was ever on my lips, as for a brother, a friend. I went as though mourning a mother, bowed with grief."
Emmanuel: God with us:
"For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling,
'This is my resting place for ever,
here have I chosen to live.'"
_______

It feels funny that ten years ago I was able to put in the back patio and go to St. Louis over a single vacation week, while this year it's enough just to exercise and read. In fact, vacations are becoming mostly exercise and reading, the exercise setting up the reading.

Well I did assign myself a task: de-weeding the garden. It was not a "must-do" because our harvest of tomatoes is simply astonishing. I feel like we could supply a farmer's market. But other parts of the garden, i.e. the onion & peppers are all way past due. In the swelter-sun I atavistically culled the earth and witnessed, with my own eyes, it transformed where once mainly tall weeds swung in the air. With only a shovel the dark soil was turned over in patches here and there until my shirt became soaked in honest sweat.

Then went to the local park and changed the dynamic of the usual routine by going off-trail and walking along the shore-line - up and down, up & down - in the late sun while looking into the translucent waters which made me long for my wife's dream of a Hawaiian trip after all, the endless plane ride & expense notwithstanding. (Hawaii is one destination I've never had any desire to visit; a beach is a beach is a beach.) Also thinking a very small 2-night trip to NYC solo. Visit Fr. George Rutler's parish and the art museums. And walk about the city bigtime. Central Park jog. All the things I didn't see last time. Old churches. Heck, just to be in that same hotel room as last year and look at the window - I could do that for hours with the aid of a beer or two.

Splurged for a massage today since I'm on vacation and feel the entitlement mentality. I decided not to drop trough completely. The massuese avoided my upper thighs so it was relaxing and not erotic. TMI I know.

Meanwhile, Betty Duffy says the only thing worth saying, which is why all is quiet on this blog lately since I have nothing worthy of comparison (below the emphasis is mine if you're scoring at home):
If we have unrealistic expectations of others, our spouse, our kids, we probably have unrealistic expectations of prayer. If we are nitpicky fault-finders, we think that is how God will be with us. Who wants to go to prayer to be nitpicked? If we appreciate others and enjoy their presence, their good and bad, we will know that prayer is not always a perfect scenario, but is good and necessary.

Somewhere along the way I thankfully learned that prayer does not win me anything in a spiritual competition with my husband...“In talking about religious life, men can focus more on the priesthood rather than their consecration, but women can sometimes focus more on the practices of the religious life rather than the consecration to God. Consecration is what matters—assiduous union with God in prayer.”

All the events of the past few weeks point to this idea of consecration in my married life—making my prayer a reciprocation of the love I first received from God, and making sacred all the irritable little aspects of my day.

August 25, 2009

Numero Siete

I'm shocked an orthodox Catholic book not written by the Pope has landed on the New York Times best-seller list.

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There is the matter of being thrilled and excited in general. I wrote about this a bit in relationship to this summer’s travels. 6.5 months in, those emotions are not part of my vocabulary again yet. I even feel guilty contemplating a time in which they might return. It doesn’t seem right. (I am not saying this is right. Just being honest. Faith and loss fight a battle every day. Faith is winning. Slowly.)...
But the Lord is waiting to be gracious to you,
to rise and take pity on you,
for the Lord is a just God;
happy are all who hope in him
(Ps. 54. Office of Readings today) - Amy Welborn on her blog

I called my sister to complain that my life was not a Jane Austen novel. She had recently completed another military move, and was struggling to get her footing in a new location with her six children. “Don’t you think that’s a universal feeling?” she said, “I’d just been envying you, being able to put down roots with your little house by Mom and Dad.” And of course it’s a universal feeling: everyone else is having a good time while I’m not. It’s the chronic existential loneliness that rears its head when I am cut off from the vine. I’ve felt the looming darkness coming on for a long time—I could postpone it by continuing to do enjoyable things, like renting romantic movies. But the movies end, and then I have to deal with the fact that this summer has been a spiritual train wreck for me. - Betty Duffy

Mary’s confusion at the Annunciation reflects her spiritual poverty. We always experience confusion and perplexity when God descends into our lives. These purifications are passive—God is causing the growth by bringing about some crisis in our lives, in the Church, etc. We use these experiences as a trampoline to bounce off of and land in the arms of Jesus.” “Sanctity is not moral perfection, or success (a heresy of Americanism, he said), or psychic maturity, all of which are focused on the self. Instead, it is the meeting of our weakness with God, who loves us.” - Fr. Giertych via Betty Duffy

