Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Obedience

“We cannot embrace the ocean but we can let ourselves be embraced by it, immersing ourselves in its water at any point. In the same way, we cannot grasp with our minds the whole passion of Christ, or even see into its depths.

We can, however, do something better and more useful, and that is to immerse ourselves in it, beginning with any of its aspects. The obedience of Christ is the aspect of the passion most emphasized in apostolic teaching:

Christ became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8); by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19); He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).

Obedience seems to be the key to reading the whole story of the passion, what it is that gives the story its meaning and value.”
~Raniero Cantalamessa

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Odyssey

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul.”
~Thomas Moore

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A True Story

“...a little story, a true story: it’s about an experience I had in 1970, when I was twenty-one years old...
     One day in late winter, I was visiting friends who had just moved to a house in the high hills of Quebec about sixty kilometers north of Ottawa. My friends knew no one else in the area, nor did I. I planned to stay overnight with them and return to my family in the city the next day. The friends’ new home was beside a river in a relatively wild region where few people lived, just a few lonely farmhouses and cabins. One could easily walk for an hour on the narrow snowy roads winding through the forest, without seeing a single person, a house, or a passing car. It was the same on both sides of the river.
     I had my drawing pad and some sticks of charcoal with me because I wanted to spend the whole day alone, walking for hours and stopping from time to time to sketch the winter scenes. The weather was cold but sunny, the entire world a wonderland of whiteness. The best landscapes were on the other side of the frozen river, so I decided to cross over on the ice, because the closest bridge was several kilometers away. The ice usually begins to thaw at this time of the year but I thought it was probably still thick enough to walk upon without falling through into the cold water and drowning or dying of hypothermia. It was an added risk because this river flows very swiftly, which wears away the ice from underneath. Even as I walked across, I could hear the ice splintering like broken glass beneath my feet. However, it supported my weight and I made it to the other side without any accident.
     All day long I walked and walked on poorly plowed roads, going ever farther into the hills. I didn’t see a single person or any passing car. When the afternoon sun began to sink toward the horizon I turned around and headed back to the river, where I hoped to again cross over on the ice. I hesitated a little because the sun had been beating on the ice all day and it was now a greater risk to walk on it. But I was tired and hungry and to walk more kilometers to the bridge would mean I would have to go a part of the way in the dark.
     I had just reached the edge of the river and stepped off the road when a car came rumbling along the road behind me. It stopped beside me and a door opened. Inside the car were three young men, maybe about twenty-one to twenty-five years of age. Two in the front and one in the back.
     “Where are you going?” asked the man in the back seat.
     “I’m going to cross the river on the ice, and get home before sunset,” I answered.
     “Come with us,” he said, “we’ll drive you to the bridge.”
     So I got into the car beside him and for the next fifteen minutes as we drove along, I observed the three men closely. They seemed to have come out of nowhere, and also they looked rather unusual. I should say that they looked totally like real human beings, yet some aspects of their appearance were like nothing I had seen before. They were all exceptionally handsome, with manly, shining, wholesome faces. They all kept smiling but said nothing to each other or to me throughout the journey. In those days (the awful 1960s and that year of 1970) almost all young people tried to look like hippies, with long hair, unshaven faces, ragged clothes, etc. During that time of social revolution, youth tried to cultivate expressions that were usually cynical or smirking or sarcastic or angry, dark with sinful experience, drugs, lack of faith in anything. But these three young men looked entirely different, as if they had stepped out of an older era of history. Their clothing was neat and clean, their faces were flawless, their hair was clean-cut and short; their mannerisms and facial expressions were full of politeness, kindness, open-hearted goodness. In those days they struck me as extremely rare kinds of persons.
     Finally the driver stopped the car at the entrance to the bridge. I opened the door and stepped out onto the road.
     “Thank you very much,” I said. “God bless you.”
     All three of them looked at me with their shining faces, and one said:
     “God bless you, Michael.”
     I was startled, because I certainly had not told them my name. Moreover, no one in that entire northern region knew me.
     “How do you know my name?” I exclaimed, astonished.
     Without answering, they all three gave me warm smiles, and drove away.
     I crossed over on the bridge and made it home to my friends’ house before dark. The next morning, I went down to the river and saw that during the night all the ice had collapsed and been swept away by the roaring waters. It is quite possible that if I had tried to walk back across the second time, yesterday afternoon, I would have died.
     Were they angels, like the “three young men” who visited Abraham and Sarah? Or were they human beings whom divine Providence had arranged to come to my rescue at exactly the right moment? I do not know. But to this day I remember their extraordinary faces—especially the quiet but powerful light in them.”
~Michael O’Brien

