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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Monday with Merton


  
 
“We do not have to create a conscience for ourselves. We are born with one, and no matter how much we may ignore it, we cannot silence its insistent demand that we do good and avoid evil. No matter how much we may deny our freedom and our moral responsibility, our intellectual soul cries out for a morality and a spiritual freedom without which it knows it cannot be happy. The first duty of every man is to seek the enlightenment and discipline without which his conscience cannot solve the problems of life.”

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.

The Fathers on Friday




“It is dangerous for a man to try teaching before he is trained in the good life. A man whose house is about to fall down may invite travellers inside to refresh them, but instead they will be hurt in the collapse of the house. It is the same with teachers who have not carefully trained themselves in the good life; they destroy their hearers as well as themselves. Their mouth invites to salvation, their way of life leads to ruin.” 

― Benedicta WardThe Desert Fathers: 

A Language of Ineffable Words


Just a few short musings on Thanksgiving Friday

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An Athonite elder said: “A monk does not just study dogmas; he lives by them. When he reads the Holy Scripture or the patristic writings, he is not doing it to gain knowledge but to learn a language of ineffable words with which God speaks through one’s prayer. — Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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Sometimes I think there needs to be much more reading of Holy Scripture and the Fathers and much less of theology and philosophy. Even some Shakespeare now and then wouldn’t hurt at all.

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After I became Catholic, there were many writers that I loved to read that simply fell off my radar screen, C. S. Lewis being one of them. Just this week, I asked myself, why should that be? I couldn’t come up with an answer other than that he isn’t Catholic. This year, I’ve been studying Church history, mostly from the late Roman era through the Middle Ages. As part of that, I read C. S. Lewis’ last book, The Discarded Image, a very interesting introduction to the medieval world view. Other than that, I’ve read little or nothing of Lewis since I came into the Church. I regret this and hope to broaden my horizons in 2015.

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I saw an interesting column this week by Fr. Mark Pilon on The Catholic Thing site about the benefits of having a less visible papacy. He makes one interesting point arising from Pope Francis style that I think is easy to overlook, it harms ecumenical relations between east and west. Here is one quote:

“Let me explain . . ., beginning with the ecumenical. The eastern hierarchies have always had a grave concern – indeed, real fear – about papal dominance of the episcopal order. This fear only increased in the age of mass media and with a pope constantly taking to the airwaves and other media to express not only Church teaching, but his personal opinions on just about any subject.”

The problem is that Pope Francis is all too willing to give voice to his opinion on just about anything at any time. Such a public pope, as Fr. Pilon points out, distorts the true understanding of the relationship within the Church amongst all bishops. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not time to rethink the idea of Pope as celebrity. Here is the full article and it’s worth a read.

 

 

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.

 

Monday with Merton


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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.

Knowing When to Stop


    A couple of weeks ago, I considered the project of doing a 7 Quick Takes post written by the Early Church Fathers and the Saints, allowing them to have a chance to speak for themselves.  I debated the idea for a week or two, but how could I argue with the saints?  Here are the “quick takes” they offered me.

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    “A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied.” St. John Chrysostom

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    “There is no subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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    “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

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    “We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: “I will pray, and then I will understand.” – St. Charles Borromeo

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    “He who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands.” – St. Benedict of Nursia

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    image“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; invoking her, you shall never lose heart.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

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    And, in honor of Corpus Christi on Sunday:

    “Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on mankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us. He did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen.” – St. Athanasius

     

     

We Have the Same Boss


A 7 Quick Takes post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler
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“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

imageI remember when Archbishop Sheen was on TV and hugely popular. At the time Milton Berle was king of Tuesday nights, but Sheen beat him out in terms of ratings; up to 10 million viewers a night tuned in to see him. Can you imagine anything like that happening today, especially considering the show was just him on a TV studio set with a chalk board; no fancy graphics, video, sound, nothing. Quite an accomplishment.

In case you’re interested, Berle was good natured about their rivalry, reportedly once joking that, “We both work for the same boss, Sky Chief Supreme,” referring to Texaco gasoline, the company that sponsored both their shows.

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“Truth has nothing to do with the number of people it convinces.” Paul Claudel

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The clarinet playing continues apace. After the second lesson, it looks like the pattern will be for me to practice a lot allowing the lessons to be opportunities to correct errors in technique and to build good habits, one small step at a time. I like that approach because I always felt, while playing in school, that there was never enough time to build a solid foundation in technique and just plain understanding of the instrument. As they say, onward and upward!

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I saw in the news yesterday that an FSSP priest, 28 year old Fr. Kenneth Walker, was shot and killed in Phoenix. I haven’t heard any further news of what provoked the attack, if anything, but please take some extra time over this next week to pray for him and for the full recovery of the two priests who were also attacked and survived.

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In fits and starts, we’ve begun to study Latin. I’ve had it in mind to start attending the Latin Mass again. Lately, as you might judge from the post of earlier this week, I go through spells when I think what’s been done to the Mass in the last half-century, is nearly criminal. All the mystery has been removed from it. The only solution appears to be returning to the pre-Vatican II Liturgy. To do that, though, I have a strong sense that I’d like to have, at a minimum, a rudimentary understanding of Latin. I don’t know if that’s really necessary or not, but the feeling is there.

The study itself is turning out to be a little easier than anticipated, there are only a few letters pronounced differently than in English, and the general principles of grammar seems easy enough to pick up. In any case, it’s keeping me busy in retirement.

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I may have posted this quote from St. Ignatius recently, but I keep coming back to it, churning it over and over in my mind:

“Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.” Saint Ignatius

The thing I would desperately love to be better at is listening, and listening quietly, letting the other person make their point and respecting that. The first thing that came to mind after I read this quote is that what Ignatius is asking for is showing of the love of neighbor. He wants us to make the effort to get into the other person’s place and heart, to understand their leanings and meanings and wishes of someone who is speaking. That is actually quite difficult, for me anyway. It would be quite good to know when to speak, but most of all, when to keep silent.

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“I tell you the solemn truth, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so difficult to accept for a working proposition as any one of the axioms of physics.” Henry Adams

Sunday is the Most Holy Trinity. Henry Adams makes a great point, if you can believe what physicists seem to be saying about reality these days, you’d probably end up going insane, it’s so far beyond anything we seem to be able to comprehend. Yet, you’d believe it. Why not put some faith in the Holy Trinity.