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

Monday with Merton


  

Quiet, grey afternoon. It is warmer. Birds sing. There will be more rain. Cocks crowing in the afternoon silence, very distant. A thunderstorm. The first I have sat through in the hermitage. Here you really can watch a storm. White snakes of lightning suddenly stand out in the sky and vanish. The valley is clouded with rain as white as milk. All the hills vanish. The thunder cracks and beats. Rain comes flooding down from the roof eaves, and grass looks twice as green as before. Not to be known, not to be seen. Father Gabriel Sweeney, the little white-haired Passionist who is in the novitiate, who asked to leave before Easter, and was dissuaded by Reverend Father, stands with a piteous expression in the novitiate library reading Relax and Live. Sooner or later they come to that.
Janua Coeli: the Gate of Heaven. How different prayer is here at the hermitage. Clarity—direction—to Christ the Lord for the great gift—the passage out of this world to the Father, entry into the kingdom. I know what I am here for. May I be faithful to this awareness.

Monday with Merton


  

“To be at enmity with life is to have nothing to live for. To live forever without life is everlasting death: but it is a living and wakeful death without the consolation of forgetfulness. Now the very essence of this death is the absence of hope. The damned have confirmed themselves in the belief that they cannot hope in God.”

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.

Occupying One House


“The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition is one and the same.”
—St. Irenaeus
Against Heresies 1, 10, 2, c. AD 190

Occupying One House

I’ve been thinking about faith and the Church lately, I tend to do that a lot around Christmas time. It’s been especially important this year because of all the hubbub over Pope Francis rather unpredictable activities over the past year, especially the bungled Extraordinary Synod in October. The result of all this is that I’m reminding myself once again that my faith isn’t in the pope, he is human and can make mistakes. Rather, my faith is in the person of Jesus, whom I know about through occupying the one house St. Irenaeus wrote about all those years ago. It is the Church, the one house, that has custody of the preaching and faith that has been handed down to her and she has faithfully guarded. True, there have been momentary blips in time, I think we’re experiencing one now, where things seem dismal, but looking over the entire history of the Church, she has never wavered from the truth that, “the authority of the Tradition is one and the same,” it cannot change. I believe we can trust this to be true because, looking back from the beginning, despite detours along the way, the Tradition handed on by the Church has not changed.

Occupying One House

imageI’ve only just begun reading Newman’s An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine for the first time. I think, from the little I’ve read so far, this is what Newman is saying. He starts right off with the statement that the Christian religion is a historical fact. He means, I believe, that there is written record of the faith going back to the time of Christ and that the teachings of the Church have been written about since that time and those writings still exist. One common argument made by non-Catholics is that, somehow, at some time, the belief and practices of the very early Church were adulterated, changed and diluted and the practices of the Church today bear no relationship to them. They constantly long to return to the “first century church.”

I’ve long thought that, if you’re going to make that argument, you need to be able to document who made the changes, what changes were made, and when they were made. There is enough of a written record that exists to do so. Yet, it isn’t commonly done because it can’t be, the record doesn’t support that claim; those who make those kinds of arguments are forced to ignore history. It’s especially interesting that Newman looks at history and not the Church Fathers because individual fathers can be contradictory of each other and some even seem to support teachings we now recognized as heresies; the lived out Tradition of the Church holds the key. Newman, I think, is taking the longer view that history offers; he makes that explicit in a famous quote:

“It is melancholy to say it, but the chief, perhaps the only English writer who has any claim to be considered an ecclesiastical historian, is the unbeliever Gibbon. To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

Occupying One House

In this Christmas season, we look back at the birth of the Child in Bethlehem, we celebrate a historical event in Salvation History. But it’s important also to look forward in our own lives and the life of the world and do our best to remain faithful stewards of the faith. That is the best way to ensure we continue to live out the reality of occupying the one house of faith in Jesus Christ.

Error Dressed Elegantly


A 7 Quick Takes post, as hosted by Ms. Jennifer Fulwiler on her Conversion Diary blog

St. Irenaeus
St. Irenaeus

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“Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.” St. Irenaeus

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I always worry when I hear someone, be it the pope or a bishop or a priest, or a politician, say something that sounds good, oh so close to the truth, but somehow still managing to sound a bit off. I listened to a podcast this past week about C. S. Lewis and the speaker was pointing out that Lewis wrote about Satan being inaccurate, everything he said was close to the truth, but still a lie. It is Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and when someone tries to couch what they are say in pretty words, they deviate from the Way.  Beware.

