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


Monday with Merton


“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

Thomas Merton

I Think, Therefore . . .

A 7 Quick Takes Post


I have a funny quote from Fred Allen to start off this week. It appeared in our local newspaper on Sunday:

“A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide nothing can be done.”

Kind of reminds me of Congress, or maybe the U.N. Oops!


Cogito ergo cogito sum —

I think; therefore, I think I am. Ambrose Bierce

imageI offer this cogent quote from Ambrose Bierce because earlier this week, while surfing the web, I discovered something called The Original Ambrose Bierce Site – Definitive Ambrose Bierce Site Since 1996. I thought that hugely interesting, especially considering Bierce died in 1914. I knew Bierce was a genius, but didn’t know he was so precocious.


April Fool’s Day passed again this year, as usual, mostly unnoticed by me. It’s part of the body of my deepest inbred prejudices that I hate practical jokes; which meant, of course that without fail during my working days there had to be one lost soul in the office who was absolutely in love with the things. I have in mind a certain fate for all such folks that I won’t indulge in sharing here, out of charity, of course.


There’s been a pressing matter on my mind this week so pressing it’s forced me into inaction. It encompasses a question that I absolutely should find the answer to but can’t work up the ambition. The problem is the proper use of commas. I know I overindulge the little beggars I put them in where they have no business being or omit them from their proper places altogether. But I can’t leave the darned things alone. I’m stymied though by memories of 7th and 8th grade English classes with their interminable lessons in punctuation grammar and worst of all the diagramming of sentences the reason for which I’ve never yet understood. Maybe I should just ban commas from the rest of this blog and never use them again.


We woke up on Thursday morning to 2″ of snow, a winter weather warning in effect, and accidents occurring all over town. On Wednesday afternoon, we were sitting in shirtsleeves on the deck, enjoying the warm sun. Ah, spring time in the Rockies, you just never know what to expect.


Speaking of punctuation marks, I’ve become more aware of in the last month or two of the abuse of the lowly period (.). The internet has dealt a severe blow to the power and prestige of this little dot on the screen and I’ve been just a guilty as the next fellow. For example, for years now I’ve written such things as the name of the English author we all love without periods — GK Chesterton, when I know in my guts it should be G. K. Chesterton. It’s oh, so easy to leave out the periods when typing a name or abbreviation on the web. This sloppiness has, in my opinion, led to even worse offenses such as leaving out capital letters completely which is fine for e. e. cummings but specifically disallowed for everyone else. And don’t get me started on the complete abandonment of proper grammar and spelling; there are many things I see on the web, even on the sites of large newspapers and magazines, that make me wonder whatever happened to the editorial staff of those institutions. Does no one proof read anything anymore?


I notice there is a new book out by Nicholas Basbanes on the history of paper. Reading a review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement, I learned that the wood based paper everyone uses today wasn’t patented until 1845, much more recently than I would have imagined. It also seems that, despite the decades old dream of computers and other digital devices freeing us from our unbreakable chains of paper, just the opposite is happening. Here’s a quote from the article:

“In the decade since then (9/11/2001), Silicon Valley has touted the paperless office as the answer to deforestation. Basbanes’s [sic] rejoinder is that paper, made for centuries from old clothes, was one of the first industrial products to incorporate recycled materials. More famous for its digital spying, the US’s National Security Agency processes plenty of old-fashioned paper, to judge from the 100 million documents it pulps every year before turning them over to manufacturers of pizza boxes and egg cartons. Paper and computers may not be polar opposites so much as conjoined twins. Paper punchcards were integral to the first calculating machines, and the twentieth-century spread of personal computers and printers increased consumption of the paper that they were originally expected to render obsolete.”

The reviewer attributes the longevity of paper to it’s durability, portability, and foldability, traits which even the most up to date electronic gadgets have yet to replicate. I’m glad of that.


The Words Are Rising Gummous

7_quick_takes_sm1A 7 (not so) Quick Takes on Friday post.

