Sunday, May 31, 2015

Children of Light

And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
~Luke 16:8

“I thought again of that text: ‘The children of this world are wiser than the children of light.’ It seemed a peculiar thing to keep running through my mind, and yet a strange and exciting challenge for a priest-apostle on a prison train heading for the labor camps. The challenge seemed plain. Could my sacrifice, could my total dedication, could my stamina in doing the will of God be less than that of the children of this world? They knew that in order to survive a long sentence, a man had to face and conquer one day at a time. Had I not resolved to see each day, one day at a time, as a gift of God within whose confines I was to accomplish his will? The prisoners survived by taking life as it came, rolling with the punches, hoping only to survive each day as it happened, one day at a time. Surely my motivation ought to help me see beyond that. Each day to me should be more than an obstacle to be gotten over, a span of time to be endured, a sequence of hours to be survived. For me, each day came forth from the hand of God newly created and alive with opportunities to do his will. For me, each day was a series of moments and incidents to be offered back to God, to be consecrated and returned in total dedication to his will. That was what my priesthood demanded of me, as it demanded of every Christian.

The children of this world were dedicated to surviving this life by whatever method possible. I, too, must be totally dedicated, but with an added dimension. I must not seek to avoid hardships or to soften their impact. I must see in them the will of God and through them work out my salvation. Otherwise, I would be acting rather as a child of this world than a child of light. I would be acting not out of faith but as a fatalist. I would have survived a series of moments, a succession of days, but I would have made nothing of them nor of myself. I resolved again, therefore, to accept each day and every moment as from God’s hands, and to offer it back to him as best I could. I would not merely passively survive, like the children of this world, but with his help and his grace I would actively participate—and I would survive. I never doubted that, because I did not fear nonsurvival. Death would simply be a call to return to the God I served each day. My life was to do the will of God, as the prayer our Savior taught us put it quite simply, ‘on earth as in heaven.’ His will would determine how long I would spend on earth.

In such thought and prayers, peace returned. It was the peace, once again, that total abandonment to God’s will brings. Only this time I was not in the quiet confines of a solitary cell in Lubianka; I was in the corner of a rough, jolting, profane prison car. My situation had not improved, but my disposition in the acceptance of God’s will had returned. Along with it had come peace and a renewed confidence—not in my own ability to survive, but a total trust and confidence in God’s ability to sustain me and provide me with whatever strength I needed to meet the challenges he would send me. What greater peace and confidence could I require? I even looked forward to laboring again in his vineyard.”
~Walter Ciszek (from He Leadeth Me)

Captured by a Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek spent 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. Only through an utter reliance on God's will did he manage to endure the extreme hardship. He tells of the courage he found in prayera courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustration, the anguish, the fears, the despair. For, as Ciszek relates, the solace of spiritual contemplation gave him an inner serenity upon which he was able to draw amidst the “arrogance of evil” that surrounded him. Ciszek learned to accept the inhuman work in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God. And through that experience, he was able to turn the adverse forces of circumstance into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Change

"How is it that we're always so keen for others to change when we're so reluctant to change ourselves?"
~Terry Tastard

Friday, May 29, 2015

Psalm 121


(Picture found here)
    I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       from where will my help come?
    My help comes from the Lord,
       Who made heaven and earth.

    He will not let your foot be moved;
       He who keeps you will not slumber.
    He who keeps Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.

    The Lord is your keeper;
       the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
    The sun shall not strike you by day,
       nor the moon by night.

