Blog posts

PRAYER: Black Elk’s Earth Prayer

October 23, 2017

Grandfather, Great Spirit, once more behold me on Earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. You lived first, and you are older than all need, older than all prayer. All things belong to you – the two-legged, the four-legged, the wings of the air, and all green things that live. You have set the powers of the four quarters of the Earth to cross each other. You have made me cross the good road and road of difficulties, and where they cross, the place is holy. Day in, day out, forevermore, you are the life of things. Hey! Lean to hear my feeble voice. At the center of the sacred hoop With tears running, O Great Spirit, my Grandfather, With running eyes I must say The tree has never bloomed Here I stand, and the tree is withered. Again, I [...]

EVIL: Love And Inadequacy

October 23, 2017

A little while ago, during a vision, I happened upon something.  Not intentionally.  Or, at least, I don’t think it was intentionally. I raised my eyebrows at it and decided that I didn’t want to know this. I’m not sure why.  But I decided I wanted to keep it a secret. Even from myself. But last night, not realizing I was on the same path that would lead to the same answer, I happened upon it again. So the secret was officially “out.” Everything that exists has a seen side and an unseen side. Pretty much every minute of the day we are unaware of this. That the good has a tangled side. That the bad have a confused and weak side. That what appears before us and convinces us it is what we see is not, [...]

POETRY: The Bibliographers by Geoffrey Hill

October 22, 2017

Lucifer blazing in superb effigies Among the world’s ambitious tragedies, Heaven-sent gift to the dark ages, Now, in the finest-possible light, We approach you; can estimate Your not unnatural height. Though the discrete progeny, Out of their swim, go deflated and dry, We know the feel of you, archaic beauty, Between the tombs, where the tombs still extrude, Overshadowing the sun-struck world: (The shadow-god envisaged in no [...]

POETRY: Temple by John Donne

October 21, 2017

With his kind mother who partakes thy woe, Joseph turn back; see where your child doth sit, Blowing, yea blowing out those sparks of wit, Which himself on the doctors did bestow; The Word but lately could not speak, and lo, It suddenly speaks wonders, whence comes it, That all which was, and all which should be writ, A shallow seeming child, should deeply know? His Godhead was not soul to his manhood, Nor had time mellowed him to this ripeness, But as for one which hath a long task, ’tis good, With the sun to begin his business, He in his age’s morning thus began By miracles exceeding power of [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: A Name Born Of Experience by Raniero Cantalamessa

October 20, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit We come right away to the first line of this verse and to the first title: “You whom we name the Paraclete,” (Qui Paracletus diceris).  For those who have any familiarity with a computer, it provides a comparison that may help to grasp what happens at the simple mention of the name Paraclete.  I am thinking of what we call a file, or the name we give a document, and what that represents.  I sit at the computer and write a whole book, this one, let us say, on the Veni Creator, and I put it into memory, giving it a name of no more than eight characters.  In this case, the eight-letter name was in fact “paraclet.”  The whole book is there, stored in the computer’s memory, but [...]

POETRY: The Night Train by Thomas Merton

October 20, 2017

In the unreason of a rainy midnight France blooms along the windows Of my sleepy bathysphere, And runs to seek in a luxuriance of curious lights. Escape is drawn straight through my dream And shines to Paris, clean as violin string, While spring tides of commotion, (The third-class pianos of the Orient Express) Fill up the hollow barrels of my ears. Cities that stood, by day, as gay as lancers Are lost, in the night, like old men dying. At a point where polished rails branch off forever The steels lament, like crazy ladies. We wake, and weep the deaths of the cathedrals That we have never seen, Because we hear the jugulars of the country Fly in the wind, and vanish with a cry. At once the diplomats start up, as white as bread, Buckle the [...]

