My oldest son had as an assignment the task of interviewing someone who lived through the 1980s and chose me as his interviewee. I don’t recall much of the 20 minute interview conducted yesterday (Sunday) or its questions but I do remember addressing the subject of communication. I described for him the differences in my childhood and mine with regards to technological innovations such as cell phones, smartphones, texting, the internet and social media. As I described sitting on the stairs in the house where I grew up, stretching the phone cord as far as it would go so that I could sit higher on the stairs while talking to my girlfriend and eek out a little more privacy, I could see him chuckling in an attempt to comprehend my actions. Especially since he’d spent much of the extended Thanksgiving weekend exchanging texts with his girlfriend and as far as I know has never in his life seen a phone cord.
I closed that portion of the interview with words to the effect that while we have more quantity in our communications I’m not sure we have more quality. There are more means available than ever for us to access information and communicate with the world around us, but I questioned whether our ability for meaningful personal communication has suffered. I mentioned how we are more alone than ever.
And then this morning I saw this. I don’t post it to be a smarty-pants and say I’m prescient. I post it merely for edification. And for your information. We are together alone.
How to counter this? Here’s a hint of what I use.
Prayer is man’s richest boon. It is his light, his nourishment, and his very life, for it brings him into communication with God, who is light, nourishment, and life. – General Preface to The Liturgical Year, Vol. 1, by Dom Prosper Gueranger.
As usual my plans for this time of year include a lot of reflection, study and prayer. I formed this habit fifteen years ago when I was a small business owner. Sales for my line of work (small business advertising) would slow down and allow me two weeks of unfettered review, planning, goal-setting, etc. For the last ten years I’ve been back in corporate America and no longer own my own business. While I don’t have all that free time I do still make it a point to reflect, to plan, and to pray.
One of the ways I am doing this is by the use of three books and a journal. By combining The Better Part, the Catena Aurea and The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture I plan to slowly make my way through all four gospels and write reflections and points of interest as I go. I only started a few weeks ago but in that short time have learned more about Matthew’s Gospel than I had before, and I’m only just finished with the first chapter of verse.
[I realized that the above paragraph and the books I cite make me appear a pretty stuffy dude. All that’s missing is a tweed jacket with elbow patches and a pipe, right? Actually, I’m just a guy who has invested in some good sets of books over the past decade and is finally figuring out how to use them. I mean, the Catena Aurea was written and compiled by St. Thomas Aquinas for Pete’s sake! While it ain’t exactly a page-turner or an easy summer read, it’s perhaps the “richest” set of books I own. It took me over six or seven years to acquire the full ACC 29-volume set as I did it via an installment plan. One volume arrived every 2-3 months until the set was complete. See my note on books as an investment at the very end of this blog. Now please excuse me as I light my pipe and look for space to build more shelves.]
Maybe I am just a fuddy-duddy. A fuddy-duddy that reads good books and drinks good Scotch.
I also plan to read the recent work of Pope Francis: Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel. I hadn’t thought much about it and almost missed its release in all the hub-bub surrounding Thanskgiving and a busy week of work leading up to the holiday. But anything that can upset persons from both sides of the political aisle as varied as Rush Limbaugh and those at MSNBC is worth reading. Pope Francis appears to be upsetting people left and right and brings to mind another figure from two thousand years ago, a man controversial in his time who said some rather uncomfortable things.
Thanksgiving morning found me waking up at my in-law’s farm in south central Nebraska. It was an overcast morning, chilled by a wind that swept across the fields. I showered and dressed for Thanksgiving Mass, and afterwards went for a walk on the farm with my breviary. I stopped at a spot facing south across the fields and prayed Morning Prayer while watching my brother-in-law’s cows walk in for some feed. His daughter introduced my young daughter to some of the cows later that morning, particularly those she named. There was Buttercup, Cookie Dough, Ginger, Oreo and Minty. Samantha explained in great detail to Sophie how some of the young cows lacked manners and she was putting them through a finishing school of sorts to teach them to not be so pushy at feeding time. Then she walked us to the chicken house, introduced us to the group, and allowed Sophie to feed them as well. Being in an enclosed space with a rooster crowing every few seconds brought me back to a childhood morning when I was my daughter’s age on my first sleepover at a friend’s house in eastern South Dakota where I grew up. Terry’s chickens were loud, too.
The four-day extended weekend went by much too fast. Friday we were back at home and visited with my parents who were in town. Since we were blessed with terrific weather overall and were able to spend time outdoors my boys and I raked leaves and filled too many recyclable sacks. At one point I paused to smell the unique aroma that is dead, dusty leaves and wished for another unique smell of autumn that is no longer possible due to city fire codes: the smell made by small piles of leaves as they smolder and burn.
We also disposed of all of the October pumpkins and gourds. They were getting a little soggy and soft.
On Saturday afternoon while playing football in the backyard with my three kids we saw several “v” formations of geese flying and honking overhead.
And on Saturday night while my oldest took a break from texting his girlfriend to treat her to a movie, a few of us had a movie night of our own at home. As you can see, Buster wasn’t really into the movie.
We finished our weekend on Sunday in Aurora, Nebraska, to attend the confirmation of my nephew at St. Mary’s Church. It was the first Mass they’d had in their small parish in six months after undergoing a beautiful restoration and renovation process. It was the first time since his installation a year ago that I’d attended an event with our new bishop, Bishop James Conley, and I was unsurprised that I was as impressed with him in person as I’d been while reading about him.