    The Lord will keep you from all evil;
       He will keep your life.
    The Lord will keep
       your going out and your coming in
       from this time on and forevermore.
 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Divine Protection from Spiritual Deception

“A sinner can easily repent, but it is difficult for one in delusion...”
~Elder Daniel of Katounakia

“All of us are subject to spiritual deception. Awareness of this fact is the greatest protection against it. Likewise, the greatest spiritual deception of all is to consider oneself free from it. We are all deceived, all deluded; we all find ourselves in a condition of falsehood; we all need to be liberated by the Truth. The Truth is our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 8:32-14:6)... With tears let us cry out to the Lord Jesus to bring us out of prison, to draw us forth from the depths of the earth, and to wrest us from the jaws of death! ‘For this cause did our Lord Jesus Christ descend to us,’ says the venerable Symeon the New Theologian, ‘because he wanted to rescue us from captivity and from most wicked spiritual deception.’”
~St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

The following is a story about Elder Daniel of Katounakia’s spiritual insight into delusion, from the book Contemporary Elders written by Elder Cherubim and published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. May God protect us from similar delusions and spiritual deceptions by granting us the virtues of humility and obedience!

When Elder Daniel Katounakiotis (+1929) was in the Russian Monastery, he observed that a certain monk living in asceticism in a kathisma outside the Monastery played a role of a great ascetic. He fasted severely, wore the most wretched clothes, walked around barefoot even in winter, etc. Among other things, while the rule called for 300 prostrations a day, he made 3000. For this reason the other monks marveled at him.

Elder Daniel, even though he was younger at the time, displayed no enthusiasm. His clear-sighted eyes discerned a situation that was not pleasing to God. He noticed that the door of his kathisma contained an opening which allowed the passers-by to look in and praise his great asceticism.

His love moved him to report the situation to the abbot, and thus save the brother from delusion. The abbot set out for the kathisma of the “super-ascetic”.

“How are you doing here, father?”

“By your prayers, Elder, well. I struggle and weep over my sins.”

“Only you never come to tell me your thoughts.”

“What could I tell you, Elder? You know them all. I am a sinner who struggles.”

“How do you struggle? Tell me, do you make prostrations?”

“Yes, Elder, I make a few.”

“How many?”

“By your prayers, 3000 a day.”

“What! Why 3000? Who gave you a blessing to do so many? No, don’t ever do 3000 again. What are you trying to portray – a ‘super-ascetic’? From now on do only fifty, so you won’t get proud.”

With that the abbot left. The incision had been made, and the abscess soon revealed its foul contents. For the former “great ascetic” made a 180-degree turn. He was unable to make even fifty prostrations. Instead of ragged clothes he now wore whatever was most expensive, and had the choicest foods brought to his poor table. Naturally, the other fathers were astonished, and they understood that his excessive ascetic practices had been fed by the spirit of pride. This explained this surprising change, for the spirit of delusion runs after extremes. According to Patristic wisdom, the extreme, the superfluous, and the excessive are “of the demons”.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Death Bell

Man in his mortal state
Can bear the heavy weight
Of earth and heaven and hell
Compounded in a bell
If he discern the glory
Of John’s deep-thundered story
By which a thorn-crowned head
Sinking, to raise the dead,
Has pulled unbounded space
Down, by the weight of grace,
Whose deep-rung moment wins
Forgiveness of all sins.
. . . . . . . .
Though resurrection’s blast
Thrill the resounding nave
And call from niche and grave,
Where sunbeams fall aslant,
Each holy celebrant,
There is no temperate flight
Can raise mankind to light
Save where the font is laid.

~Vernon Watkins

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Above All

“Nothing is sweeter than love; nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; for love descends from God, and may not finally rest in anything lower than God. One with such love flies high; he runs swiftly, he is merry in God, he is free in soul. He gives all for all, and has all in all, for he rests in one high Goodness above all things, from whom all goodness flows...”
~Thomas à Kempis

Monday, May 18, 2015

Endure to the End

“I find it perfectly understandable that Peter, in his letters to the early churches, should have reminded his Christians to work out their salvation in fear and trembling. For just as surely as man begins to trust in his own abilities, so surely has he taken the first step on the road to ultimate failure. And the greatest grace God can give such a man is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers—and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved.”
~Walter Ciszek

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Deep Longing

"The sun is shining, the sky is a deep blue, there's a lovely breeze... and I have such a deep longing, for everything. I long to talk, I long for freedom, I long for friends... I long to be alone and I do so long to cry. I believe it's spring inside me. I feel that spring is awakening."
~Anne Frank

