There is No Other Stream (How We Forgot our Song)

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

T.S. Eliot
Burnt Norton (1935)
Four Quartets


A few hours ago I was sitting in a pew near the rear of the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (we know them as the “Pink Sisters”), listening to them sing Midday Prayers before the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I come every Friday…to pray, to think, or to simply sit in silence. Today I came for the silence, seeking a respite from the angry, hurting and confused voices we all have heard over the past week since the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere last Saturday. We’ve heard them again soon after as the debate about whether or not to accept Syrian refugees into the United States rages on.

[As to that specific question I have decided not to enter into the fray here. If I were, however, I would surely quote extensively from what I consider to be the best response yet to the question by Dr. Taylor Marshall, who takes the most clear-eyed and pragmatic approach that I’ve found so far. You may read it here: Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both, and in fact I encourage you to do so. As Dr. Marshall writes in the introduction: This article is politically incorrect and says things that might shock you. Please read the entire article until the very last two paragraphs before making a judgment or writing incendiary comments. This might be one of the clearest things you’ve read on the topic, because it draws on virtue ethics of Thomas Aquinas – something generally ignored in our day and age.]

I’ve found it difficult to even begin to write something to make sense of it all. The need to place blame. Or offer solutions. As if I could do any of that. What I sought at the chapel today was peace with a side order of clarity. I found some today.

Without getting into specifics I will say that some of the fog that has lifted is the quick-trigger response I often have to blame Islam. Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end please hear me out. While Islam is a heresy, and often a dangerous ideology, I do not lay the blame for the terrorist actions or the growth of ISIS solely on Islam. For the conclusion I’ve arrived at is simply this: Islam is one of many ideologies competing to fill the void left by the West’s abandonment of its Judeo-Christian heritage. And before we lose our minds over Islam we need to recognize that we’ve got an even bigger problem to confront at home.


I’ve read that great civilizations held their course and their prosperity as long as its people knew its story. That story is what provided them with common purpose. Vision. It gave them their song.

We in the West have long ago abandoned our story and have lost our conviction. We have forgotten our song.

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

G.K. Chesterton, The Secret People

I began to connect the dots as I watched the BlackLivesMatter movement spread like wildfire across the campuses of our nation’s universities. Watching the videos, reading about their demands, and marveling at the speed in which they are filling a vacuum left by the lack of purpose felt by the youth in our country has led me to this theory. Our nation abandoned its traditions and began to tear down the institutions that made it strong long ago, but especially after World War II.

The sexual revolution begat the pill, unlimited abortion, the desecration of the sanctity of marriage by way of adultery and no-fault divorce, the destruction of the family, multitudes of single parent homes, the feminization of men and the epidemic of fatherless children, not to mention the rampant glorification of porn and unfettered access thereof. Pornography itself leading to the objectification of others, an inability to connect and maintain personal relationships and the constant pursuit of the orgasm over everything else (not to mention sex-trafficking and prostitution). All of which creates the majority of the ills we face as a society today; the ills we tells ourselves we must find solutions to at the costs of millions upon millions of dollars and social programs. We throw buckets of money at the problem but never dare address the solution that would cost us nothing. I’ve often thought that a great subject for a book would be about what the consequences are of doing the exact opposite of each of the Ten Commandments.

Our nation is increasingly becoming a citizenry without purpose. Men and women seek adventure. We yearn for a deeper purpose and contribute something during our time on this earth to help bring order and clarity. But we have removed that sense of belonging by way of Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory. We are committing suicide while wandering through a fog of our own choosing. And while we stumble aimlessly, threats to our existence and our civilization are growing stronger inside (Cultural Marxism) and outside (Islamic extremism) our culture because they are helping many to find a purpose, nihilistic though it may be.


Writing in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher brought to my attention an interview between Sophie Shevardnadze of Russia Today and Scott Atran, an anthropologist who studies terrorism that was an eye opener. Among the more interesting parts of the interview was this exchange:

SS: Dr. Atran, I know that you’ve mentioned that even if ISIS is destroyed in Iraq and Syria, it will spring up elsewhere and you’ve said, Africa, for instance, and Asia. Is the potential of this movement limitless? How many people can there be who want to live in a blood-thirsty, genocidal state run by psychopaths? I mean, I know, you’re saying it’s a repetition of history…

DR.SA: Well, first, I don’t think they’re psychopaths…

SS: …and you know, it’s like French Revolution or Bolshevik revolution – but you’d think that we’ve learned something from history, no? I mean, I don’t want to be back in Bolshevik revolution times…

DR.SA: No, I don’t think so. Look, George Orwell in his review of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” back in 1939 have described the essence of the problem. He said: “Mr. Hitler has discovered that human beings don’t only want peace and security and comfort and free from want. They want adventure, glory and self-sacrifice, and Mr. Hitler’s appealed to that –  and while the Oxford student union at that time vowed to never fight again, Mr. Hitler has 80 million people fall down to his feet, in one of the most advanced countries in the world.” How did that happen? Again, ISIS is appealing to the same sort of sentiments, that have been appealed to throughout human history… and no, I don’t think we’ve learned much from history about that.


SS: But, you know, we’re used to think that young people, teen in transition, like you say, they want freedom. They want to have fun, they want to have sex and drugs and drink. What we see with ISIS is forbidding this, for young people and for everyone – yet, there is this flock towards ISIS. I still don’t understand why, because whatever they’re trying to convince young people of, it’s pretty obvious there is no freedom where they are going. And young people usually strive for freedom…

DR.SA: Yeah, but I believe they do think they’re getting freedom. Instead of freedom-to-do-things, it’s freedom-from-having-to-do-things, where a life well-ordered and promising. I mean, again, they appeal to people from all over the world. I got a call from head of Medical School telling me that her best students have just left to set up field hospital for ISIS in Syria, and she was asking me why would they do this; and I said, “because it’s a glorious and adventurous mission, where they are creating a Brand New World, and they do it under constraints.” I mean, people want to be creative under constraints. A lot of young people just don’t want the kind of absolute freedom you’re talking about. The choices are too great, there’s too much ambiguity and ambivalence. There are too many degrees of freedom and so one can’t chart a life path that’s at all meaningful, and so these young people are in search of significance, and ISIS is trying to show them a way towards significance. Again, we have to take it very seriously, that’s why I think it’s the most dynamic counter-cultural movement since WWII, and it’s something I don’t think people are taking seriously, just dismissing them as psychopaths and criminals and… this, of course, is something that we have to destroy. I think, we’re on the wrong path in terms of the way we’re going to destroy it.