SURRENDER: Attaining Lasting Peace by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

October 19, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender The soul who is not committed to the will of God alone will find neither its satisfaction nor its sanctification in the various methods – not even in the most excellent devotional exercises.  If that which God himself chooses for you does not satisfy you, from whom do you expect to receive what you desire?  If you turn from the food prepared for you by God’s own will, what food could satisfy a taste so depraved?  A soul can be nourished, strengthened, purified, enriched, and made holy only by the fullness of the present moment.  What more would you have?  Since you can find all that is good here, why search for it anywhere else?  Do you know better than God?  Since he ordains it this way, why do [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Knight And The Keg by Nathalie Leone

October 19, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom The knight was as comely as an angel.  Even if he rode all day, on his return he was fresh and the folds in his clothing were as unruffled as they had been before he set out. And yet he spread horror.  He desecrated, burned, killed, and ravaged men and beasts who crossed his path.  He was so cruel that people even thought he was born heartless. He did not distinguish between respected holy days and normal days, never went to church, and never fasted, not even during Lent.  And rumor had it that he had never in his life heard a sermon.  “He isn’t even baptized,” it was whispered.  He instilled the fear of an antichrist.  On Good Friday, the knight joyfully proposed to his companions that they [...]

HEALING: We Are All Good Goats by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 19, 2017

From: Good Goats A few years ago, we presented some of the ideas in this book to a group of elderly retired Roman Catholic nuns.  One sister raised her hand and said, “But what about the story of the sheep and the goats?  It says right there that the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell.” Dennis responded by asking the whole group, “How many of you, even once in your life, have done what Jesus asks at the beginning of that passage and fed a hungry person, clothed a naked person, or visited a person in prison?”  All the sisters raised their hands.  Dennis said, “That’s wonderful!  You’re all sheep.”  Then Dennis asked, “How many of you, even once in your life, have walked by [...]

POETRY: Luke 14, A Commentary by Kathleen Norris

October 18, 2017

So he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11) He is there like Clouseau [...]

MYSTICISM: Why Mysticism Matters by Carl McColman

October 18, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3) All mystic charisms are worthless compared to the love of God. They are as a string of pearls adorning a hungry infant who does not heed the pearls but only wants his mother’s breast. (Macarius the Egyptian) For those who have a sense of God’s presence in their lives, who enjoy a natural bent toward spirituality or a strong commitment to religion, or who simply enjoy the history of ideas, mysticism is a fascinating subject in its own right.  Others without an innate attraction to the topic, however, may be asking themselves: “What’s the point?  Does mysticism really make a difference?  How can it make life [...]

POETRY: Ground Swell by Mark Jarman

October 18, 2017

Is nothing real but when I was fifteen, Going on sixteen, like a corny song? I see myself so clearly then, and painfully— Knees bleeding through my usher’s uniform Behind the candy counter in the theater After a morning’s surfing; paddling frantically To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me, Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor’s Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt. Is that all I have to write about? You write about the life that’s vividest. And if that is your own, that is your subject. And if the years before and after sixteen Are colorless as salt and taste like sand— Return to those remembered chilly mornings, The light spreading like a great skin on the water, And the blue water scalloped with [...]

PSALMS: Broader Structures In The Psalter by W. Robert Godfrey

October 17, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Within the Psalter, certain groups of psalms have long been identified.  Psalms 146–150 are concluding psalms of praise, each beginning and ending with the same Hebrew word: Hallelujah.  Psalms 113–118 have been known as the Egyptian Hallel, the psalms used to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at the feast of the Passover.  As we study the Psalter, we may see other groups of psalms emerging.  For example, in Book One, Psalms 19–26 seem to form a special group prophetic of the redemptive work of Christ. Still other groups of psalms are united by certain words or ideas that are repeated from one psalm to another.  These links are complex, and we will only scratch the surface of them [...]

POETRY: Meditation Seven by Edward Taylor

October 17, 2017

My  heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. (Psalm 45:1-2) Thy human frame, my glorious Lord, I spy. A golden still with Heavenly choice drugs filled Thy holy love, the glowing heat whereby The spirit of grace is graciously distilled. Thy mouth the neck through which these spirits still; My soul thy vial make, and therewith fill. Thy speech the liquor in thy vessel stands, Well tinged with grace, a blessed tincture, lo, Thy words distilled grace in thy lips poured, and Give graces tincture in them where they go. Thy words in graces [...]

ANGELS: At The Dawn Of The Day by Martin Shannon

October 17, 2017

From: All God’s Angel After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from Heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to [...]

