Monday with Merton


  

The lights of prayer that make us imagine we are beginning to be angels are sometimes only signs that we are finally beginning to be men. We do not have a high enough opinion of our own nature. We think we are at the gates of heaven and we are only just beginning to come into our own realm as free and intelligent beings.” 

― Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth

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Divisions of Colliding Wills


A 7 Quick Takes post, kindly hosted at This Ain’t the Lyceum

 

St. Cyprian
 
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“The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home . . . Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.”  St Cyprian – On the Unity of the Catholic Church

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Went to the FSSP parish in my fair city for Pentecost Sunday and, for some reason, it was just what I needed spiritually.  I had been feeling really worn down by something like three or more weeks of daily rain, in fact, one stretch of 8 days of almost solid rainfall.  All the moisture brought water seeping in to one room of our basement and the constant use of a very large Shop Vac was, along with the lack of sunshine, also a bit wearing.  Yet, somehow, one Latin Mass, something I hadn’t experienced in over a year did the trick.  I need  to do that more often.

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Attending a Latin Mass is often taken as a sign of extreme conservatism and Catholic zealotry, even among Catholics.   That’s unfortunate in the extreme.  Even worse, the idea is most often talked up by those who consider themselves the most righteous and orthodox Catholics on the block.  It’s a shame these folks do not see that they are doing far more harm than good.  

The Latin Mass is a beautiful and wonderful gift of the heritage of the Church.  It retains to this day the element of beauty and mystery, something that everyone needs to remind them of the Absolute Mystery that is being celebrated in the liturgy, a beauty and mystery that, frankly, has been under attack since the “reforms” of the liturgy after Vatican II.  It isn’t a matter of doctrine at all, it’s a recognition that human beings need constant reminders, in many forms, of Who they are worshipping and what is taking place during that time of worship.  It should be a time of beauty and awe, not self affirmation.  It also is never a sign of personal political opinion.

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Speaking of doctrine, the same extreme Catholic zealots are beginning to crank up the panic level over what they term “the coming schism” or “the coming heresy”, and other such comings.  It seems to me the operative word in all this is “coming”; not one of the apocalyptic events predicted by these folks has come about as of this writing.  The point is, those who are so actively engaged in panic mode over events over four months away are not doing themselves or their readers any good.  All they are doing is building up anger within the Church, and surely such activities, which amount to little more than gossip, are to be regretted, perhaps repented.  It is well to remember, none of these people have had a role in speaking for the Church and her Tradition.

There’s no denying there are those in the Church who are promoting ideas that are contrary to her own good.  There may be danger ahead.  But when, in her 2,000 year history has it ever not been so?  The role of faithful Catholic laity now is to pray for the Church and those within her walls, and to trust Jesus words when he told Peter:

“And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

If Jesus promised that the “powers of death” shall not prevail against His Church, what chance do the German bishops have?

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We have had a momentous amount of rain here in Colorado over the month of May, nearly 8″ officially in my fair city.  I think my neighborhood, some distance from the official airport rain guage, we have probably had closer to 12″, with a couple of days still left in the month.  We have had roads flooded, creeks at or over their flood stage, and many city parks and hiking trails either severely damaged or washed away entirely, even in Garden of the Gods.  As inconvenient as all this has been, I am reminded it could always be worse.  In Texas, houses have washed away, dams have failed, and the death toll has been far too high.  Please pray for the all of the victims of the Texas flooding.

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I’ve been reading a book, C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I hadn’t picked up before my crossing the Tiber.  I had forgotten how really enjoyable reading this short book is.  The odd thing is the book is much more understandable, and enjoyable, to me as a Catholic than it ever was to me as a Protestant.  It reminds me of one of the truths Lewis discusses in the book, a point I totally glossed over when I first read it.  His point is that, when he was an atheist, he could not allow himself to be open to ideas from those with other points of view but, as a Christian, he learned he could be open to truth where ever and whenever he found it.  Good thing to keep in mind.

