Friday, September 30, 2016

Extraordinary

“Ordinary people have big TVs. Extraordinary people have big libraries.”
~Robin Sharma

Thursday, September 29, 2016

God Became Man

“But the debt was so great that while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that the same person must be both man and God. Thus it was necessary for God to take manhood into the unity of his person, so that he who in his own nature ought to pay and could not should be in a person who could.”
~St. Anselm

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

When The Sun Goes Down

“In nature, when the sun goes down and night falls, we no longer see the objects surrounding us, but we do see distant objects not visible during the day, such as the stars, which are thousands of light-years away. And the sun must hide that we may see them, that we may be able to glimpse the depths of the firmament. Analogously, during the night of the spirit we see much farther than during the luminous period preceding it; the inferior lights must be taken away from us in order that we may begin to see the heights of the spiritual firmament.”
~Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Many Called, Few Chosen

“...No; there are numberless clouds which flit over the sky, there are numberless gusts which agitate the air to and fro: as many, as violent, as far-spreading, as fleeting, as uncertain, as changing, are the clouds and the gales of human opinion; as suddenly, as impetuously, as fruitlessly, do they assail those whose mind is stayed on God. They come and they go; they have no life in them, nor abidance. They agree together in nothing but in this, in threatening like clouds, and sweeping like gusts of wind. They are the voice of the many; they have the strength of the world, and they are directed against the few. Their argument, the sole argument in their behalf, is their prevalence at the moment; not that they existed yesterday, not that they will exist tomorrow; not that they base themselves on reason, or ancient belief, but that they are merely what every one now takes for granted, or, perhaps, supposes to be in Scripture, and therefore not to be disputed:—not that they have most voices through long periods, but that they happen to be most numerously professed in the passing hour. On the other hand, divine truth is ever one and the same; it changes not, any more than its Author: it stands to reason, then, that those who uphold it must ever be exposed to the charge of singularity, either for this or for that portion of it, in a world which is ever varying.

What a most awful view does human society present to those who would survey it religiously! Go where you will, you find persons with their own standards of right and wrong, yet each different from each. Thus everywhere you find both a witness that there is a standard, and yet an evidence everywhere that that standard is lost. Go where you will, you find in each separate circle certain persons held in esteem as patterns of what men should be; each sect and party has its Doctors, its Confessors, and its Saints. And in all parties you will find so many men possessed of good points of character, if not exemplary in their lives, that to judge by appearances, you do not know why the chosen should not be many instead of few. Your very perplexity in reconciling the surface of things with our Lord's announcements, the very temptation you lie under to explain away the plain words of Scripture, shows you that your standard of good and evil, and the standard of all around you, must be very different from God's standard. It shows you, that if the chosen are few, there must be some particular belief necessary, or some particular line of conduct, or something else different from what the world supposes, in order to account for this solemn declaration. It suggests to you that perchance there must be a certain perfection, completeness, consistency, entireness of obedience, for a man to be chosen, which most men miss in one point or another. It suggests to you that there is a great difference between being a hearer of the word and a doer; a well-wisher of the truth, or an approver of good men or good actions, and a faithful servant of the truth. It suggests to you that it is one thing to be in earnest, another and higher to be ‘rooted and grounded in love.’ It suggests to you the exceeding dangerousness of single sins, or particular bad habits. It suggests to you the peril of riches, cares of this life, station, and credit.

Of course we must not press the words of Scripture; we do not know the exact meaning of the word ‘chosen;’ we do not know what is meant by being saved ‘so as by fire;’ we do not know what is meant by ‘few.’ But still the few can never mean the many; and to be called without being chosen cannot but be a misery. We know that the man, in the parable, who came to the feast without a wedding garment, was ‘cast into outer darkness.’ [Matt. xxii. 13.] Let us then set at nought the judgment of the many, whether about truth and falsehood, or about ourselves, and let us go by the judgment of that line of Saints, from the Apostles' times downwards, who were ever spoken against in their generation, ever honoured afterwards,—singular in each point of time as it came, but continuous and the same in the line of their history,—ever protesting against the many, ever agreeing with each other. And, in proportion as we attain to their judgment of things, let us pray God to make it live in us; so that at the Last Day, when all veils are removed, we may be found among those who are inwardly what they seem outwardly,—who with Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Joshua, and Caleb, and Phineas, and Samuel, and Elijah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the Baptist, and St. Paul, have ‘borne and had patience, and for His Name-sake laboured and not fainted,’ watched in all things, done the work of an Evangelist, fought a good fight, finished their course, kept the faith.”
~John Henry Newman

