Saturday Reading

SATURDAY READING: To Sing Is A Lover’s Thing by Edith M. Humphrey

August 5, 2017

From Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth As In Heaven Can you hear them? They’re singing, singing a song as strong as the sea, as sure as the rock, as heartrending as a glimpse of sapphire sky caught through a tear in an ominous bank of clouds. Can you hear them? Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, The One who was, and who is, and who is to come… Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, To receive glory and honor and power: For thou didst create all things, And by thy will they came to be, and were created.  (Revelation 4:8, 11) The song surrounds John, directed by the cherubim who sing the thrice-holy hymn, and entered with abandon and reverence by the twenty-four elders, representative of God’s people.  Encircled by the celestial [...]

SATURDAY READING: Transformative Contemplation by William A. Clark

June 17, 2017

From Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: They Shall Be Called Children of God An Encounter With Sacred Violence On May 1, 2011, while most of their professors were at home preparing for bed or already asleep, students at the small Catholic college where I teach participated in a dramatic demonstration of what must be called, “sacred violence.”  That night, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, for ten years the embodiment of “The Enemy” in the War on Terror, had been killed by U. S. commandos in Pakistan.  Many students had just heard President Barack Obama declare to the nation: “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Voice From The Dead, by Sheila St. Clair

August 13, 2016

From Mysterious Ireland This seventeenth century account of a very unusual haunting comes from Drumbeg, County Down.  In those days the area was known as Drumbridge, as the road passed over the River Lagan.  The time is the autumn of 1662.  One Francis Taverner, a servant of Lord Chickester, was riding homeward from Hillsborough to Mallon (Malone), County Antrim.  Mallon is now on the edge of what can be called Greater Belfast, on the south side of the city. Suddenly, there appeared on the road beside Taverner an apparition in a white robe and on horseback, with two other riders beside him.  The apparition bore a resemblance to James Haddock, whom Taverner had known slightly in life and whose remains now lay in the churchyard at [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Virtue Of The Angels, by Gabriel Bunge

July 23, 2016

From Dragon’s Wine and Angel’s Bread: The Teaching of Evagrius Ponticus on Anger and Meekness The image of man, as presented by Evagrius, would remain one-sided were one only to present it against the dark background of those vices that pervert it, without also showing its luminous, “angelic” dimensions.  Furthermore, hardly anyone could muster the courage and endurance to do battle against a vice such as anger if he did not have an appealing image of real humanness before his eyes – an ideal which perhaps he is not able to develop, but which nevertheless widens the narrow horizon of our Earthly existence.  A good deal has already been mentioned in the preceding chapters, but here we shall attempt to form a [...]

SATURDAY READING: Lectio Divina And The Angelic Way, by Rami Shapiro

July 16, 2016

From The Angelic Way At the heart of this book is the intuition that we are part of God, and the notion that myths regarding angels are designed to remind us of that.  The stories of angels descending to Earth and taking on human form, the stories of humans ascending to Heaven and becoming angels, the stories of humans ascending to Heaven to see God, and the stories of humans ascending to Heaven and then returning to Earth to guide humanity are all pointing to a single truth: humanity and God belong to a singular reality, and each has the capacity to reach the other. In other words, the relationship between humanity and God is analogous to that between the positive and negative poles of a magnet.  A magnet cannot be a magnet without [...]

SATURDAY READING: On How To Study The Psalms Devotionally, by Bruce K. Waltke

June 18, 2016

From The Dance Between God and Humanity At the end of the summer in which our committee translated the Book of Psalms for the New International Version of the Bible, I felt less devoted to God than at the beginning of the summer when we began our assignment.  (No aspersion on the NIV!  I suspect translators of all versions have had a similar experience.  In my judgment the NIV is the best translation available, and I thank God for giving me opportunity to have a small part in it.)  My confession is a wry comment on my depravity and the paradox of faith – God seeking after man and man seeking after God.  Is it not ironic that after tirelessly studying some of the most richly devotional literature of the Bible I came away from the [...]