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I may have ranted a bit too much today, I tend to do that and regret it afterwards.  In mitigation of my guilt, I offer a quote from Chesterton that will give you an idea of how things end up appearing on this site, and their relative importance in the grand scheme of things: 

“. . .crude and shapeless papers upon current or rather flying subjects; and they must be published pretty much as they stand. They were written, as a rule, at the last moment; they were handed in the moment before it was too late, and I do not think that our commonwealth would have been shaken to its foundations if they had been handed in the moment after.”

Monday with Merton


  
“The whole function of the life of prayer is, then, to enlighten and strengthen our conscience so that it not only knows and perceives the outward, written precepts of the moral and divine laws, but above all lives God’s law in concrete reality by perfect and continual union with His will. The conscience that is united to the Holy Spirit by faith, hope, and selfless charity becomes a mirror of God’s own interior law which is His charity. It becomes perfectly free. It becomes its own law because it is completely subject to the will of God and to His Spirit.”

Thomas Merton – No Man Is An Island

In Mystery


  

A 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted at the This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

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“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; – no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in these matters…” St. Jerome

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This will be 7 quick takes on the fly, so to speak, since I’m going to try something I have never done.  That something is composing this post on the WordPress app, real time.  I like to edit and rewrite, and think posts over, but I have a reason for my madness.  The reason is the past week has been more than hectic due to being almost totally preoccupied with the band I joined back in January.  Last night was our semi-annual concert and the week came complete with a dress rehearsal on Wednesday night and the concert last night.  I think the whole thing went remarkably well, considering we have the entire range of musical skill levels, from rank beginner to 80 year old pro.  The point is, with weekly, sometimes twice weekly rehearsals since early January, I’m more than happy to get back into some sort of routine.

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On top of the hectic band schedule, we have had the most incredible week of weather in our fair city.  It has rained all week and yesterday we had a hailstorm of unique proportions.  I had the misfortune to have to have been out in it, and the hail was making such a noise hitting the car, even with the radio turned nearly all the way up, you couldn’t hear it.  The hail collected on the ground until it looked like two or three inches of snow, driving in it was like driving in a blizzard.  Even coming home from the concert, many of the streets looked like they were covered with snow, and this more than six hours later.  I’m a little worried about the roof on the house and will probably need to get it inspected.  Can’t wait to see what today brings since it’s supposed to keep raining until Sunday or Monday.

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To make matters worse, today I have to brave the bad weather and return the tux I rented to be all spiffily turned out for the concert.  I think for the next one I’ll just get a black suit and be done with it.

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A further cause for wonderment — we are expecting snow showers over the weekend.  Funny, I thought the last time I looked at the calendar, it said “May”.

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One thought that’s been noodling around in the back of my mind for the last week or two is the question of beauty in the liturgy.  From previous comments I’ve made, you may have guessed that I’m not totally impressed with what happened to the Liturgy after Vatican II, rather the opposite.  It seems the revisions made were with the express purpose of trivializing the Mass, I can think of no other way to put it.  No wonder many people say the liturgy isn’t doing much for them.  It’s true, on the one hand, the liturgy isn’t really about being entertainment or being interesting.  On the other hand, and this is the point I’ve been cogitating between moments overcome with stage fright, there is a role for beauty and transcendence to be had in worship.  This role may not be primarily, the worshipper has his or her own work to do as well, but I do believe the place for beauty, awe, is a necessary one.  

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Another thing rolling around in my little gray cells is the importance of books in relation to faith.  I guess another way to put it is the relation between reason and faith.  The trigger for this train of thought came when I saw a column, somewhere, I wish I could remember where, of seven “must read” books by Chesterton.  I thought the list interesting and wrote it down the list, do you agree?  

  • Autobiography (1936). 
  • Heretics (1905). 
  • Orthodoxy (1908).
  • The Dumb Ox: St Thomas Aquinas (1933). 
  • The Everlasting Man (1925). 
  • What’s Wrong with the World (1910).
  • Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906).


Monday with Merton


  

“The first step in the interior life, nowadays, is not, as some might imagine, learning not to see and taste and hear and feel things. On the contrary, what we must do is begin by unlearning our wrong ways of seeing, tasting, feeling, and so forth, and acquire a few of the right ones. For asceticism is not merely a matter of renouncing television, cigarettes, and gin. Before we can begin to be ascetics, we first have to learn to see life as if it were something more than a hypnotizing telecast. And we must be able to taste something besides tobacco and alcohol: we must perhaps even be able to taste these luxuries themselves as if they too were good.”


Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island 

Monday with Merton


  

The grace of Easter is a great silence, an immense tranquility and a clean taste in your soul. It is the taste of heaven, but not the heaven of some wild exaltation. The Easter vision is not riot and drunkenness of spirit, but a discovery of order above all order—a discovery of God and of all things in Him. This is a wine without intoxication, a joy that has no poison in it. It is life without death. Tasting it for a moment, we are briefly able to see and love all things according to their truth, to possess them in their substance hidden in God, beyond all sense. For desire clings to the vesture and accident of things, but charity possesses them in the simple depths of God.  

Thomas Merton, Journals.  

The End Point of Discipline


John Cassian

A 7 Quick Takes post as hosted at This Ain’t The Lyceum

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 “In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them.”

St. John Cassian

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Football season is over, or is it?  As we start the first day of spring, I feel like I’m being inundated with football news including the upcoming rookie draft, the free agency free for all, and now the veteran combine.  I miss the days when events came in their season, and left when out of season.  Just as I wouldn’t want turkey and stuffing every day of the year, I don’t want football every day of the year.  I guess it’s just become too big a business to be left alone in the off season.

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Do you realize it’s only four months until the Broncos open their 2015 training camp?

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Chesterton would say, I think, that he is a Christian because the teachings of Christianity ring true and provide the best explanation of what we can see happening in the world around us.  Every other proposed explanation of the way the world is constructed, the way people act, fails, often spectacularly.  Is that a good enough reason to say that a person should be a Christian?  I think, in The Everlasting Man, Chesterton accounts for the fact that much of what is found in the Bible is beyond our understanding by saying that, if you were looking for something written under the inspiration of God, that’s what you might expect.  In any case, I recognize for my part that there is, indeed, a good deal in the Bible I don’t understand.  But, as Mark Twain said, there’s enough in the Bible I do understand that I’m bothered by it.  Perhaps that’s as it should be too.

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I see my old denomination; the rather aptly named PCUSA (standing for Presbyterian Chuch USA) is taking further action to bring about its own destruction.  Their latest moves include approving same sex marriage to condoning abortion.  Since 1992, PCUSA has lost 37% of its members and the decline will only be accelerated with these latest moves.  One can’t help but wonder what they are thinking.

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Everywhere you look these days, doesn’t much matter the venue, you’ll see someone using a cell phone.  This happens even in Church, even in the most important business meetings being conducted by the supreme boss, both locations where you would think people would have enough common sense to show some respect.  I think, though, that the cell phone is a positive instrument for creating and putting on display for all to see, disrespect.  It used to be considered the height of disrespect to meet with someone, have them over to dinner or meet for lunch or a beer and such and sit there paying no attention to them by reading or by talking to someone else or writing a letter.  It just wasn’t done and was thought the height of rudeness.

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I am now out of ideas, and, for lack of anything more positive to contribute, I will sign off for this week.

Monday with Merton




“Therefore, if I trust in God’s grace I must also show confidence in the natural powers He has given me, not because they are my powers but because they are His gift. If I believe in God’s grace, I must also take account of my own free will, without which His grace would be poured out upon my soul to no purpose”


Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Monday with Merton




When we do not desire the things of this world for their own sake, we become able to see them as they are. We see at once their goodness and their purpose, and we become able to appreciate them as we never have before. As soon as we are free of them, they begin to please us. As soon as we cease to rely on them alone, they are able to serve us.

  Thomas Merton — No Man is an Island

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As We See It Happening


St Athansius
St. Athanasius

A 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted at This Ain’t the Lyceum

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 It is right that creation should exist as he has made it and as we see it happening, because this is his will, which no one would deny. For if the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world rolled on in random fashion, one would be justified in disbelieving what we say. But if the world is founded on reason, wisdom and science, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its origin and order to none other than the Word of God. St. Athanasius

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I’ve been spending some time at the company I retired from, helping out on various and sundry projects.  It’s been fun, in it’s own way, but has taken time away from retirement and recreation.  While I’ve enjoyed being there, I’m quite happy to be more or less back to my normal routine, and back to blogging.