One of the things I immediately have grown to love about living in a religious community is the fact that I have a chapel right in my residence, in this case a very large and beautiful chapel. It was so nice on Sunday night after getting all ready for bed just walking down the stairs and entering the chapel, praying the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and then going upstairs straight to bed. It was a beautiful and peaceful end to a very exciting first day. I got up early the next morning, around 5:30 or so. I was the only one up so I made coffee and prayed the Divine Office. I then went into the chapel and prayed the Rosary and just sat there a while in blessed silence. - from a seminarian at "Psalm 46:11 - a Journey to Truth"

[About not being able to stave off crisis with good behavior. I've heard that the most saintly among us even ask for affliction rather than trying to avoid it, so that they can feel more deeply the suffering of Jesus. Not something I've ever played around with, but I hear that people do. I would think that rootedness in prayer gives one an anchor and rudder when crises do arise--or maybe not. I'm remembering a quote by someone that abandonment to the will of God is like being a cork floating on the waves. So maybe the "meeting of our weakness with God, who loves us" is about all I'm capable of understanding at the moment. - Betty Duffy

August 24, 2009

Current Read

Been reading Dallas Willard's Hearing God and it goes to the necessity of having an continual personal conversation with God. Willard quotes Brother Lawrence as saying how sweet this constant communication with God is but - BUT! - you can't do it for that motivation. (And, Brother Lawrence reports there was agony in getting to that point of constant communication - a cross before a resurrection.) Lawrence says it has to be because it is what God wants:
"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it,; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us...
Later he writes:
"Immediately make a holy and firm resolution never more to forget Him. Resolve to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence, deprived of all consolations for the love of Him if He thinks fit...Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature. You must sacrifice yourself. At first, one often thinks it is a waste of time. But you must go on and resolve to persevere in it until death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur."
My motivation is often askew and I feel frustration in trying to change it. But then I can give that frustration and sense of powerlessness to God. I can admit my weakness and ever-poor motivations to Him. When I read spiritual books, this is the discouragement I feel whenever I'm told something like "you can't do this for the wrong motivation". Because invariably I think: "but how do I change my motivation?" The answer is not dissimilar to how you forgive someone you can't forgive. You ask God for help and let him do it through you.

Willard writes:
"Second, we may have the wrong motives for seeking to hear from God. We all in some measure share in the general human anxiety about the future. By nature we live in the future, constantly hurled into it whether we like it or not. Knowing what we will meet there is a condition of our being prepared to deal with it - or so it would seem from the human point of view. Francis Bacon's saying that knowledge is power is never more vividly realized than in our concern about our own future. So we ceaselessly inquire about events to come. The great businesses and the halls of government are filled today with experts and technocrats, our modern-day magicians and soothsayers. A new discipline of 'futurology' has recently emerged within universities. The age-old trades of palm reading and fortune telling flourish."
He then mentions how within the Christian community teaching on the will of God and how to know it continues to be one of the most popular subjects. He comments:
"But is not a self-defeating motive at work here - one that causes people to take these classes and workshops over and over without coming to peace about their place in the will of God? I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a device for securing their own safety, comfort and righteousness. For those who busy themselves to know the will of God, however, it is still true that 'those who want to save their life will lose it' (Mt 16:25). My extreme preoccupation with knowing God's will for me may only indicate, contrary to what is often thought, that I am overconcerned with myself, not a Christlike interest in the well-being of others or in the glory of God."
He goes on to say that another problem is that we often fall into the trap of wanting to become robotic when God desires a relationship: "the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise, no matter how different they may be in other respects." God's not looking for Stepford children. "In close personal relationships conformity to another's wishes is not desirable, be it ever so perfect, if it is mindless or purchased at the expense of freedom and the destruction of personality."

August 21, 2009

Read His Poetry First?