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ah, not to be cut off

Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner—what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Prayer for Holiness

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who,
by the will of the Father and the co-operation of
the Holy Ghost, hast by Thy death given life to
the world: deliver me by this, Thy most sacred
Body and Blood, from all my iniquities and from
every evil; make me cling always to Thy
commandments, and permit me never to be
separated from Thee. Who with the same God,
the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and
reignest God, world without end. Amen.

(from the Latin Mass)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Birth Of Love

       To learn to love
is to be stripped of all love
until you are wholly without love
because
until you have gone
naked and afraid
into this cold dark place
where all love is taken from you
you will not know
that you are wholly within love.

~Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Immortality of the Soul

I suppose there is no tolerably informed Christian but considers he has a correct notion of the difference between our religion and the paganism which it supplanted. Every one, if asked what it is we have gained by the Gospel, will promptly answer, that we have gained the knowledge of our immortality, of our having souls which will live for ever; that the heathen did not know this, but that Christ taught it, and that His disciples know it. Every one will say, and say truly, that this was the great and solemn doctrine which gave the Gospel a claim to be heard when first preached, which arrested the thoughtless multitudes, who were busied in the pleasures and pursuits of this life, awed them with the vision of the life to come, and sobered them till they turned to God with a true heart. It will be said, and said truly, that this doctrine of a future life was the doctrine which broke the power and the fascination of paganism. The poor benighted heathen were engaged in all the frivolities and absurdities of a false ritual, which had obscured the light of nature. They knew God, but they forsook Him for the inventions of men; they made protectors and guardians for themselves; and had "gods many and lords many." [1 Cor. viii. 5.] They had their profane worship, their gaudy processions, their indulgent creed, their easy observances, their sensual festivities, their childish extravagances, such as might suitably be the religion of beings who were to live for seventy or eighty years, and then die once for all, never to live again. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," was their doctrine and their rule of life. "Tomorrow we die;"—this the Holy Apostles admitted. They taught so far as the heathen; "Tomorrow we die;" but then they added, "And after death the judgment;"—judgment upon the eternal soul, which lives in spite of the death of the body. And this was the truth, which awakened men to the necessity of having a better and deeper religion than that which had spread over the earth, when Christ came,—which so wrought upon them that they left that old false worship of theirs, and it fell. Yes! though throned in all the power of the world, a sight such as eye had never before seen, though supported by the great and the many, the magnificence of kings, and the stubbornness of people, it fell. Its ruins remain scattered over the face of the earth; the shattered works of its great upholder, that fierce enemy of God, the Pagan Roman Empire. Those ruins are found even among themselves, and show how marvellously great was its power, and therefore how much more powerful was that which broke its power; and this was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. So entire is the revolution which is produced among men, wherever this high truth is really received.

I have said that every one of us is able fluently to speak of this doctrine, and is aware that the knowledge of it forms the fundamental difference between our state and that of the heathen. And yet, in spite of our being able to speak about it and our "form of knowledge" [Rom. ii. 20.] (as St. Paul terms it), there seems scarcely room to doubt, that the greater number of those who are called Christians in no true sense realize it in their own minds at all. Indeed, it is a very difficult thing to bring home to us, and to feel, that we have souls; and there cannot be a more fatal mistake than to suppose we see what the doctrine means, as soon as we can use the words which signify it. So great a thing is it to understand that we have souls, that the knowing it, taken in connection with its results, is all one with being serious, i.e., truly religious. To discern our immortality is necessarily connected with fear and trembling and repentance, in the case of every Christian. Who is there but would be sobered by an actual sight of the flames of hell fire and the souls therein hopelessly enclosed? Would not all his thoughts be drawn to that awful sight, so that he would stand still gazing fixedly upon it, and forgetting everything else; seeing nothing else, hearing nothing, engrossed with the contemplation of it; and when the sight was withdrawn, still having it fixed in his memory, so that he would be henceforth dead to the pleasures and employments of this world, considered in themselves, thinking of them only in their reference to that fearful vision? This would be the overpowering effect of such a disclosure, whether it actually led a man to repentance or not. And thus absorbed in the thought of the life to come are they who really and heartily receive the words of Christ and His Apostles. Yet to this state of mind, and therefore to this true knowledge, the multitude of men called Christians are certainly strangers; a thick veil is drawn over their eyes; and in spite of their being able to talk of the doctrine, they are as if they never had heard of it. They go on just as the heathen did of old: they eat, they drink; or they amuse themselves in vanities, and live in the world, without fear and without sorrow, just as if God had not declared that their conduct in this life would decide their destiny in the next; just as if they either had no souls, or had nothing or little to do with the saving of them, which was the creed of the heathen.

