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: 


Entrails Wrenched Asunder


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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

    “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

    “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

    “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

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

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

    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

    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
“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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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.


“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.

Love is Worth More Than Intelligence

A 7 Quick Takes on Friday post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary


“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not… with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” Pope Benedict XVI

This quote highlights one of the surprises I had in store for me coming into the Church. My misconception centers around an idea common to most Protestants, that the Catholic Church defines, in detail, everything a Catholic must mindlessly believe. The surprise was how relatively little the Church holds as infallible dogma; there are a great many areas where Catholics are free, with a well formed conscience, to make up their own minds.


“Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence.” Jacques Maritain

Some times a person can be too smart for their own good, and the good of those around them. We’re seeing amble evidence of it in the newspapers and TV news shows this week, for sure.


Got the first clarinet lesson in this week, and boy, do I have a lot of work to do. I’m having to relearn everything from putting the horn together to preparing the reed before playing and a whole host of other good stuff. My main problem, and I’m not sure why it is so, is keeping good time, as the music is written. Another surprise this week, I’m not squeaking and squealing as much as I expected. My instructor plays in a couple of local symphony orchestras and teaches classical clarinet, so it’s not surprising he’ BIG on details. I’m going to be doing a lot of exercises, but I’m using the very same book I used when I first started playing.

image“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Another thing my clarinet instructor insists on is 45 minutes per day of practice, at least. I thought that wouldn’t be any problem at all. Turns out, that’s hard work! Also, I’m practicing during the time I used to do writing, so I’m having to rearrange my routine. One of the nice things about Benedictine spirituality is that it’s built for situations like this; if you have something planned you needn’t get upset when your nicely conceived plans fall down around your ears. John Lennon would have been a very good Benedictine.


“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” Gilbert K. Chesterton


“Be proud that you are helping God to bear the cross, and don’t grasp at comforts. It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day. Serve Him without pay.” — St. Teresa of Ávila


imageToday is the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II.  These landings were crucial to the defeat of Nazi Germany and I ask you all to take a moment today to remember the incredible heroism of those American, British and allied soldiers who took part in those landings.  We owe our freedom to them.

A Prayer of St. Gregory Nazianzen

imageTo The All-Transcendent God

O All-Transcendent God
(and what other name could describe you?),
what words can hymn Your praises?
No word does You justice.
What mind can probe Your secret?
No mind can encompass You.
You are alone beyond the power of speech,
yet all that we speak stems from You.
You are alone beyond the power of thought,
yet all that we can conceive springs from You.
All things proclaim You,
those endowed with reason and those bereft of it.
All the expectation and pain of the world coalesces in You.
All things utter a prayer to You,
a silent hymn composed by You.
You sustain everything that exists,
and all things move together to Your orders.
You are the goal of all that exists.
You are one and You are all,
yet You are none of the things that exist,
neither a part nor the whole.
You can avail Yourself of any name;
how shall I call You,
the only unnameable?
All-transcendent God!

Prayer of St. Polycarp


O Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of yourself; you are the God of angels and powers, of the whole creation, and of all generations of the righteous who live in your sight. I bless you for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered among the martyrs, to share in the cup of your Anointed and to rise again to everlasting life, both in body and in soul, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them this day in your presence, a sacrifice rich and acceptable, even as you appoint and foreshadow, and now bring to pass, for you are the God of truth in whom there is no falsehood. For this, and for all else, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you; through our eternal High Priest in heaven, your beloved Son Jesus Christ, by whom and through whom be glory to you and the Holy Spirit, now and for all ages to come. Amen.

St. Catherine of Siena

imageToday is the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican tertiary and theologian.

“You know…that to join two things together there must be nothing between them or there cannot be a perfect fusion. Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be, without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between, just as God loves us without anything in between.”

The Many Gifts of God

A 7 Quick Takes Post


image“Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.”

Pope John Paul II

It’s hard sometimes to realize that everything that happens is, indeed, a gift of God not to be misused.

I should write about Easter and what it was like. We attended Mass at our local parish and it was a quite reverent and worshipful setting of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, demonstrating that such a thing is truly possible. The church wasn’t over-decorated, as so many parishes tend to do, but was subdued and very dignified with little more than lilies at the ambo and in front of the alter. There was a banner in white, embroidered with a cross, behind and above the presider’s chair and a white sort of runner on the left side of the ambo. The music, featuring a youth choir, was traditional and well done, and, all in all, the whole thing was more than I might have expected from a parish that impresses me as tending to the more progressive temperament. The only problem I had, and this always happens on Easter and Christmas, is the place was packed. My preference is always to the quieter from of worship, I love Mass in a small monastery or small town church where the setting is more intimate and the congregation small. I can focus on the Mass in such an environment. Having a crowd with nearly every seat taken and people chatting and moving about, frankly, drives me nutzo; the atmosphere is nothing but distracting and, with the ADHD personality I have, I find it impossible to concentrate and take in what is really going on.

One example of the distraction presented on Sunday: A couple I’d never seen before sat in front of us. My guess is they were in their mid to late 40s and were nicely dressed and seemed quite friendly. I don’t know if they are members of the parish and regularly attend one of the other scheduled Masses or not, so they may be faithful Catholics in every sense of the word. However, the lady, at every mention of Jesus’ name, burst out chuckling and, in most such instances, stuck her elbow in her mate’s ribs. Now, what it was about the Easter Mass, or her own experience, that could provoke such a response, I don’t know. It drove me out of my mind and, despite what that says about me, I couldn’t help but begin to look for the response. Something like this happens every Easter.

Anyway, the rest of the day was spent cooking lamb chops on the grill, our first use of the grill this year, and sitting on the deck in the back soaking in the sun and reading. It was, all in all, a most delightful day.

I see, from a post by Mr. Sales of All Along the Watchtower, that the British PM, David Cameron, “came out” last week as a Christian. The announcement has, as is to be expected in this secular age, caused quite the furor. Checking out the story in the Independent, I found one interesting quote from Mr. Cameron’s announcement:

“Mr Cameron went on to describe himself as a ‘rather classic’ member of the Church of England, ‘not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith’.”

Generally, we see politicians loudly proclaiming their faith, in the face of quite unfaithful behavior, as if they were the prophet Isaiah. David Cameron has the honesty to admit he’s less than perfect as a Christian. It’s a refreshing change.

Do yah think?

“The Crisis in the Ukraine May be Defused or is There More to Come” — Colorado Springs Gazette, Monday, April 21, 2014

I started reading another book by Fr. James Schall this week, The Mind that is Catholic, a collection of essays on, obviously, the mind that is thinking with the Church. In the first essay, which bears the name of the book, Fr. Schall uses quotes from the Bible and famous Catholic authors to depict seven characteristics of a Catholic mind. One of these is a quote from St. Thomas More to the point that Jesus feeds us with finest wheat, but it’s up to us to chew. We’re not only spiritual beings, we are physical beings equally, and it’s good to remind ourselves now and then that we must fully live up to our part in God’s plans.

Speaking of Fr. Schall, he had a good piece on the Crisis magazine web site just yesterday on the tyranny of tolerance we seem to be living under these days. He writes:

“We thus have become infinitely “tolerant” of anything but truth itself. Speech is not directed to truth or falsity of an issue but to the “sensitivity” and “compassion” of those who hear it. “Objective” standards are subject to the listener’s “right” to hear only what he wants to hear.”

It’s a strange world we live in that fears the truth about anything.

Once again, I must thank Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary for hosting these 7 Quick Takes each week. There are many fine bloggers ripe for the picking to be found posting there each week.