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Longing and Wishes

“That is longing: To dwell in the flux of things,
To have no home in the present.
And these are wishes: gentle dialogues
Of the poor hours with eternity.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, September 25, 2014

God

Deum, cui omnia vivunt, venite adoremus—“To God, all things are alive; O come, let us adore Him”.
     “All things, not all men; the body, which is dead to us, is still alive to God. Every particle of that dust is still obedient to his creative will; the same Power that once gave it freedom of movement, is now exercised to imprison it in stillness; the same law which once ordained its growth now dooms it to decay. That, after all, is the astonishing fact; nothing can exist away from God, everything must, of necessity, come from him and tend to him. As the circle exists because each point on the circumference is in a particular relation to its centre, so the universe exists because everything in it is in particular relation to God. As the satellites revolve round their planet, so everything in its creation keeps its place there by keeping its proper distance from God, who is its sphere. As the flowers open to the sun from which their vigor has returned to them, so in the natural and in the supernatural order all things turn continually towards God, who is their sun. All things are alive to God, react to him.
     Do you doubt it? Then watch the actions of the Son of God, listen to the words of the Son of God, when he came to earth. You are crossing an inland sea in an open rowing-boat; suddenly, lashed by the draught that comes down through the funnel of those hills, the water rises about you in mountainous waves, tossing the boat from crest to crest, terrifying. They seem, those waves, to have all the greed and the fury of wild beasts; you have the illusion that the whole purpose of their ravening is to overwhelm this particular craft, in which you are voyaging. . . . Ah, if that were only so! Living beasts might be amenable to some trick of human mastery; these waves are senseless things; there is no art by which a human will can impose itself on them. But, wait a moment. One of your fellow-passengers rises from the bows of the boat, where he lay asleep; looks out over those roaring billows as if they were a sea of children who had become too noisy over their play. With the tired but calm voice of a grown-up who knows how to deal with children, he says, ‘Peace, be still.’ And there is a dead hush instantly; a hush, almost, of expectancy, as if that noisy company were waiting to hear what game they should play next.
     If Jesus Christ spoke on that occasion, it was for our sakes. He was thinking aloud, as a man will talk to some mechanical contrivance when he is explaining the nature of it to a set of pupils. The wind and the sea had no ears, to catch his human accents, nor any need of them. His will imposed itself directly on the forces of nature around him. You see, he was God...”
~Ronald Knox

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Story

A pilgrim was walking a long road when one day he passed what seemed to be a monk sitting in a field. Nearby men were working on a stone building.
     “You look like a monk,” the pilgrim said.
     “I am that,” said the monk.
     “Who is that working on the abbey?”
     “My monks,” said the man. “I’m the abbot.”
     “It’s good to see a monastery going up,” said the pilgrim.
     “They’re tearing it down,” said the abbot.
     “Whatever for?” asked the pilgrim.
     “So we can see the sun rise at dawn,” said the abbot.

~Thomas Moore

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pride

     “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison— you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
     That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious ? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good— above all, that we are better than someone else— I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil . The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”
~C. S. Lewis

Monday, September 22, 2014

Autumn



“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shepherd of Souls

Thou hast given them bread from heaven.
Having all sweetness within it.
~St. Thomas Aquinas

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
Thy chosen pilgrim flock
with manna in the wilderness,
with water from the rock.

We would not live by bread alone,
but by Thy word of grace,
in strength of which we travel on
to our abiding place.

Be known to us in breaking bread,
and do not then depart;
Savior, abide with us, and spread
Thy table in our heart.

Lord, sup with us in love divine,
Thy Body and Thy Blood,
that living bread, that heavenly wine,
be our immortal food.