As always, I turn my heart towards the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart draws me into her maternal love, and uniting me with her, she will truly and perfectly unite me to her Son. There are many layers of not-God to peel away before I may reach the Center of my being, the indwelling of God, and it is through the Virgin Mary that I am assured of the most direct route to this center. May I imitate her always in having a heart that is always intent on the will of God and directed towards His merciful love. -- Psalm 46:11 - A Journey to Truth
_________

I happened aross a video link (scroll down) of a couple of priests visiting the grave of St. John of the Cross (via Ellyn, who has another post up that well describes my own exisistential unease at the self-checkout lane at the supermarket).

I was surprised - shocked even - that the first works recommended by one of the priestly experts on St. J of the Cross was not Dark Night of the Soul or other instructional writings but his poetry. It seems somehow emblematic in how we find our way to God not strictly through reason but through love, a sort of unreason.

Perhaps it's merely that the priest thought that to see St. John first in love (in his poetry) will facilitate the harsher medicine of his message of detachment. (Not having read St. John's poetry suggests how weak that 'perhaps' is.) Why John of the "Cross"? the priest was asked. "Because it was in the imitation of the totality of the Christ's offering to the Father that you truly become holy."


WHAT IS GRACE

“What is grace” I asked God.

And He said,

“All that happens.”

Then He added, when I looked perplexed,

“Could not lovers
say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms
was grace?

Existence is my arms,
though I well understand how one can turn
away from
me

until the heart has
wisdom.”

- St. John of the Cross

August 20, 2009

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus...

Link here:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Of the seven deadly sins, men are more prone to be tempted by lust, while women more often succumb to the sin of pride, the papal theologian said.

In comments on a new book dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas' teachings on the seven capital vices, Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych said men and women experience sin differently. His commentary was published Feb.16 by the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Father Giertych, who is theologian of the papal household, said he agreed with the findings of St. Thomas Aquinas -- a 13th-century Dominican theologian and philosopher -- that men were more inclined than women to pursue pleasure.

"Often the most difficult (sin) men face is lust, and then comes gluttony, sloth, wrath, pride, envy, and greed," wrote Father Giertych.

"For women, the most dangerous is pride, followed by envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and lastly, sloth," he said.

August 19, 2009

Found Poll

This is pretty close (scroll down, left side panel) to what I would've expected from a Catholic blogosphere bible poll -- with the exception of how popular the NAB is. Most of us have read enough about that version on the 'net to want to eschew it:

Found Poetry

Found here:
Last Night, as I Was Sleeping.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt — marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

From the same blog:
In both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, John the Baptist says that the one who will come after him (Jesus) will not be baptizing with water, but with fire. When I look at myself, as well as at most of us, I think we would rather settle for a baptism of water. We shy away from the fire, and end up in it when thrust there.
I am reminded of the words of the song, “Live This Mystery,” by Michael Card. It goes:
As the river seeks to be
forgotten in the sea
so my soul is so thirsty
it longs for Thee.
Like a moth around the flame
drawn to the light
and to the pain.
Since my life is hid in Thee
I must live this mystery.
It is, indeed, a mystery, that that which can draw us, can also repel us. Paradox and mystery. Our lives are filled with them. We long for passion – for fire. And yet we try to stay away from danger; we do not want to be burned.

Thank God for the poets who find ways to express what we do not. And that their words can open us to mystery.

Ponderances

Negativity is always with us so we need great gollops of positivity and prayer to counteract it. One method is to pray the daily office. When one is suffering, the Liturgy of the Hours seem as a balm. But when one is not, it's harder to feel a sense of urgency and affectiveness. To say "Lord, help me, be my rock, save me...." feels a lot more real when you're in conscious danger of drowning than when you "feel" afloat and all is right with the world, or at least your immediate world.

I mentioned this to Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp" fame and he offered this:
The late Msgr Frank McFarland, known and loved by viewers of Boston Catholic Television, tells how on the day of his ordination, when he was so happy he was walking on air, the reading from the breviary gave him Psalm 69 ("Save me, O God, for I sink in the deep mire" etc.). He said, later, to an older priest: "What do you make of this?" The older priest told the young Fr McF that when he prays Psalm 69 he is praying for EVERYONE who is in that dire predicament!
Why yes, of course. How very Christian!.
_____

