Showing posts from 2009

Psalm 110

I like this military image at the end of Psalm 110, the Lord as warrior using the enemy's resources to fuel himself, traveling light and fast.

He will drink from the stream as he goes –
he will hold his head high.

Elijah/ Elisha and Thomas Beckett/ Thomas More

Elijah and Elisha, a reflection on St Thomas

The prophets Elijah and Elisha are a bit of an embarrassment. Not only are the names similar but some of their miracles resemble one another so closely that some scholars have argued that Elijah and Elisha are the same person, with narratives from two different sources of the prophet’s life having been accidentally included one after the other.
Today’s feast reminds us of another historical coincidence:
A learned and worldly man called Thomas, a close and trusted friend of King Henry, is appointed by the king to a high office where he is expected to be loyal and take the king’s part against all others, even the Church. Conscious of his unworthiness for the office he has been given, Thomas suffers an interior conversion and resolves to follow his conscience, God’s voice within him. His upholding of truth and the Church’s rights leads to a conflict with the king, who feels betrayed by his trusted friend. Eventually Thomas is killed; subseque…

Expectation, Oelze


From the "Proslogion" of Saint Anselm

Longing to see God

Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.
Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.
And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.
Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, unde…

A homily by St John Chrysostom

If we are sheep, we overcome; if wolves, we are overcome
As long as we are sheep, we overcome and, though surrounded by countless wolves, we emerge victorious; but if we turn into wolves, we are overcome, for we lose the shepherd’s help. He, after all, feeds the sheep not wolves, and will abandon you if you do not let him show his power in you... (more)

Why God does not give quick rewards for righteousness

None of the righteous receive the fruits of their goodness instantly, but all have to wait for them. If it were otherwise, if God gave quick rewards for righteousness, then it would not be piety that drove us to good acts but a simple matter of business. We would see virtue not as a good thing but as a profitable thing. For this reason the judgement of God shakes a spirit that is not filled with righteousness and loads chains upon it.

Sacred and Profane Love, Titan


More from Willard

"I want to be living in Christ's teaching, yes. And the thing that is so often missed is that it requires understanding....when I am blessing this person who is cursing me, I'm not doing it just because Jesus told me to do it. I'm doing it because I've discovered how good it is. And in discovering that, I've come to admire Jesus even more."

This explains the mechanism that will perpetually increase our confidence in Jesus' authority and superiority.

On only teaching what we know

Here is Willard when asked what he would do if he were entering the ministry today knowing what he knows now: "...I would want to make sure that I had first-hand knowledge of the spiritual life, and that I was learning how to live that life for myself. Then I would share with my people the things I had learned so they could put it into practice in their lives."

Compare this with a sermon given by St. Charles Borromeo, "Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head."

Sermon on All Souls: St. Bernard, abbot

Let us make haste to our brethren who are awaiting us
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honours when their heavenly Father honours them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In sho…

Steve Martin


Christian Wiman

"I don't really think it's possible for humans to be at the same time concious and comfortable (p. 244)."

Wendell Berry

From A World Lost: "But if murder is the ultimate carelessness, it is also the ultimate oversimplifier. It is the paramount act (there are others) by which we reduce a human being to the dimension of one thought (125)."

Anger, or lust, I would think, also do the same thing; any intense feeling: it narrows another person to a single perspective.

Byron Wilding, New York, 1988


Augustine defines true sacrifice

A true sacrifice is anything that we do with the aim of being united to God in holy fellowship – anything that is that is directed towards that supreme good and end in which alone we can be truly blessed. It follows that even an act of compassion towards men is not a sacrifice, if it is not done for the sake of God. Although it is performed by man, sacrifice is still a divine thing, as the Latin word indicates: “sacri-ficium,” “holy-doing” or “holy-making.” Man himself can be a sacrifice, if he is consecrated in the name of God, and vowed to God – a sacrifice in so far as he dies to the world in order to live to God. This is also an act of compassion: compassion of a man for himself. Thus it is written: take pity on your own soul by doing what is pleasing to God. True sacrifices are acts of compassion to ourselves or others, done with God in mind. Such acts have no other object than the relief of distress or the giving of happiness.... (more)

St. Teresa of Avila

A favourite story about St Teresa illustrates the intimate relationship that the saints have with God. When she was on one of her innumerable journeys across Spain, her horse threw her as she was crossing a river. Soaked to the skin she looked up to heaven and said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” We should bring everything to God in our prayers, even our reproaches. For a reproach, in the end, is simply our way of offering up to God our incomprehension of what he is giving us.

From today's Universalis.

There is a moment each day...

"There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find." -- Blake

The past and time

My carpet cleaner's wife has been afflicted with Alzheimer's and he has had to place her in a "home." As you can imagine, the emotional turmoil has been fierce for him. A counselor told him that he would have to decide whether he would live in the past or move on with his life into the future. If he chose to live in the past, the counselor said, time will seem move faster.

Is that true? If we live in the past, will time seem to move faster?

From Psalm 68 [13]

"the wings of the dove shine with silver, her feathers glow with green gold."

Why we pray for all and not so much ourselves

This from St. Ambrose on the effect of praying for all people.

"Above all, you must pray for the whole people: that is, for the whole body, for every part of your mother the Church, whose distinguishing feature is mutual love. If you ask for something for yourself then you will be praying for yourself only – and you must remember that more grace comes to one who prays for others than to any ordinary sinner. If each person prays for all people, then all people are effectively praying for each. In conclusion, if you ask for something for yourself alone, you will be the only one asking for it; but if you ask for benefits for all, all in their turn will be asking for them for you. For you are in fact one of the “all.” Thus it is a great reward, as each person’s prayers acquire the weight of the prayers of everyone. There is nothing presumptuous about thinking like this: on the contrary, it is a sign of greater humility and more abundant fruitfulness."