Afterwards we drove to my brother-in-law’s home to eat still more food and visit with family. As we were leaving Jonah and Sophie noticed that some sheep had escaped their pen and were wandering in an open space in the yard. After my nephews rounded them back into their pen my daughter did what she’s learned to do best over the weekend: feed farm animals.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you chose to celebrate it. I can’t honestly say that I took time to reflect upon blessings or “count my blessings”, but after re-reading the few blurbs written above perhaps it’s because I was too busy living those blessings and sanctifying Time. As I move into the next few weeks of Advent in which I look forward to Christmas, I hope you will also join me in your own personal ways.
Reflecting. Planning. And praying.
[Personal Note: When I bought the hardcover Jubilee Edition of Gueranger’s fifteen volume set in 2001 I did spend some coin. However the price on Amazon quite honestly shocked me. To see new and unused editions of the set selling for almost $3,000 seems ridiculous. I don’t buy books as a monetary investment but as an intellectual and spiritual investment. The publisher, Loreto Publications, is now offering a softcover set of all fifteen volumes for a much more reasonable price in case you would be interested in this very interesting work of a favorite monk of mine. Yes, I do have favorite monks. Go figure.]
Photo credits: All are mine, except the phone cord. For that one credit must go here.
I’ve been reading the just released Prayer Journal of Flannery O’Connor and came across this little gem last night:
Anyway it all brings me to thanksgiving, the third thing to include in prayer. When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already and I haven’t been particularly grateful. My thanksgiving is never in the form of self sacrifice—a few memorized prayers babbled once over lightly. All this disgusts me in myself but does not fill me with the poignant feeling I should have to adore You with, to be sorry with, or to thank You with. Perhaps the feeling I keep asking for, is something again selfish—something to help me to feel that everything with me is all right. And yet it seems only natural but maybe being thus natural is being thus selfish. My mind is a most insecure thing, not to be depended on. It gives me scruples at one minute and leaves me lax the next. If I must know all these things thru the mind, dear Lord, please strengthen mine. Thank you, dear God, I believe I do feel thankful for all You’ve done for me. I want to. I do. And thank my dear Mother whom I do love, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“…I wonder that You don’t just kill me now…”
I love that. It’s so Flannery. It’s also me, though I usually substitute the word “take” where she used “kill”. But it’s all the same. There have been many times in this life where clarity breaks through like a bright beam of sunshine that blinds me and makes my pupils shrink to little black dots, dimming out the immediate outside world. During those times of what I can only describe as a complete self-awareness (or what some might call being “at one with the universe”) I am able to see the big picture of all that I have and all I’ve been given. It drops me to my knees in thanksgiving in gratitude. It causes me to stop walking on whatever street sidewalk I’m walking. Or it strikes while sitting at a red light in my car and causes me to miss the signal change to green. When this happens the motorist behind me is none too thankful and honks me out of my revelry. The point is that it does happen. And when it does I wonder:
Why don’t you just take me now, Lord?
If I’m feeling really dramatic or playful, I’ll clutch my chest like the Redd Foxx character Fred Sanford used to do in the 70s sitcom Sanford & Son and cry out “I’m coming home! Take me now, Lord!” Fred Sanford always struck that pose whenever his son Lamont would threaten to move out or things were not going Fred’s way. A widower, he’d fake a heart attack and say “You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m comin’ to join ya, honey!” He called it “the big one”.
Ok, I don’t really do that. I want my children to eventually move out on their own and be self-sufficient and for the most part I can’t complain about how things go. I take responsibility for those things that fall within that realm and don’t sweat over the things that do not.
So for me to ask to be “taken” before my time is, of course, selfish. Because while I have been given the grace to see just how much I have to be thankful for, and perspective has been granted me to see that no matter how bad I may think I have it, it really isn’t. And there is still work here for me to do. Actually there is a ton of work to be done and it can all be overwhelming in size and scope if I don’t narrow my focus to making a difference in my own little corner of the world first. If I try to eat the elephant all at once, that is take on all the world’s problems and strife and misery and hardship, I find myself striking the Sanford pose. My mind can’t absorb it all, nor can my heart.
What I am really and selfishly saying during those times of clarity is “Why don’t you take me now, Lord, while life is good for me and before things have the chance to get worse?”
I have a purpose in this life and in the lives of others. There is meaning and mission and work left undone. I just don’t know what it is all the time. It is The Big One.
So perhaps the better prayer request would be the line Flannery wrote a little further down in that prayer. It is a prayer for preparedness for all that’s to come and of gratitude for all that has come.
If I must know all these things thru the mind, dear Lord, please strengthen mine. Thank you, dear God, I believe I do feel thankful for all You’ve done for me. I want to. I do.
I already am.
Loving does not necessarily mean liking. But still it is loving, yes—totally, completely, utterly. Take the key of wisdom and unlock your own heart. Then let people in, one by one. Listen to them with full attention, with all your mind, heart, soul and body, unto exhaustion. And look!—the exhaustion will be lifted, and you will be able to listen still more. Yes, love must be communicated person to person; otherwise it will not be effective.