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Psalm 119:27-32

27   Make me understand the way of Thy precepts,
          and I will meditate on Thy wondrous works.
28   My soul melts away for sorrow;
          strengthen me according to Thy word!
29   Put false ways far from me;
          and graciously teach me Thy law!
30   I have chosen the way of faithfulness,
          I set Thy ordinances before me.
31   I cleave to Thy testimonies, O Lord;
          let me not be put to shame!
32   I will run in the way of Thy commandments
          when Thou enlargest my understanding!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Then Comes The Scandal

“How many times do we hear: ‘Come on, you Christians, be a little bit more normal, like other people, be reasonable!’ This is real snake charmer’s talk: ‘Come on, just be like this, okay? A little bit more normal, don’t be so rigid ...’ But behind it is this: ‘Don’t come here with your stories, that God became man!’ The Incarnation of the Word, that is the scandal behind all of this! We can do all the social work we want, and they will say: ‘How great the Church is, it does such good social work.’ But if we say that we are doing it because those people are the flesh of Christ, then comes the scandal. And that is the truth, that is the revelation of Jesus: that presence of Jesus incarnate.”
~Pope Francis

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Peace in God


(Picture found here)
In God alone is my soul at rest;
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress: I stand firm.

How long will you all attack one man
to break him down,
as though he were a tottering wall,
or a tumbling fence?

Their plan is only to destroy;
they take pleasure in lies.
With their mouth they utter blessing
but in their heart they curse.

In God alone be at rest, my soul;
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

In God is my safety and glory,
the rock of my strength.
Take refuge in God, all you people.
Trust him at all times.
Pour out your hearts before him
for God is our refuge.

Common folk are only a breath,
great men an illusion.
Placed in the scales, they rise;
they weigh less than a breath.

Do not put your trust in oppression
nor vain hopes on plunder.
Do not set your heart on riches
even when they increase.

For God has said only one thing;
only two do I know:
that to God alone belongs power
and to you, Lord, love;
and that you repay each man
according to his deeds.

~Psalm 62
  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thought

“Thought is the attempt to understand the good, beautiful, and true in an orderly way. Man is naturally reasonable and oriented toward those things, so it’s a normal part of life. Even so, it depends on conditions that may not be present. It requires calmness and steadiness of attention, a world that is understood as stable and meaningful, and a willingness to let truth rather than desire or power be the guide.

Those conditions may disappear, so thought cannot be taken for granted as a presence in social life. That can cause problems, because it’s hard to carry it on ourselves when it’s absent from the world around us. We can’t pursue the good, beautiful, and true effectively without discussing them with others who join with us in the pursuit, and share enough expectations, beliefs, and memories to ‘speak the same language.’ That’s how issues develop and come into focus, and traditions of inquiry and action grow up that accumulate insights and bring them into a usable system.”
~James Kalb

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Enough

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
Until now.

Until now.

~David Whyte

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Lanyard

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the “L” section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that’s what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
“Here are thousands of meals” she said,
“and here is clothing and a good education.”
“And here is your lanyard,” I replied,
“which I made with a little help from a counselor.”
“Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.” she whispered.
“And here,” I said, “is the lanyard I made at camp.”
“And here,” I wish to say to her now,
“is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.”

~Billy Collins

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Amendment



Panel 1:
Calvin: “This meeting of G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) will come to order, dictator-for-life Calvin presiding!”
Hobbes: “Hail Calvin and Hobbes!”

Panel 2:
Calvin: “On today's agenda, we'll make a list of what girls are GOOD for. Obviously, this will be a short meeting! Ha!”
Hobbes: “First tiger Hobbes will record the list for posterity!”

Panel 3:
Calvin: “OK, first, girls are good for water balloon targets! Ha ha! Second, they're good for NOTHING! Ha ha ha!”
Hobbes: “Hee hee, slow down!”