~Words, stanzas 1-2: Moravian, stanzas 3-4: James Montgomery & Music: St. Agnes

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trust

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
~Jeremiah 17:7-8

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thanksgiving for Little Things

“The good we are to be thankful for need not be big things in themselves, but there is nothing to stop us putting an infinite value on them if that is the impulse of the heart. The slightest thing can light up our whole life in joy, thanks, service, praise, for we always see it as a mark of God’s goodness. Gratitude is called forth by the kindnesses we receive and spurs us to return those kindnesses. It tends always to make us give more than we get, and to give it in a different way….However material the blessing we have been given, Gratitude never sees its material value, but only the good will behind it, which is beyond all valuation; it answers by giving our whole soul. It bursts out in the utterly generous praise of the Gloria in Excelsis: ‘We give Thee thanks, O God, for Thy great glory’—if we get nothing by it, it is enough that You exist, and that You are splendour itself, for us to glow with gratitude.”
~Pie-Raymond Régamey

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Stone


(Photo by Remo Savisaar)

Rose closed her eyes. She heard the surf and the piping of the shore-birds. Then she began:
     “Once there was a woman who thought her life was over. She was ill and very tired. She had failed at everything. As she walked beside the waves, she said to God, ‘All my sacrifices have come to nothing. I am defeated at every turn. What am I going to do?’
     As she said this she looked down at the waves licking the beach and saw many broken pieces of china that had come from a shipwreck. Among them was this stone. It was not from the shipwreck. It was something the sea had carved. She picked it up and wondered at it, for it was a perfect palette shape, with a thumb hole and dots to represent dabs of paint. The stone was like a miracle to her, for she was a painter.
     Then she understood. If God could patiently create this stone over thousands of years, seeing ahead to the woman who would one day walk on the beach with discouragement in her soul, he could do anything. If he could send her a message like this, he could bring a harvest from barren soil. He could bring dead things to life, and even a life that seemed a failure might become fruitful.”
     “So, he was speaking to her.”
     “Yes.”

~Michael O'Brien (from the novel A Cry of Stone)
  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Place Once Lived In


(Picture found here)
“A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out. It flares up, it smolders for a time, it is fanned or smothered by circumstance, but its being is intact, forever fluttering within it, the result of some original ignition. Sometimes it gives out glory, sometimes its little light must be sought out to be seen, small and tender as a candle flame, but as certain.”
~Eudora Welty
 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

As Time Goes On...

“We are not our own, any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves; we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We cannot be our own masters. We are God’s property by creation, by redemption, by regeneration. He has a triple claim upon us. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness, or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way,—to depend on no one,—to have to think of nothing out of sight,—to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgment, continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man—that it is an unnatural state—may do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end. No, we are creatures; and, as being such, we have two duties, to be resigned and to be thankful.”
~John Henry Newman

“A man grows old; he feels in himself that radical sense of weakness, of listlessness, of discomfort, which accompanies the advance of age; and, feeling thus, imagines himself merely sick, lulling his fears with the notion that this distressing condition is due to some particular cause, from which, as from an illness, he hopes to recover. Vain imaginings! That sickness is old age; and a horrible disease it is. They say that it is the fear of death and of what comes after death that makes men turn to religion as they advance in years. But my own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charms has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existence is no more bolstered up by impressions from within or from without, we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false–a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.”
~Maine de Biran

Monday, September 15, 2014

After A Retreat

What hast thou learnt to-day?
Hast thou sounded awful mysteries,
Hast pierced the veilèd skies,
Climbed to the feet of God,
Trodden where saints have trod,
Fathomed the heights above?
Nay,
This only have I learnt, that God is love.

What hast thou heard to-day?
Hast heard the Angel-trumpets cry,
And rippling harps reply;
Heard from the Throne of flame
Whence God incarnate came
Some thund'rous message roll?
Nay,
This have I heard, His voice within my soul.

What hast thou felt to-day?
The pinions of the Angel-guide
That standeth at thy side
In rapturous ardours beat,
Glowing, from head to feet,
In ecstasy divine?
Nay,
This only have I felt, Christ's hand in mine.

~Robert Hugh Benson

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Glory To His Name

Down at the cross where my Savior died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

Refrain:
Glory to His Name, glory to His Name:
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

I am so wondrously saved from sin,
Jesus so sweetly abides within;
There at the cross where He took me in;
Glory to His Name!

Refrain

Oh, precious fountain that saves from sin,
I am so glad I have entered in;
There Jesus saves me and keeps me clean;
Glory to His Name!

Refrain

Come to this fountain so rich and sweet,
Cast thy poor soul at the Savior’s feet;
Plunge in today, and be made complete;
Glory to His Name!