The West became bored and complacent with its story and wandered from the path. A new siren song has been whispered into the ears of the culture and is having an affect. Need proof outside of the headlines of the day? Easy. Wade into the comboxes. Engage someone in a simple back and forth. It is nary impossible as everyone has dug their collective heels deep into the fatty flesh of their malaise. Forgive me for sounding arrogant, but it’s like trying to talk reason to a room full of pre-Kindergarten toddlers. It’s pointless.

Now before I get accused of comparing college students to ISIS terrorists, read the boldfaced print in that portion of the interview again, but do by thinking not of ISIS, but of those college student movements. I don’t know how much of the video or accounts of the confrontations at the University of Missouri, Yale or Dartmouth that you’ve read, but I saw most of them. And when I read of the storming of the library at Dartmouth in which protesting students yelled at their peers who were only there to do what college students usually do—study—and demanded that their peers stand and chant along I got an ill feeling. And when those same protesters then got in the faces and screamed horrible things and threats at those students who refused to stand I did get ill. Because anyone who has studied the history of fascist countries has seen that behavior before. It started with students in Nazi Germany. It evolved into much worse. The Taliban took it even further, putting a gun to the back of the heads of those who did not stand in solidarity with Islam or renounce Christianity. Then they pulled the trigger.

People, we have seen this before. Too many times to count. Don’t tell me I’m going down a slippery slope. We’ve already skidded far below that slope’s bottom.

The West is a body that is sick, if not approaching its deathbed. ISIS, the worst sort of Islamic extremism, is simply filling the void.

There is a new book out called The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, written by Michael Walsh. It is currently the #1 in Education Reform & Policy on Amazon. I used to read Walsh for years when he wrote for the National Review under the pseudonym David Kahane, but I’d lost track of him. Earlier I referred to Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory. So what is that exactly?

The Cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School believed economic Marxism would fail because of the resistance of the working classes. They believed Marxism could only ever be achieved by undermining the institutions, all of them. They began what they called the long march through the institutions. Who would have thought even a few years ago that the Boy Scouts would go gay? The Frankfurt School would have.

Critical Theory is central to their plan. More than likely, whether you knew it or not, this is what you got in college and probably even in high school. This will sound familiar to you, as familiar as the bromides you now hear from the students at the University of Missouri. Critical Theory seeks societal transformation through the emancipation of mankind from all forms of slavery. The slavers happen to be the Church, the family, and the free market.

When you hear someone badmouthing American history that is Critical Theory. The incessant intonations against the Crusades? Critical Theory. The patriarchal family, rape culture, multiculturalism, political correctness, speech codes; all Critical Theory. The idea is to make you question everything and in the questioning institutions fall.

You can read the entire review by Austin Ruse of Walsh’s book here. Like me, you may also want to pick up a copy, and the Amazon link is here. I have already ordered mine.

It was after I spent some time thinking more about the book’s subject, the protests at universities and the Islamic terrorism/Syrian refugee issues that I read this soon after the Pink Sisters finished their Midday Prayers:

It seems that there is an almost ubiquitous denial of anything sacred in our contemporary world. In our day, a very false opinion is popularized which holds that the sense of religion implanted in men by nature is to be regarded as something adventitious or imaginary, and hence, is to be rooted completely from the mind as altogether inconsistent with the spirit of our age and the progress of civilization.[10] How striking it is to note that the propagators of these ideas, who claim to be themselves so highly cultured, receive with such credulity the prognostications of computer programming. Everybody believes that there is ‘Someone’ ruling the universe, ‘Someone’ who is not bound by human knowledge or technology. They have no faith, but they do have superstitions.[11]

[10] Pope St. John XXIII, Encyclical, Mater et Magistra, 15 May 1961, 214
[11] St. J. Escrivá, The Way, 587

From In Conversation with God, Vol. 5, by Francis Fernandez, page 517

I believe with all my heart that unless man returns to God, the faith and the traditions of the earliest Christians that all will be lost. The modern citizen of the West lacks that ability because it is no longer taught or revealed to him or her. No longer do we live in a society where it can be taken for granted that the person you’re talking to has any inkling of the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments or what the Beatitudes involve. There is no common or agreed-upon foundation upon which to build consensus or understanding. Our house is literally built on sand. We suffer from poverty, but not of a solely economic nature. We suffer from a poverty of spirit and attempt to fill that emptiness by singing that most inane and vapid of post-modern anthems, “Imagine” by John Lennon.

stuckinarutBut Western man still wants to believe in something. He has retained his capacity for superstition and myth, misguided though they may be. But his stories are nothing more than comic books and his songs pop ditties compared to the incredible legacy and canon of thought and song bequeathed to him. He has laughed at, scoffed at, and disowned the heritage left to him, brushing it aside as mere foolishness and folly.

Will Western men and women drink once more from the one true stream of life? Or will they return to comic books and refuse to have their thirst for life, purpose and meaning quenched because of stubborn pride?

The future of our nation, and in turn the world itself, will be determined by their answer.


“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis. Chapter 2.

A parable for our age

My favorite parable for many years has been the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Anthony Esolen has cleverly re-written that venerable parable as one that more accurately reflects the age in which we live, or at least the age that our cultural betters would force upon us. Esolen wrote it as a commentary on the recently completed 2015 Synod on the Family in Rome. I believe it can applied further, into the very culture of death, decay and anything goes that we live in today.