– Catherine Doherty, Molchanie: The Silence of God.
— 1 —
This week I’m going to start with something completely different: a rapping priest. Fr. Pontifex is someone I’ve seen on YouTube before, most notably offering a rebuttal to the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” around a year ago.
Actually Fr. Claude Burns (a.k.a. Fr. Pontifex) prefers the term “spoken-word” due to the stigma attached to rap and hip-hop. Having grown up in an urban environment and then living and working the streets as a priest has given him the inspiration to use the medium to reach out to those who need to hear the uplifting power of the Gospels. Catholic Online recently sat down with Fr. Pontifex for an interview to discuss the genesis of his new album (available on iTunes), the subject matter of the songs, and what’s next.
COL: Who did you work with to make this album?
Fr. Pontifex: I worked with some amazingly talented people on this album. I teamed up with Nikolai Medow (Yung PK) as he is known and we created some incredible tracks together. There are certain people that just bring out the best in you creatively and PK is one of those people for me. We share similar visions for music and expressions of faith. He has an amazing ability to arrange vocals and that comes through in the album. The first time I heard the chorus that he wrote for “In My Shoes” I was out in California. I put on headset and was walking in beautiful San Rafael and I was blown away. The lyrics began to flow immediately. “I’m waking up to that grand view. It’s morning time I feel brand new.” That track turned out better than I could have imagined and I have Yung PK to thank for that.
I also worked with Lindsay Mann out of Nashville, Tennessee. She is like a little sister to me and we are from the same city. Her vocals were crucial to the development of three tracks she is featured on. “Believe In Yourself” a very personal song for me about being bullied as a kid and overcoming those wounds to become a priest, needed some uplifting, encouraging singing vocals and Lindsay provided that beautifully. The same could be said for the last track of the album “Own the Night”, which is the exclamation point on the whole issue of the symphony and the static. It basically says, “Yes, there is a struggle between hope and suffering but in the end Jesus has conquered death. He owns the night and is the light in the darkness.” Lindsay’s vocals added a powerful boost to the final message.
COL: What is your hope for the work you have done here?
Fr. Pontifex: My hope is that people of all walks of life will give this album a listen. The challenge will be getting passed the stigma that comes with the album being labeled hip-hop or rap. It is that on some levels but there is an automatic cliche that comes to mind that puts people off when they know that. The album is filled with a lot of thought provoking poetry that is heartfelt. Each song is constructed with a lot of thought and passion. I hope that it touches the hearts of many people on deep levels.
I am by no means someone who appreciates hip-hop, but I may be willing to give “The Symphony and The Static” a listen. After all, I need to hear that message too.
Like Christ and those He commissioned, Fr. P is simply taking the message out to the people where they are at…where they live. Pretty cool if you ask me. (You didn’t.)
Actually, the more I’ve listened to this the more I like it. A much better earworm than that “What Does the Fox Say?” stinkerooski that my kiddos keep planting in my brain.
— 2 —
From CNN’s Belief Blog:
Riva, whose head and neck are covered with tumors due to a rare disease, said his unusual appearance has led to a lifetime of living on the margins.
That is, until he showed up at St. Peter’s Square on November 6.
Riva went to Rome on the advice of a friend with whom he travels to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in France visited by thousands of ailing and infirm pilgrims each year.
After meeting Francis, Riva said he kissed the Pope’s hand. Then the Pope pulled Riva toward him, hugging the 53-year-old Italian and kissing his face.
Riva continued, “I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn’t: The emotion was too strong. It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity.” …
The first signs of the disease began when he was 15, Riva said, and since then, he has often felt ostracized because of his unusual appearance.
But the Pope showed no sign of discomfort as he approached, said Riva. Instead, the pontiff’s face broke into a calm smile.
“But what most astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me,” Riva said.
“I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.”
I totally am digging Papa Francesco. I was thinking about him this week while driving to work and know there’s more I want to say at some point. But for now it’s suffice to say that I totally dig the man.
— 3 —
A little fun with No-Shave November from Melissa Keating of FOCUS:
The rest of the world is buzzing about no-shave November right now. However, as Catholics, we belong to a long history of beards so magnificent they could never hope to be confined to single month. The face furniture of our early Fathers alone is resplendent enough to make Gandalf weep with envy (looking at you, First Council of Nicea).
I’m not saying that God gives the best beards to Catholics. I just want to point out the long standing correlation between Christianity and luxurious lip locks. In fact, if you pay attention to hagiography, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that the Church Triumphant strongly resembles an NHL team during playoffs.
The day after the World Series was over I ordered world championship t-shirts for all five members of my family. The boys both wanted to #GETBEARD shirt naturally.
I wonder if there’s a t-shirt available with St. Max Kolbe on the front sporting his beard.
Update: There is!!!
— 4 —
Let’s do a little myth busting and take on one of the biggest of them all.
While there’s no denying that campaigns such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War foundationally rested on religious ideology, it is simply incorrect to assert that religion has been the primary cause of war. Moreover, although there’s also no disagreement that radical Islam was the spirit behind 9/11, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.
An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.
That means that all faiths combined – minus Islam – have caused less than 4% of all of humanity’s wars and violent conflicts. Further, they played no motivating role in the major wars that have resulted in the most loss of life.