Refrain

~Words: Eli­sha Hoff­man & Music: John Stock­ton

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In the Cemetery of Kuzhmir Poland

Words without song for Rabbi Ezekiel Taub

Behind a wall of lives
Engraved in stones,
Searching for the homes
They left behind,
The Jews of Kuzhmir find,
Instead, the fissure in my heart.

Listen to their song!
Spun from breathless wind,
Weaving through the trees
In waltz time and sunshine.
It climbs the scales to heaven,
Rising in crescendo to a small
Still point where all is silent—
A rest note held forever.

Birch and pine bough rustling
Amen to a Kaddish never said.
A song without words, a nigun
Without Jews, except those
Whose souls are in the trees.

A song unfinished for the dead.
~David Goldberg

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Way Of Life

“Ideas, practices, self-identities, however, are not easily abandoned, nor should they be. Yet, the Christian life, and its baptismal grace unique to each life, calls us to follow on the road after the Savior and enjoy his intimate company where the kingdom of God breaks out like so many wildflowers along the roadside in Spring.

We travel light, in the sense that our ideas of ourselves and of God are apt to be challenged and cleansed of their delusions rather frequently. And a readiness to follow the law of love and selflessness, especially when it comes to dealing with abusive and abrasive people (= enemies) is demanded.

Jesus put it succinctly: ‘Repent (or change), and believe in the good news’ (Mk. 1:15). This conversion will be called out of us, not just once, but repeatedly, until it finds the fertile soil deep within our hearts. Conversion is not a happening so much as a way of life.”
~Francis Kline

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Joy

“Joy is never in our power, and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.”
~C. S. Lewis

“This is the secret of joy. We shall no longer strive for our own way; but commit ourselves, easily and simply, to God’s way, acquiesce in His will and in so doing find our peace.”
~Evelyn Underhill

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Invitation

“Lord take Thine ease within my heart,
    Rest here and count Thyself at home
Do as Thou wilt; rise, set, depart;
My Master, not my guest, Thou art
    Come as Thou wilt, but come, Lord, come...”
~Robert Hugh Benson

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Heaven and Earth Together...

“Lord, extolled in the heights, by angelic powers, You are also praised by all earth’s creatures, each in its own way. With all the splendor of heavenly worship, You still delight in such tokens of love as earth can offer. May heaven and earth together acclaim You as King; may the praise that is sung in heaven resound in the heart of every creature on earth.”
~From Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours - prayer with Ps. 148)

Friday, September 5, 2014

If I Had Only One Sermon To Preach

“If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride. The more I see of existence, and especially of modern practical and experimental existence, the more I am convinced of the reality of the old religious thesis; that all evil began with some attempt at superiority; some moment when, as we might say, the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.

Now the first fact to note about this notion is a rather curious one. Of all such notions, it is the one most generally dismissed in theory and most universally accepted in practice. Modern men imagine that such a theological idea is quite remote from them; and, stated as a theological idea, it probably is remote from them. But, as a matter of fact, it is too close to them to be recognised. It is so completely a part of their minds and morals and instincts, I might almost say of their bodies, that they take it for granted and act on it even before they think of it. It is actually the most popular of all moral ideas; and yet it is almost entirely unknown as a moral idea. No truth is now so unfamiliar as a truth, or so familiar as a fact.”
~G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Charity

“William Morris wrote a poem called ‘Love Is Enough’ and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly in the words ‘It isn’t.’ Such has been the burden of this book. The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as ‘decency and common sense,’ but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.”
~From The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Mystery of Existence

“The modern world was not alive to the tremendous Reality that encompassed it. We were surrounded by an immeasurable abyss of darkness and splendor. We built our empires on a pellet of dust revolving around a ball of fire in unfathomable space. Life, that Sphynx, with the human face and the body of a brute, asked us new riddles every hour. Matter itself was dissolving under the scrutiny of Science; and yet, in our daily lives, we were becoming a race of somnambulists, whose very breathing, in train and bus and car, was timed to the movement of the wheels; and the more perfectly, and even alertly, we clicked through our automatic affairs on the surface of things, the more complete was our insensibility to the utterly inscrutable mystery that anything should be in existence at all.”
~Alfred Noyes

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Way To Divine Union

“Resemblance to God is the whole of our perfection. To refuse to be perfect is to be at fault. Therefore the will must always be trained for perfection and love made ready.

The will must be prevented from dissipating itself on foreign objects, love preserved from defilement. For this alone were we created, for we live to be like God. We were created in His image.”
~William of St. Thierry