            I should never have written that post on having nothing to say; I’ve had nothing to say ever since and it’s driving me crazy.  (I know some would say…well, never mind.)  I’ve been reading some heavy stuff, and that probably contributes to the problem; reading Father Schall and Pope Benedict makes you stop and think over just about every sentence. The problem is, when I try to write about such things, true as they are, it sounds phony and contrived, like something written by a dreary 19th century Russian novelist.  I’m trying to find a way out of this and the only thing I can think of is just to put some words on paper and hope something sticks.  If not, I’ll be forced try some advice from the 18th century writer (Tristram Shandy), Laurence Stern:

“[When] the thoughts rise heavily and pass gummous through my pen… I never stand conferring with pen and ink one moment; for if a pinch of snuff or a stride or two across the room will not do the business for me — … I take a razor at once; and have tried the edge of it upon the palm of my hand, without further ceremony, except that of first lathering my beard, I shave it off, taking care that if I do leave hair, that it not be a gray one: this done, I change my shirt — put on a better coat — send for my last wig — put my topaz ring upon my finger; and in a word, dress myself from one end to the other of me, after my best fashion.” — Laurence Sterne

I know exactly what it feels like to have thoughts “pass gummous” through my pen, well, keyboard, and sometimes taking up a razor seems an entertaining idea, although, slicing my hand up seems kind of counterproductive.  Besides, I don’t even have a straight razor.  Guess I’ll just have to keep typing.

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            I could write about some things I’m grateful for.  I’m looking out my back window at the tail end of a thunderstorm, and everything is wet and looks almost as green as the greenest glens in Ireland.  There’s soft light with highlights to make Rembrandt proud on the wet rocks out back. It’s very good to have the moisture as it offers some reprieve from the danger of fires such as we had last year at this time.  God is good and I don’t need to worry if I have the worst case of writers block this side of infinity.  It doesn’t matter if I say anything brilliant or original, or put out the deepest insight into the purpose of all things ever devised, because there is nothing new to say, not really.  It’s all been said, just in different ways by different people.

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            My far better half told me last night about the doctor who has his office in the small shopping mall owned by her company.  He’s selling his practice, retiring, because he doesn’t want to face the alien world of Obamacare.  I wonder how many doctors are doing something similar, and if medical care will become a rather scarce commodity?  It’s the great mistake of our leaders these days thinking that government can do everything for everyone and that with just the right training and with the best people in charge, we can have the perfect world.  Christians have known that this is false because they’ve read Genesis.  It’s often forgotten that Christianity teaches that there is no perfect society, not on this side of the roots anyway, justice isn’t to be found here; it will be found in the eternal kingdom of God alone.  Our true business is charity, love.  If we did a better job of sharing that truth, we wouldn’t be dealing with some of the sad consequences that seem to be in the news lately.

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            Well, it’s raining again and I’m going to go look out the window and just enjoy watching things get wet, and be grateful that I don’t have to stand out in the yard and water new grasses we just put in.  We have a terrible, and never ending, problem with deer in our neighborhood.  We tried growing Mungo Pines in the planter in the backyard, the deer were supposed to find them repulsive.  I guess the deer didn’t get the message; after a rather hard winter, and with the loss of feeding area as a result of last year’s fires, those poor plants were done for by April Fool’s Day.  The grass is our last resort, so far, surprisingly, the deer haven’t bothered with grasses we’ve planted in other parts of the yard, so it seems a logical choice.

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            I guess I should mention, in fairness to the deer, that they aren’t the only four footed problem we have in our neighborhood.  During the summer, we have a plentiful supply of hummingbirds, and we would dearly love to put out hummingbird feeders so we could enjoy them in our yard.  Well, the bears have other ideas.  I put out a hanger, made of something similar to steel rebar, and hung a feeder on it the second year we were here.  Within a week, we found the bar twisted like a pretzel, the hummingbird feeder on the ground with all the contents poured out around it, and realized that hadn’t been a good idea; turns out, bears have a sweet tooth. We tried again last year, with the same results.  What’s the definition of insanity again?  Oh, and did I mention the bobcat having kittens under our deck?  OK, I won’t go there.

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            I’m going to do this week’s post as a 7 Quick Takes, title courtesy of Jennifer Fulwiler, the gracious host of Conversion Diary, simply because it seems to fit that format really well, considering by the time I finish there’ll be 7 notes to this post.

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            I do wonder where my topaz ring got off to, and my last wig has simply disappeared.  I blame global warming.  Has anybody tried conferring with their laptop lately?

Enjoy your weekend.

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A Creative Vocation

Icon of the Pentecost

“Most important of all – Man’s creative vocation to prepare, consciously, the ultimate triumph of Divine Wisdom.  Man, the microcosm, the heart of the universe, is the one who is called to bring about the fusion of cosmic and historic processes in the final invocation of God’s wisdom and love.  In the name of Christ and by his power, Man has a work to accomplish – to offer the cosmos to the Father, by the power of the Spirit, in the Glory of the Word.  Our life is a powerful Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, ever active in us, seeks to reach through our inspired hands and tongues into the very heart of the material world created to be spiritualized through the work of the Church, the Mystical Body of the Incarnate Word of God.”  Thomas Merton

In the face of all that is going on in this world today, the onslaught of gay marriage, NBA players announcing they’re gay (getting congratulatory calls from the President, no less), nude protesters at a major university dressing (I don’t quite know how) like the pope, Catholics are going to have to be more creative than ever to bring the Word of God back to this world.