Panel 4:
Calvin: “Number three, girls are good for colonizing Pluto! Ah ha ha! What a great list!”
Hobbes: “Number four, they're good for smooching! Hoo hoo!”

Panel 5:
Calvin: “Number five is... WHAT?!? Did you say SMOOCHING?? What kind of treasonous, sissy idea is THAT?!”
Hobbes: “Well, it's true.”

Panel 6:
Calvin: “OOOG! AAACK! I got the dry heaves!! You're demoted from First Tiger to Tiger Bulk Rate!”
Hobbes: “You can't suppress the facts! I award myself a medal of valor!”

Panel 7:
Calvin: “How would you know it's a fact?! Have you been a traitor to the cause?!”
Hobbes: “I have my sources! Ow! This unleader-like behaviour will be noted in the club minutes!”

Panel 8:
Calvin: “Have you been smooching the enemy?! Out with it!!”
Hobbes: “YOU have! I saw it, so don't try to deny it!”

Panel 9:
Calvin: “ME?! That's a filthy lie! You'll pay for this vile slander!”
Hobbes: “Oh yeah? Your Mom kissed you right on the cheek last night, remember?”

Panel 10:
Calvin: “...Oh yeah... I guess Mom IS kind of a girl, sort of...”
Hobbes: “See? According to club rules, you should be excommunicated.”

Panel 11:
Calvin: “OK, Presidential pardons all around!”
Hobbes: “Agreed!”

Panel 12:
Hobbes: “We'll add an amendment saying smooching is optional, if it's your Mom.”
Calvin: “This is such a great club!”
  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Excerpt from The Last Battle

About half an hour later - or it might have been half a hundred years later, for time there is not like time here - Lucy stood with her dear friend, her oldest Narnian friend, the Faun Tumnus, looking down over the wall of that garden, and seeing all Narnia spread out below. But when you looked down you found that this hill was much higher than you had thought: it sank down with shining cliffs, thousands of feet below them and trees in that lower world looked no bigger than grains of green salt. Then she turned inward again and stood with her back to the wall and looked at the garden.

"I see," she said at last, thoughtfully. "I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside."

"Of course, Daughter of Eve," said the Faun. "The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside."

Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.

"I see," she said. "This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful then the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see... world within world, Narnia within Narnia..."

"Yes," said Mr Tumnus, "like an onion: except that as you go in and in, each circle is larger than the last."

And Lucy looked this way and that and soon found that a new and beautiful thing had happened to her. Whatever she looked at, however far away it might be, once she had fixed her eyes steadily on it, became quite clear and close as if she were looking through a telescope. She could see the whole Southern desert and beyond it the great city of Tashbaan: to Eastward she could see Cair Paravel on the edge of the sea and the very window of the room that had once been her own. And far out to sea she could discover the islands, islands after islands to the end of the world, and, beyond the end, the huge mountain which they had called Aslan's country. But now she saw that it was part of a great chain of mountains which ringed round the whole world. In front of her it seemed to come quite close. Then she looked to her left and saw what she took to be a great bank of brightly-coloured cloud, cut off from them by a gap. But she looked harder and saw that it was not a cloud at all but a real land. And when she had fixed her eyes on one particular spot of it, she at once cried out, "Peter! Edmund! Come and look! Come quickly." And they came and looked, for their eyes also had become like hers.

"Whys" exclaimed Peter. "It's England. And that's the house itself - Professor Kirk's old home in the country where all our adventures began!"

"I thought that house had been destroyed," said Edmund.

"So it was," said the Faun. "But you are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed."

Suddenly they shifted their eyes to another spot, and then Peter and Edmund and Lucy gasped with amazement and shouted out and began waving: for there they saw their own father and mother, waving back at them across the great, deep valley. It was like when you see people waving at you from the deck of a big ship when you are waiting on the quay to meet them.

"How can we get at them?" said Lucy.