SATURDAY READING: Listening by Esther de Waal

June 11, 2016

From Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict How great is the freedom to which you are called. Right at the start of the Rule of Saint Benedict had the vivid image of the crowded marketplace and the Lord calling out very loudly, trying to arrest the attention of passers-by in the crowd to what is on offer.  This is an open invitation, a general offer to anyone who cares to stop and listen.  It is not highly selective at all; in fact it is addressed to each of us personally.  The Bible of course presents us with some spectacular calls: Moses was alone in the desert, Samuel was dragged out of sleep, Paul was blinded.  But then Simon and Andrew, James and John were merely at their usual daily jobs, fishing and mending the nets, and Amos [...]

SATURDAY READING: Secularizations by Richard John Neuhaus

May 7, 2016

From First Things As with most academic traditions, and especially those that are viewed as soft, there are orthodoxies and fashions, and sometimes sudden turns, that are conventionally described – following Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions of almost half a century ago – as paradigm shifts.  Sociology is generally seen as one of those soft disciplines.  From its once enormous popularity in the academy, it has in recent decades fallen upon hard times.  As Peter Berger and others have argued, sociology did itself in by, among other things, its reckless abandonment of the intellectual discipline appropriate to being a discipline and its eagerness to make itself useful to sundry ideological and social [...]

SATURDAY READING: Contemptus Mundi And The Love of Life by Amanda Shaw

March 12, 2016

From First Things Just down the road from the lively Piazza Barberini is a Capuchin church, Santa Maria della Concezione.  Practically every Roman street corner boasts some little church, supported – or sometimes squashed – between the hotels and high-rises that have sprouted up over the centuries.  And, more often than not, these unassuming churches shelter some almost-forgotten treasure: the prison cell of Saint Paul, the grill of Saint Laurence, a darkened Caravaggio canvas, Michelangelo’s unfinished tomb.  Ancient treasures, whose saints and artists have long since passed to their reward, but that linger in remembrance: Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. But the rose-colored Capuchin [...]

SATURDAY READING: On Pilgrimage, by Dorothy Day

March 5, 2016

From The Catholic Worker January January 17, 1948, West Virginia, 5°: When you are in the country, the temperature is important. To write, I lie in bed with a hot-water bottle at my feet, a loose old coat covering me. A bathrobe would not be enough. The hot-water bottle is a pint-size whiskey bottle. This is a good house, a good farm, in spite of the fields being far from the house beyond the woods. Spring, summer, and fall are so beautiful in the country, but the winters are hard. Yesterday the snow fell all day and the children ran out getting pans of it to eat. My son-in-law David calls it the poor man’s manure, as it is filled with chemicals that enrich the soil. It tastes sooty, just as it does in the city. The wheat, barley, [...]

SATURDAY READING: Gratitude As Thankfulness And As Gratefulness by David Steindl-Rast

February 20, 2016

From The Psychology of Gratitude At this early stage of concerted scientific research concerning gratitude, it is essential to fine-tune our terminology. Precise terminology is a necessary instrument for clear thinking. Scientific terminology differs from conversational usage by its precision. Emmons and Shelton noted, “Given that gratitude is a commonly occurring affect, it is remarkable that psychologists specializing in the study of emotions have, by and large, failed to explore its contours.” Because we have failed to explore even the contours, we lack the terminology necessary for more detailed exploration. My effort at precision is twofold: linguistic and psychological. Here, I examine idiomatic usage and etymological derivation [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Confession Of Saint Patrick

February 13, 2016

Part One I, Patrick, a sinner, very rustic, and the least of all the faithful, and very contemptible in the estimation of most men, had as father a certain man called Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a presbyter, who was in the town Bannaventa Berniae, for he had a little villa nearby, where I conceded capture. In years I was then almost sixteen. For I was ignorant of the true God, and I was led to Ireland in captivity with so many thousands of men according to our deserts, because we withdrew from God, and we did not keep watch over his precepts, and we were not obedient to our priests, who kept admonishing our salvation, and the Lord led down over us the wrath of his anger and dispersed us among many gentiles even as far as the [...]

