Virtues

POETRY: Hope by George Herbert

July 23, 2017

I gave to Hope a watch of mine: but he An anchor gave to me. Then an old prayer-book I did present: And he an optic sent. With that I gave a vial full of tears: But he a few green ears: Ah Loiterer! I’ll no more, no more I’ll bring: I did expect a [...]

POETRY: Birdcage Walk by Thomas Merton

July 21, 2017

1 One royal afternoon When I was young and easily surprised By uncles coming from the park At the command of nurses and of guards, I wondered, over trees and ponds, At the sorry, rude walls And the white windows of the apartments. “These,” said my uncle, “are the tallest houses.” 2 Yes, in the spring of my joy When I was visibly affected by a gaitered bishop, Large and unsteady in the flagged yard, Guards, dogs and blackbirds fled on every hand. “He is an old one,” said uncle, “The gaiters are real.” 3 Rippled, fistfed windows of your Dun high houses! Then Come cages made of pretty willows Where they put the palace girls! Green ducks wade slowly from the marble water. One swan reproves a saucy daughter. I consider my own [...]

SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Mercy Within Mercy Within Mercy by Christine M. Bochen

July 20, 2017

(Presidential Address – ITMS Seventh General Meeting June 7, 2001) Epiphanies of Mercy Christians, who celebrate annually the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, know that an epiphany is a manifestation of the divine in our midst. Epiphany is revelation. Mercy, Thomas Merton writes in the opening paragraph of The Climate of Mercy, is the “epiphany of hidden truth and of God’s redeeming Love.” Mercy is a “revelation of God,” a revelation of God’s very Self – “as Love, as Creator and Father, as Son and Savior, as Life-Giving Spirit.” Mercy is not an intellectual deduction; it is a happening: “an event in which God reveals himself to us [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Repentance, Both Door And Path by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 20, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) The first time Jesus appears, in the first gospel, the first instruction he gives is “Repent.” From then on, it’s his most consistent message.  In all times and every situation, his advice is to repent.  Not just the scribes and Pharisees, not just the powerful – he tells even the poor and oppressed that repentance is the key to eternal life.  In an incident that would [...]

AGING WITH DIGNITY: Meaning And Value Of Old Age by The Pontifical Council For The Laity

July 13, 2017

People today live longer and enjoy better health than in the past.  They are also able to cultivate interests made possible by higher levels of education.  No longer is old age synonymous with dependence on others or a diminished quality of life.  But all this seems not enough to dislodge a negative image of old age or encourage a positive acceptance of a period of life in which many of our contemporaries see  nothing but an unavoidable and burdensome decline. The perception of old age as a period of decline, in which human and social inadequacy is taken for granted, is in fact very widespread today.  But this is a stereotype.  It does not take account of a condition that is in practice far more diversified, because older people are [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Why We Don’t Like Repentance by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 13, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) When I began writing this book I ran into a road bump.  I said to my husband, “I’m having a hard time figuring out how to make repentance appealing.”  And I realized that that statement summarized the whole problem.  We’re a nation of shoppers.  Everything has to be appealing. Before we begin to learn about Anna’s understanding of repentance, we need to find out [...]

SELF-DISCIPLINE: How Much Land Does a Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy

July 6, 2017

I An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments. The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant. “I would not change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Where We’re Going by Frederica Mathewes-Green

July 6, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) Let’s start with a basic question.  Where are we trying to go, anyway?  Is our goal the same as Anna’s? A modern Christian might say that the point of this Earthly life is to be like Jesus.  We want to cultivate the virtues that Christ had, we want to have a loving heart like the Father’s, we ask what Jesus would do.  We have decided to follow Jesus – and that’s [...]

MYSTICISM: Bernard Of Clairvaux, by Louis Dupré and James A. Wiseman

July 5, 2017

From Light From Light Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153): Abbot, ecclesiastical statesmen, mediator between warring armies, counselor of popes and kings, champion of orthodoxy, Bernard of Clairvaux was unquestionably the most influential person in Europe in the first half of the twelfth century.  But it is perhaps in the stamp he left on Christian spirituality that his most enduring influence is to be found.  At one point in the history of Western Christianity love became equated with the very essence of the spiritual life, and if we had to assign the beginning of that movement to one person, that person would have to be Bernard.  The passages from his writings below are intended above all to illustrate this centrality of love in his [...]