A Parable for the Synod
by Anthony Esolen

Much has been made at the recent Synod of the parable of the Prodigal Son. People who try with all their hearts to honor the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage have been cast as the elder son in Jesus’ parable, who resents his brother, the penitent wastrel. That is uncharitable and unjust. Allow me a parable that more accurately portrays our situation:

A man had two sons.  And the younger said to his father, “Give me my half of the estate, quick.” So the father divided the estate, and gave half to his son, who took the proceeds and went to live in a far country, where he spent half upon drink and whores, but invested the rest in a business importing fish, so that when a famine struck the land, he became wealthy.

After he had lain with a score of women, he married and divorced, and took a curly-haired Greek lad into his home, lying with him as with a woman.

One day he recalled the holy feasts he had enjoyed at his father’s house, and he shed a tear, which he wiped soon, and said to his bedfellow, “Pedophilus, let us arise and go now unto my father’s house, for there they enjoy holy feasts, which this land is empty of.” So they set forth.

When they were yet a distance away, his father saw him and came running, and threw his arms about his neck and kissed him.  And the son said, “Father, I have grown rich in a far country. Here is my friend, with whom I lie as with a woman, and to whom I have given rings and shoes and fine robes. Now go slay the fatted calf, for I am famished for celebration, and long to see the holy things again.” But the father hesitated. “Be off with you,” said the son. “I have returned!”

So the father did as he was commanded, with a troubled mind and a heavy heart.

When it came time to pray, the younger son bowed his head and squeezed the hand of his bedfellow. “I shall go in unto the altar of God,” they said, “of God, the joy of my youth.” The younger son shed a tear, because he had returned, and then wiped it soon, and gave his friend a wink.

So it was for many years. Every Sabbath the father presided over the feast, and his mind grew a little soft and his heart grew a little hard. Meanwhile, the customs of the far country spread into that land, and it was said that they lived like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but lying with one another all the same. Still the father wished it were not so.

Through all these years, the elder son tended his father’s fields, draining the meadows, sowing the barley, clearing the weeds, reaping the stalks, winnowing the fruit from the chaff, milling the grain and hauling it in sacks back to the estate. He had married too, a good and patient woman. They had one child, a son. The boy loved them dearly, and from his earliest years followed his father about his work, lending a hand whenever he could. He grew in wisdom and stature, ruddy in the cheek and broad of shoulder.

“Father,” said the boy, “why does my uncle do what he does?”

“He does not understand,” said his father, the elder son. “You must pray for your uncle.”

One day a girl from the far country came to the boy and said, “Joshua, you are as handsome as a stag. Come lie with me.” And her eyes glanced like sunlight upon the waters. The boy walked past, and she laughed at him and called him an evil name.

“Father,” said the boy, “why does my grandfather allow it?”

“He is old and weary,” said his father, the elder son. “You must pray for your grandfather.” So he returned to his work, more alone now than ever.  But the people mocked him, and called him a broken stone from a ruined house. And the boy burned in shame, and he defended his father. Sometimes he came home in tears, bloody and bruised, with the flesh raw on his knuckles.  Still the girls beckoned to him and said, “Joshua, Joshua the handsome, come lie with us.”

But the grandfather grew accustomed to the new ways. One day he threw a great feast, and invited all of the harlots of the land to enjoy their harlotry, and he set up a golden calf in the midst, and a statue of a god with crisped hair, and another with the body of a man and the head of a dog, and he cried out to all, “Come feast with us, for the Lord has blessed us with abundant riches!” And there was the noise of licentiousness and revelry.

"The people called him a stone from a crumbling house..."

“The people called him a broken stone from a ruined house…” (photo source)

And it came to pass that the elder son and his boy were coming from the fields, filthy to the knees with mud. When they heard the noise of the feast, they asked a servant what it might be. “Your father has slain a dozen calves, because he has come to his senses, and has decided to take into his home one of the women from the far country.”

Then the elder son shed a tear, and he beckoned to the boy. “Come, son,” he said. “Let us go home and pray.”

But Joshua said, “No, I will not go with you.” And he walked with the servant toward the great house.

“Son,” pleaded the father, “do not abandon me! You are with me always, and everything that I have is yours!”

“Father,” said Joshua, “I have loved you all my life.  But you have nothing, and you are a fool.” And he turned and went.

Friday Five – Volume 101

Ok. One more.

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

In the midst of her article about Seasonal Affective Disorder author Jeannie Ewing included this section on finding encouragement in the psalms.

Many people in my life have attempted to pull me out of the winter doldrums with humor or an irritating platitude, such as, “Cheer up! Everything is going to be okay.” Really? Do people actually believe these sorts of things work? I happen to believe they do not.

But what has helped me spiritually more times than I can count is turning to Scripture, especially the Psalms, which are so encouraging to me. It’s not so much a saccharine cheerfulness but an honesty about suffering that ends with hope – always hope – that somehow lifts my spirits when all else seems dark, lonely, and long.

The lamentations in the Psalms have always been some of my favorites for this very reason. Some have mentioned to me that they feel as if the Psalms are depressing parts of Scripture, and they’d rather gloss over them. I couldn’t disagree more. To me, the Psalms are prayers of desperation, praise, frustration, and loneliness that are nudging the soul to look Heavenward – to never give up, to remember that God journeys with us in our darkest moments, and to offer our sufferings to and for Him.

Hope is the message of the Psalms that firmly-yet-lovingly grips my heart so that, when I am inclined to despair, the Holy Spirit reminds me of that glimmer of light that still exists and that I know I will once again see someday.

When we are suffering from seasonal depression, it’s important for us to focus our hearts on that hope every day, and the Psalms are a perfect place to begin that journey.

— 2 —

What follows is a quotation from St. Peter of Alcantara, a sixteenth-century Franciscan. It is taken from his Treatise on Prayer and Meditation.