SATURDAY READING: What Do You Want? The Place of Seeing God by Ann Voskamp

January 16, 2016

From One Thousand Gifts Every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: “O my God, if thy creations are so full of beauty, delight, and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight, and joy art thou thyself, creator of all! (Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain) “You will want to see this.” He takes my shoulders in his hands, large and field-worn, and draws me close.  I fight the urge to writhe. It’s not him.  Not his hands holding me, the whisper of his voice, his eyes inviting me now.  It’s just that I’m feeling time’s strangling grip, struggling to [...]

SATURDAY READING: A New Religious America by Philip Jenkins

January 9, 2016

From First Things In recent years, the decade of the 1960s has become a popular subject for courses in university history departments.  Since humanities professors tilt well to the left, it is scarcely surprising that they generally focus on a familiar range of iconic events and individuals associated with progressive social reform – the stories of civil rights, the antiwar movement, feminism, and so on.  As we gain greater distance from the era, though, the events, of the 1960s that have the most enduring consequences are rather to be located on the other end of the political and cultural spectrum.  Arguably, the most important single piece of legislation of these years involved neither civil rights nor women’s rights, but [...]

SATURDAY READING: Behind The Veil Of Heaven by Bruce Wilkinson

December 19, 2015

From You Were Born For This You were born to be a living link between Heaven and Earth. If I were to ask you what you think is happening in Heaven at this very moment, what would you say? I’ve asked this simple question of religious and nonreligious, educated and uneducated persons the world over.  And since most people believe Heaven exists, ideas tend to come quickly. People mention angels, harps, God sitting on his throne, a lot of praise and worship.  Others mention higher states of consciousness.  But little involving action comes to mind. “Any committee meetings going on up there?” I ask.  “Strategy planning sessions?” Folks laugh.  They think I’m kidding. “How about God?  Does he do [...]

DEVOTION: Veneration Of The Sacred Heart by Mary Jeremy Finnegan

December 12, 2015

from The Women of Helfta Veneration of the Sacred Heart, based on belief in the incarnation, is rooted in scripture, Christian tradition, and liturgy.  The theology of the first Christian millennium makes repeated mention of the fountain of living water from the wound in the side of Christ crucified.  In the torrent of sacramental grace the Latin Fathers saw a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “You shall draw waters with joy from the fountain of the Savior.”  The birth of the church ex aqua et sanguine from the wounded side of the new Adam asleep in death was, they affirmed, a parallel to the birth of Eve from the side of the sleeping Adam.  “Both dogmatically and historically, this vision of the church [...]

SATURDAY READING: Eucharist As An Alternative Space To The Globalization Of Media by Joshva Raja

December 5, 2015

From The Edge of God A Story of a Eucharist Manjolai is a small tea estate, owned by a group of shareholders under the name of Bombay Burma Trading Corporation.  It has seven estates with more than 2,000 full-time workers.  The majority of the laborers are from Dalit communities.  I worked in this place as a priest in 1994 and 1995.  During my ministry there I experimented in a project for the Church of South India (CSI) synod named a “Laborer’s awareness project.”  Interestingly, the church became the center of the community and the priest was seen as a labor union representative.  As I ran this project, I could mediate between the company managers and laborers.  Very often during and after the Holy Communion [...]

SATURDAY READING: Strength In Weakness by Martin McGee

November 21, 2015

From Christian Martyrs for a Muslim People The White Fathers of Tizi-Ouzou Jean Fisset, an elderly White Father, was deeply moved by the funeral of his assassinated brothers in Tizi-Ouzou: Like Jesus, I was overwhelmed and I turned towards the Father, giving thanks during the burial of my brothers, the four victims of Tizi Ouzou.  I recall the closed shops along the route of the funeral cortège, and the silent crowd who joined it as far as the cemetery.  Imagine, four Christian missionaries led to their resting place by a crowd of about 4,000 Muslims; and even more, on entering the cemetery, this crowd emitting youyous and applauding as if for their own martyrs. Msgr. Teissier, before all those present, was able to find the words [...]