PRAYER: On The Love Of God by Bernard of Clairvaux

July 3, 2017

I will love you, O Lord my strength, my stony rock and my defense, my savior my one desire and love. My God, my helper, I will love you with all the power you have given me; not as much as you deserve to be loved, for that can never be, but as much as I am able to. Whatever I do, I never can discharge my debt to you, and I can love you only according to the power that you have given me. The more power to love you give me, the more I will love you; yet never, never, can I love you as much as you should be loved. [...]

POETRY: The Silence by Wendell Berry

July 1, 2017

Though the air is full of singing my head is loud with the labor of words. Though the season is rich with fruit, my tongue hungers for the sweet of speech. Though the beech is golden I cannot stand beside it mute, but must say “It is golden,” while the leaves stir and fall with a sound that is not a name. It is in the silence that my hope is, and my aim. A song whose lines I cannot make or sing sounds men’s silence like a root. Let me say and not mourn: the world lives in the death of speech and sings [...]

VIRTUES: The Glorious Pursuit by Gary L. Thomas

June 29, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Grace, we must learn, is opposed to earning, not to effort. (Dallas Willard) If Godliness is not from deep within you, it is only a mask. (Jeanne Guyon) Imagine that one night God wakes you from a dream and offers you the golfing ability of Tiger Woods.  That would be something, wouldn’t it?  Or imagine being bestowed with the computer or entrepreneurial capabilities of Bill Gates: “You can create the next Microsoft,” God says.  “Interested?” Or maybe you’re more the cultural type, and your heart would beat faster if God enabled you to sing like Pavarotti, to write like Jane Austen, or to paint like Rembrandt. We could get lost all day in fantasies such as these, but, in [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: So Who Cares? by Frederica Mathewes-Green

June 29, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) Sounds nice, but why should we be interested in Anna’s approach?  Christians today experience and express their faith in many ways.  Isn’t this just one more?  Why should we care how Anna and Theodore lived, prayed, and understood the scriptures?  They lived a long time ago, after all; don’t times change? It’s because times change that we should especially take notice [...]

POETRY: The Fervor Of Holy Desire by Jeanne Guyon

June 28, 2017

Still, still, without ceasing, I feel it increasing, This fervor of holy desire; And often exclaim, Let me die in the flame Of a love that can never expire! Had I words to explain, What she must sustain, Who dies to the world and its ways; How joy and affright, Distress and delight, Alternately checker her days; Thou, sweetly severe! I would make thee appear, In all thou art pleas’d to award, Not more in the sweet, Than the bitter I meet, My tender and merciful Lord. This Faith, in the dark Pursuing its mark, Through many sharp trials of Love, Is the sorrowful waste, That is to be pass’d, In the way to the Canaan [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: A Challenging Answer by Frederica Mathewes-Green

June 24, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) A modern Christian may well feel perplexed by the questions at the end of the last chapter.  We think, “But we know what the answer has to be: Jesus is the answer.”  So we try each day better to love and follow him, and yet the life we lead would not readily be described as “victorious.”  To tell the truth, we don’t even attempt anything that strenuous.  We know [...]

RIGHTEOUSNESS: By The Grace Of God, Holiness Is What We Are by A Sister of All Saints Convent

June 23, 2017

All Saints Convent is located in Catonsville, Maryland Ralph Martin, in the introduction to his book, Called To Holiness, tells a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  A reporter, interviewing Mother Teresa, asked her the question, “How do you feel about being called a living saint?”  He expected her to say, “Oh, I’m not really as good as people think,.”  Instead, she replied, “You have to be holy in the position you are in, and I have to be holy in the position God has given me.  There’s nothing extraordinary about being holy.  It is simply a duty for you and for me.” Most of us probably believe, not surprisingly, that being holy is extraordinary.  Most models of holiness have been [...]