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Timothy, of the excellent Catholic Bibles blog, has taken on the challenge of using only one Bible, not one translation but one edition, for reading and prayer for 2015.  I think that’s a wonderful idea because it’s a demonstration of the Benedictine spirit of stability, something I struggle with daily.  I have a hard enough time sticking with one book to read through to it’s completion, much less one Bible translation, for more than a few days.

As far as Bibles go, I tend to read a passage in, say, the RSV version, and something makes me wonder how that passage might read in the NABRE version, and so I’m off.  I just learned about this experiment a few days ago and I’m tempted to try myself but I know I would fail within a week.  Besides, it’s already a week into the New Year, so it’s too late.  It will be interesting to see how Timothy does with his experiment and if he can last all year.

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There was an interesting piece by Anthony Esolen on the Crisis magazine website about last week, basically, the disappearance of Catholic culture.  One thing he talked about, something that might not seem very significant, is calendars that stores used to give out back in the day.  He writes,

 “I could recall the calendars that my grandmother got from De Rosa’s grocery store. They were Catholic calendars, with Sundays and holy days of obligation in red, names of the saints in black for their feast days, the emblem of a fish for each Friday and the weekdays of Lent, and the mysterious Latin word “Feria” for weekdays without a saint and outside of the great octaves. It was time, sanctified; to be replaced by time, blank.”

Growing up in Detroit, I remember those calendars being given out by stores and I knew, even as a Protestant, that most of the symbols and such used by the calendar makers, were there for Catholics.  I was impressed by that, us Protestants got no such special treatment and I, admittedly only vaguely, understood those symbols represented something important.  I think the absence of even something so small has had a tremendous role in diminishing the faith of Catholics over the years.  The sad thing is that Catholics don’t even know they should be missing these things.

He also offers an interesting explanation of how all this came about: “Intellectuals are the great image-smashers. Sometimes, when they fall victim to the virus of pride, they scorn anything that cannot be reduced to propositions comprehensible to their capacious three-gallon intellects. And things of the body resist that reduction. The Babe in the manger is not a theological proposition.”  In a way, the faith is far too simple for what Spiro Agnew once called “pointy headed intellectuals.”  It is frustrating.

The article is HERE.

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Sometimes I look around at this world we all now live in and I wonder if there hasn’t been a crazy pill introduced into the water supply of every nation in the West, especially in those used by those in intellectual circles.  Here’s just one example from an article in First Things last week about the latest trend in studying English:

 “At Stanford, literary scholar and marxist critic Franco Moretti proposes a radical plan for English departments: less reading, more computing. With an ocean of texts yet to be studied, literary-historians must, Moretti argues, adopt the methods of quantitative history, geography, and evolutionary theory.”

REALLY?  Can you explain to me why anyone with any sense would want to apply quantitative history study to The Brothers Karamazov?   The trend is called “post literacy”, I kid you not.  Surely, some time soon, the adults in the room are going to wake up and say ENOUGH.  Won’t they?

The article is here, and worth a read.  I think.

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I’ve made a great discovery over the last month or so, a quite useful little app that was promoted on some web site or other called “Pocket”.  With this app you can save copies of articles you stumble across but don’t have time to read, or that you’d just like to keep in a safe place for future reference.  I know, the whole world knows about Pocket, but it was a wondrous discovery for me, so I’m sharing it.

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This is a bit of a warning, there’s going to be a post next week that will be longer than any post I’ve done here so far; I just wanted to provide some brief explanation of what I hope I’m doing with it.

Simply put, I read Fr. James Schall’s book, Another Sort of Learning, again this January, as I have done every January for the last three or four years.  This year, I decided to write about it.  That’s not quite true, I began to draft a post about it roughly eighteen months ago and just never finished it.  Now I have and you’ll get to read it.  One of the best things about Another Sort of Learning, is that it has list upon list of really good books that one should read, some of them even appear on my Classic Catholic’s Reading List.  The result of all this is that I’ve set myself the goal of reading one of the books on Fr. Schall’s lists each month this year and writing about it here.  There, you’ve been warned.