...

Oh that there were such a heart in us, to put aside this visible world, to desire to look at it as a mere screen between us and God, and to think of Him who has entered in beyond the veil, and who is watching us, trying us, yes, and blessing, and influencing, and encouraging us towards good, day by day! Yet, alas, how do we suffer the mere varying circumstances of every day to sway us! How difficult it is to remain firm and in one mind under the seductions or terrors of the world! We feel variously according to the place, time, and people we are with. We are serious on Sunday, and we sin deliberately on Monday. We rise in the morning with remorse at our offences and resolutions of amendment, yet before night we have transgressed again. The mere change of society puts us into a new frame of mind; nor do we sufficiently understand this great weakness of ours, or seek for strength where alone it can be found, in the Unchangable God. What will be our thoughts in that day, when at length this outward world drops away altogether, and we find ourselves where we ever have been, in His presence, with Christ standing at His right hand!

On the contrary, what a blessed discovery is it to those who make it, that this world is but vanity and without substance; and that really they are ever in their Saviour's presence. This is a thought which it is scarcely right to enlarge upon in a mixed congregation, where there may be some who have not given their hearts to God; for why should the privileges of the true Christian be disclosed to mankind at large, and sacred subjects, which are his peculiar treasure, be made common to the careless liver? He knows his blessedness, and needs not another to tell it him. He knows in whom he has believed; and in the hour of danger or trouble he knows what is meant by that peace, which Christ did not explain when He gave it to His Apostles, but merely said it was not as the world could give.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." [Isa. xxvi. 3, 4.]

~John Henry Newman

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A New Kind

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders — no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings — may even give it an awkward appearance.”
~C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Communion

“Communion is what God wants and what we want. It is the deepest cry of God’s and our heart, because we are made with a heart that can be satisfied only by the One who made it.

God created in our heart a yearning for communion that no one but God can, and wants, to fulfill. God knows this. We seldom do. We keep looking somewhere else for that experience of belonging.

Still if we have mourned our losses, listened to him on the road, and invited him into our innermost being, we will know that the communion we have been waiting to receive is the same communion God has been waiting to give.”
~Henri Nouwen

Monday, September 19, 2016

On Himself

Freed and chained, accompanied and alone,
screaming, quiet, I confuse the fierce crowd:
mad to the mortal eye of the lowly world,
wise to the divine Intellect of the celestial pole.
With wings clipped on earth, I fly to heaven
in sad flesh but of rejoicing soul;
and, if sometimes the heavy weight pulls me down,
my wings, though, lift me above the hard ground.
Dubious war makes virtues manifest.
Every other time is short compared to eternity,
and nothing is lighter than a welcome weight.
I wear the image of my love on my forehead,
assured of arriving blessed, on time,
where I may always be understood without speaking.

~Tommaso Campanella

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

~Words: Charles Wes­ley & Music: Lew­is Ed­son

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Open Wide The Doors

“...Do not be afraid! Christ knows ‘what is inside a person’. Only he knows! Today too often people do not know what they carry inside, in the deepest recesses of their soul, in their heart. Too often people are uncertain about a sense of life on earth. Invaded by doubts they are led into despair. Therefore—with humility and trust I beg and implore you—allow Christ to speak to the person in you. Only he has the words of life, yes, eternal life.