VIRTUES: The Holy Bridge, by Gary L. Thomas

June 15, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified. (Martin Luther) It had been an exhausting week for me, with two or three more hard weeks ahead.  I was flying from coast to coast, so I requested an aisle seat.  I needed the room to get some work done. “Sorry, sir,” the agent said, “all that remain are center seats.” “Are you kidding me?  The plane’s full?” [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: The Central Question by Frederica Mathewes-Green

June 15, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) You are holding a small book with an old-fashioned title. It might seem like a messenger from the past, or from no time at all, like one of those books you pull off the shelf at a musty old retreat house. That’s pretty much what I’m aiming for.  The shelves at your local bookstore are bulging with titles addressing urgent, transitory concerns, but this book intends a different [...]

HONESTY: The Piece Of String by Guy de Maupassant

June 8, 2017

It was market day, and from all the country round Goderville the peasants and their wives were coming toward the town. The men walked slowly, throwing the whole body forward at every step of their long, crooked legs. They were deformed from pushing the plow which makes the left shoulder higher, and bends their figures sideways from reaping the grain, when they have to spread their legs so as to keep on their feet. Their starched blue blouses, glossy as though varnished, ornamented at collar and cuffs with a little embroidered design and blown out around their bony bodies, looked very much like balloons about to soar, whence issued two arms and two feet. Some of these fellows dragged a cow or a calf at the end of a rope. And just behind the [...]

VIRTUES: Getting Your Life Back by Gary L. Thomas

June 1, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit Once you let God into you, you have God in you. And God is a dynamo. (Peter Kreeft) On August 20, 1949, a rather bizarre headline appeared on the front page of the Washington Post: “Priest Frees Mount Ranier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.”  Though the exorcism took place in St. Louis, the story made top billing in the Post because the thirteen-year-old boy was a native of Mount Ranier, Maryland, a small town in the shadow of Washington, DC. The boy, “Robbie,” had developed a close relationship with a spiritualist aunt.  After the aunt died, objects started flying around the room in Robbie’s presence.  Robbie’s family turned to their priest, Father Luther Miles [...]

POETRY: My Silence Is The Lord, by Paul Quenon

May 24, 2017

My silence is the Lord, I listen, his silence speaks at all time. When I listen not, my hearing is filled with words and my tongue takes to rambling. My resting place is the Lord a hideaway on a mountain height. The lonely seek and find him. My resting place is the Lord, a low valley by the runlet. All humble steps lead there. “Turn in to my place and sit quietly. Drink from my stream and my vintage. Cast off your shoes, discard your hardships and listen to my evening song: “I seek a heart that is simple. With the peaceful I spread my tent. I will wash your feet and dry them, my silence will be their perfume. “In your quiet steps I will follow. None will know whence we come and where we go. To the world you will be my [...]

VIRTUES: The Tunings Of Faith

May 21, 2017

The word, faith, is said a lot. At least in my world. But almost every time it is named, it is done in its own unique way. Have faith. Have faith in me. Have faith in God. Your faith can move mountains. Your faith can set you free. Your faith will be rewarded. Your faith has made you well. We live by faith. Walk in faith. And so on and on and on. But the one phrase that has me truly confounded is: Faith is a gift. Period. Just the statement.  No explanation. Faith is a gift. It might be mentioned that it is given to us by God. So what is the deal exactly?  God is sitting around one day and looks down at me and thinks to himself, That’s it!  I’ll give Julia some faith! Does it come wrapped? Do I find it under my pillow when I [...]

COURAGE: What Will I Do When They Find Out I’m Me?, by Walter Anderson

May 18, 2017

From: Courage is a Three Letter Word It was Good Friday, April 17, 1981, and I had just asked John Ehrlichman why he had not committed suicide. He sat across from me at a small table in a rear corner of Danny Stradella’s Restaurant on East Forty-Sixth Street in Manhattan. We had walked there from my office, which was only a half-block away. Our conversation was polite, correct. As we spoke I wondered whether I had made a mistake by agreeing to meet this former presidential aide, a character I remembered from the Watergate hearings in 1973 as arrogant, contemptuous – frankly, to my mind, a man who had threatened my country. Yet, there he sat, now bearded and bespectacled, only inches from me. “My life is different today,” he [...]