I curled up in the a/c Saturday night and watched four consecutive hours of palliative C-Span shows, including a speech given by a dour-looking Clarence Thomas. I sense he is susceptible to discouragement & got the distinct impression he would quit the Court if not for his strong sense of duty. His was an old-fashioned speech in the sense of his awareness of having to pay a debt to prior generations, including those who fought and died for us. He watches "Saving Private Ryan" frequently, one of his favorite movies, and talks about how Ryan needed to live up to the deaths of his superiors who saved him. I'm sure Thomas felt the same way about his grandfather and how he sacrificed for him. Clarence Thomas is old-fashioned too for digging up and listening to old speeches when he feels low, speeches like Douglas MacArthur's stem-winder to West Point about duty, God and country. I confess experiencing the feeling that what Thomas expressed seemed corny, which is a fine warning sign of spiritual malaise and sloth. His thoughts were the very opposite of corny; very deep and true.

August 18, 2009

Byzantine Theotokos Icon

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A few years ago, I was shown the significance of Mary's Assumption being formally proclaimed in 1950, after two devastating World Wars had taken atrocities to an unprecedented diabolical level. The world needed to be reminded that God's plan for salvation included the vulnerable body as well as the immortal soul. At a time when the full potential of that vulnerability had never been more evident, when the human body had no indignity left to suffer, the Assumption could be only one of two extremes: a cruel joke in the repertoire of a senseless universe . . . or the last light of sanity in a world gone dark...The Assumption is truly a Glorious Mystery. First came the Resurrection, which reminds us that death no longer has any power over those who belong to Christ; then the even more mysterious Ascension, which was so much like an abandonment that Jesus had to be explicit that He would be with us until the end of time. He sent us the Holy Spirit and the Church born from His side at Calvary began to grow and to spread to the ends of the earth. At this point, the epic story is interrupted with a domestic scene: the Mother of God falls asleep . . . and is quietly carried to Heaven by Angels...Now Mary reigns as our Queen, her glorious Assumption reminding us that even in the most "interesting times" on earth, our life, our sweetness and our hope is with her in Heaven. - Sancta Sanctis

Jesus wanted his mother with him and took her in the same way he will take all of us - bodily and wholly into heaven to be with him and the Father. Today is the Feast of the Assumption. We can look at it and be sure of what is in store for each of us - mercy and sweetness. - Roz of Exultet

Cleaning out books. A copy of "Arise from Darkness" by Groeschel. Michael had underlined only one passage in it: "The most bitterly disappointed people are those who thought.....that this brief, fragile life was going to bring them the joy reserved for the blessed in heaven." - Amy Welborn

God’s delight is not in horses / nor his pleasure in warriors’ strength. The Lord delights in those who revere him, in those who wait for his love. - Psalm 147

We've straddled all these decisions, too -- and struggled with the balance between sacrifice that is necessary and sacrifice that ends in suicide. What we've thought were compromises have often turned out to be our greatest choices; what we've thought were great choices have turned out to be mediocre compromises. Don't ya hate that? It's so hard to know which way way we think must be God's plan and which way really is. Since He just will not send us a post card we pray. watch. pray some more. step back and look at the big picture. pray some more. tweak as necessary or about-face when needed. - commenter on Betty Duffy blog, post here, concerning Betty's decision whether to homeschool her children

Depression is a spiritual cross. It is sent to help the pentitent who does not know how to repent, that is, who after repentance falls again into earlier sins...And therefore, only two medicines can treat this sometimes extremely difficult suffering of soul. One must either learn to repent and offer the fruits of repentance; or else bear this spiritual cross, one's depression, with humility, meekness, patience, and great gratitude to the Lord, remembering that the bearing of this cross is accounted by the Lord as the fruit of repentance...And after all, what a great consolation it is to realize that your discouragement is the unacknowledged fruit of repentance, an unconscious self-chastisement for the absence of the fruits that are demanded...From this thought one should come to contrition, and then the depression gradually melts and the true fruits of repentance will be conceived... - Russian martyr Maria of Gatchina

Herewith a cantrip monotonic,
Hysterical and histrionic:
Pleading that some dark daemonic
Nemesis fall on the chronic
Misusers of the word "iconic"
(Worser plagues than the bubonic).
May some wise man Solomonic
Or philosopher Platonic
Draft an ordinance Solonic;
A magistrate, severe, sardonic,
Could then decree a doom draconic:
Seal them in a dungeon chthonic,
Carcery architectonic
(Columns capital'd Ionic);
Forced to con some dull mnemonic:
Lists of monarchs Babylonic,
Rituals and rites Masonic,
Properties of sections conic –
Till despair athanatonic
Leaves them still and catatonic…
Alas, this verse is not Byronic,
Nor Keatsian, still less Miltonic;
It gives me such a pain colonic,
I think I’ll have a gin-and-tonic. - Bob the Ape on Dylan's blog