SATURDAY READING: Just A Red-Blooded American Male And Miracle Worker by Patricia Treece

November 7, 2015

From Nothing Short of a Miracle Sixteen-month-old Elizabeth Fanning lies listlessly in her mother’s arms.  Anxiously, draw-faced Mrs. Fanning coaxes her child to take even a spoonful of the liver soup recommended by doctors.  But although Elizabeth’s swollen belly and twiglike limbs make her look like a starvation victim, the lethargic baby has no interest in food of any kind.  Little Betsy, as her parents call her, has a fatal disease in 1940: the blood cancer known as leukemia.  What makes her case especially tragic is that the illness may be the result of new medical technology.  Born in August 1938, Elizabeth appeared normal.  But, three or four days later, a thick red growth appeared on her cheek, while a red [...]

SATURDAY READING: Wisdom by Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham

July 25, 2015

From Experiencing Spirituality Wisdom begins in wonder. (Edith Hamilton) The Master argued with no one, for he knew that what the arguer sought was confirmation of his beliefs, not the truth. He once showed them the value of an argument: “Does a slice of bread fall with the buttered side up or down?” “With the buttered side down, of course.” “No, with the buttered side up.” “Let’s put it to the test.” So a slice of bread was buttered and thrown up in the air.  It fell buttered side up. “I win!” “Only because I made a mistake.” “What mistake?” “I obviously buttered the wrong side.” ∴ Very often, argument is of little use.  This is [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Holy Spirit Provides Gifts by Keith Warrington

June 20, 2015

From The Message of the Holy Spirit One: Introduction The gifts of the Spirit are mainly discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians, a letter that was written to believers who, though charismatic, were verging on the chaotic, their basic problem being due to relationship issues.  As a result of selfishness and a false view of their importance as individuals, the interests of others had been ignored.  Consequently, Paul speaks to the issue of unity from the start.  Thereafter, problems arising from their disunity are explored, including serious immorality, a readiness to take one another to court, marital issues, lack of care over younger Christians, idolatry, gender issues, ignorance over the Lord’s Supper and of the importance of [...]

SATURDAY READING: Keeping Company With The Saints, by Lynlea Rodger

June 6, 2015

From In the Land of Larks and Heroes: Australian Reflections on St. Mary MacKillop I have recently enjoyed time in the Southern Balkans, which included visits to many Byzantine churches.  Once inside, you always find that you are not alone.  What is very obvious are the icons, and the gentle presence of the saints that they evoke.  Saints both local and biblical stand among us through the icons.  Their very particular colors and methods of representations evoke the experience of eternal time and space.  They also tell the Christian story such that we too become witnesses and participants with them.  It is within this space that the community meets, celebrates, worships – as in Heaven, so on Earth: on Earth as it is in Heaven. To [...]

SATURDAY READING: Christos Mystikos — Jesus Christ and the New Millennium, by Lawrence S. Cunningham

May 16, 2015

From Who Do You Say That I Am?  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16) Karl Rahner once wrote, famously, that the Christian of the future would either be a mystic “who has experienced something or will cease to be anything at all.”  The burden of Rahner’s argument was that the day when Christians (he was speaking of his own experiences as a European) would simply be born into, and assimilated by, the Bavarian piety of his youth and young adulthood had passed, eroded by the traumas of the century, the rapid rise of urbanization, and the decline of insulated islands of traditional Catholic culture.  His statement, in short, reflected a sober judgment about the de facto situation in Europe, a [...]