Opening wide the doors to Christ, accepting him into humanity itself poses absolutely no threat to persons, indeed it is the only road to take to arrive at the total truth and the exalted value of the human individual.”
~St. Pope John Paul II

Friday, September 16, 2016

From the proconsular Acts of the martyrdom of St. Cyprian

On the morning of the fourteenth of September [258 A.D.] a great crowd gathered at the Villa Sexti, in accordance with the order of the governor Galerius Maximus. That same day the governor commanded Bishop Cyprian to be brought before him for trial in the court of Sauciolum. After Cyprian was brought in, the governor asked him: “Are you Thascius Cyprian?” And the bishop replied: “Yes, I am.” The governor Galerius Maximus said: “Have you posed as the pontiff of a sacrilegious group?” The bishop answered: “I have,” Then the governor said: “Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites.” Bishop Cyprian replied: “I will not do so.” Galerius Maximus said: “Consider your position.” Cyprian replied: “Follow your orders. In such a just cause there is no need for deliberation.”

Then Galerius Maximus, after consulting with his council, reluctantly issued the following judgment: “You have long lived with your sacrilegious convictions, and you have gathered about yourself many others in a vicious conspiracy. You have set yourself up as an enemy of the gods of Rome and our religious practices. The pious and venerable emperors, the Augusti, Valerian and Gallienus, and Valerian the most noble of Caesars, have been unable to draw you back to the observance of their holy ceremonies. You have been discovered as the author and leader of these heinous crimes, and will consequently be held forth as an example for all those who have followed you in your crime. By your blood the law shall be confirmed.” Next he read the sentence from a tablet: “It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword.” Cyprian responded: “Thanks be to God!”

After the sentence was passed, a crowd of his fellow Christians said: “We should also be killed with him!” There arose an uproar among the Christians, and a great mob followed after him. Cyprian was then brought out to the grounds of the Villa Sexti, where, taking off his outer cloak and kneeling on the ground, he fell before the Lord in prayer. He removed his dalmatic and gave it to the deacons, and then stood erect while waiting for the executioner. When the executioner arrived, Cyprian told his friends to give the man twenty-five gold pieces. Cloths and napkins were being spread out in front of him by the brethren. Then the blessed Cyprian covered his eyes with his own hands, but when he was unable to tie the ends of the linen himself, the priest Julian and the sub-deacon Julian fastened them for him.

In this way the blessed Cyprian suffered, and his body was laid out at a nearby place to satisfy the curiosity of the pagans. During the night Cyprian’s body was triumphantly borne away in a procession of Christians who, praying and bearing tapers and torches, carried the body to the cemetery of the governor Macrobius Candidianus which lies on the Mappalian Way near the fish ponds. Not many days later the governor Galerius Maximus died.

The most blessed martyr Cyprian suffered on the fourteenth of September under the emperors Valerian and Gallienus, in the reign of our true Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belong honor and glory for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Cross is Christ’s Glory and Triumph

“We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.

Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation—very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.

The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognize it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it and I will glorify it again. Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.”
~St. Andrew of Crete

“No one has gone up to heaven
   except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
   so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
   so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
~John 3:13-15

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Memories

“Thank God then for all good smells and good sights and good sounds, but what is the good of being attached to them and sitting and turning over their memory and dwelling on the recollections they bring to you, cherishing a sadness for these things which are gone away? Pop and Bonnemaman are dead, and it will never again be the same as being sixteen and eighteen and living at Douglaston on vacations. What a vanity it would be anyway to moan over the happiness of those times because, at eighteen and twenty and twenty-one, while I was active and rushing about after all sorts of things, who can say those were very good or happy years for me when I was full of anger and impatience and ingratitude toward my family to an extent it is horrible to think about now? Then I was proud and selfish and denied God and was full of gluttony and lust. I was so filled with all these things that even now the unhappiness of them does not leave me at all but keeps forcing itself back upon me in thoughts and dreams and movements of anger and desire. I am still full of that same pride and wretchedness which is very strong and very hard to get rid of because of the strength of self-will which weakens love and prayer and resists God.

