THE EARTH: The Nature Of Dirt

August 12, 2018

It’s funny how the length of time that I have been studying God (62 years) has shaped my mind.  Like water shapes the stone as it runs through the canyon.  A new way, I guess you could say. So as I type up these writings about dirt and soil, on cleanliness, on health, my mind drifts into its own paths of knowledge. And, for me, the concept of dirt really belongs inside our bodies, so to speak.  In our souls. I see a soul as being like a terrarium, when you take a glass container usually used for fish and plant a little garden in it. If we all allowed ourselves to let this metaphor sink in – really sink in – we would have a better time with our lives. This is because one of our greatest barriers in life – barriers to [...]

POETRY: Some Questions You Might Ask by Mary Oliver

March 14, 2018

Is the soul solid, like iron? Or is it tender and breakable, like the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl? Who has it, and who doesn’t? I keep looking around me. The face of the moose is as sad as the face of Jesus. The swan opens her white wings slowly. In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness. One question leads to another. Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg? Like the eye of a hummingbird? Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop? Why should I have it, and not the anteater who loves her children? Why should I have it, and not the camel? Come to think of it, what about the maple trees? What about the blue iris? What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight? What about roses, [...]

POETRY: Inebriated Soul In Love by Catherine of Siena

September 13, 2017

Then that soul, even as one drunk, appeared to be beside herself, parted from her bodily senses due to union with her Creator. She raised her spiritual eyes, her nous, and gazed into eternal Truth. As she now came to know the Truth, she knew herself to be in love with it. She said aloud: O high eternal Goodness, O my God! What am I—the wretched one—to You, O soaring, everlasting Father, that You have shown Your truth to me? that You have shown the snares the evil one has set? the snares my own selfish heart lays out for me? What moved in You to do such things for us? Love alone, love unreturned, You have poured out Your love without my answering love! O fire of love Who burns [...]

POETRY: Echoes, by Louise Glück

June 7, 2017

1. Once I could imagine my soul I could imagine my death. When I imagined my death my soul died. This I remember clearly. My body persisted. Not thrived, but persisted. Why I do not know. 2. When I was still very young my parents moved to a small valley surrounded by mountains in what was called the lake country. From our kitchen garden you could see the mountains, snow covered, even in summer. I remember peace of a kind I never knew again. Somewhat later, I took it upon myself to become an artist, to give voice to these impressions. 3. The rest I have told you already. A few years of fluency, and then the long silence, like the silence in the valley before the mountains send back your own voice changed to the voice of nature. This silence [...]

POETRY: My Beautiful Soul by Laura Kasischke

November 3, 2016

It is the beggar who thanks me profusely for the dollar. It is a boat of such beggars sinking beneath the weight of this one’s thanking. It is the bath growing cold around the crippled woman calling to someone in another room. And the arthritic children in the park picking dust off summer speck by speck while a bored nurse watches. The wind has toppled the telescope over onto the lawn: So much for stars. Your brief shot at the universe, gone. It is some water lilies and a skull in a decorative pond, and a tiny goldfish swimming like an animated change-purse made of brightness and surprises observing the moment through its empty eye. Thank you, thank you, bless you, beautiful lady with your beautiful soul. It is as if I have tossed a [...]

HEALING: Singing The Soul

August 5, 2016

The world says that I am wrong about this. But I know I’m not. In the world of Earth there are people without souls. It’s not that impossible. There are people without legs. People without eyes. I even heard of a baby born without a brain. And there are people without anger. Or emotion altogether. So it is not, if you think about it, impossible that there are people without souls. But the world, in general, is very protective about this concept. Everyone must have one, because everyone, inherently, is good.  And in order to be good, you have to have a soul. Ergo. But not everyone has a soul. Not everyone is inherently good. Because if you don’t have a soul, you have little ability to be good. The soul is your path in [...]

FORGIVENESS: Surviving The Quicksand Of The Soul

April 8, 2016

It is no wonder that people are so confounded by forgiveness. It is either treated so lightly that it is given like a blessing to someone after they sneeze. Or the challenge of 70 times seven feels too great a summit to reach. But I have discovered something recently. When we forgive, we forgive an act. You (name act)ed me. I understand why you (name act)ed me. I have come to terms with why you (name act)ed me. I forgive you for (the act). So why is it so hard to let go?  Why do shades of the act come back and haunt us? Does forgiving an act have to be done in layers? What are we missing? What we are missing is what is under the act.  The violation. Kathleen Norris, in her book, describes at great length the idea of acedia.  She calls [...]