So if religion can’t be blamed for the most wars and violence, what is the primary cause? The article’s author, Robin Schumacher, provides an answer in the last paragraph. It’s an answer that while coming as no surprise to the honest and aware among us, and when combined with the simplicity of it all is one that will continue to be scoffed at and rejected at our own peril.
— 5 —
I began this week with the hip-hop stylings of a Catholic priest ($20 to anyone who ever thought I’d type out that sentence) and am going to wrap up with something a bit more traditional.
And achingly achingly beautiful.
As “The Idler” wrote at Ascending Mount Carmel:
Divna Ljubojevic, one of the most reknowned and famous singers within Orthodox Christianity, simply has a voice that is as near to divine as one can get, right on par with my favorite renditions of St. Hildegard von Bingen’s chant sung by Jocelyn Montgomery. The opening song alone is otherworldly. Break the headphones out, and indulge in the sound of another time and place.
I wish I knew what she was singing or if there was a translation available. I’ve listened to all 43 minutes a few times and was able to recognize a hallelujah, a Christe and the Kyrie about twenty or so minutes in, but little else. Ms. Ljobojevic, who was born in Belgrade in 1970) does have other videos available on YouTube. You may want to check them out, or be content to just let this one play in the background. At least listen to the first nine minutes. But fair warning: once you start listening you really don’t want it to stop.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Advent is just around the corner (December 1).
November 22nd marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of one of the great figures in history. No, I’m not talking about a U.S. president. I’m referring to one of the other two noted men, both authors, who passed away that day: Clive Staples Lewis, or Jack as his friends and family called him.
On November 22, 1963, at 2:30 pm central time, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. An hour earlier, across the Atlantic, C.S. Lewis had died at his home in Oxford. A few short hours later, in Los Angeles, the English writer Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, would also die. This strange and somewhat morbid coincidence would later inspire Peter Kreeft to write Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley.
The media coverage of Kennedy’s assassination totally eclipsed the deaths of Lewis and Huxley, whose passing went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, much as, many years later, the passing of Mother Teresa would go largely unnoticed in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. (Source: The Catholic World Report)
Over the past fifteen years I have quietly collected quite a few of Lewis’ books, enough so that it surprised me last night when I walked throughout my house collecting them from various shelves and piles in order to take the photo below. There are a few missing that are either on loan to someone or buried at the bottom of a pile that I missed. I even own two versions of the movie Shadowlands: both the Hollywood version with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, and the BBC version with Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom. And of course there are the recent spate of Narnia films. I truly had no idea I’d collected so many Lewis-related works.
Jack was a member of the Inklings, a literary-minded group of friends who would gather at The Eagle and Child (affectionately called the Bird and Baby) whose members included Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. Were I allowed to visit the past as a fly on the wall I would want to be sitting at a table near this group, smoking a good cigar or pipe, quaffing an ale, and eavesdropping. One of my favorite books is Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship.
Born in Belfast, a soldier in WWI, convert from atheism to Christianity, professor at Oxford, and finally a prolific author. His was indeed a life that was full and well lived.
I own only two books that are encyclopedias of quotes by a singular person. The Quotable Lewis and The Quotable Chesterton. Outside of the collected letters of Flannery O’Connor (The Habit of Being) or The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien I have yet to find any compendiums of authors’ quotes worthy of my shelves. Snobbish, perhaps, but it holds true for me.
I read recently where someone said that there is nothing new to be written because Lewis wrote it all already. As I put together a list of favorite quotes for this blog I found it hard to disagree. From his books, lectures, sermons or even small papers, Lewis covered a vast array of subjects that hold weight and are relevant to our lives. I cannot pick a favorite book to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his passing, perhaps Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters. I simply love each and every one of them. I’ve strained to limit myself to thirty of my favorite quotes listed below. I hope you take the time to enjoy them and let them stew awhile in your mind or heart. They are not meant to be rushed, but savored like a good cigar or a glass of port.
Here’s to you, Jack.
[PS: Do you have a favorite Lewis quote or book? Please share it in the comments. I'd love to hear yours.]
— 1 —
We—or at least I—shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have “tasted and seen.” Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience. – Letters to Malcolm
— 2 —
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. – Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories
— 3 —
We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, it is likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference. – Mere Christianity
— 4 —
With the cruelty of youth I allowed myself to be irritated by traits in my father which, in other elderly men, I have since regarded as lovable foibles. – Surprised by Joy
— 5 —
When allegory is at its best, it approaches myth, which must be grasped with the imagination, not with the intellect. – The Pilgrim’s Regress
— 6 —
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? . . . Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. – A Grief Observed
— 7 —
Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the “tomb” of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a “sack of dung,” food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body “Brother Ass.” All three may be—I am not sure—defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.
Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body. There’s no living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. – The Four Loves
— 8 —
I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once. – The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves
— 9 —
I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern. – The Screwtape Letters
— 10 —
My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass. – Surprised by Joy
— 11 —
“Putting on Christ” . . . is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all. – Mere Christianity
— 12 —
The decline of “religion” is no doubt a bad thing for the “World.” By it all the things that made England a fairly happy country are, I suppose, endangered: the comparative purity of her public life, the comparative humanity of her police, and the possibility of some mutual respect and kindness between political opponents. But I am not clear that it makes conversions to Christianity rarer or more difficult: rather the reverse. It makes the choice more unescapable. When the Round Table is broken every man must follow either Galahad or Mordred: middle things are gone. – God in the Dock
— 13 —
He [St. Paul] told us to be not only “as harmless as doves,” but also “as wise as serpents.” He [Christ] wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. – Mere Christianity
— 14 —
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. – The Weight of Glory
— 15 —
It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. … The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. – Mere Christianity
— 16 —
Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not. – That Hideous Strength
— 17 —
Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. – The Screwtape Letters
— 18 —
Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you—almost apart from their meaning—a thrill like music? – The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves
— 19 —
And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. – Mere Christianity
— 20 —
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” – The Four Loves
— 21 —
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – The Four Loves
— 22 —
A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. – The Problem of Pain
— 23 —
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. – Mere Christianity
— 24 —
I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. – God In The Dock
— 25 —
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. – The Weight of Glory
— 26 —
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. – The Great Divorce
— 27 —
And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more “drive”, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or “creativity”. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful. – The Abolition of Man
— 28 —
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. –Essays on Forgiveness
— 29 —
We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. – The Weight of Glory
— 30 —
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – The Weight of Glory
“This is the thing. You’re always in exile. To be with Christ is to be in a place of precariousness. We don’t get to have it our way. We don’t get to be secure. We’re always in exile.” – Heather King
Some heavy lifting on a fall Friday.
This may seem a dark topic to some but it was brought about by something I wrote this morning for a Facebook status involving a meme that’s been going around whereby you write an assigned number of random things no one knows about you.
One of my favorite examples of strength and perseverance in the face of adversity is that of Ignatius of Antioch, who after being summoned to Rome to be devoured by lions by the sadistic Emperor Trajan in 107AD said “I am God’s wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”
Perhaps it’s because I’ve read so many reports of the Christian’s slaughtered in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Or maybe it’s due to the feast days just observed of All Saints and All Souls. The subject of martydom and/or dying for something you truly and deeply believe in has come to the forefront of late and is the subject of my Friday Five.
— 1 —
First up: a documentary recently completed in England that is about the English martyrs. Filmmaker Christian Holden writes:
Many Catholics today have forgotten the stories of the English martyrs. We know the famous names like Thomas More, John Fisher and Edmund Campion, but how many remember the stories of Francis Bell or Thomas Maxfield? For me, one particular story really stuck in my mind and made a big impression. It was the story of Roger Wrenno from Chorley. He was condemned to be hanged at Lancaster for the crime of harbouring a priest. On the day of execution, as he was hanging, the rope suddenly snapped. After a few minutes he regained his composure and knelt to say his prayers. He was offered a reprieve if only he would take the Oath of Supremacy. He refused. When a new rope was attached to the gallows, Wrenno ran up the ladder! Asked why he was in such a hurry to die, he replied: “If you had seen that which I have just now seen, you would be as much in haste to die as I am now.”
Making the film was a fascinating journey. I discovered where these brave Catholics lived and worked, and visited the places where they laid down their lives for the sake of the faith. Along the way we got a glimpse the human side of each of these heroic figures, their struggles, their faith and their great courage in facing death. Working on this project has been an inspiration for me and I hope the film will have an impact on those who view it.
Today, when Christianity is facing new challenges and increasing hostility in all corners of the world, the courage of the martyrs and their profound faith will continue to give strength and inspiration to those who strive for truth and holiness.
— 2 —
The monument above is on the grounds of the Institut Catholique in Paris and marks an event that occurred there on September 2, 1792. The plaque reads in Latin, “Here they fell.” The “they” were over 100 priests that died that night behind the convent of the Carmelites. (H/T Rod Dreher)
Of that night British historian Christopher Hibbert wrote:
The same afternoon another small gang of armed men burst into the garden of the Carmelite Convent off the Rue de Vaugirard where about 150 priests who had been held prisoner for the past fortnight, were gathered under guard, several of them reading their office. The men advanced upon them, calling out for the Archbishop of Arles. One of the priests went forward to meet them, demanding a fair trial for himself and his fellow-prisoners. A shot was fired and his shoulder was smashed. The Archbishop, after praying for a moment on his knees, then went towards the men himself. “I am the man you are looking for,” he said, and was immediately struck across the face with a sword. As he fell to the ground a pike was plunged through his chest. At that moment an officer of the National Guard appeared and managed to get the priests away to the nearby church where they gave each other absolution. While they were saying prayers for the dying, the armed gang broke through the door and dragged the priests out in pairs to slaughter them in the garden. After several had been killed a man with an air of authority arrived at the church calling out, “Don’t kill them so quickly. We are meant to try them.” Thereafter each priest was summoned before a makeshift tribunal before being executed. He was asked if he was now prepared to take the constitutional oath and when he said that he was not — as all of them did — he was taken away to be killed. Some bodies were removed in carts, the rest thrown down a well from which their broken skeletons were recovered seventy years later.
There’s more on the September Martyrs at Tea At Trianon.
Amy Welborn visited this very spot in 2012 and posted photos and her thoughts as well.
