04 December 2010

Meditation from Cardinal Newman

A Meditation

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it - if I do but keep His Commandments.

Whatever, wherever I am I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me - still He knows what He is about. Therefore I will trust Him.

Cardinal Newman

19 November 2010

From "The Breastplate of St. Patrick"

I bind to myself today the virtue of obedience of the angels, in the hope of the resurrection unto reward; in the preachings of the apostles, in the faith of confessors, in the purity of holy virgins, in the deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today God's power to guide me, God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to teach me, God's eye to watch over me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to give me speech, God's hand to guide me, God's shield to shelter me against the seductions of sin.

I invoke today all these virtues against every hostile power which may assail my body and soul, against the cries of false prophets, against the black laws of heathenism, against the deceits of idolatry, against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today against an untimely death that I may receive abundant reward. Christ with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ within me. Christ with the soldier. Christ with the traveler. Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me. Praise to the Lord of my salvation! Salvation in Christ the Lord.

26 October 2010

Defining Sin

Very simply stated, sin is the action that flows from the attitude that my selfish, greedy, and irreverent relationship with any of God’s creatures replaces God’s own relationship with them. . .
Sin is how we violate, ignore, and freely choose to replace God’s prior relationship with an object or person with my own self-centered blueprint.

--Larry Gillick, S.J.

25 October 2010

A prayer by Teilhard de Chardin

I pray, O Master,
that the flames of hell
may not touch me
or any of those whom I love,
and even that they may never touch anyone.
(And I know, my God,
that you will forgive this bold prayer.)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

23 October 2010

Further on Freedom

Re yesterday's post, the only thing I keep forgetting is the necessity of making a distinction between willing abandonment and simple resignation. I think, possibly, some people are only resigning themselves, not really abandoning themselves to God. Abandonment I imagine as a positive action and resignation a passive one.

22 October 2010

On Defining Freedom

". . .freedom. . . the moment when an unforeseen act of self-abandonment occurs." This was in an online article for Poetry magazine by Fanny Howe. I'm not sure it needs to be an unforeseen action; could we not choose it? to give ourselves over entirely to God? could such a definition be close to what Jesus was urging and promising? It's very attractive.

03 October 2010

Loyola: on how God planned to save our souls

God created us
to praise, reverence, and serve God
and in this way to save our souls.
God created all of the rest of creation
to help us achieve the purpose for which
God created us.

23 September 2010

On Faith

Faith is then an interpretation of life which I accept.
-- Peter Van Breeman, S.J.

21 September 2010

More on the depression quote below

I read in Psalm 139 that the Lord lays his hand on me. In Jeremiah and in other places he talks of the heaviness of the hand of the Lord upon them. A weight. It appears to be a sensible thing. I'm wondering if this hand of the Lord for them was a kind of depression.

18 September 2010

A prayer I heard Bishop Tutu pray

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful people and kindle in them the fire of thy love. Send forth thy spirit and they shall be made and thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Amen.

17 September 2010

On Depression From Parker Palmer

"Parker, you seem to look upon depression as the hand of an enemy trying to crush you. Do you think you could see it instead as the hand of a friend pressing you down onto ground on which it is safe to stand?"

From Speaking of Faith radio program, 2004

10 September 2010

A prayer for a child

"Rescue my soul from the sword,
my only child from the teeth of the dogs."
-- Psalm 22

09 September 2010

On Forgiving Too Freely

What we forgive too freely doesn't stay forgiven.
--Mignon McLaughlin

I think we might say the same for belief: what we believe too easily doesn't stay believed.

06 September 2010

Newest Generation Gap

Eighty-two percent of those ages 18 to 29 (and 79% of those 30 to 74) believe there is "a generation gap" in America, according to a Pew Research Center poll last year. The gap was defined as "a major difference in the point of view of younger and older people today." That's up from 60% of Americans in a similar poll in 1979, and it's even higher than the 74% registered in a 1969 poll, taken at the height of the youth-rebellion movement.