PRAYER: Faith And Beliefs—Trusting Courage by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 16, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer Suppose our argument thus far is convincing.  Suppose we agree that gratefulness is that fullness of life for which all of us are thirsting.  Then the task ahead is simple enough: to learn to live gratefully.  The key question is: How shall we go about it? Earlier on, when we spoke of learning to live prayerfully, I suggested that we take the most prayerful moments in our daily life and start from there.  This gives us the advantage of starting with something we already know from experience.  In certain situations we have experienced an inner attitude that we consider prayerful; now the task is to approach not only some but all situations in that attitude.  At least we already know what it is [...]

MUSIC: Wrong Notes In A Splendid Performance by Thomas H. Troeger

October 16, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I particularly remember one lesson from years ago, when I was seriously studying the flute.  I was playing for my teacher, John Oberbrunner, a major work that I was about to perform in public.  We had agreed that I was to play the piece all the way through, as I would in the performance, and then he would respond to what he had heard.  I do not now recall exactly what the piece was, nor do I remember the whole of my teacher’s response.  But I have never forgotten one thing that he said.  I had played a dotted half note just before a rest of several beats, and I had forgotten that it was supposed to be a sharp, not a natural.  During the measure’s rest that followed the wrong note I lifted the flute [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Confession, 19th Century India

October 16, 2017

Like the bounding stag I have sought sensual pleasures and fallen into the lake. I am the greatest sinner among sinners, unwilling to part with even a grain of rice to the noisy crow. Like the fly buzzing about without any rest, I seek. O, Father, tell me what to do that I may not die without your grace, and grant me your grace to support me. Like the bull bearing heavy burdens, I have toiled carrying the load of my own grief. Not knowing anything, I have roamed like the unclean animal feeding upon the refuse of the streets. I am lower than the dog, which tires itself out with barking in utter thoughtlessness. Holy Father, what can I do to obtain your grace to support me in my distress? I have taken pride in regarding my darkness as light [...]

POETRY: Wilt Thou Love God? by John Donne

October 15, 2017

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest, My Soule, this wholsome meditation, How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on In Heaven, doth make his Temple in thy brest. The Father having begot a Sonne most blest, And still begetting, (for he ne’r begonne) Hath deign’d to chuse thee by adoption, Coheire to his glory, and Sabbaths endless rest; And as a robb’d man, which by search doth finde His stolne stuffe sold, must lose or buy it againe: The Sonne of glory came downe, and was slaine, Us whom he had made, and Satan stolne, to unbinde. ‘Twas much, that man was made like God before, But, that God should be made like man, much [...]

SATURDAY READING: Screaming by Dan Wakefield

October 15, 2017

From Returning: A Spiritual Journey One balmy spring morning in Hollywood, a month or so before my forty-eighth birthday, I work up screaming.  I got out of bed, went into the next room, sat down on a couch, and screamed again.  This was not, in other words, one of those waking nightmares left over from sleep that is dispelled by the comforting light of day.  It was, rather, a response to the reality that another morning had broken in a life I could only deal with sedated by wine, loud noise, moving images, and wired to electronic games that further distracted my fragmented attention from a growing sense of blank, nameless pain in the pit of my very being, my most essential self.  It was the beginning of a year in which I would have [...]

POETRY: A Prayer To Eve by Kathleen Norris

October 14, 2017

Mother of fictions and of irony, help us to laugh. Mother of science and the critical method, keep up humble. Muse of listeners, hope of interpreters, inspire us to act. Bless our metaphors, that we might eat them. Help us to know, Eve, the one thing we must do. Come with us, muse of exile, mother of the [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Sanctifying Work Of The Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

October 13, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit Saint Seraphim of Sarov said to one of his disciples: We need to keep praying up to the moment when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us and grants us Heavenly grace in a measure known only to him.  As soon as he visits us, we should stop calling upon him to come.  For indeed, what purpose could it serve to keep on pleading, “Come, you who are goodness itself, make your dwelling in us, purify us of every stain and save our souls,” if he has already come? To behave differently would be like inviting someone to your house, and when he arrives meeting him at the door and letting him stand there while you repeat over and over with monotonous insistence, “Do please come and visit me!”  People [...]