In prayer the soul is purified from sin, charity is nurtured, faith takes root, hope is strengthened, the spirit gladdened. In prayer the soul melts into tenderness, the heart is purified, the truth reveals itself, temptation is overcome, sadness is put to flight. In prayer, the senses are renewed, lukewarmness vanishes, failing virtue is reinvigorated, the rust of vices is scoured away; and in this exchange, there come forth living sparks, blazing desires of heaven, in which the flame of divine love burns.

— 3 —

Yet another college disinvited a speaker because of an uproar created by those same college students who consider themselves paragons of enlightenment, but only the “light” of which they approve. Generation Snowflake™ has been marching lock step like lemmings towards the dark for a decade or so now, and show no signs in stopping until they take themselves and everyone else over their cliffs of insanity. This morning in Crisis I read:

The confusion is being nurtured in our institutes of higher learning. According to news reports one university professor is banning the use of such words as “male” and “female” in her class because such words are “offensive” and “oppressive.”

Beyond banning the speech they don’t like, the campus PC police have another tool on their belt: the “pepper spray” of “trigger warnings.” In its simplest form, trigger warnings are notices that something you are about to read may cause certain readers to be uncomfortable. According to the New York Times some are even calling for trigger warnings on “The Great Gatsby” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

But in his article Frank Trotta Jr. outlines a “trigger” strategy I completely endorse: prayer triggers:

You are probably using prayer triggers now without realizing it. Do you say “God bless you” when you hear someone sneeze, as Pope Gregory decreed on February 16, 590? Then you’ve used a “prayer trigger”—the sneeze triggered a short prayer.

Did your parents train you to say grace, almost pavlovianly, when a meal is served? Another prayer trigger: the plate before you prompted you to remember to thank God for his bounty.

Here are some others. There is an old Catholic custom of “crossing yourself” when you pass a Catholic church—another “prayer trigger”—but try taking it to the next level and say a prayer for Christian unity whenever you pass a Protestant church, for example.

How about when you’re driving on the highway, and you see a bad driver. Why not use that as a trigger to say a prayer for the safety of the driver and those whom he comes near? And if he cuts you off, instead of a foul hand gesture, let him look in his rear-view and see you making the sign of the cross.

He lists several more, some of which I’ve learned to do through the years and others I’ll try to remember. It was only this past weekend that while driving by our church I taught my 12-year old son about making the sign of the cross when passing a Catholic church to honor Christ present in the tabernacle of said church. On the return trip we passed it again and as I crossed myself I glanced sideways to see him do the same.

— 4 —

We often associate Edgar Allen Poe with this time of year because of his famously spooky poems and stories such as The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, etc. But did you know that in 1835 Poe published a 12-line hymn to Mary as part of his short story Morella? Ten years later it was published as a stand alone poem titled “A Catholic Hymn.” Later it was shortened simply to “Hymn.”

There is no evidence that Poe was a Catholic so the inspiration of this poem is a mystery.

At morn – at noon – at twilight dim –
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe – in good and ill –
Mother of God, be with me still!

When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee

Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine.

— 5 —

While unable to sleep the other night I discovered that Amazon Prime Video has a wealth of classical music concerts available, as well as documentaries and special performances by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Yes and ABBA (don’t judge) to name but a few. I watched a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony by the Berliner Philharmoniker two nights ago, and last night watched an entertaining performance of the first (and most famous) movement from Beethoven’s Fifth in which the Discovery Orchestra’s conductor and musicians were also teaching the audience about the techniques within the score’s structure.

And then late last night I stumbled across this on YouTube. It seems that at the moment there is no escaping Ludwig, but I have to say I really don’t mind.

No cue cards, no teleprompters, and no second takes—legendary funnyman Sid Caesar pioneered live television sketch comedy with his 1950s sitcoms Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. This classic sketch is “Argument to Beethoven’s 5th,” Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray play a married couple in a argument with pantomimed action and the dialogue is classic music.



Heather King has been in Rome for a few weeks. A few days ago she wrote about something that’s been on my mind a lot: our ongoing obsession with screens.

Never have I seen the throngs of folks wielding selfie sticks like the throngs at St. Peter’s in Rome. The whole scene was too much for me and I gave away my tickets to the Papal Mass and a Papal Audience in favor of wandering elsewhere, in particular along the banks of the Tiber.


I’ve thought a lot about the phenomenon of posting our life instead of living it. On FB, no-one says I’m having a bad time, this place sucks, I feel lonely, depressed, and unloved, I just ate a ripoff meal. We don’t travel. We just move our body to a new place so we can have a different background for our Instagram pix.

I know, I know. Not another blog about how self-centered we all are with our phones. It’s been done to death and I agree. But I want to continue in the vein not of selfies, but of how we’ve become together alone. I’ve noticed this when walking around downtown, eating a meal at a restaurant, or even at a red light in traffic while looking into the car next to me. Literally no one is looking at their surroundings or at the people with them, usually the people we purport to love and care for the most. And, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve noticed the same in my own living room at night. After supper we’ll sit down for a little while together as a family and as I pause to look up from where I’ve been catching up on my Twitter feed, my wife is looking into her phone, as my son is staring at his iPod and my daughter into her tablet. I look over at the dog’s bed in the corner of our living room and he’s looking at all of us, waiting for…something. I’m not sure. A discussion maybe? For someone to laugh and communicate in some manner? I imagine it all looks rather lonely to a beagle. Imagine how it would be to be a toddler or young child in a family who’s attention is not on each other, but on some handheld device. A cold, impersonal device.

“We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles …. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable.” — Pope Francis, Laudato Si (2015)

On Oct. 21, 2015 I received an email letter from President Kevin Roberts of Wyoming Catholic College. I’m on this list because at one point I’d hoped my oldest son would attend school there. I’m going to quote parts of it.