— 3 —
Just two years later the slaughter continued at the monastery of Carmelite nuns in Compiègne in northern France in 1794. In 1956 this piece of French Revolution history was reborn as a French-language opera of three acts that was first performed at La Scala in 1957: Dialogues des carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites). It was recently performed at the Metropolitan Opera and reviewed in HuffPo:
One of the most harrowing final scenes in all of opera is the ending of Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” when the nuns condemned by the French Revolution walk one by one to the scaffold, singing a gradually thinning chorus punctuated by the slashing sounds of a guillotine.
So emotionally drained was the audience at Saturday afternoon’s performance at the Metropolitan Opera that silence lingered in the house for several moments after the curtain fell. Only then did tumultuous applause erupt for the terrific performance that had just taken place.
That chorus they are singing is the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen). The finale may be seen here and yes, it’s very powerful:
— 4 —
When you read about historical facts like these and consider the hundreds of thousands and even millions of people who have died for their faith over the past two thousand years you do pause to ask yourself a few questions:
- Why on earth would I or anyone want to be a Christian and face such hostility and the possibility of martyrdom?
- If I come face to face with the reality of my own martyrdom, how will I react? Will I have the strength, faith and fortitude of an Ignatius of Antioch, Thomas More, Roger Wrenno or the martyrs of the Reign of Terror?
I’m not the only one who has asked himself during the process of converting to the Catholic Church and seeing just how hated, mocked and ridiculed it is by the world “Why on earth am I doing this? And how will I be able to ask my children to face the same fate by raising them as Catholics?”
Sparing the long and arduous details of my own journey I will say simply that it involves faith and reason. When combined after much research, introspection, study and meditation, I reached the only conclusion I could before me. So that answered question one. As to question two that is a something I will never know unless the time should come. But immersing oneself in history and its players does in a sense help prepare you for the situation with examples of courage, faith and perseverance.
— 5 —
Among the examples I can give of non-martyrs who help strengthen my faith as well as appeal to my reason are those such as the following by Flannery O’Connor. Both bring to mind the fact that we are called to live our lives in imitation of Christ in all things. The Beatitudes are inseparable from the crucifixion.
“…the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. ” – Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.” – Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
Recalling that “catholic” means “universal”, once you look see the world and creation as a whole containing an order to things, you see things as the novelist Walker Percy did. Or as Heather King explains, all things from different walks of life are part of the light:
Someone once asked the novelist Walker Percy why he was Catholic. He replied, “What else is there?” That’s the way I’ve come to feel as well. You can subscribe to Jungian thought with its archetypes, symbols, and dreams: all utterly valid and part of the light; you can detach from your thoughts through meditation: part of the light; you can experience the healing power of nature: part of the light; you can see and rightfully rail against the ways that we sometimes appropriate “religion” and ideas and belief systems to our own ends, and worse, try to impose [those ends] on others: part of the light; you can unearth the ways your childhood has shaped and wounded you: part of the light. But you will never get to the truth, and become your most authentic self, without seeing your own incredible propensity for darkness and sin; without acknowledging the ways that you have hurt, or are capable of hurting, others. “The operation of the church is entirely set up for the sinner,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, “which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”
In the words of Pope Francis the Church is a field hospital after a battle where wounds need to be treated and healed.
— Postcript —
O’Connor wrote one more quote that stirs knee-jerk reactions from those who do not slow down to consider what she is saying and instead flip out when they see a word too-often abused in American politics today: liberal. This in turn “creates much misunderstanding among the smug”. Again in The Habit of Being she wrote:
“One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention.”
Some Catholics are guilty of doing the same as they mold Christianity into something that makes them feel secure in the world. If our faith and our religion (and here I am defining religion as one’s “belief in and reverence for God”) are reduced to vague poetry and feel-good platitudes that focus on ourselves and not on the Creator of All then one would not see courage, strength and perseverance in the examples given above. This would hardly inspire anyone, and the heroic offering of one’s life to such vagueness would be an empty gesture of futility. A waste.
This life is not a waste. It is not my own and it is a gift from God. But it is hardly a waste.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost*
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay
A few months prior to my discontinuing satellite service to our house I got hooked on a network television show on ABC. Castle has recently entered its sixth season but due to 4-5 reruns per day being shown on TNT I was able to quickly catch up (thank you DVR!) I’ve always wanted to watch the show, mostly because I’ve been an unabashed fan of Stana Katic (who plays Kate Beckett) ever since she played a 400 year old vampire in the last of The Librarian trilogy of made-for-tv movies opposite of Noah Wylie. The slew of reruns allowed me to finally catch up and I was soon hooked on everything about the series. It’s smart, funny, very well-written and acted. And its human. In contrast I became hooked on my second network show this fall when The Black List debuted on NBC (I swear these are the first network tv shows I’ve been addicted to since Seinfeld went off the air). While both Castle and The Black List are on Monday nights at the same time I was able to watch both thanks to the DVR. Alas, I no longer have the means to record shows anymore and so I had to make a choice. I chose Castle precisely because it is what the other is not: human. While The Black List is human in the sense of being very dark, gritty, and possessing a meaty role for James Spader (whom I’ve never liked but do in this show), Castle for me is human, interesting, and more fun. We all need a little fun in our lives and the characters are easy to root for and to like.