PRAYER: Asceticism And Mysticism by Gabriel Diefenbach

April 27, 2015

From Common Mystic Prayer Mystical prayer is free of formal method.  Its very spirituality precludes such method as might be used, for instance, in meditation.  There will accordingly be no “schools” of mysticism.  Its one and only school is that of the Holy Spirit, who teaches and draws the soul from within.  Different souls traverse different paths to mystic prayer, but that prayer essentially follows on law – the law of wordless, imageless, heart-to-heart contact with God.  God may grant special infusions of grace and divine touches which enkindle flames of love, but that which constitutes the mystic way is the indefinable communication experienced in the depths of the soul by a simple view of the understanding and [...]

EVIL: Our Impending Night

April 23, 2015

The conversation started without referent. This was something well known to me, conversations beginning without any referent. My daughter is wont to do that: Just start talking as though we were in the middle of the conversation, throwing out thoughts about and allusions to who-knows-what.  Sometimes, even, in the middle of a conversation, she will just take off down a side alley, one that I hadn’t seen as we passed it by, and start all over on an entirely new subject, while I search desperately about, trying to figure out where I am, what had been said that connected with what she was talking about now. Except there had been nothing that connected the two trains of thought, unless somewhere deep in my daughter’s brain. [...]

TIME: Time And Eternity by Evelyn Underhill

March 7, 2015

From The House of the Soul Next, what type of house does the soul live in?  It is a two-story house.  The psychologist too often assumes that it is a one-roomed cottage with a mud floor; and never even attempts to go upstairs.  The extreme transcendentalist sometimes talks as though it were perched in the air, like the lake dwellings of our primitive ancestors, and had no ground floor at all.  A more humble attention to facts suggests that neither of these simplifications is true.  We know that we have a ground floor, a natural life biologically conditioned, with animal instincts and affinities; and that this life is very important, for it is the product of the divine creativity – its builder and maker is God.  But we know too [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL THROUGH LENT: The Root Of The Interior Life by Evelyn Underhill

March 6, 2015

From The House of the Soul It is true that God creates souls in a marvelous liberty and variety.  The ideals of the building-estate tell us nothing about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is true also, that the furnishing of our rooms and cultivation of our garden is largely left to our personal industry and good taste.  Still, in a general way, we must fall in with the city’s plan; and consider, when we hang some new and startling curtains, how they will look from the street.  However intense the personal life of each soul may be, that personal life has got out of proportion, if it makes us forget our municipal obligations and advantages; for our true significance is more than personal, it is bound up with the fact of our status as [...]

MYSTICISM: Letter 55, by Catherine of Siena

January 2, 2015

To: Catella, Monna Cecia Planula and Monna Caterina Dentice, of Naples Date: May/June 1379 I say then that when a soul has tasted this angelic food it sees by the light [of holy faith] that to love and associate with creatures apart from the Creator is to put an obstacle between itself and this food.  So it makes every effort to avoid them, and also to love and pursue anything that will make it grow and abide in virtue.  Realizing, too, that this food is best savored through prayer based on self-knowledge, it practices this continually, as it practices all other ways of drawing closer to God. There are three ways of praying.  The first is that abiding holy desire which prays to God in everything we creatures do, for it directs all our [...]

EVIL: The Discernment Of Spirits, by the author of The Cloud of Unknowing

December 26, 2014

1.  Because there are different kinds of spirits, it is necessary for us to know how to distinguish them; especially as we are taught by the Apostle Saint John not to give credence to all spirits.  For it might seem to those who have but little education in spiritual things especially, that every thought that resounds in the human heart must be the utterance of no other spirit except man’s own.  And this is not so: as both the faith and the witness of Holy Scripture clearly show.  “For I shall hear,” says the Prophet David, “not what I myself speak, but whatever my Lord God speaks in me.”  And another prophet says that an angel spoke in him.  And besides this, we are taught in the Psalm that wicked [...]

PRAYER: The First Step To Contemplation by John Ruysbroeck

December 19, 2014

From Reflections From the Mirror of a Mystic When the soul has arrived at true life, and all her actions are referred to the glory of God, she feels herself suddenly stirred by a desire to see what her Spouse is like, asking who and what is he who has become man for her sake?  He who has died to save her, and has given himself to her?  This Jesus, who on leaving the Earth has left her his sacraments and promised her his Kingdom; this Jesus, ever ready to provide for the needs of the body and the consolation of the soul, what is he like?  And the soul, full of questions, feels the desire of seeing her Spouse increase within her; the longing to know what he is like, what he is in himself; for the knowledge, such as it is, which she [...]

MYSTICISM: from True Christianity, by Johann Arndt

December 5, 2014

Book 3 Prologue Just as our natural life has its stages, its childhood, manhood, and old age, so too our spiritual and Christian life is set up.  It has its beginning in repentance, through which a person does penance every day.  A greater enlightenment follows after this like middle age, through the contemplation of divine things, through prayer, through the cross, through which all God’s gifts are increased.  Finally comes the perfection of old age, being established in complete union through love, which Saint Paul calls “the perfect age of Christ” and being “a perfect man in Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13). I have taken up this order in these three books in so far as I could, and I think that the whole of [...]