POETRY: For M. In October by Thomas Merton

October 13, 2017

If you and I could meet up there In that cool cloud Like two sun Beams or birds Going straight to South America Or distracted spirits Flying together innocent In midair Or if we could be Together like two barges in a string Or tight wandering rafts Heading downriver to St Louis or New Orleans If we could come together like two parts Of one love song Two chords going hand in hand A perfect arrangement And be two parts of the same secret (Oh if we could recover And tell again Our midsummer secret!) If you and I could even start again as strangers Here in this forsaken field Where crickets rise up Around my feet like spray Out of a green ocean… But I am alone, Alone walking up and down Leaning on the silly wind And talking out loud like a [...]

SURRENDER: The Limited Use Of Intelligence, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

October 12, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender The mind with all its powers would like to hold first place among all the instruments employed by God, but it must, like a dangerous slave, be reduced to the lowest place.  It might be of great service if made use of in a right manner, but it can do much injury if it is not kept in subjection.  When the soul longs for outward supports, grace whispers to the heart that God’s invisible work is enough.  When the soul wishes to forego created means of help at the wrong time, God shows it that such help should be received and used with singleness of heart, in keeping with his established will.  We should use such means as tools, not for their own sake, but as though we did not use them, and when we are [...]

WISDOM STORY: Providence by Nathalie Leone

October 12, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom A priest had shut himself in his cell to write a sermon on divine providence. Suddenly he heard an explosion.  The dam that protected the small town had just given way and the river burst its banks in a roar of flood water that swept along everything in its path. The priest, distraught, was about to give way to panic when he caught sight of his sermon on divine providence.  He pulled himself together and calmed down. The village was flooded and most people stayed cloistered indoors.  Some of them, however, did venture out, waist-deep in water, in search of help.  A rescue boat soon arrived under the presbytery windows. The rowers called out to the priest, gesticulating to him. “No, no,” he said to [...]

HEALING: Punishment Never Heals, Only Love Can Heal by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 12, 2017

From: Good Goats When we speak of how our recovery depends so much on knowing God as merciful and loving, the most frequent question we are asked is this: “If God is so merciful and loving, then why be good?” I (Dennis) understand this question since I did many good things because I feared a vengeful, punishing God.  For example, I read Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats.  I interpreted this passage literally and thought that since the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell, I wanted to  make sure I was a sheep.  So, out of fear and as a good sheep, I did many good things such as visiting the sick and feeding the hungry.  Yet, when my image of God changed, I did even more good things and did them with more [...]

POETRY: In Memory Of Jane Fraser by Geoffrey Hill

October 11, 2017

When snow like sheep lay in the fold And winds went begging at each door, And the far hills were blue with cold, And a cold shroud lay on the moor, She kept the siege. And every day We watched her brooking over death Like a strong bird above its prey. The room filled with the kettle’s breath. Damp curtains glued against the pane Sealed time away. Her body froze As if to freeze us all, and chain Creation to a stunned repose. She died before the world could stir. In March the ice unloosed the brook And water ruffled the sun’s hair. Dead cones upon the alder [...]

MYSTICISM: Simone Weil—Encounters With Christ

October 11, 2017

From Waiting for God and The Notebooks of Simone Weil In 1938 I spent ten days at Solesmes, from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday, following all the liturgical services.  I was suffering from splitting headaches; each sound hurt me like a blow; by an extreme effort of concentration I was able to rise above this wretched flesh, to leave it to suffer by itself, heaped up in a corner, and to find a perfect and pure joy in the unimaginable beauty of the chanting and the words.  This experience by analogy enabled me to get a better understanding of the possibility of divine love in the midst of affliction.  It goes without saying that in the course of these services the thought of the passion of Christ entered into my being once and for all. [...]

POETRY: Daydreaming by Simone Weil

October 11, 2017

I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched, is daydreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the one solace that helps them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one’s possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow Him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross; because time is the cross. In all its forms without exception, daydreaming is falsehood. It excludes love. Love is [...]

PSALMS: Poetic Forms Of The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

October 10, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms The meaning of any kind of poetry is tied to the form of the poem.  The essence of poetry is the artful variation of words and images in forms different from ordinary prose communication.  Think of Shakespeare’s brief poetic lines in Richard II: I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. In these poetic lines, Shakespeare’s reversal of word order is both memorable and arresting.  The form draws us into reflecting on the meaning of the words.  The same is true with the meaning of the psalms. To understand the psalms, we need to understand something of the literary forms of Hebrew poetry.  The forms of Hebrew poetry, however, are different from those of English poetry and therefore require [...]