A 7-year-old yesterday told me that his favorite Shakespeare play is Macbeth, because it has the line "Double, double, toilet trouble. - Alan Jacobs

August 17, 2009

Quotes

One gets a sense of the goodness of God merely by the fact that he wants humans to celebrate the liturgy despite the presence of angels. From the Byzantine Catholic liturgy: "We thank You also for this liturgy, which You have willed to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of archangels, tens of thousands of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim..."
_____

Raymond Arroyo quoted Vaclav Havel on EWTN: "Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

August 14, 2009

August 13, 2009

Am thinking...

...of heading up to the Carey shrine for the Feast of the Assumption.

All roads must lead there since there will be ten Masses offered between the hours of 7am and 12pm on a day in which there is no obligation to attend Mass.

You goin' Elena? Perhaps not too far out of your neck of the woods.

August 12, 2009

Readings

Am becoming more attracted to Franciscan spirituality I think, especially after reading this book about dogs in Heaven which I got mainly for my wife after seeing a review of it in my diocesan newspaper. The author mentions how it's a key concept of the Franciscans that Christ would've come to earth even had Adam not sinned and that Jesus was meant by God from the beginning as the capstone of creation and not a "plan B". That seems appealling.

The Franciscan affirmation of creation also seems something that is a good antidote for today's gnostic age. Increases integration. St. Francis had the gift of seeing all creation as from God, which makes it less likely that we will 'check our religion at the door' and not bring it with us...everywhere. And will help us see God in all things. Mark Judge writes in God and Man at Georgetown Prep of an adolescent trip to the beach:
...The main sensation of the experience was the discovery of new modes of love. The highest, of course, was the absolute fecundity of God's love for his creatures, as expressed in the miracle of the world itself. The great theologian Jean Danielou has observed that "creation is the first revelation." At the beach the splendor and self-giving force of this creation was evident. Our every day revolved around this splendor. In the morning we would bring our blankets down to the beach to lie in the sun - which, as Chesterton noted, dances in the sky. We would spend hours in the surf, surrending ourselves to the embrace of the waves until we were so stupefied with fatigue that we trudged like old men back to our blankets. At exactly two o'clock - it was never planned, it just seemed to happen that way - we climbed to the second-story balcony of the house to play drinking games for a couple of hours, a preverse Liturgy of the Hours. Then it was a nap, dinner - most likely, fast food - and a shower and a shave to get ready for that night's party. Through it all the laughter never stopped. What is so sad about this is that we considered this new joy an escape from God rather than an entrance into God's self-giving mystery. The deep sensuality occasioned by a place like the beach - the brief, rapturous loss of breath when one is smothered by a wave, the feel of sand under toes; the unquenchable grandeur of the plain of the ocean illuminated by the moonlight - all herald the closeness of the Maker. This was evident to Ignatius Loyola, about whom we had read nothing at Georgetown Prep. Loyola celebrated and encouraged the practice of "seeing God in all things" - even in the nautical world.

Very Disturbing

The scandal of hospice care.

Update: See Elena's comment for a different view.