We are not two weeks away from a time of remembrance. All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints and All Souls Day are still etched into my memory as this year I chose to observe them in a more traditional Catholic way by immersing myself in the prayers for our beloved dead. On All Souls Day (November 2) I prayed the traditional Office of the Dead comprised of beautiful psalms, Scripture passages and petitions for loved ones that have passed from the world of the living. While some might think this morbid or uncomfortable and foreign, I found myself surrounded by a great peace and comfort as these prayers fill us with hope. Hope not only for our loved ones who have passed on but for ourselves as well. These prayers are a reminder of the love and mercy of God, of the eternity that awaits us in His presence and of the joy to be found there.
I found myself returning to the Office of the Dead yesterday to pray for a very good friend of mine who had just learned of his mother’s death. He pulled me aside to ask for what has become not as uncommon as it once was for me and something I consider a great honor each time I’m asked: to pray for someone. In this case he asked for prayers for his mom, and for himself as well. As I said: a humbling and great honor to ask of me. I almost said it was a great “gift” for me to give, but it is in fact just as much a gift given to me when asked. It’s a gift because it forces me to take my eyes off of myself and my own perceived problems and instead pray for and remember those who are no longer with us.
Rather than expound upon the details, beauty and merits of these prayers I will instead return to Castle. In the finale to season five Richard Castle’s daughter Alexis delivers what is one heck of a valedictorian speech. She is preparing to leave the nest she’s shared with her father and grandmother and is expectedly nervous, anxious and excited all at once. For fifty minutes we watch her struggle to pen the perfect graduation speech, delivered in the waning moments of the episode in which all of the major characters are struggling with goodbyes of their own. Departmental careers, partnerships and relationships all hang seemingly in limbo as Alexis delivers this short, simple yet profound speech. Just as the prayers and readings in the Office of the Dead spur meditations on the ending of one stage of life in the hope of the next, Alexis Castle speaks of transitioning to the next stage of life as the current one ends.
There is a universal truth we all have to face, whether we want to or not: everything eventually ends. As much as I’ve looked forward to this day, I’ve always disliked endings. Last day of summer, the final chapter of a great book, parting ways with a close friend. But endings are inevitable, Leaves fall, you close the book. You say goodbye. Today is one of those days for us. Today we say goodbye to everything that was familiar, everything that was comfortable. We’re moving on. But just because we’re leaving, and that hurts, there’s some people who are so much a part of us, they’ll be with us no matter what. They are our solid ground. Our North Star. And the small clear voices in our hearts that will be with us … always.”
God speed to you Mrs. R, and to your family as they travel home to comfort one another. While Robert Frost was right in that on this mortal plane at least nothing good can last forever, we have faith that the hint of beauty we find here is but a shadow of the luminescence and brilliance of what we’ll see in eternity.
*From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
The road got steeper and the stones got sharper. The clouds were hanging over the stony path so that you could barely see it. A storm was brewing. I moved slowly, as one heavily burdened, though the only thing I carried was a shepherd’s crook to help me walk. Still, the feeling of being heavily burdened was with me.
I came across a group of people screaming, yelling, and gesticulating. Two or three men were dragging a half-naked woman to where Christ was standing. I was deeply engrossed in my silence and really didn’t want anything to do with it. My silence seemed to be a warm protection against the storm that was coming.
The woman was crying. I tried to make a detour, but there always seemed to be somebody in my way. So I stopped. I heard her accused of adultery, a crime punishable by stoning according to the Jewish law. They were screaming at Christ too.
In an unusual gesture, he bent down and began writing something on the sand; he was absolutely silent. So was I—utterly silent. He continued writing, then suddenly he broke the silence by saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Then he continued to write.
The quality of the silence changed. Kneeling on the sharp stones, and as if a thousand flashes of lightning were exploding around me, I knew, with a knowledge no one could ever take from me, the mercy of God. One by one the men left her, and the woman was standing there all alone. Christ broke the silence once again: “Is there no one to condemn you?” “No one, Lord,” she said. “Then neither will I condemn you. Go, but don’t sin any more.”
She left, but I remained. Christ ceased writing on the sand. Then he sat down on a large stone and looked at me. I looked at him. Breaking my silence, I said, “Lord, I have just witnessed the immense mercy of God. Will I die for having seen it?” For I was absolutely sure that no one could behold this outpouring of mercy that flashed like lightning and live.
The Lord shook his head and smiled and said, “No, Catherine. That is not what you are here for. You are here to become a silent witness to this mercy. Now that you have had it burnt into your soul, not that you know what mercy is, go and be merciful.”
Molchanie: Experiencing the Silence of God by Catherine Doherty. pp. 39-40.
In her vision Catherine Doherty asks Jesus if she will die for having seen the immense mercy of God. His response is to charge her with the task of going forth and being merciful because by her witness she has had the immense power and knowledge of mercy burned into her very soul.
Her silence in the face of conflict had provided warm comfort against the storm. How often do we…I…cloak any mercy that we could otherwise provide in the same comfortable silence? Despite carrying nothing in her vision but a shepherd’s crook Catherine felt the weight of her silence. Though she hadn’t noticed it the weight had become a burden.
We have that same burden. But we also have the same knowledge and an example to imitate. Examples of mercy abound and surround us every day. Perhaps not always in person right before our very selves. But the sheer number of repeated postings of news articles, YouTube videos or personal anecdotes on Facebook or other social media removes our ability to claim ignorance of mercy.
How much death is unknowingly caused each day by all of us because we fail to be merciful?