From Wall Street Journal, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010, "Want My Advice? Um, Not Really" by JEFFREY ZASLOW

05 September 2010

An appeal to the individual conscience

“I am not advocating world-movements or public meetings... my appeal is rather to the individual conscience than to the public ear; my hope is rather to see the emergence of a Saint, than that of an organisation...
“There is no harm in besieging heaven for the canonization of such and such holy persons now dead. But should we not do well to vary these petitions of ours by asking for more Saints to canonize?"

-- Ronald Knox, in God and the Atom

03 September 2010

Hermes Baby, 1950s


If you have any doubt about it, know that the desert
begins with the creosote.

—Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

31 August 2010

From Homo Faber

". . .I knew that Ivy, like every woman, really only wanted to know what I felt -- or thought, if I didn't feel anything."


26 August 2010

"If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly. . ."

"If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action, God will hear everything that he asks."
--Abba Zeno

25 August 2010

On Parables

"At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought."

(C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961, p. 5)

24 August 2010

On Tears

"You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any movie before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention."

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and to summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.

Whistling in the Dark
, Frederick Buechner

23 August 2010

On Love and Lust

Love is the only fortitude against lust.

From Tim Kellers book, The Prodigal God

". . . an irresistible prejudice in your favor"

"He smiled understandingly -- much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five time in life. It faced -- or seemed to face -- the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey."

15 August 2010

Six O'Clock Winter, John Sloan

04 August 2010


". . . the yearbook editors voted him Most Cynical. That pleased him. Gilbert believed disillusionment to be the natural consequence, even the duty, of a mind that could cut through the authorized version to the true nature of things. He made it his business to take nothing on trust, to respect no authority but that of his own judgment, and to be elegantly unsurprised at the grossest crimes and follies, especially those of the world's anointed."

-- Tobias Wolff, Two Boys and a Girl, p103, in The Night in Question

So, accordingly, the cynic:

1. Believes the "official" story masks the "true nature of things" and only she can cut through to it.

2. Models disillusionment as the natural consequence of a superior mind such as hers.

3. Takes nothing on trust.

4. Respects no authority but her own.

5. Feigns "elegant unsurprise" at the grossest misbehaviors; she's unshockable.

27 July 2010

Early Billy

25 July 2010

Man Fully Alive is the glory of God, and. . .

"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God."

St. Irenaeus

20 July 2010

What if He were to imitate the way we behave?

"Let us not fail to be moved by his goodness, for if he were ever to imitate the way we behave ourselves, we would be truly lost."

-- from St. Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Magnesians

Rather than continuing to talk of imitating Christ, maybe it would be more revealing to ask -- even imagine -- what it would look like if Christ imitated us?

23 June 2010


This from Martin Kochanski, Webmaster at the great Universalis site:

Friendship: the love that dare not speak its name

Once upon a time, there was friendship. Once upon a time, society accepted that the love of friends could be the single most important thing in a person’s life, and they did more than just accept, they celebrated the fact. Throughout history, discourses and sermons have been written in praise of friendship. When Alfred Tennyson’s friend Arthur Hugh Hallam died tragically young in 1833, he spent the next seventeen years writing the great poem “In Memoriam” as a memorial to his friend; and Hallam is a first name used among the Tennyson family to this day. Looking further back, we can see Damon and Pythias, Pylades and Orestes, David and Jonathan...
Perhaps the change was the fault of Freud and Oscar Wilde; and then again, perhaps not. But today no love is accepted as valid that is not in some way sexual, and even if we set out to reject the sex-obsessed outlook of today’s society, we think in those terms despite ourselves. When St Aelred writes of “this most loving youth”, we all say to ourselves “oh yes” in a knowing way, sure that we have guessed the smutty truth.
What a waste! What a wicked denial and perversion of love! God has made friendship – did not Christ have his own beloved disciple? – and how dare we corrupt it and deny it! Of course, we must not despise sex: sex is holy, divinely ordained as a way of love and procreation – but it is not the only love. Friendship is not “mere” friendship, not a second-best; still less is it a repressed substitute for erotic love. It is a love in its own right, powerful, holy, overwhelming. A world with Eros but without friendship is a world full of isolated, self-obsessed couples, of love unshared – a sad thing indeed. And we are heading that way.
The denial of friendship is an evil thing and evil in its effects. When my pulse beats faster at the sight of my friend, when his presence feels like a bolt of electricity – is this really sex in disguise? Am I to run away – which would be a tragedy – in order to preserve my chastity, or am I to try to overcome my revulsion and make a pass – which would be worse? Modern society seems to give us nothing but this harsh choice between a cold heart and a hot body. Who knows how many of the impressionable young are led into ultimately unendurable vices precisely because they cannot face what seems the only available alternative? And when, as is inevitable, they have destroyed friendship by turning it into something it is not, what choice do we give them but to repeat the error, each time more desperately? As if one could see the stars by diving ever deeper into the mud!
Let us accept friendship. Let us accept it as a true and passionate gift of God. Let us accept it in others without reading anything else into it – “repressed” or not. Let us rejoice if it is given to us, be glad if it is given to others. Jonathan loved David not because of what he could get out of him, but because he was David: let us celebrate this motiveless love of the Other, an echo of the pure love of Heaven. We ought to love everyone like that: but one should at least start somewhere.
And if, like Aelred, we have made the mistake of seeking a physical consummation of a love that does not require it, then let us, like St Aelred, not recoil from that love but go forward, transcend that error, until the love becomes a redeemed and radiant thing that others will see and rejoice, giving thanks to God.

21 June 2010

Major Freedom in Richard Wilbur's, "Beasts."

The first line of Wilbur's poem, Beasts, reads "Beasts in their major freedom/ Slumber in peace tonight." In an out of print book called TALKS WITH AUTHORS from the early sixties, Wilbur says "I mean various things by that word 'major' but the expression, 'major freedom,' comes from one of the church fathers -- I forget which one. He distinguishes between major freedom and minor freedom and says that the saints enjoy major freedom because their wills are at one with God's will. They don't have to choose anymore. In this poem of mine I attribute that kind of freedom to the animal creation."

I've not been able to find yet which church father says that.

The place of experience in writing

From Tobias Wolff's, IN PHARAOH'S ARMY: "I described myself as a writer to anyone who would listen since I was sixteen. . . The problem was, I began to see stories even where I shouldn't. . . I turned into a predator, and one of the things I became predatory about was experience. I fetishized it, collected it, kept strict inventory. It seem to me the radical source of authority in the writers whose company I wanted to join, in spite of their own coy deference to the ugly stepsisters honesty, knowledge, human sympathy, historical consciousness, and, ugliest of all, hard work."



In young Tom Rachman's first book, a character who's death is imminent speaks on the place of ambition (and some other things) in her life:

"I say ambition is absurd, and yet I remain in its thrall. It's like being a slave all your life, then learning one day that you never had a master, and returning to work all the same. Can you imagine a force in the universe greater than this? Not in my universe. You know, even from earliest childhood it dominated me. I longed for achievements, to be influential -- that, in particular. To sway people. This has been my religion: the belief that I deserve attention, that they are wrong not to listen, that those who dispute me are fools. Yet, no matter what I achieve, the world lives on, impertinent, indifferent -- I know all this, but I can't get it through my head. . . Here is a fact: nothing in all civilization has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshiped by man."

And this: "We enjoy this illusion of continuity, and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps why our worst fear isn't the end of life, but the end of memories."


09 June 2010

Get Happy, Richard Wilbur and the poetry of profusion by Adam Kirsch

Kirsch's review of Wilbur in the New Yorker is spectacular. Here's the LINK

01 June 2010

Continuing the Catholic attitude towards other cultures

Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.

27 May 2010

On the early attitude of the Roman Catholic church towards existing cultures

Saint Augustine of Canterbury (- 605?)