At Wyoming Catholic College, we recognize the immense distractedness that cell phones create. Our policy requiring students to check-in their phones at the beginning of each semester fosters an environment in which we are truly present to others. From visitors to campus to employers of our graduates, many people remark at the joy and presence of our students. Though many factors can be attributed to those characteristics, we can attest to the absence of cell phones being a significant contributor.

Outside our WCC community, there is mounting evidence that we’d all would be well-served to untether ourselves from cell phones, even if for just a short while each day. From legitimate concerns about brain health to a recent report about teens’ posture being affected by overuse of cell phones, it is not an exaggeration to say that immoderate use of a tool has impacted humans negatively.

The most profound evidence of that problem may be photographer Eric Pickersgill’s new project, “Removed.” Pickersgill’s series of photographs capture the most normal of moments: families in the dining room, a couple reading at bedtime, and friends enjoying a barbecue. What’s captivating about each picture is that Pickersgill used software to remove the cell phone from each person’s hand, creating a stark image of how focused we are on our phones.

I’m going to break in here and urge you to click on the link to Pickersgill’s project right now. Here is that link again. I haven’t placed any of his photos in this blog post for copyright reasons. But these are among the most powerful, even haunting, photos I’ve ever seen. This is what we are saying is important to us. This is our priority. This is our downfall.

On his site Pickersgill says he got the idea while sitting in a café one morning and wrote the following observation:

Family sitting next to me at Illium café in Troy, NY is so disconnected from one another. Not much talking. Father and two daughters have their own phones out. Mom doesn’t have one or chooses to leave it put away. She stares out the window, sad and alone in the company of her closest family. Dad looks up every so often to announce some obscure piece of info he found online. Twice he goes on about a large fish that was caught. No one replies. I am saddened by the use of technology for interaction in exchange for not interacting. This has never happened before and I doubt we have scratched the surface of the social impact of this new experience. Mom has her phone out now.

The image of that family, the mother’s face, the teenage girls’ and their father’s posture and focus on the palm of their own hands has been burned in my mind. It was one of those moments where you see something so amazingly common that it startles you into consciousness of what’s actually happening and it is impossible to forget. I see this family at the grocery store, in classrooms, on the side of the highway and in my own bed as I fall asleep next to my wife. We rest back to back on our sides coddling our small, cold, illuminated devices every night.

President Roberts continued:

If you have doubted the naysayers about cell phone overuse, or questioned the wisdom of WCC’s cell phone policy, take a few moments to view and contemplate the photographs in “Removed.” They will convince you of the disordered obsession with our phones, which comes at the expense of the people in our company.

As I mention frequently, solutions to most of our social, cultural, and political problems begin with each of us taking small steps. Consider, therefore, what you can do to improve our genuine, face-to-face engagement with others. Imagine a dinner, a conversation, a meeting where each participant decides to put away their phone. Call instead of sending a text message.

We may very well learn again to prioritize the human persons in front of us, rather than the ephemeral appeal of a text message, Facebook post, or e-mail.

Back to Heather King’s blog for a minute to catch her ending:

Ticking, say, the seven basilicas of Rome off my checklist doesn’t make me a Catholic. What makes me a Catholic—a follower of Christ; fully human—is the way I see the world, experience the world. My poverty and need. My imagination, that sees the whole world as consecrated, redeemable. My human heart that, as all human hearts must be, is pierced through with a sword.

Chesterton said that “Culture is the art of growing things.” There is no growth if we do not cultivate and nurture our relationships with the people around us. There can be no family, no neighborhood and no community. There can be no culture.

This is what we miss when engrossed in our screens. We miss that part of our humanity in which we interact with and see the world. We are not just not communicating with those other humans that are with us, we are not communicating with nature, and by extension, the world itself. We do not see the world through our eyes, but through the eyes of an interpreter on the other end of that screen. We have abdicated our humanity and, ironically, our ability to have the choice we so ardently demand and desire. Any chance at having a mystical experience is removed, as is our ability to make our own mere observations.

Two years ago this November our household disconnected the satellite cable. Not only have we saved $2500 in two years but we haven’t missed it at all. I don’t feel that we and our kids are luddites, disconnected from the world. To be fair, into that vacuum rushed a different screen, proving that there will always be a vacuum if you are not careful. This is our next challenge as a family. This is the thing-that-must-be-removed. And then we must be prepared to fill that space.

Simply stated, we must be prepared to replace what we remove.


In the modern world the individual no longer faces silence, no longer faces the community, but faces only the universal noise. The individual stands between noise and silence. He is isolated from noise and isolated from silence. He is forlorn. ~ Max Picard, The World of Silence, page 65


In These Moments: Mystical Experiences

There is a light, up there, that makes the Creator visible to the creature, who only in seeing him finds its peace: and it extends so far in a circle, that its rim would loosely contain the sun’s light. … My sight was not lost itself in the height and breadth, but grasped the quality and quantity of joy. Near and far do not add or subtract there, since where God rules without mediation the laws of nature have no relevance.Paradiso, Canto XXX (Dante)


To balance out the book I’m currently reading (Hostage to the Devil) I’m picking up where I left off in Fr. James Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. I definitely needed some light to dispel the dark.

In the third chapter Martin is discussing mystical experiences. I wanted to share with you some of what he wrote. I’ll have a few words to say at the end.

First, Fr. Martin sets the table by giving a cursory definition for a mystical experience.

Sometimes we feel an almost mystical sense of longing for God, or having a connection to God, which can be triggered by unexpected circumstances.

Mysticism is often dismissed as a privileged experience for only the superholy. But mysticism is not confined to the lives of the saints. Nor does each mystical experience have to replicate exactly what the saints describe in their writings.


What does it mean to have a mystical experience?

One definition is that a mystical experience is one where you feel filled with God’s presence in an intense and unmistakable way. Or you feel lifted up from the normal way of seeing things. Or you are overwhelmed with the sense of God in a way that seems to transcend your own understanding.