But all these things were much stronger because I did not resist them at all. Because of them I was very confused and unhappy. So it would be a lie to look back on those as happy days. It is vanity to desire anything that is past because you cannot bring it back again. If pleasure is vanity now, then pleasure in the past is twice as much vanity. The pleasure of making love now is poor enough by itself (that is, without enough love to want to marry the girl, which is not much!), but the pleasure of a first love when you were sixteen: you will never be sixteen again, and you will never be in love again for the first time, and anyway it was fairly silly and certainly not at all satisfactory. As to its injustice—seeing she was married—I think that doesn’t matter, because of my own innocence, anyway. I did not conceive it was possible to do more than declare that I loved her and give her one kiss. The misery afterward was, of course, a luxury. It was all very well and nice, but to want such a stupid kind of thing to happen again would be crazy. Stupid: not the being in love part but all the dramatics and excesses and luxuries of sentiment that surrounded it when the object of my love was on her way to the other side of the earth.

Yet there are many good things to look back on because, before I had my first year at Cambridge, anyway, although I was always full of crazy pride, yet I did love God and prayed to him and was not completely full of sins. So there were good days at Oakham—and at Strasbourg and at Rome and earlier in France and in London on holidays from school. But I think that, even as a child, I was too full of anger and selfishness for me to want to recapture my own childhood at all now! In fact, to want to recapture anything you have had or owned or experienced is a bigger vanity and unhappiness than to want to possess some present good that is before you. And of course, Saint John of the Cross says the memory must be completely darkened as well as the intellect and the will.

It is not really true that I am sentimental about things I remember. That is not it, but I do find them easy and interesting to write about. They come readily and run fast off the pen. For me they have a kind of life and interest. I have been bothered, however, for a long time, wondering just what place they have—what place anything has I write down here.”

~Thomas Merton (Journal Entry – October 1, 1939)

Monday, September 12, 2016

One Solitary Tear

I, at the age of eleven, had a tooth kicked out of my head. Well, it felt like the whole tooth floating in my mouth, though a stub of it remained rooted in my jaw. I was in the mountains at the time and so for two weeks could not get to a dentist.

At the end of the two weeks, home again, I developed a swelling and throbbing ache. But I’d had experiences with dentists before, and I hated them. Therefore, I said nothing to my mother. Only when the pain grew unbearable did I mention it—and then I couldn’t wait for a regular appointment. On that very day I was sent walking to the dentist. I went in darkness because the dentist would see me after the scheduled patients, six o’clock, the nighttime. It was gloomy weather, and a gloomy Walter who walked through it.

I had cried in the dentist’s chair before. I was trembling now. But I was growing older, and I determined this time not to cry.

When I entered the dentist’s waiting room, I found no secretary to greet me. She had gone home. Instead, there was a single middle-aged woman sitting in that room with wide eyes, gripping the arms of her chair, and staring at me. Noises came out from the other side of clouded glass, swirling waters, the buzzing of a cord drill, the mumble of the man who would be the dentist. I took off my coat. I meant to hook it on the clothes tree, but that was already covered with garments, and so I sat with my coat on my lap, wondering where all the people were who owned those wraps and jackets and sweaters. What happened to them?

The woman across the room kept staring at me. I blushed.

Suddenly she declared, “That’s my daughter in there!” indicating the clouded glass. I tried to smile and nodded a pleasantly as I could to her; but I was struggling with my own fears and thinking of my plan not to cry.

“She has soft teeth,” the woman said, glaring fiercely, as though I had something to do with soft teeth. I didn’t know if this statement also required a nod and a smile.

The woman said, “They break off.” I lost nods and smiles altogether. I blinked. “Yessir! Can’t never make a clean pull of it,” the woman shouted, “but they always break off at the gum.” Her eyes continued very wide. I now seemed in pain deeper than a toothache. I reached for a magazine.

All at once there came from the clouded glass a true, extended scream. It was like a dream, where one expects the thing that terrifies him, and it comes. But this was no dream. A woman shrieked till the glass rattled.
I and the middle-aged woman stared across the room at one another, each frozen in mid-motion, I with my magazine, she clutching the arms of her chair.

She had eyeglasses that were going misty.

She whispered, “That’s my daughter in there. She’s got soft teeth.”

I, prickles going up and down my back, was thinking, “I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry.”

Then the door of clouded glass opened up, and a young woman was leaning against the jam, her face pasty-white except for the tiniest pink dots all over it, and her eyes were rolling.