"That is easy," said Mr Tumnus. "That country and this country - all the real countries - are only spurs jutting out from the great mountains of Aslan. We have only to walk along the ridge, upward and inward, till it joins on. And listen! There is King Frank's horn: we must all go up."

~C. S. Lewis (excerpt from The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia #7))

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Touching Lives

“...we can easily be overwhelmed by personal feelings of inadequacy or sheer physical powerlessness, by the realization of one man’s seeming insignificance in a corrupt world. We tend to concentrate on ourselves, we tend to think of what we can or cannot do, and we forget about God and his will and his providence. Yet God never forgets each individual’s significance, his dignity and worth, and the role each has been asked to play in the workings of his providence. To him, each individual is equally important at all times. He cares. Be he also expects each man to accept, as from his hands, the daily situations he sends him and to act as he would have him act and gives him the grace to act.

What each man can change, first of all, is himself. And each will have—indeed, must have—some influence on the people God brings into his life each day. He is expected, as a Christian, to influence them for good. He may instead influence them for evil, but they will touch his life this day—for God sees to that—and he will therefore have some influence of some kind upon them. He will in some small way at least touch their lives, too, and it is in that touching that God will hold him responsible for the good or ill he does. In that simple truth lies the key to any understanding of the mystery of divine providence and ultimately of each man’s salvation.”
~Walter Ciszek

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Psalm 33 - Exultate, justi

1 Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just;
for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.

2 Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
with a ten-stringed lute sing Him songs.
3 O sing Him a song that is new,
play loudly, with all your skill.

4 For the word of the Lord is faithful
and all His works to be trusted.
5 The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with His love.

6 By His word the heavens were made,
by the breath of His mouth all the stars.
7 He collects the waves of the ocean;
He stores up the depths of the sea.

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord
all who live in the world revere Him.
9 He spoke; and it came to be.
He commanded; it sprang into being.

10 He frustrates the designs of the nations,
He defeats the plans of the peoples.
11 His own designs shall stand for ever,
the plans of His heart from age to age.

12 They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
the people He has chosen as His own.
13 From the heavens the Lord looks forth,
He sees all the children of men.

14 From the place where He dwells He gazes
on all the dwellers on the earth;
15 He who shapes the hearts of them all;
and considers all their deeds.

16 A king is not saved by his army,
nor a warrior preserved by his strength.
17 A vain hope for safety is the horse;
despite its power it cannot save.

18 The Lord looks on those who revere Him,
on those who hope in His love,
19 to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
21 In Him do our hearts find joy.
We trust in His holy name.

22 May Your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in You.

Monday, May 4, 2015

from Struggling to Swim on Concrete: Poems


Go with me God, You of the single eye
Boring a hole through the double-fanged dealers
Caught in the middle of their crooked way,
Though the nimble-footed and as loose-lipped as sailors
Or as I am, my Lord, when I lie down
To the doom of my dumbness when it wakes
And do not get up all pretty to plan
And will not bow down to somebody’s balking.
Go with me, God, of the furrowed face
Set toward Jerusalem and none turns back
Though You must ride in on the back of an ass
And knowing full well what end You must make
With Your eyes on the ground to keep You humble,
Most High One, seeing how donkeys can stumble.

~Vassar Miller

I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33

“Behold, I make all things new.”
~Revelation 21:5
  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

This Joyful Eastertide

This joyful Eastertide,
away with care and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
hath sprung to life this morrow.

Refrain:
Had Christ, that once was slain,
ne'er burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain;
but now is Christ arisen,
arisen, arisen, arisen.

Death's flood hath lost its chill,
since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill
my passing soul deliver, Refrain

My flesh in hope shall rest,
and for a season slumber,
till trump from east to west
shall wake the dead in number. Refrain

~Words: George Woodward & Music: Arranged by Charles Wood

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The End

“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 his is created. Hence, man is to make use of them insofar as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them insofar as they prove a hindrance to him.”
~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Life Pleasing to God

“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you. For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

But concerning love of the brethren you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you;”

~1 Thessalonians 4:1-11