Next, he describes just such an experience from his own childhood. I love the pictures he paints with his words in describing all that he remembers going on around him. It enables you to put yourself directly into this scene as if to experience it with him. It is very much in the tradition of the Jesuit approach to praying the Scriptures as laid out by their founder, St. Ignatius.

In my own life I have encountered these feelings a few times. Let me tell you about one.

When I was young, I used to ride my bike to school in the mornings and back home every afternoon. Sometimes I would ride to school with a boisterous group of friends from the neighborhood. We would start off early in the morning, carefully lining up all our bikes in front of a neighbor’s house, each jockeying for the lead position.

But some mornings I would ride to school by myself. There were few things I enjoyed more than sailing downhill through our neighborhood, down the clean sidewalks, past the newish early-1960s houses, beneath the leafy trees, under the orange morning sun, the wind whistling past my ears.

Closer to our school was a small concrete path that ran between two houses in our neighborhood; the school lay at the far end of the path, behind what seemed a vast tract of land. At the end of the path was a set of six steps, which meant that I had to dismount and push my big blue Schwinn up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs lay one of my favorite places in the world, the memory of which, though I am writing this over forty years later, uplifts me. It was a broad meadow, bordered on the left by tall oak trees and on the right by baseball fields. And in each season of the year it was beautiful.

On cold autumn mornings, clad in my corduroy jacket, I would pedal my bike over the bumpy dirt path through a meadow of crunchy brown leaves, desiccated grasses, and dried milkweed powdered in frost. In the winter, when I would not ride but walk to school, the field was often an open landscape of silent snow that rose wetly over my galoshes as my breath formed in cottony clouds before me.

But in the springtime the little meadow exploded with life. On those days, I felt as if I were biking through one of the science experiments we did in school. Fat grasshoppers jumped among the daisies and black-eyed Susans. Crickets hid in the grasses and among old leaves. Bees hummed above the Queen Anne’s lace and the tall purple and pink snapdragons. Cardinals and robins darted from branch to branch. The air was fresh, and the field was alive with creation.

One spring morning, when I was ten or eleven, I stopped to catch my breath in the middle of the field. The bike’s metal basket, packed with my schoolbooks, swung violently to one side, and I almost lost my homework to the grasshoppers. Standing astride my bike, I could see so much going on around me—so much color, so much activity, so much life.

Looking toward the school on the brow of the hill, I felt an overwhelming happiness. I felt so happy to e alive. And I felt a fantastic longing: to both possess and be a part of what was around me. I can still see myself standing in this meadow, surrounded by creation, more clearly than almost any other memory from childhood.

In such uncommon longings, hidden in plain sight in our lives, does God call us.


Taken while I walked the Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree on retreat in 2014.

Taken while I walked the Stations of the Cross at Broom Tree on retreat in 2014.


  1. Have you experienced anything similar in your life?
  2. Where were you when it happened?
  3. How did you feel afterwards?

We tend to think such experiences will only happen when surrounded by nature. But if we are truly open to the experience, and by open I mean living life in the moment, we can be hit with that overwhelming sense of joy and wonder. This involves our being aware of surroundings without our face buried in a screen or our attention being taken by a phone call. It can happen. I’ve been walking along a stretch of busy downtown pavement during the lunch hour before, surrounded by the hustle of cars and bustle of pedestrians, street performing panhandlers and the homeless, and I’ve experienced this joy. My experience has been one of wonder and of total clarity…as if a window has been suddenly opened and for a brief moment my tiny human and limited mind is able to catch just a small glimpse of the vastness of God’s mind. During this time and in the immediate afterglow I always feel the urge to drop to my knees and praise God for all the gratitude that fills my heart. If I could sing worth a lick I’d want to burst into song. In these moments I believe I’ve been given the gift of what Heaven will be like and understand more fully the scenes in the Book of Revelation (in particular within Chapters 4, 5, 21 and 22) that describe how we’ll spend eternity.

In his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius begins with what he called his First Principle and Foundation. It begins:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

During Sunday Lauds in the Divine Office we pray Psalm 148. This psalm, beginning with the word Laudate (Laudáte Dóminum de cælis: laudáte eum in excélsis!) which has giving the hour of Lauds its name, continues the praise offered by creation. The prayer of praise, it should be observed, is the noblest of all prayers, since it is centered on God alone.

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.

Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the LORD!

I began with a quote from The Divine Comedy and will close with this one from Canto XXXIII:

My vision then was greater than our speech, which fails at such a sight, and memory fails at such an assault. I am like one, who sees in dream, and when the dream is gone an impression, set there, remains, but nothing else comes to mind again, since my vision almost entirely fails me, but the sweetness, born from it, still distils, inside my heart.

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Gustave Doré, artist)

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Gustave Doré, artist)

Friday Five – Volume 100

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

We are approaching the one year anniversary of our oldest child leaving the nest for the military. One year since I’ve felt whole. You’d think I would have adjusted by now but to be honest I haven’t.

Being a military parent is the loneliest thing I’ve ever done. I suppose it shouldn’t be. I’m aware of support groups and forums that are there for us to use. It’s just been something I’m unable to talk about. I don’t talk to my friends as much anymore, and when I do it’s mostly small talk. They ask how he’s doing, and what used to be my usual long-winded answers are now relegated to “He’s fine.” I don’t add: “I’m terrified. I don’t look you in the eyes because if I did you’d see that I’m scared. I don’t want you to see that.”

I then turn and ask about their kids, work or whatever instead and let them talk. And while I’m genuinely happy to hear all about their child’s exploits in college, it eats at me. These are my son’s peers, boys who I watched grow into men on the baseball field, in classrooms, and while hanging out together. I love them and then despise myself for wishing I’d not asked how they were. In a few months they will be enjoying the second semester of their sophomore year. Spring breaks. Baseball games. Lining up summer jobs, trips and planning for their junior year. I will spend the spring and summer focused on a bloody area of the middle east, one that is getting bloodier. Waiting.

Just being honest. He volunteered. I get that. I’m just being honest.