SOULS: This Book Has Come From God by Mechthild of Magdeburg

October 17, 2014

The Soul Praises Herself for Many Things She is Given Two Angels and Two Evil Devils. With Twelve Virtues She Does Battle Against the Flesh From The Flowing Light of the Godhead All the days of my life before I began this book and before a single word of it had come into my soul, I was one of the most naive persons ever to be in religious life.  I knew nothing about the devil’s malice; I was unaware of the frailty of the world; the duplicity of people in religious life was also unknown to me.  I have to speak of God’s honor and for the sake of the book’s teaching: I, unworthy sinner, was greeted by the Holy Spirit in my twelfth year, while I was alone, with such an outpouring that I could never, ever after that endure [...]


October 9, 2014

I never saw it coming. I never even imagined it could happen to me. The first thing it taught me was that all while I was thinking I was so clever staying under my “target’s” radar, finding access to his soul to bind it, to keep him from harming others any longer, I could drop enough of my own defenses in the fray, leaving a blind side, and be bound myself. My soul was bound. I don’t know what the experience of this is on an evil soul, how the person feels once its accomplished, but, for me, it felt like I was being choked.  Bodily choked. Choked.  Chained.  Fastened to the floor. It was the stark contrast to my normal operating sensations that really got me. In warfare, or in flight, as I like to call it, my [...]

SATURDAY READING: Flight Of The Spirit, by Teresa of Ávila

August 2, 2014

From The Book of My Life One night, I felt so ill that I had to excuse myself from the communal practice of silent prayer.  I took my rosary with me so that at least I could occupy myself with vocal prayer.  Since I was sitting in an oratory, it probably appeared that I was in a recollected state, but I was trying very hard not to let my mind become absorbed.  Such techniques are of little use, however, when the Lord wills otherwise. I had not been there for very long when such a forceful rapture seized my soul that I was powerless to resist it.  It seemed to me that I was carried to Heaven where I was greeted by my father and mother.  In the short amount of time it takes to recite an Ave Maria, I saw so many wondrous things that I [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Evil And Asceticism

July 15, 2014

Balancing the costs of being a mystic, there are the benefits.  A most unusual approach to understanding reality is one. For every seen definition of life, there are unseen definitions.  Corners around which reveal if not a completely different reality, than, at the very least, a distinct lens through which to look at it. It’s a way of thought that most often supplies reasons.  As though God, for the most part, keeps the mechanics of his creation well hidden under the skin of the truth of the matter.  Why he does this is perhaps a study for another mystic. And I will admit to wondering if knowing some of these hidden natures of things would change the world in any way. Can’t imagine. Anyway. There [...]

POETRY: Body & Soul, by Judith Valente

July 9, 2014

When you enter the world, you come to live on the threshold between the visible and invisible. (John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes) Imagine those moments after the soul leaves the body. Imagine the body’s immense loneliness: a manse suddenly shorn of its single boarder. A child banging its fists against the living room window, begging for its mother to Come back! as the car jerks out of the driveway —for all the child knows, forever— and there’s that awful last glimpse: back of a head growing smaller, smaller through the rear windshield. This is why we should stay close to the body after death, the way we used to hold wakes, at home and around the clock, until the body adjusts to its noiseless status, widowed [...]

POETRY: Death — A Dialogue by Henry Vaughan

June 18, 2014

Soul. ‘Tis a sad Land, that in one day Hath dulled thee thus, when death shall freeze Thy blood to ice, and thou must stay Tenant for years, and centuries, How wilt thou brook’t?— Body. I cannot tell,— But if all sense wings not with thee, And something still be left the dead, I’ll wish my curtains off to free Me from so dark, and sad a bed; A nest of nights, a gloomy sphere, Where shadows thicken, and the cloud Sits on the sun’s brow all the year, And nothing moves without a shroud; Soul. ‘Tis so: But as thou sawest that night We traveled in, our first attempts Were dull, and blind, but custom straight Our fears, and falls brought to contempt, Then, when the ghastly twelve was past We breathed still for a [...]

THE CHURCH: Unity And The Soul

June 10, 2014

The other day, I was handed a piece of paper, printed double-sided.  It was a copy of an article from First Things, entitled The End of Protestantism (Peter J. Leithart).  In this article he claimed the church is moving away from anti-Catholicism as a whole, and should just put down any expressions of reformist nonsense. Be still, Anabaptists! Oh wait.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps just the opposite. But you get the idea, I imagine. And as I read through this article, and read through this article, and again, I wiggled about in my seat and twisted my head around and wondered at the boldness of this assertion.  And I wondered where, exactly, it came from. Well, the truth is, I know exactly where it came from. It comes from Rome. I have [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Soullessness, or the importance of hymnody

March 20, 2014

Perhaps from the very minute that man found his way to the concept of the soul the argument began: can man have no soul?  And I will dare to say that universally the answer is an emphatic, NO! So I have no qualms about standing atop my own little mountain here and asserting: yes, there are human beings with no soul. I suppose it all depends on how you define the soul. Generally, I “look” at the soul as a container of sorts, a hard and fixed container, if virtual. But, in order to explain my position, I could twist this a bit in order to make a point. The soul’s purpose is to give a “place” in which we can keep our God-energy, the light from Heaven.  It’s our spiritual gas tank.  It holds what we [...]