August 11, 2009

Upper & Lower

Too often I simply equate my soul with feelings and emotions, but it seems that feelings are only a part of it, the lower part. It seems there is mystery involved which I suppose isn't surprising given that human beings are made in the image and likeness of the mysterious God. St. Pio mentions his soul as being divided into two halves. He writes in an undated letter to Assunta Di Tomaso (emphasis mine) the following:
Live joyfully and courageously, at least in the upper part of the soul, amidst the trials in which the Lord places you.
Another letter, written by order of his superiors in which he speaks of himself in the third person:
It must not be imagined that he had nothing to suffer in the lower [human] part of his soul as he abandoned [to enter the Franciscans] his own family to whom he was strongly attached. He felt even his bones being crushed as this leave-taking approached, and the pain was so intense that he almost fainted...On the last night he spent with his family, the Lord came to console him by yet another vision...and this was sufficient to strengthen the higher part of the soul, so that he shed not a single tear at this painful leave-taking, although at that moment he was suffering in soul and body.
Another quote, from Quiet Moments with Padre Pio:
How is it possible to see God saddened by evil and not be saddened likewise? Please believe me, though, when I tell you that at such moments I am by no means shaken or changed in the depths of my soul. I feel nothing except the desire to have and to want what God wants. In him I always feel at rest, at least, internally, while I am sometimes rather uncomfortable externally.
And yet his fears were undeniable:
An infinite number of fears assail me at every moment. Temptations against faith would drive me to deny everything. My death Father, how hard it is to believe!
And yet of fears he writes:
There is the fear of God and the fear of Judas. Too much fear makes us act without love, and too much confidence (presumption) causes us not to consider and fear the danger we must overcome. One should help the other, and go together like two sisters.

Paradox Redux

Beautiful post from Roz of Exultet :
From a homily at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts:
There are two related wounds that all or most of us experience: the fear of abandonment, and the fear of engulfment. In other words, we fear being unseen, lost, not held in our hearts, we want to be existentially embraced by another. Yet, we also desire to be free, not swallowed up by another’s emotional neediness; we fear losing our individuality and freedom, our independence.

Two general truths are helpful in reframing this paradox:

1) There is no created reality that can really give me all that my heart desires, and there is no created reality that can take anything away from me. So I need not be lost in the frenzy of seeking, nor in the despair of protecting myself.

2) in a life of prayer and ongoing conversion of heart one may come to know that it is only God who offers an existential embrace which is also total freedom for me. The Divine embrace is freedom. Love casts out fear.
In other words, relinquishing my will to God does not put me at risk of being at the mercy of a capricious or erratic sovereign, nor does it mean that I, the essential I, will get swallowed up or subsumed and therefore lose who God has created me to be. Nothing that is Not God can do these things, and God will not

August 10, 2009

Wonder Deficiency

Post at the American Chesterton Society blog:
What is it we should do - or avoid doing - in order to begin to discover (re-discover) our world?

It's easy enough to point out that this disease - let us call it "wonder deficiency" - seems to arise more and more in our modern life. This is odd, because there are actually many more things to wonder at now than there used to be - even the most common and ordinary things have been exalted beyond what even great intellects and philosophers - even ALL great intellects and philosophers - have been able to glimpse.

...

If you want to wonder, you need to be overwhelmed with what you do not know - while preserving a real clue to its knowability - and so I direct you to Chesterton:
The child is, indeed, in these, and many other matters, the best guide. And in nothing is the child so righteously childlike, in nothing does he exhibit more accurately the sounder order of simplicity, than in the fact that he sees everything with a simple pleasure, even the complex things. The false type of naturalness harps always on the distinction between the natural and the artificial. The higher kind of naturalness ignores that distinction. To the child the tree and the lamp-post are as natural and as artificial as each other; or rather, neither of them are natural but both supernatural. For both are splendid and unexplained. The flower with which God crowns the one, and the flame with which Sam the lamplighter crowns the other, are equally of the gold of fairy-tales. In the middle of the wildest fields the most rustic child is, ten to one, playing at steam-engines. And the only spiritual or philosophical objection to steam-engines is not that men pay for them or work at them, or make them very ugly, or even that men are killed by them; but merely that men do not play at them. The evil is that the childish poetry of clockwork does not remain.
[GKC Heretics CW1:112-3]

Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing

A couple interesting links from Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing including:
When you believe that “education” itself leads to good behavior or wisdom, as if the old emphasis on habits and virtues was a pre-modern stopgap before colleges, textbooks, and newspapers were available to all, you lose touch with those generations all over the world who trained themselves to action by relatively straightforward imitation—mostly of saints and heroes. Today, we think imitation of others diminishes our uniqueness, makes us units on an assembly line. But that was not the view of pagans like Aristotle, or Christians throughout history. One reason we may be largely failing to transmit saintliness and heroism may be that we think we have to argue for things that are better demonstrated.