It used to be that such outlandish things were done mostly for the shock value; an effort to upset the old fogies who think that marriage is between a man and a woman and that there is such a thing as God and culture.  But now it’s more than just an effort at achieving the maximum shock value.  Dare I say it’s blatant evidence that there is, indeed, evil in the world and that it’s goal is to destroy any capacity man has to respond to the good?  Screwtape would be proud.  But Merton is right, it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to imaginatively oppose this, to pray for the inspiration to reactivate the work of the Church and show the world the way to the Truth and to salvation.  Sad to say, the job gets harder with every passing day, but we know which side must win in the end.

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Fr. Z’s Blog (olim: What Does The Prayer Really Say?) | Commentary on Catholic issues & slavishly accurate liturgical translations – by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬)

Fr. Z’s Blog (olim: What Does The Prayer Really Say?) | Commentary on Catholic issues & slavishly accurate liturgical translations – by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬).

See Fr Zs blog post above.

Let’s see, you can’t discriminate against someone who believes it’s perfectly legitimate to be in a disordered relationship, but you CAN discriminate against the Church that believes such relationships wrong.  What am I not getting here?

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On Cleaning Out a Desk Drawer

c. 1400

Thomas Aquinas, recalling Aristotle, said in a famous passage that “it is the nature of a wise man to order things” (Sapientis est ordinate). Fr James V. Schall, The Order of Things

On Friday morning, I came down to my desk to finish up a blog post I intended to publish today.  It was on a topic that I was certain would be of great interest and importance to my reader.  I knew it would just make his/her whole day.  Then I notice some unfiled papers sitting on my desk and I decided they should be put away.  I opened the bottom left drawer of my desk, a file drawer, and it was just jammed packed; I wasn’t sure I could get any more paper into it.  I also realized that, after several months inattention, the order I had originally set it up with had vanished.   So, I thought, before I finish the blog post, I’ll just take half an hour and set things right and get rid of a lot of useless junk I was sure  had accumulated in all those green hanging files, no big deal.  I thought it would be easy. I’m nothing if not fearless.

I began pulling hanging files out by the fistful.  I thought I could just dump out this junk, en masse, but found out, much to my surprise, there was mostly just hanging files containing empty file folders.  I put all these together in the back of the drawer.  But then I ran into a problem I face every time I attempt a project like this; I would have to make life or death decisions.  For example, there was quite a bit of material, for retreats and weekly classes, prayer services, etc., that I’d used when assisting in the RCIA program in El Paso. Should I keep these? Would I ever use them again? I decided better safe than sorry, they stayed. I found copies of articles off the web that I thought might serve as fuel for blog posts at one time or another.  I spent a good 15 minutes reviewing them trying to decide whether I should keep them or not.  Nearly a half-hour later I decided they warranted further investigation, they went back into the drawer for later date when I would have time to this.  I put them back, this time in a different place and clearly labeled; I had to show some progress.

Then I found some materials from my last high school reunion; those had to stay, but I did manage to label them.  I found old records of stock research I’d done many years ago, all neatly catalogued and filed.  I was able to junk these, but it took 20 minutes to go through them to make sure that was the right decision.  Still, I had freed up some room.

Suddenly, a pack of post it notes popped out of the drawer above the desk drawer and I had to investigate the cause, resulting in a good 40 minutes spent emptying out and reorganizing this drawer.  I had to find a place to put the stuff that came out of that drawer, leading me to reorganize yet another drawer, which had some papers in it that should have been filed in a second file drawer; I had to check it out to see if it required attention.  I made a start and took some files from there and decided they really belonged in the first file drawer, which was now as jam packed as when I’d started.  On this went for a goodly amount of time.  Finally, exhausted, I realized that I was more or less back where I’d started. Frustrated, I gave up.

Retirement is supposed to be about free time, resting up a bit from a life time of hard work and tight time schedules and impossibly unreasonable projects which lead nowhere to accomplish. Suddenly I felt like I was back at work. I decided, then and there, it was time for a nap.

Oh, I never did get that blog post written so there’s nothing for today.

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