Three more years of holding my breath. Three more years of pretending I’m ok and that everything is normal. Three more years of not being able to share with anyone where my son is, what he’s doing, or what he’s told me.

Three more years of feeling like the earth’s gravity has tripled its pull.

I focus on my faith. On my family. This fall I decided to spend some time planning the garden space in the backyard. I’d always planned on doing something special with the space because it’s such a serene spot in our yard/neighborhood. So I’ve decided to set to work once and for all on putting together a lovely, prayerful space. Dust off my green thumb. I told my wife I wanted to build it for her as a gift. In actuality it’s just as much for me as it is for her. Busywork.

I die a little bit each time little brother says he is going to follow his big brother’s footsteps into the military. Those are the most forced smiles of all.

And I look away because I can’t even look a twelve year old boy who idolizes his big brother in the eyes.


Grief and silence also belong together. Grief achieves a poise in the breadth of silence. The force of the passions is lost, and grief, purged of passion, appears all the more clearly as pure grief. The lamentation in grief is transformed into the lamentation of silence. On the river of tears man travels back into silence. ~ Max Picard, The World of Silence, page 71

— 2 —

In many ways I’ve been prepared for this solitaire. How could I not? As a practicing Roman Catholic in America / the world today at times it feels as if you’re all alone. In First Things R.J. Snell recently penned an excellent article that spoke to this:

Although the man of faith is perhaps always solitary, his loneliness is peculiarly modern, for “he looks upon himself as a stranger in modern society which is technically minded, self-centered, and self-loving, almost in a sickly narcissistic fashion, scoring honor upon honor, piling up victory upon victory, reaching for the distant galaxies . . . . What can a man of faith like myself . . . say to a functional utilitarian society?”

Jesus was a Man of Sorrows. The ultimate, in fact. And it’s because of Him that no matter how alone I feel, I know I am not. I’m not alone when I’m at Mass. I’m not alone when I pray the Divine Office each day. I have my faith. I am in communion. Snell continues:

Faith sanctions neither resentment nor indifference nor capitulation, calling instead for presence, for an abiding invitation to communion—“faith does not draw us away,” Francis says, but near, alongside. Faith opens horizons, it does not close them off.

Faith is irenic. Not conciliatory or appeasing or obsequious, but calm and hopeful and courageous. Not mollifying, but pacific: a virtue for which one struggles and labors, fights and toils. It is not dumb or stoic, but rather vigorous and cheerful. It is large-witted and big-hearted and sharp-minded, not sullen or withdrawn or fawning, and never sentimental. … Because I am a man of faith, I have hope; because I hope, there is no place for fear; because I am unafraid, I can love, for love has already cast out my fears.

— 3 —

I’m not alone when I pray the Rosary. (Or re-read and re-watch The Lord of the Rings books and films…something we did many times together and still text about across the miles.)

Where the Rosary appears in “The Lord of the Rings”:

Given by Lady Galadriel and a source of light through prayer, the phial is for us an image of the Rosary. The Blessed Virgin Mary, fairest of all women, gave us the Rosary as a light in dark places. In praying the Rosary, we cry out to Mary the Morning Star that she may guide us to Heaven in her Son. In whispering our Aves, we ask the Queen of Heaven, the Woman robed in stars, for Her aid in the darkest times of life. Even Sam’s prayer to Elbereth is suspiciously similar to the Hail Holy Queen, which we pray to end the Rosary: “Hail Holy Queen…to thee do we cry…in this valley of tears! Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us.”

We can identify three effects of the phial which also apply to the Rosary. First, the phial provides light to illuminate the hobbits’ path, lest they stumble: By praying the Rosary, we grow in grace and can thus understand better the way we should turn. We have faith that, by praying to God through the powerful intercession of the Mother of God, He will draw us closer to Himself, in Whom is all our joy. Second, the phial gives the hobbits hope. Despite the trials they are facing, the light of Eärendil reminds them of the great stories about how others have triumphed over evil and how, above all the gloom of Mordor, there is yet beauty and goodness and truth. The Rosary of Mary is a source of hope for us, for by meditating on the life of Christ and walking with Him, we come to understand all the more that death is not the end of life, that Christ has conquered death, and that He has promised His kingdom to those who follow Him. The Rosary is Mary’s humble way of leading us through this world while keeping us from despairing of the fullness of life to come. Third, the phial is a terror to evil ones. Shelob, an ancient evil in spider form, took to flight at the flame of the shining phial. Similarly, the Holy Rosary is a terror to demons, a sure weapon in our fight against our own vice and against the world’s evils. For proof, just take a close look at the lives of the saints.

The rosary in my top office desk drawer.

The rosary in my top office desk drawer.

— 4 —

by G. K. Chesterton

The woods are bronzed with autumn
When all the leaves are gold
The year grows old around me
And I am passing old
The walls are gilt with mosses
Leaves are a golden sea
The world is fair and ancient
And all is sweet to me.

When I was young and yearning
I chased a drifting dream
I saw a world’s ideal
Through mere and tangle gleam
But now the common millions
That trust and toil and grieve
Are flushed in one great sunset
The light I soon must leave.

The young heart, wild and windy
May chase the fresh-blown seed
May seek the lonely blossom
That burns upon the mead.
But stricken hearts grow gentle
And I am passing old
And now I sit in autumn
When all the leaves are gold.


For more great photos of autumn and inspirational quotes to accompany them, go here.

— 5 —

This is the 100th edition of The Friday Five. It made its debut on September 16, 2011. I’ve not always been consistent in publishing each volume. If I had we’d have reached #100 at this time in 2013. Sometimes it’s brief, sometimes much too long, but I’ve always liked the format because it gives me a place to put little items I find each week that I want to share with you. At times I’m able to find a theme that ties all five together in some fashion or another. Mostly they’re just a hodge podge of things I find interesting.