This ties in with the ratio…

Roger Wagner. The Harvest Is the End of the World and the Reapers Are the Angels


Characteristics of excellent writing

"We look for Fiction, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction that is well-crafted and lively, has an intelligent sense of form and language, assumes a degree of risk, and has consequence beyond the world of its speakers or narrators."

This is from the submissions page to the Chaffey Review. I think it would make an equally good criteria for preaching, especially the last two marks.

The Guardian Angels

I am becoming more and more impressed by Catholic and Orthodoxy's understanding of the reality and particularity of the invisible world; that there are persons, human and angelic, that can and should be related to. Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels. This sentence came at the end of a short explanation on Universalis Today of who and what the angels do for us : "Let us use this feast to remind ourselves that each of us has an angel of our very own looking after us; and also to pray to God for our own Guardian Angel. What a bore and a burden to them some of us are. May we one day be a cause of rejoicing for them also."

From St. Bernard's homily on our angels:

... And so, that nothing in heaven should be wanting in your concern for us, you send those blessed spirits to serve us, assigning them as our guardians and our teachers. He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and inst…

The 33 doctors of the church


1 St Ambrose, 340-397 (Pastoral Doctor)
2 St Jerome, 345-420 (Doctor of Biblical Science)
3 St Augustine, 354-430 (Doctor of Grace)
4 St Gregory the Great, 540-604 (Doctor of Hymnology)


5 St Athanasius, 295-373 (Doctor of Orthodoxy)
6 St Basil the Great, 330-379 (Doctor of Monasticism)
7 St Gregory Nazianzus, 330-390 (Doctor of Theologians)
8 St John Chrysostom, 345-407 (Doctor of Preachers)


9 St Ephraem, 306-373 (Doctor of Deacons and Poets)
10 St Hilary, 315-368 (Doctor of Christ's Divinity)
11 St Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-387 (Doctor of Faith and against Heresy)
12 St Cyril of Alexandria, 376-444 (Doctor of the Incarnation)
13 St Leo the Great, 390-461 (Doctor of Doctrine)
14 St Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 (Doctor of Homilies)
15 St Isidore, 560-636 (Doctor of …

Poem: Friends, 1956

Friends, 1956 We were pure energy without wisdom.
We were the embarrassment of short pants
and short hair. We were dust
creased in the neck, fingers around a baseball bat.
We were the lovers of lost time,
and we spent much of it ourselves.
We were smokers in hiding,
stalled cars miles from home.
We were white socks with a brown suit.
We were all sweat in our coats,
always a nickel short,
ten steps ahead.
We could have swum in clear rivers.
We could have swum in deep lakes.
We could have sung songs to the trees.
We had green knees forever.
We sulked ten steps behind.
We ran our dogs to the bone.
Ken Fontenot
Prairie Schooner
Fall 2009

On Celibacy

"One woman put it very simply. 'The fruit of celibacy,' she said, 'is hospitality.'"

From Kathleen Norris' beautiful book, The Cloister Walk, in the chapter entitled "Learning to Love: Benedictine women on celibacy and relationship."

Re Maggie Gallagher of the National Movement for Marriage

While I agree with being as smart as we can be in this public discourse, I wonder if sometimes we may be trusting our smarts too much.

Maggie Gallagher has almost single handedly changed the pro-marriage movement and in the process has given it perhaps its best and only chance of saving marriage from being permanently remade in America – and therefore the world. Christian conservatives – as in the story above – have traditionally spoken about homosexuality in language that could be construed as judgmental. But this approach does not resonate in a culture where homosexuals have been mainstreamed in television, in movies, and around your neighborhood. What is harder to argue with, in this scientific age, is science. And the social science data is voluminously on the side of man-woman marriage. The great divorce experiment proves it. Whole libraries have been written about the profound harm done to children because of divorce. A great primal scream has emerged in…

Ingmar Bergman's Library

I saw this on Alan Jacob's blog.

Mine own John Poins

"Nor am I not where truth is given in prey
For money, poison, and treason -- as some
A common practice, used night and day.
But here I am in Kent and Christendom,
Among the Muses, where I read and rhyme;
Where if thou list, my Poins, for to come,
Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time."

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, Mine own John Poins

This writer was the kind of person who instinctively felt compassion and the need to intercede for people who did not like him. He is genuinely shocked that they, when he is in need, do not do the same thing. If we would experience God as this writer did, then we must pray to become the same kind of person he was: one who prayed for those who never paid him any mind, never noticed him or gave him the respect he deserved.

"They paid me back evil for the good I did, my soul is desolation.

Yet I – when they were ill, I put on sackcloth, I mortified my soul with fasting, I prayed for them from the depths of my heart. I walked in sadness as for a close friend, for a brother; I was bowed down with grief as if mourning my own mother."

Here's a poem by Franz Wright.

Intake Interview What is today's date? Who is the President? How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten? What does "people who live in glass houses" mean? Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false? Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the
avalanche? Name five rivers. What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes? How about some lovely soft Thorazine music? If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you
say to him? What should you do if I fall asleep? Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps? What is the moral of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"? What about his Everest shadow? Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one
else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination
of indigenous populations? Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent
absence? Should an odd number be sac…

What the Wizard of Oz teaches us

I think that the same three companions who helped Dorothy on her way can assist us on ours: a brain, a heart and courage.