How many senseless arguments could be avoided? How many destructive conflicts on a scale and scope of any size?
How many storms are brewing in our spheres of life that will continue to fester because of our inability to show mercy in things great or small?
The mercy we show, give or demonstrate may be the only thing that lies between someone and a mob with stones at the ready. It may be a mob of many. It may be a mob of one. The mob may well be comprised of the individual, stoning themselves through self-defeating and self-destructive behavior.
Other than our ability to forgive, mercy may be the most powerful tool we possess to affect the lives of others. To affect our own lives.
The mercy that is burned into our very souls may be the line in the sand that protects someone, even ourselves, from the mob of condemnation.
Together let us go and be merciful.
Saturday was our last day with DirectTV. After 34 months with them and the twelve previous years with Dish Network we’ve decided enough is enough. Enough with spending over $1200/year. Enough with the open sewer pipe pumped into the house. Enough cycles around the remote control in search for something to pass the time.
Netflix costs $79/year and we’ve gotten used to it since beginning a trial subscription in June. I’ll likely add Amazon Prime and am already checking into subscribing to MLB.tv next spring. Combined these three things would equal a small fraction of what I was spending annually for satellite service.
As it was the final things we saw piped through the dish and into our home were pretty special. I saw this on Wednesday night:
Followed Saturday morning by the parade through Boston that ended with this:
And then there was this on Saturday night from downtown Lincoln:
On Sunday my daughter went to the library with my wife and came home with three books. She eagerly tore into them Sunday afternoon and finished them by supper. She read them again on Monday and is ready to go back to check out more. While she read on Sunday our 10-year old was playing outside with his buddy and our beagle and our 17-year old was finishing up his homework and his binge-watching of Breaking Bad on Netflix. I’d never watched it but he heard all the hooplah as the series came to a close last month and has been watching the entire series ever since. My wife having spent three weeks with me watching the Red Sox through the entire post-season and cross-stitching has been trying to finish our oldest son’s Christmas stocking.
And me? Other than the installation of an antenna so that we can pick up local channels in high definition I plan on spending more time with family unfettered by Spongebob, zombies and commercials for Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family (which really is the opposite of a family channel but that’s another rant for another day). My wife and I are thinking of setting aside time each night for a family rosary once again as we used to do years ago. It’s only been a few days since the satellite signal ceased but everyone has already adjusted to it pretty quickly and with little complaint. Sure we can afford the bill but I can afford the price of crystal meth, too. Just because we can afford something doesn’t mean it absolves us of the responsibility my wife and I have as parents to be good stewards over the young minds in our care or our family finances.
Ok, so that’s perhaps a reductio ad absurdum. How about I just say that I find it to be an expensive time vampire?
With the “fall back” due to daylight savings time it’s darker sooner. So when I get home from work and finish spending time with the kids before their bedtime I’ll more times than not be found catching up with one of my books. I’ve amassed a sizable library during our satellite years and aim to work my through many of them. I do admit I spent time last night watching part one of the 2011 Masterpiece Theatre broadcast of Great Expectations. It’s one of my favorite books and the film adaptation has been very good so far (Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham [see photo at right] was a pleasant surprise). I look forward to watching parts two and three sometime soon.
I’m looking forward to regaining a semblance of balance and putting the tool that is television back into a supporting role and not one of dominance. To it being used as something enjoyed in limited amounts and in the quality of what is shown instead of watching my kids (and yes, me) turn it on as a background noise generator.
Mostly, I look forward to some quiet. A little extra money in the bank account won’t hurt either.
I lifted up the small foam pumpkin before walking into A Novel Idea Bookstore two weeks ago during their fall sale.
“What did you get?” the employee manning the table asked me.
I showed her the bottom of the pumpkin. “Oooooh…that’s a good one! 30% off every book inside. Happy hunting!”
I’ve participated in this sale each year for the past four years and have usually selected a 20% or 30% off pumpkin, but never lifted one to reveal a coveted 40% or 50% discount. I was satisfied with the discount I’d selected and looked forward to saving a decent amount of money when I walked inside. Would it be one of the large leatherbound volumes I’d looked at the previous week when doing my advance shopping in anticipation of this sale? Might I purchase one of the large and very expensive Shakespeare folios the bookstore recently acquired from a seller?
It turned out to be neither. When I exited the store forty-five minutes later I had purchased a small one hundred page softcover book by Russian author Catherine de Hueck Doherty that had listed for $4. It was the best $2.80 I have spent in a long while. This little book as supplemented beautifully my recent immersion into books on silence and prayer.
From her book Molchanie: The Silence of God:
“When we reach the silver sands and plunge into the great sea of God’s silence, we begin to understand that he alone is God – Lover, Friend, the totality of gentleness, peace, and rest. He calls us and we cannot resist that call. We have to be alone with him. It is a necessity, it is a hunger. It has been said that prayer is a hunger. But this Christ walks with loneliness and rejection, and so must we.”
Is a dark night
Meets its death to self.
Not noise of word
Silence is a school
Of Love and death
That leads to
Is a dark night
Where Soul and mind
That is God’s speech.
Is a school of
Love and death
Is the key
To the immense
Furnace of Love–
The heart of
Of passionate love
In the arms of God.
With the Lord!
Photo credit: Kinnoull Monastery