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

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.”

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).


Being Guarded and Preserved


A 7 Quick Takes post hosted now by the This Ain’t the Lyceum blog.

St Irenaeus

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“True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy…”  St. Irenaeus

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Of course, the big topic of conversation this past week has been “the call” sealing the final outcome of the Super Bowl.  Most people seemed to think it was at best a careless decision to call a pass play so close to the goal line.  I think it was in character for the Seahawks style of play, fast and loose, perhaps even over-confident.  If you think about the game they had with Green Bay and how they made that comeback seemingly at will, and how they were doing the same thing with New England until about the middle of the fourth quarter, you can see why the coaches wouldn’t have thought the play risky at all.  In any case, talk has already started about who plays in Super Bowl 50.  This too shall pass.

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The hubbub over the last papal news conference has died down (I do wish he’d quit doing those things) and, at the moment, only the most conservative blogs are still hunting for Francis’ scalp.  I wish people wouldn’t get so wrapped up in the day to day goings on in Rome.  It’s good to keep reminding ourselves, over and over again, that these things just aren’t all that important.  It would be good to remember there is a rich, wonderful Tradition of true teaching in the Church that far outweighs anything Pope Francis might think or do; he is the odd man out, not Augustine or Aquinas or Teresa of Avila.  As St. Irenaeus said, the true teaching as been guarded and preserved for 2,000 years; what’s two years, or five or ten, compared to that?

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There was a very interesting article on the Crisis magazine website earlier this week about the linear increase in IQ scores measured since the beginning of the year and the regular, not so linear, decrease in faith over the same period.  The gain in IQ is mostly the result of improved skill in abstract thinking. Here’s a quote:

 “The world is different for us; more abstract and theoretical, and it is becoming more so all the time as we live less amid things and more among pixelated representations of things. In the increasingly abstract anything is possible, the source of light is within and the horizon is boundless. We are becoming disembodied and therefore less receptive to a God who created the world and then entered into that world as flesh and blood. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” becomes the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence.”

And another:

 “The world of actual things and flesh and blood persons contained its own logic of being, where a child grew up seeing his dog which may or may not have been a good hunter, but regardless, in its particularity it was related to rabbits, which were not just representations of an abstract species, but actual fury beings and objects of primal wonder and excitement. We have lost this, and with it, our capacity for the one great relationship for which we were made.”

It is worth a read and can be found HERE.

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And another from the excellent Crisis Magazine website, this one from yesterday by Dr. Regis Martin of Franciscan University of Steubenville.  It’s about silence, monastic silence.  If you’ve ever visited a monastery, even for a short time, the thing that you probably noticed first and foremost was the silence.  Most monasteries these days are like nowhere else on earth.  The noise we live in is an unrelenting, absolutely incessant, and we’re so used to it, the silence of a monastery often seems unbearable, especially to young, first time visitors.  Dr. Martin writes about this noise,

“One of the truly awful torments of modern life, from whose myriad aggressions no one is entirely safe, is noise. More and more, it fills the space that was once marked by that silence whose absence we seem increasingly not to notice.   Nor even, it seems, to mind, so accustomed have we grown to ever higher and more intrusive levels of din.   Indeed, so often are we in flight from silence, so quickly do we turn up the volume, that one might think the work of suppression part of a larger strategy to deflect the emptiness of our own lives.”

It’s sad that the opportunities to experience silence are becoming few and far between, especially with the closing of abbeys unable to attract many vocations.  You should read the entire article HERE.

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Technology update:  As I’ve shared in the past, most of the writing I do for the blog, and nearly everything else, I do on my iPad.  Until November, I’d used the Apple Pages app as my word processing software but then switched to the newly free MS Word version.  I fully expected to switch back within a week or two but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well this free app works.  Pulling up a file originating from the iPad app in the PC version is flawless; with Pages, if you transferred a file to Word on a desktop machine, much of the formatting of the original file was lost.  Most of the features from the latest version of Word are available in the app, and it seems quite stable.  I don’t have the problem of losing file updates nearly as often as happened with the Pages app.  Sometimes, you do get more than you pay for.

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The weather is Colorado has been crazy over the last week or so.  In the last 10 days we’ve had snow and extremely cold temperatures and clear skies with temperatures in the 60s, not all of it accurately predicted by the weather folks.  Their big miss on the New England blizzard has been in the news, along with the obligatory apologies has been big news.  What people forget is that seeing into the future is a uniquely difficult thing to do; how many of us have any real idea what will happen tomorrow, much less a week or 10 days from now.  Certainly not meteorologists.

It makes me wonder about all those dire “climate change” warnings and what that holds for the Earth’s future if we don’t do something now.  The very fact we’re now talking about climate change instead of global warming should tell you something about their reliability.  But regardless of the credibility of the doom and gloom crowd, it would be good to ask ourselves, in light of recent experience, how they can be so sure their predictions are accurate when weather forecasters, using the best models available, couldn’t predict what was coming even hours in advance.  I remain skeptical.  Just sayin’