The younger woman moaned, “He broke it off.” She took several lurching steps forward, then swayed in the middle of the room, not far from me, still holding my magazine.

The middle-aged woman unlocked her knuckles from the arms of her chair and began to rise. “Do you need me, honey?”

“I—“ said her daughter, and began to swoon.

Her mother leaped to catch her, at once producing a piercing sound: “Robert!” But the daughter pitched too hard against her mother to be caught, and they both went down in a heap at my feet, and the glasses of the middle-aged woman flew across the floor.

All of my toothache was gone by now. So was my sense. I stared at the women on the floor before me and pretended to cough.

The outside door opened up, and there stood a very big man. This must have been Robert. With no expression at all, he walked straight up to me. I swallowed. Robert pushed my feet aside, squatted down, picked up the younger woman in his arms, and walked to the door again. “There’s your glasses,” he said, and he left.

I began to point to where the glasses were.

The middle-aged woman pulled herself up to her hands and knees and stayed that way a while, breathing. “Always happens,” she said. I didn’t know if she was talking to me, because her head was down. “Always breaks off at the gum.” Heavily she rose to her feet. No longer tight, now, but very tired she reached down for her glasses, and she went out.

Only when the dentist stuck his head into the waiting room and said, “Come, Walter. Come, in. It’s late”—only then did I stop pointing to the place where the glasses had been.

So then, I was sitting in the dentist’s chair, upright, two hard pads behind my skull, and the dentist was looking in my mouth and making sounds of dismal disappointment, and I was repeating to myself, I will not cry. I will not cry.
But I did. But in the end I did an extraordinary thing with my tear, and a wondrous goodness flowed into the situation after all, transfiguring it utterly.
The dentist said, “Root canal,” and went to get his tools.

I felt the crying welling up behind my face.

The dentist returned with a needle and when he put the point of it to the roof of my mouth, the hard palate and when he pierced the palate and fluid burned above its flesh, I cried one tear from my right eye.

One single, solitary tear came out. No gasp. No sob. One tear. And this is what I did with my tear: I gave it to Jesus.

I said in the deep of my soul, “For you,” and then it belonged to Jesus; and I meant it, too, that my pain and my frights and all my weaknesses were given to Jesus as well. The tear ran down my cheek. But it had been offered. Therefore, that was the only tear that I cried that day.

The dentist could not know; neither could my mother record this moment in the journal she kept of her son; but I willingly enacted my love for Jesus on that day, myself participating in the relationship, giving something important unto it. I matured. I was not only passive. And I realized how mighty and how sweet, how mortally deep was my love for Jesus—and how sustaining. And this: I was someone, too. Not only could Jesus call my name, but I could call the name of Jesus as well. We spoke to one another. Each was significant unto the other. How dear!

One solitary tear.

~Walter Wangerin Jr.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Who are forgiven? How many?

We do not know.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” he replied, “Strive to enter” (Luke 13:23-24). He did not give us statistics about others, only directions for ourselves.

Whatever their number, the forgiven and saved are always far too “few” for divine love. To the Good Shepherd, 99 of 100 sheep saved was too “few,” and he spent all day searching for the one that was lost (Luke 15). God revealed to us his infinitely merciful character, which we need to know, but not the comparative population statistics of Heaven and Hell, which we do not need to know.

We do know that “Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Clearly Christ is speaking of forgiveness and salvation here, not of worldly goods. Not all who seek wealth or health or fame find it, but all who seek God with a sincere and honest heart find him, whether in this life or the next. We do not know what proportion of mankind truly seeks God in the depths of their hearts, because we do not know the hearts of men; but we do know what proportion of those who do seek God find him and his forgiveness (100 percent!), because we know the heart of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
~Peter Kreeft

Saturday, September 10, 2016

People In Glass Houses

       I build my house of shining glass
of crystal
prisms
light, clear,
delicate.
The wind blows
Sets my rooms to singing.
The suns bright rays
are not held back
but pour
their radiance through the rooms
in sparkles of delight.
       And what, you ask, of rain
that leaves blurred muddy streaks
across translucent purity?
What, you ask,
of the throwers of stones?
       Glass shatters,
breaks,
sharp fragments pierce my flesh,
darken with blood.
The wind tinkles brittle splinters
of shivered crystal.
The stones crash through.
       But never mind.
My house
My lovely shining
fragile broken house
is filled with flowers
and founded on a rock.

~Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, September 9, 2016

Gratitude

“Gratitude is more than a mental exercise, more than a formula of words. We cannot be satisfied to make a mental note of things which God has done for us and then perfunctorily thank Him for favors received.

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is grace, for it brings with us immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder, and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
~Thomas Merton

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Evil Has No Good Of Its Own

“Whatever good [evil] has is stolen from what is truly good. Evil steals the good by misappropriating, misapplying, exaggerating, or deforming it in some way. Evil in itself appeals to no one, so it must steal from the good and dress itself up, luring us with what is good and cloaking its true emptiness.

Evil in itself is unappealing and devoid of anything it can claim as its own. It lives like a parasite on the good and must take something good in order to be anything at all.

So, while evil may appear powerful and enticing, in itself it has nothing to offer. Though evil scoffs at the good, it ultimately depends upon it.”

~Charles Pope

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stages of Contemplation

“The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is constantly to consider what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rectitude of God’s will, being neither one with it nor wholly in accord with it; let us then humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and be concerned to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying: Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.

Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations we no longer abide within our own spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself. For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way more advantageous and fitting for us. And so, concerned as we are to preserve the life of our soul, we should be equally concerned, insofar as we can, not to deviate from his will.

Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, let us reflect how sweet is the Lord and how good he is in himself; in the words of the prophet let us pray to see God’s will; no longer shall we frequent our own hearts but his temple. At the same time we shall say: My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.

The whole of the spiritual life consists of these two elements. When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with a salutary sadness. And when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.”
~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

O Christ, The Light Of Heaven

O Christ, the Light of heaven
And of the world true Light,
You come in all Your radiance
To cleave the web of night.

May what is false within us
Before Your truth give way,
That we may live untroubled,
With quiet hearts this day.

May steadfast faith sustain us,
And hope made firm in You;
The love that we have wasted,
O God of love, renew.

Blest Trinity we praise You
In whom our quest will cease;
Keep us with You for ever
In happiness and peace.

~Benedictine Nuns of Stanbrook Abbey
 (Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal)

Monday, September 5, 2016

God in the Quad

There was a young man who said “God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there’s no one about in the quad.”

Reply:
“Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;
I am always about in the quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

~Ronald Knox

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Canonization

“Believe that He, Jesus, is in the
appearance of Bread and
that He, Jesus, is in the hungry,
naked, sick, lonely, unloved,
homeless, helpless and
hopeless.”

~St. Mother Teresa

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Psalm 113

Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
May the name of the Lord be blessed
both now and for evermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting
praised be the name of the Lord!

High above all nations is the Lord,
above the heavens his glory.
Who is like the Lord, our God,
who has risen on high to his throne
yet stoops from the heights to look down,
to look down upon heaven and earth?

From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
from his misery he raises the poor
to set him in the company of princes,
yes, with the princes of his people.
To the childless wife he gives a home
and gladdens her heart with children.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Promise

       You promised
well, actually you didn't promise very much, did you?
but that little is enough
is more than enough.
We fail you
over and over again
but you promised to be faithful to us
not to let us fail
beyond your forgiveness of our failure.
In our common temptation
you promised
we would not be tempted more than we are able
you promised not to lead us into temptation
beyond our frail strength
and you
yourself
are our refuge in temptation
our escape from the pit
and that is enough
so that we can bear
more than we thought we could bear
of loneliness, nothingness, otherness,
sin, silliness, sadness.
For thine is the kingdom and the other great fors:
forbearance, forgiveness,
fortitude,
forever:
this is what you promised
it is enough
it is everything.

~Madeleine L'Engle

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Still Life

An open window:
Smoke hazy mountain
Deforested, aloof
Beyond the quilted plains;
Ink sketched poplars
Against a reddening sky;
A green flame of ivy
Clinging to the lichened stones;
A lone red rose;
A cowled figure diverts his eyes
Resumes the sacred text,
Sighs with lonely longing,
Flicks over the pages
In the twilight
Century after century ...

~a Carthusian monk