HOSPITALITY: Bread And Mission by Wolfgang Vondey

May 9, 2015

From People of Bread The multiplication of bread illustrates the central mission of the disciples of Jesus in the world.  The distribution of bread embodies the emphasis of the Old Testament on providing companionship and hospitality to the stranger, the outcast the poor, and the hungry.  Jesus personified this task in his own life and teaching.  In the Gospels we find Jesus consistently “eating with sinners and tax collectors,” (Mark 2:16).  The sharing of companionship with sinners and the offer of hospitality to the poor and outcasts of society was a hallmark of his life.  In fact, his ministry might be summed up in the phrase, “welcoming sinner and eating with them,” (Luke 15:1 and 2).  In Luke’s [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Paradoxes Of Christianity, by G. K. Chesterton

April 25, 2015

From Orthodoxy The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one.  The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite.  Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians.  It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.  I give one coarse instance of what I mean.  Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate.  A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left.  Having noted that there was an [...]

SATURDAY READING: Worshiping The Prince Of Peace, or Preemptive War?, by Jimmy Carter

April 18, 2015

From Our Endangered Values For months after the terrible terrorist attack in 2001, the American people were inundated almost daily with claims from top government officials that we faced a devastating threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or from large and well-organized cadres of terrorists hiding in our country.  But as was emphasized vigorously by foreign allies and key members of our own intelligence services, there was never any existing danger to the United States from Baghdad.  It was obvious that with the U.N. sanctions, intense weapons inspections, and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by Saddam Hussein against a neighbor, an overt display of a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing [...]

SATURDAY READING: Winter by Walter J. Burghardt

January 24, 2015

From Seasons That Laugh or Weep: Musing on the Human Journey At about 60 the male of the species faces a new transition: to late adulthood.  I am powerfully reminded that I am moving from midterm: old age.  For perhaps the first time I experience mortality.  Oh, I always knew I was mortal; now I sense it.  Soldiers feel it in a foxhole; I feel it in my flesh. The decline, experts insist, actually began at 30, but now it is transparent.  Joints ache, a virus will not leave me, ligaments heal slowly.  Cucumbers make me throw up, and sauerkraut makes for diarrhea.  For some there is a stroke, a growth, a clot.  No matter what, I am not what I was.  This flesh that gloried in its strength, that lusted in its manhood, that tanned so [...]

SATURDAY READING: A Worn Path, by Eudora Welty

January 17, 2015

It was December – a bright frozen day in the early morning.  Far out in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied in a red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods.  Her name was Phoenix Jackson.  She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side-to-side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock.  She carried a thin, small cane made from an umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front of her.  This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air, that seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird. She wore a dark stripped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an [...]

SATURDAY READING: The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick

January 10, 2015

From The New Yorker Stella, cold, cold, the coldness of hell.  How they walked on the roads together, Rosa with Magda curled up between sore breasts, Magda wound up in the shawl.  Sometimes Stella carried Magda.  But she was jealous of Magda.  A thin girl of fourteen, too small, with thin breasts of her own, Stella wanted to be wrapped in a shawl, hidden away, asleep, rocked by the march, a baby, a round infant in arms.  Magda took Rosa’s nipple, and Rosa never stopped walking, a walking cradle.  There was not enough milk; sometimes Magda sucked air; then she screamed.  Stella was ravenous.  Her knees were tumors on sticks, her elbows chicken bones. Rosa did not feel hunger; she felt light, not like someone walking but like [...]

SATURDAY READING: Intelligence In The Prayer Of Quiet, by Thomas Merton

December 20, 2014

From The Ascent to Truth Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Àvila have both left us detailed studies of the ways of contemplative prayer, and better than any other mystics they have described the practical details of our cooperation with the Spirit of God in the degree of prayer which most interests us here.  They both agree that in the Night of Sense, and more still in the Prayer of Quiet, the faculties of the soul are in some measure passive.  But they also agree that these faculties are still free to act of their own accord and that consequently they are capable of either helping of hindering the work of God.  And they both agree that in order to help the action of grace our faculties must engage in some very simplified [...]