...The evangelization of the country (England) was planned in close agreement with Pope Gregory, and took care to respect existing traditions. Pagan temples and holy places were not to be destroyed, but to be converted to Christian use; and pagan feasts were to be superseded by Christian ones. This is consistent with the pattern of evangelization throughout the first millennium, which saw Christianity as a fulfilment of what went before, rather than a contradiction of it. Even in Rome itself, temples of Juno had a tendency to become churches dedicated to Our Lady. (It is only with the Spanish colonial evangelizations of the mid-second millennium that the policy of making a clean break with the past began: a policy that works faster but whose effects are not always permanent).
In the far west of Britain, where British bishops had survived the pagan invasions – or where they had fled to escape them – Augustine was less successful in establishing his authority. The traditions of the Celtic church were different from the Roman ones, and bishops who had guided their people for generations were not about to submit to a jumped-up missionary from overseas. It took several generations for the whole of Great Britain to become Christian and for the English and British liturgical traditions to be reconciled.
Augustine died at Canterbury on 26 May 604 or 605.

03 May 2010

On smoking and the Soul

"The soul, of course, is a complex thing. Long ago Plato suggested that we consider it as divided into three parts -- the appetitive, spirited, and rational -- that correspond to the three basic kinds of human desires: the desire to satisfy physical appetites, the desire for recognition, and the desire for truth. Once his tripartite division is recalled, tobacco's relation to the soul becomes clear: The three prevalent types of smoking tobacco -- cigarettes, cigars, and pipes -- correspond to the three parts of the soul."

-- Michael P. Foley

29 April 2010

Poem: Young Diana


She shakes her hair, checks her lips,
pulls down her skirt a little bit
to clear her hips, and clear the air:
she will run the woods tonight;

pulls up her skirt a little bit,
checks the mirror, finds her bow,
she will run the woods tonight;
heads down Sunset to the bar,

checks the mirror, finds her arrows,
leaps the rope and shifts her gears;
heads on over to the bar;
orders something with a twist.

She checks her right and then her left,
finds her sisters, who bare their breasts,
who bare their hips to clear the air,
and bite their lips and shake their spears.
They will run the woods tonight.

14 April 2010

What Dante knew

From Purgatorio, Canto XXVII
Translated by John Ciardi

When we had climbed the stairway to the rise
of the topmost step, there with a father’s love
Virgil turned and fixed me with his eyes.

“My son,” he said, “you now have seen the torment
of the temporary and the eternal fires;
here, now, is the limit of my discernment.

I have led you here by grace of mind and art;
now let your own good pleasure be your guide;
you are past the steep ways, past the narrow part.

See there the sun that shines upon your brow,
the sweet new grass, the flowers, the fruited vines
which spring up without need of seed or plow.

Until those eyes come gladdened which in pain
moved me to come to you and lead your way,
sit there at ease or wander through the plain.

Expect no more of me in word or deed:
here your will is upright, free, and whole,
and you would be in error not to heed

whatever your own impulse prompts you to:
lord of yourself I crown and mitre you.”

16 March 2010

The critical shift for the poet

In the March/April "Books and Culture," in a interview with poet Charles Wright, the interviewer, David Skeel, leads a question with this quote from Mark Stand: "The point of truth comes when a poet goes from writing private poems in a public language to writing public poems in a private language."

The emotional life of Jesus

I'm beginning to think that we find Jesus' emotional life recorded not in the gospels, but in the Psalms. More and more I am convinced that Jesus, when he read them, found himself there, and that we might look there as well to see what he found. Take this, for example,from Psalm 119:

Lord, you are just
and your judgements are right.
You have made your decrees with justice
and absolute truth.
I am consumed by zeal
because my enemies have forgotten your words.
Your promises have been tested in the fire,
and your servant delights in them.
I am not yet strong, no-one respects me,
but I have not forgotten your precepts.
Your justice is justice forever,
and your law is truth.
Trouble and suffering are my lot,
but your commandments are my delight.
Your decrees are righteous for ever.
Give me understanding, and I shall live.

04 February 2010

Photo by Susan Lirakis Nicolay

08 January 2010

On Fathers

Tell Them Who You Are, the documentary on Haskell Wexler by his son, Mark, turns out to be a moving piece on fathers and sons. Note: to get the real impact, you must watch the "special features" on Haskel's reaction to the film his son shot, as well as some of the interviews with celebrities talking about their fathers.