I came across an example of this in—of all places—Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, a highbrow book if there ever was one. Fran├žoise, the maid in the narrator’s family, has habits of “medieval” France, we are told. Among these is her treatment of the sick and the dying:
Later on, when, in the course of my life, I have had occasion to meet with, in convents for instance, literally saintly examples of practical charity, they have had the brisk, decided, undisturbed, and slightly brutal air of a busy surgeon, the face in which one can discern no commiseration, no tenderness at the sight of suffering humanity, and no fear of hurting it, the face devoid of gentleness or sympathy, the sublime face of true goodness.
This reflects a Mother Theresa-like quality, another woman from a mostly bookless world, which casts in a different light our educated chatter about sympathy and caring, to say nothing of our kissy-huggy familiarity.
A Mother Theresa-like quality? Did she really have "no tenderness at the sight of suffering humanity...the face devoid of gentleness or sympathy"? Hmmm....that doesn't seem quite right. But on the other hand, saints can't simply melt in commiseration given the amount of suffering they see in their efforts to assuage it. That wouldn't do anybody any good.

Royal's other link talks about his relaxing vacation, a concept I find more elusive than I used to since I now seem to "fill up" only with travel to big cities like NYC:
A spell in an undisclosed location happily also produces a real and simple proximity to people and things. Human beings have long had a tendency to drift away in imagination from their surroundings, even before cell phones, Internet, and email called for a new kind of E-asceticism. But in the last few years, I’ve noticed that not only do I and other people abstract ourselves a lot from immediate surroundings to keep up with work. You’re also constantly multi-tasking, which is to say you are in several cyberspaces at once, divided in heart and mind, as if otherwise you might miss something and your life would be the poorer.

I’ve left all that aside for several days and feel for the moment like a blessedly different being. I don’t think it’s a Romantic fantasy that the Native Americans in this area lived a different sense of time and space.

August 05, 2009

Drawing Water

Too long to quote, too good to ignore - good post by Mrs. Darwin on Jesus.

Fr. Corapi



I've never been a big fan of EWTN's Fr. Corapi, thinking him cocky and un-nuanced and not particularly compassionate. I wondered if he got the gig simply for his marvelous voice, a deep, resonating "radio voice" if ever you heard one.

How wrong I was.

He sounded like someone who'd never had a moment's doubt, when, in fact, he had a sinful past when he fell away from the Church in a big way. I was oblivious to the path he's trod and this morning I heard him say that he hates to listen to himself and sometimes hates the words he is preaching, but he knows they are the absolute truth.

He - of all people! - is prone to discouragement and feels like quitting every day. (Reminds me of Mother Teresa's travails.)

I'd totally misjudged him and realize anew the truth of the cliche: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."


Art found in an email from the Sophia Institute.

August 04, 2009

Whiskey, for medicinal reasons only...

Nature Deficit Disorder

From Kristof:
While backpacking in Mount Hood, Ore., with my 11-year-old daughter, I kept thinking of something tragic: So few kids these days know what happens when you lick a big yellow banana slug.

We were recuperating in a (banana slug-infested) wilderness from a surfeit of civilization. On our second day on the Pacific Crest Trail, we were exhausted after nearly 20 miles of hiking, our feet ached, and ravenous mosquitoes were persecuting us. Dusk was falling, but no formal campsite was within miles.

So we set out a groundsheet and our sleeping bags on the soft grass of a ridge, so that the winds would blow the mosquitoes away.

We debated whether to put up our light tarp to protect us from rain. “No need,” I advised my daughter patronizingly. “There’s zero chance it’ll rain. And it’ll be more fun to be able to look up at shooting stars.”

It was, until we awoke at 4 a.m. to a freezing drizzle.

The rain not only punctured the doctrine of Paternal Infallibility but also offered one of nature’s dazzlingly important lessons in perspective, reminding us that we’re just tenants — and ones without much sway.

Such time in the wilderness is part of our family’s summer ritual, a time to hit the “reset” switch and escape deadlines and BlackBerrys. We spend the time fretting instead about blisters, river crossings and rain, and the experiences offer us lessons on inner peace and life’s meaning — cheap therapy, without the couch.

All this comes to mind because for most of us in the industrialized world, nature is a rarer and rarer part of our lives. Children for a thousand generations grew up exploring fields, itching with poison oak and discovering the hard way what a wasp nest looks like. That’s no longer true.

Paul, a fourth-grader in San Diego, put it this way: “I like to play indoors better, ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Paul was quoted in a book by Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, that argued that baby boomers “may constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water.”