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I have to confess, I wasn’t going to do a post this week. I’ve been far to engaged in immersing myself in keeping up with events in the Church and in the nation. During the past week in the Catholic blog world, I’ve read every conceivable opinion about the goings-on in the Church, the whole gamut from, “Don’t worry, be happy” to “we’re entering the end times and the pope is the anti-Christ.” It’s enough to send oneto a depression without end. All of that coming from people who have no idea what tomorrow will bring, much less what will happen to the end of the age. I’ve decided to be much more selective in what I read.

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Speaking of C. S. Lewis, I read just a little C. S. Lewis earlier this week, it was a selection from the Year With C.S. Lewis book. It was about sex in heaven, or rather the lack thereof, the biologic motivation being no longer present in the afterlife. I hadn’t read anything by him in a long time and I was reminded of a trait of his writing I especially love; in this instance, when Lewis writes about what heaven will be like, he seems to most often describe something delightfully unexpected, not at all in line with what most people assume will be the case. He offers a rather more literal picture of the glimpses we get from Scripture. We’ll have resurrected bodies, will live in utter joy, but that joy won’t involve physical things as we know them. We think of sex and the ultimate experience of joy here on earth and can’t picture how we could have even greater joy in heaven without it.

It’s here that another characteristic of Lewis’ writing comes in in the way he illustrates his points with descriptions of how children often react to things. A boy might think a chocolate bar offers him the greatest joy he’s ever known, but when told sex is an even greater one, and having no experience of it, might think to ask if people enjoy chocolate bars along with it. When told that doesn’t usually happen, his mind can’t grasp the possibilities. He thinks the chocolate is an indispensable element of the experience of joy. As great and wonderful as our ability to draw conclusions from our experience, when it comes to the things of God, those conclusions are bound to fall short.

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A short update on my experience with the newly free MS Word app for iPad, it can’t beat Apple’s Pages offering. Having written a post for today in the Word app, only to watch it disappear in the ether, somewhere in the transition from my iPad to Dropbox, I’ve returned to using Pages. I have to admit, that loss was a contributing factor to my dropping the idea for posting anything at all today, but vanity won out.

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I also saw an article, somewhere I can no longer remember, about U.S. bishops, those who might oppose the “reforms” being bandied about in the Church these days, being cowed by the demotion and exile of Cardinal Burke. The thought crossed my mind that, if they are utterly intimidated by such moves, we are in desperate need of some new pastors. I don’t think I believe such writings.

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I should also offer a short explanation of the slight change in the title of the blog made a couple of weeks ago. One reason for the change is to get away from the guilt of stealing a title from Hillaire Belloc. Another is that, the new title is even more descriptive of my original intent for this adventure in cyberspace. That’s all there is to it. I know all you conspiracy theorists out there will be greatly disappointed.

 

An Unprofitable Effort


A 7 Quick Takes Post as hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at her  Conversion Diary blog.

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St.-Symeon-the-New-Theologian-3This is a quote from St. Symeon the New Theologian, an Eastern saint:

“The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”

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I’ve been pondering the events of the recent Synod, and all the electronic ink spilled over the event. It seems nearly every blog and Catholic news outlet has weighed in with an opinion on the topics covered by the bishops. I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t far too many Catholics more involved in Church politics than in building the faith. Has all of this controversy been a good thing? Has the Church been helped by it all? I think it’s been greatly harmed. I wish more people would heed the words of St. Symeon, “if [reconciliation with God] and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless . . .”

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I like to make up these meager blog posts on my iPad. In the past, I’ve used the Pages app from Apple, but this week Microsoft made their Office 365 apps available free on mobile devices. The switch seemed a no-brainer since the Office 365 apps are virtually the same as  the PC versions. However, it seems they are no where near as stable as the PC version. I had this post completed, almost completed, when I decided to copy a quote from the web and it came in an extremely large font. In trying to correct this, I managed to wipe out the entire post with one keystroke. Gone forever.   Ain’t technology grand?

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Am I the only one who thinks that we’ve reached the saturation point with football on TV? I’m beginning to think so; when 30 million people tune in to watch the Cowboys and the Seahawks you might think something in society is a bit out of whack. On a personal level, the thought crosses my mind that I’d rather watch 3 hours of Mark Udall speeches than another football game.   I enjoy football as much as the next guy, but maybe we’re being fed far too much of a good thing.  Just sayin . . .

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An article this past week by George Weigel tells about the work being by a Professor Alan Guth on the Big-Bang Theory. He refers to an article about Dr. Guth that appeared in the Boston Globe.