BLESSING: This Day We Say Grateful, by Jan Richardson

May 12, 2017

From: The Painted Prayerbook It is a strange thing to be so bound and so released all in the same moment, to feel the heart open wide and wider still even as it turns to take its leave. On this day, let us say this is simply the way love moves in its ceaseless spiraling, turning us toward one another, then sending us into what waits for us with arms open wide to us in welcome and in hope. On this day, in this place where you have poured yourself out, where you have been emptied and filled and emptied again, may you be aware more than ever of what your heart has opened to here, what it has tended and welcomed here, where it has broken in love and in grief, where it has given and received blessing in the unfathomable mystery that moves us, [...]

VIRTUES: Fortitude, by Robert F. Morneau

May 11, 2017

From: Pathways to Community 1. Be Not Afraid Fear, like anger, is one of those universal emotions. When suffering and death approach us, we are afraid. Great courage is needed by warriors in battle, by patients facing terminal illnesses, by everyone who encounters the “slings and arrows” of life. The immediate impulse is to deny the danger if we can and if not, to run away. The person of fortitude and courage stays the course. For many that steadfastness is grounded in a faith that knows the support and presence of God. For others, the knowledge that others are with them as a supportive community enables this virtue to grow and become strong. The constant refrain arising out of the Bible is, do not be afraid. Be Not Afraid You shall [...]

POETRY: O Deus Ego Amo Te, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May 10, 2017

O God, I love thee, I love thee— Not out of hope of Heaven for me Nor fearing not to love and be In the everlasting burning. Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me Didst reach thine arms out dying, For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance, Mocked and marred countenance, Sorrows passing number, Sweat and care and cumber, Yea and death, and this for me, And thou couldst see me sinning: Then I, why should not I love thee, Jesu, so much in love with me? Not for Heaven’s sake; not to be Out of hell by loving thee; Not for any gains I see; But just the way that thou didst me I do love and I will love thee: What must I love thee, Lord, for then?— For being my king and God. [...]

POETRY: Experience Bows A Sweet Contented Face, by Christina Rossetti

May 6, 2017

Experience bows a sweet contented face. Still setting to her seal that God is true: Beneath the sun, she knows, is nothing new; All things that go return with measured pace, Winds, rivers, man’s still recommencing race:— While Hope beyond Earth’s circle strains her view. Past sun and moon, and rain and rainbow too, Enamored of unseen eternal grace. Experience saith, “My God doth all things well”: And for the morrow taketh little care, Such peace and patience garrison her soul:— While Hope, who never yet hath eyes the goal, With arms flung forth, and backward-floating hair. Touches, embraces, hugs the [...]

VIRTUE: Virtue As Competence, by Bernard Häring

May 4, 2017

From: The Virtues of an Authentic Life Is virtue one of those humorless, haggard, toothless aspects of life that just have to be endured and reckoned with, whether we like it or not? Absolutely not. Virtue is, instead, a form of competence that enables us to grasp the melody of life as a whole and to arrive at that basic option for good that brings all of our thoughts, desires, and actions to maturity. Almost everybody admits that competence in one’s profession is worth the effort it takes. And, competence in relationships is a general goal of many others as well. When competence in any sphere is lacking, when the struggle to get it is neglected, the price will be high. The frequent breakdown of marriage, with all its costly [...]

THE LORD’S PRAYER: The Name, by Evelyn Underhill

May 1, 2017

Hallowed Be Thy Name.  The modern mind, living sometimes prudently and sometimes carelessly, but never theocentrically, cannot make anything of such words as these; for they sweep the soul up, past the successive and the phenomenal, and leave it in abject adoration before the single reality as the fact governing all judgments and all activities.  This, says our Lord in effect, is the way that you must begin, because this is the essence of religion.  For this, and only for this, it exists.  When he is asked for the secret of prayer, the true tent of meeting which the Lord pitched and not man, (Hebrews 8:2), this delighted recognition of God’s priority comes first to his mind.  Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!  [...]