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue. I had planned to stop at 50. Then 75. Now here it is at 100. They will probably continue for as long as I find items to share and little time to write about them each day. A poem. A song. Photos. An article. Setting aside one day each week is easier than 4-5, you see. I do plan on taking another go at writing a 50,000 word novel in November by participating in the NaNoWriMo, so this may be it for awhile.

I plan to write about the prodigal’s father.

As long as I have something to share I guess I’m not so lonely after all.

Cheers. And thanks.

St. Teresa of Avila

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and is also the 500th anniversary of her birth (March 28 in Avila, Spain). She is one of my favorite historical figures and saints of the Church. Teresa reformed a corrupted religious order, built sixteen monasteries (both for men and for women) while often suffering from paralyzing pain. She wrote two of the best books I’ve ever read (The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle) that are considered classics of theology, was a poet and a mystic, and is also a Doctor of the Church.

There is a wealth of information on this remarkable woman available and unfortunately I have not had the time to provide even a few links. (Not very helpful today, I know. Mea culpa.) However, here’s a link to Catholic Online and to Wikipedia. I have however put together a few quotes or passages from her books below.

I own and have read (with plans to re-read) both The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle. They were difficult for me at first and are challenging at times to read, but the fruit is well worth the effort. In particular I enjoy Teresa’s meditations on the Our Father contained in Perfection. Written to her religious order (the Discalced Nuns of Our Lady of Carmel) at times it reads like a commanding officer providing guidance and tactical advice on spiritual combat. And good advice it is, for she had a lot of experience in waging those battles against the devil. And like any good soldier, Teresa knew her enemy.

From The Way of Perfection, Ch. XLII:

But if you feel this love for God which I have spoken of, and the fear which I shall now describe, you may go on your way with happiness and tranquillity. In order to disturb the soul and keep it from enjoying these great blessings, the devil will suggest to it a thousand false fears and will persuade other people to do the same; for if he cannot win souls he will at least try to make them lose something, and among the losers will be those who might have gained greatly had they believed that such great favours, bestowed upon so miserable a creature, come from God, and that it is possible for them to be thus bestowed, for sometimes we seem to forget His past mercies.

Do you suppose that it is of little use to the devil to suggest these fears? No, it is most useful to him, for there are two well-known ways in which he can make use of this means to harm us, to say nothing of others. First, he can make those who listen to him fearful of engaging in prayer, because they think that they will be deceived. Secondly, he can dissuade many from approaching God who, as I have said, see that He is so good that He will hold intimate converse with sinners.

Teresa is a worthy general. I would have no issues following her into battle.

A manuscript of “The Way of Perfection” written in Teresa’s own hand.

A manuscript of “The Way of Perfection” written in Teresa’s own hand.


It is love alone that gives worth to all things.


In anything that is for the service of Our Lord, the Devil tries his arts, working under the guise of holiness.


Great courage is required in spiritual warfare.


I don’t understand those fears that make us cry, “The Devil! The Devil!” when we can say, “God! God!”


These cursed spirits torment me quite frequently, but they do not frighten me in the least. For I am convinced that they cannot move except by God’s permission.

Let this be known well: Every time we make the demons the object of our contempt, they lose their strength, and the soul acquires a greater superiority over them. They have no power except against cowardly souls who surrender their weapons.


On another occasion I saw a great multitude of evil spirits round about me and, at the same time, a great light in which I was enveloped, which kept them from coming near me. I understood it to mean that God was watching over me, that they might not approach me so as to make me offend Him. I knew the vision was real by what I saw occasionally in myself.

The fact is, I know now how little power the evil spirits have, provided I am not out of the grace of God. I have scarcely any fear of them at all, for their strength is as nothing, if they do not find that the souls they assail give up the context and become cowards; it is in this case that they show their power.

From Teresa of Avila, The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, David Lewis, trans. Chapter XXXI.


Let the Christian be valiant; let him not be like those who lay down to drink from the brook when they went to battle (I do not remember when). [1] Let him resolve to go forth to combat with the host of demons, and be convinced that there is no better weapon than the Cross.

From The Interior Castle, The Second Castle: War, Chapter One, No. 13

[1] Judges 7:5: So he brought the people down to the water; and the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself; likewise every one that kneels down to drink.”




A favorite story of mine about St. Teresa shows her sense of humor and speaks to her intimate relationship with God.

One day she fell off her donkey into a mud puddle. She looked up to heaven and said, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.”


There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.


I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.


I am yours; I was born for you, what do you want to do with me?

(Teresa’s question to Our Lord in Poem 2)


Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.


Truth suffers, but never dies.


Vocal prayer … must be accompanied by reflection. A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don’t call prayer–however much the lips may move.


We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble.


(Note: I’ve made a bookmark with these words and keep it in my breviary. I first came across it over 15 years ago in an old Catholic library at our local Catholic retreat house and copied the text into my notebook.)

Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All thing pass;
God never changes.
Patience attains
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

— St Teresa, The bookmark of Teresa of Ávila


Today Amy Welborn included a letter sent by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 to the Bishop of Avila on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the beginning of Teresa’s reform. As Amy points out:

I do think here that you can really see the particular way of expression that Benedict used again and again: the journey of the Christian is to be conformed to Christ. (Very Pauline, yes?) Not merely to imitate, but to be conformed. This suggests a deep level of engagement, a degree of surrender and understanding of the dynamic and purpose of human life that is far different that simply “trying to be like” and radically different than simply being inspired by.

Too many today clamor for an all-inclusive Church and a Christianity that accepts anyone and everyone (which it does) but without any of us having to call to mind and repent for our sins (which it does not). They are not wanting the culture to be conformed to Christianity, but for the Church to be conformed by the culture. In short: no sacrifice, no humility, no repentance. Which means of course there’s no forgiveness. How can there be with no sins to forgive? I’m pretty confident Teresa would have had none of that.


Finally, here is an excerpt from the video series Catholicism in which Fr. (now Bishop) Robert Barron discusses St. Teresa.