Monday, January 12, 2015

52 Authors, Week 2:Thomas Howard

 My turn this week.

If you missed last week's entry on Flannery O'Connor, you ought to catch up. Don't miss the comments.


Thursday, January 8, 2015


Rue - Herb of Grace
I've been thinking about resolutions--not about making any, but about resolutions themselves, and why we don't keep them. I should think that the most important foundation for keeping resolutions is that we are resolute, that we have set our hand to the plow and aren't looking back, that we are single-minded. Elizabeth Goudge defines this single-mindedness in her novel, Herb of Grace,
"But I've always thought of single-mindedness as a sort of concentration," said Sally. 
 "Yes. Contraction. Everything gathered in for the giving of yourself. The whole of you. Nothing kept back. No reservations. No loopholes of escape. Like a diver taking the plunge or a man banging the door shut behind him that locks itself so that he can't go back."
"You couldn't do that without repentance," said Sally thoughtfully. "I see that. You'd have to humble yourself before you could let go like that. Pride can't let go...." 
After a while, I started thinking about the etymology of the word resolute, because it's pretty obvious that it comes from the same root as solution. So I found that it comes from the Latin solvere which means to loosen, free up, unbind, melt. For anyone who has studied Greek, it's related to that most regular of Greek verbs λύω.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
resolute (adj.) Look up resolute at early 15c., "dissolved, of loose structure," also "morally lax," from Latin resolutus, past participle of resolvere "untie, unfasten, loose, loosen" (see resolution). Meaning "determined, decided, absolute, final" is from c.1500, especially in resolute answer, a phrase "common in 16th c." [OED]. From 1530s of persons. The notion is of "breaking (something) into parts" as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination (compare resolution). Related: Resolutely; resoluteness.
So after originally signifying looseness, it is now used to mean the opposite, something that is absolutely firm.

I particularly like the notion of breaking something into parts as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination, because it gives us a new way of looking at resolutions. We don't just decide to try again to do the thing which we could never before accomplish. We don't join Weight Watchers or the gym for the 20th time, or invest in nicotine patches or swear to limit our time online. We look--hopefully we prayerfully look--at why all those things have never worked. We try to find the problem behind the problem, to look at it through the lens of repentance and humility, and then we can close those loopholes of escape effectively.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Pope, the Environment and Rex

The confusion about what Pope Francis said, is going to say, and once thought about saying, and what everyone's opinion about what the pope said is, and what everyone's opinion about what the pope said ought to be continues to the point where I just don't read anything about the pope anymore until the dust is well settled. It's gotten to the point that if an angel of light appeared to me and gave me the latest update on the pontiff's pronouncements, I would say, "Oh yeah? Show me that on the Vatican website."

So now the Holy Father is writing an encyclical about the enivronment, and the customary circus of doubt, adulation, criticism, fear, incredulity, statements about how the Church is finally getting it right, and statements about how this is the Great Apostasy predicted in Revelation are in full swing, and I am in my default position of avoidance. But so help me, whenever I see a link to an article about the encyclical, this is all I can think about.
So Rex was sent to Farm Street to Father Mowbray, a priest renowned for his triumphs with obdurate catechumens. After the third interview he came to tea with Lady Marchmain. "Well, how do you find my future son-in-law?" "He's the most difficult convert I have ever met." . . .
 ... I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said "It's going to rain," would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh, yes, Father.' 'But supposing it didn't?' He thought a moment and said, 'I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'          Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
 And then there's this. Save us.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I don't want to let the feast of St. Raymond Peñafort pass without mention. If you have a moment to look, I wrote about him a bit here.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Adoration of the Magi Tapestry
Designed by Edward Burne Jones with details by William Morris and John Henry Dearle 

Mysteries seeking the Mystery, 
Following the light but leaving none.
Asking the customary quintet of questions,
But answering none.
Bequeathing us no gift
To illuminate their identity.
We see only their shadows in the light of the Star.

Emissaries to the newborn King
From the myriad banished nations,
Forging a path to the Kingdom
For all of us who lost the way to Eden.

And what each seeker saw is veiled in silence,
Known perhaps not even to himself.
For even in that heavenly illumination
Shadows linger in the corners
To shroud the hidden meaning of the night.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Light on Dark Water: 52 Authors

Throughout 2015, Maclin Horton at Light on Dark Water is hosting a group of us who comment frequently on his blog as we write about 52 authors ranging from E. Nesbit to Étienne Gilson. Those of us who will be writing are as diverse as our chosen authors--the group includes professional writers, university professors, information technologists (is that a real term?) and homeschool moms. Join us for the first week's post on Flannery O'Connor, written by Toby D'Anna here.

A list of the authors to be covered can be found here, although if anyone else is as undecided as I am, it could presumably change.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

But Jesus Remained Silent

In her entry for January 1, 1937, St. Faustina also had a list of exclamatory prayers that she had prayed during the year that had just passed.  I thought it would be nice to follow her schedule, meditating on each of these short prayers all during the month, and praying them several times a day. The first one is a real challenge: But Jesus remained silent.

I can't tell you how many times I tell myself, "Today, you are just going to keep your mouth shut," and how often I find myself shaking my head and saying, "Why couldn't you just keep your stupid mouth shut?" It seems like such a simple thing to do, but it's not. In my case it seems fairly impossible.

There are two fronts on which I seem to be fighting a constant battle in this regard. In the first instance, I will notice that there is something wrong, something that I can easily fix without comment. I tell myself, "Okay, I'm just going to take care of this and not complain." Then, the pressure starts to build. I may successfully reject a couple of temptations to speak, but in the end, it comes blurting out. I may actually succeed at this occasionally, though, because there is usually time to think, and admonish myself and maybe even remember to pray.

In the second case, it's even more difficult. Whatever it is that shouldn't be said just seems to volunteer itself almost without my knowledge or consent, and the worse thing is that these are usually hurtful things. The above World War II poster is a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no denying that we can murder each other bit by bit with little stings and jabs, and these are the kinds of things that I'm talking about. I have found that frequent confession is a help with this and somehow provides a second's grace before the deed is done for me to decide to stop. But the real problem here is that the reason that the little bits of venom spit themselves out is because they're already fairly active in my head. Only cultivation of a kind of inner silence can help with this, and some sort of habitual recourse to prayer, so I'm hoping this January prayer will suffice.

Here is the list for the rest of the year.

January: But Jesus remained silent. 
February: Jesus, I trust in You. 
March: Jesus, enkindle my heart with love.
April: With God, I can do all things. 
May: In His Name is my strength.
June: All for Jesus. 
July: Jesus, rest in my heart. 
August: Jesus, You know…. 
September: Jesus, hide me in Your Heart. 
October: Mary, unite me with Jesus. 
November: O my Jesus, have mercy! 
December: Hail, living Host!