PRAYER: The Meaning Of Prayer by Dom I. Ryelandt

March 17, 2014

From The Quest for God The secret of the serene grandeur of Saint Benedict’s moral outlook and of the perfect balance of his doctrine is to be found in the habitual elevation of his soul to God.  Saint Benedict was a man of prayer. Every disciple of the Patriarch, even though he be living in the world, must have the earnest desire to supernaturalize his personal life by prayer. Too often Christians think of prayer as being simply a hasty recitation of sacred formulas.  Through routine they fail to realize what an honor it is for man to be able to enter into relations with God, to converse with him. It may be a help to us in our effort to raise up our hearts to God if we consider what are the necessary elements of all prayer.  To pray [...]

HEALING: The Force Of Love

March 4, 2014

If I just let go of all my pushing and pulling the threads that the study of love tangles me in, I find clarity.  A simple, easy understanding. If we love and God loves, then we, in this matter, are the same.  We are as one.  Human and God. It isn’t that often that we can align completely with God. The difficulty is that we, as humans, do get tangled up by the threads of love.  What does it mean?  How do I apply it?  Why do I trip over my attempts to love, and find myself instead of fulfilled, bruised? As humans, amazing fleshed souls that we are, we tend to approach love from a “me” perspective.  How am I faring in this relationship?  Are my needs being met?  How do I close the gap between what I envision love [...]

THE CHURCH: The Church Is A Collection of Souls, by John Henry Newman

February 11, 2014

From The Church My brethren, there are those who imagine that, when we use great words of the church, invest her with Heavenly privileges, and apply to her the evangelical promises, we speak merely of some external and political structure.  They think we mean to spend our devotion upon a human cause, and that we toil for an object of human ambition.  They think that we should acknowledge, if cross-examined, that our ultimate purpose was the success of persons and parties, to whom we were bound in honor, or by interest, or by gratitude; and that, if we looked to objects above the world or beyond the grave, we did so with very secondary aims and faint perceptions.  They fancy, as the largest concession of their liberality, that we are [...]

POETRY: The Retreat by Henry Vaughan

January 2, 2014

(It is written that this poem is about the soul’s desire to return to its original and pure state.) Happy those early days, when I Shined in my angel-infancy! Before I understood this place Appointed for my second race, Or taught my soul to fancy aught But a white celestial thought; When yet I had not walked above A mile or two from my first love, And looking back, at that short space, Could see a glimpse of his bright face; When on some gilded cloud, or flower, My gazing soul would dwell an hour, And in those weaker glories spy Some shadows of eternity; Before I taught my tongue to wound My conscience with a sinful sound, Or had the black art to dispense A several sin to every sense, But felt through all this fleshly dress Bright [...]

POETRY: Springtime Of The Soul, by Murray Bodo, OFM

October 18, 2013

On clear days in early March, when the wind blows all day long, everything seems cleaner, and it’s easy to puff up your lungs and inhale spring.  There are soul days like that, too.  Something clicks inside and everything seems bright and clear again.  Then joy and gratitude rise to the lips spontaneously, and it is easy to praise God for all the lightness you feel within.  It is spring in your soul. MARCH SNOW An indignant robin Ruffles her feathers And broods darkly Over Ohio weather That surprised her With snow on her Comfortable perch. Sparrows aren’t so Indignant to snow. MARCH WIND The wind is back. Suddenly without warning It blows through the mind. Will it clear the clouds Or only chill the air and Bring a fresh [...]

POETRY: Soul, by Philip Levine

October 16, 2013

In Castelldefels we say, “There are four thousand souls living in this village,” not daring to omit even the squat, gray haired captain of the Guardia Civil or the trailer camp of Gypsies who thrive on a grassy plot down by the tracks, the men who shine my wife’s boots while leering shamelessly up her skirt, the women who beg at the tables of the open-air cantinas in the public square, rolling their eyes and pinching the borrowed babies until they bawl. As a child I was embarrassed to implore the lord to take my “soul,” whatever that was, before I woke. I was five then, living splendidly in a two-story house on the West Side with fenced yard, heated garage, and a governess to tend my brother and me, a Mrs. Morton, who professed a [...]