“The universe is roughly 13.8 billion years old, and it began from a patch of material packed with this repulsive gravity. The patch was . . . tiny—one 100-billionth the size of a single proton. But the repulsive gravity was like a magic wand, doubling the patch in size every tenth of a trillionth or a trillionth of a second. And it waved its doubling power over the patch about 100 times in a row, until it got to the size of [a] marble. And that happened within a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a second. As a point of comparison, the smallest fraction of time that the average human being can detect is about one-tenth of a second.”

As Mr. Weigel points out, the question is begged, what happened just before that first trillionth trillionth of a second?  Physical scientists are coming around to that fact it’s impossible to know and, therefore, the possibility of a Creator can’t be ruled out. It’s only those working in the life sciences, that breeding ground of militant atheists, that are still incapable of recognizing such a question exists. It’s an interesting article and you can see the whole thing HERE.

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This must be the week for reading newspapers. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week reviewed Amazon’s new Kindle. It may just be the best thing to come down the pike since fur lined underwear, according to the reviewer.  However, unlike most e-reader commenters, he doesn’t venture into electronic vs print book controversy, rather he looks at dedicated e-readers vs e-books on tablets. In doing so, he makes the interesting point that reading books on tablets is a sure way to invite distraction from email and other message notifications. He says, “Reading books shouldn’t be part of a multi-tasking regimen. If we’re going to remain literate in the years to come, we need to think about how we read, and not just what we read.”

I agree that we need to think of both, but can’t get to the idea that electronic books are the way to do that. The thought keeps crossing my mind that, if the internet was ever hijacked by people of evil intent, or if somehow the power ever goes out (conspiracy nut? Nah) all those books on the web would be gone. Yes, it’s possible to burn print books, but all of them?  BTW, it’s been a long time since I’ve thought multi-tasking of any kind was a good idea.

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Do ya’ think?

“Morning Showers Should End by Early Afternoon”—headline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, Nov. 6

H/Tt to the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto’s Best of the Web Today from last Friday.

 

Monday with Merton


image

From Ascent to the Truth

“One might compare the journey of the soul to mystical union, by way of pure faith, to the journey of a car on a dark highway. The only way the driver can keep to the road is by using his headlights. So in the mystical life, reason has its function. The way of faith is necessarily obscure. We drive by night. Nevertheless our reason penetrates the darkness enough to show us a little of the road ahead. It is by the light of reason that we interpret the signposts and make out the landmarks along our way.

Those who misunderstand Saint John of the Cross imagine that the way of nada is like driving by night, without any headlights whatever. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of the saint’s doctrine.”

Entrails Wrenched Asunder


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God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.

(De catholicae ecclesiae unitate, 23) St. Cyrpian of Carthage.

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Given what I wrote last week about the Synod, I think you have to wonder if the Church is in danger of having its entrails wrenched asunder. I’ve read several writers whom I admire, including Fathers Ray Blake and Dwight Longnecker, who make the point that, even if the Synod has changed nothing, was incapable of changing anything in Church teaching, it may have considerable impact on the ability of local bishops and priests to practice the Truth of the faith. Another way of looking at it, those who wound wrench the entails of the Church asunder may have won the war while losing the battle. I hope not. I’ve gone back and forth in terms of what I’m thinking about the Church over the last two weeks, and I do have hope for the very long term, but the short term may provide an unusually bumpy ride.

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Today is the memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, founder of the Claretians.

“Our Lord has created persons for all states in life, and in all of them we see people who achieved sanctity by fulfilling their obligations well.”

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I guess, with the titles of the posts for the last two weeks, you might think I’m beginning to come a bit unglued, becoming too preoccupied with blood and gore and such, and what with the world seeming to spin out of control, you could be excused for thinking so. But I promise, it’s mere coincidence. Besides, that’s what the Fathers wrote.

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Please offer your prayers and condolences for the Canadian soldiers killed this week in two separate terrorist attacks. My mother was Canadian, born in Grimsby, Ontario, and her family roots go pretty deep there, so beyond the human tragedy of the events themselves, I understand the shock and sorrow so many Canadians must be feeling right now. Please keep the soldiers and the nation in your prayers.

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We’re having a very mild fall without quite as much color as in past years. I’m guessing it’s because of the cool, wet, summer we enjoyed this year. There is now a semi-permanent layer of snow at the top of Pikes Peak, a sure sign of winter’s approach, and leaves have finally begun to drop. I’m looking forward to the change of season.

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It’s been a tumultuous week, a seemingly busy, week that’s now coming to an end. I have had to force myself to slow down a bit; when, being retired, I’m feeling nearly as stressed and hurried as when I was working, I know it’s time to snap out of it. Thus, the end of this weekly post is at hand.

Pax

A 7 Quick Takes post hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler of the Conversion Diary blog.