Saturday, June 11, 2005

Glimer of hope in France ...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

1. Admonish sinners

Is this Christians who are sinning, or the unconverted?

2. Instruct the uninformed.

Become a catechist?

3. Counsel the doubtful.

Hmmm. What does this mean? How would we run into the doubtful if we really wanted to fulfill this work, or are we meant to fulfill it only serendipitously when we run into someone who says "I am doubtful, counsel me"?

4. Comfort the sorrowful.


5. Be patient with those in error.

Okay ... I suppose.

6. Forgive offenses.


7. Pray for the living and the dead.

The "easy" one ... lol

With Apologies to Blake

On a recent thread at Disputations,
a commenter was going on and on about the problems that he had as a Protestant with a system (Catholicism) that would propagate a doctrine like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

I'm sure that William Blake is rolling over in his grave as I use this poem in defense of Catholicism, but it just seemed so appropriate:

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau:
Mock on, mock on: ‘tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.

And every sand becomes a Gem,
Reflected in the beam divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking Eye,
But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And the Newton’s Particles of Light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright.

Blake is of course referring to atheists protesting any form of Christianity, and Blake is of course totally idiosyncratic in the way that he defines everything, and would probably have to be condemned as a heretic if he were not in fact nuts.

Still, I think to the extent that Protestants raise "rationalist" objections to divine truth, I think Blake's reproach applies.

Fasting Tips


(Courtesy of Atgnatus)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Salt of the Earth

Anyone wanting to read up on Pope Benedict's thinking would be better of with Salt of the Earth than with The Ratzinger Report, in my opinion.

Salt of the Earth hits a lot of points of great interest these days, whereas the other book lays out Pope Benedict's basic thinking, which you can get pretty much from reading the news.

Short snippet from Salt of the Earth:

Metz, if I recall correctly, asks why we [Catholics] ought to make ourselves a clone of Protestant Christianity. It is actually a good thing, he says, that the experiment [women's ordination, contraception, celibacy of priesthood -- liberal Protestantism, in other words]. For it shows that being Christian today does not stand or fall on these questions. That the resolution of these matters doesn't make the gospel more aattractive of being Christian any easier. It does not even achieve the agreement that will better hold the Church together ... [so] the Church is not suffering on account of these questions.

Saint Paul Hanh

Saint of the day.

A Vietnamese martyr. A convert to Catholicism, Paul later fell away from the faith and became a member of an outlaw band. Captured by the government, he proclaimed his faith and was thus singled out for especially cruel treatment. After enduring tortures, he was beheaded near Saigon.

Martyrs of Vietnam

Friday, May 27, 2005

Good News from Mongolia

Korean Catholics are helping to spread the Gospel in Mongolia

And, thanks in part to the efforts of the Verbist Care Center (affiliated with Missionhurst, see right), the problem of Mongolian children living in sewers is getting under control.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rewriting History in Tunisia

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has an article about attempts by the Tunisians to deny that residents of Carthage practiced infant sacrifice.

Not only is infant sacrifice mentioned over and over in the history record, but there is a large amount of archaeological evidence to confirm it.

Nevertheless, the Tunisian government is instructing tour guides to tell foreigners "it never happened."

There's a "historian" pushing this in Tunisia. I can understand him saying "let's talk about the vices of the Greeks and Romans for a minute," but I can't understand how a historian would lie in the "national interest."

Although it's done all the time, of course. It seems like the greatest danger of a "one world government" is that a whitewash would actually work for all time.

Hankering After Something New

Disputations discusses the fascination with the new here and here.

I think this relates to many admonitions in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, primarily the ones along the lines of "whatever you do, stay in your cell." It seems like neophilia in the days of Scetis would typically manifest itself with monks wanting to get up and move to different sketes.

I remember one vignette off-hand. The Abba says "water the palm trees." The disciple says "but we are not at our skete. We are in [X], Abba." The Abba says "What am I doing in [X]? Let us return to our skete at once."

Book Review: The Ratzinger Report

There's nothing wrong with this book, and I think it would have been very useful to get a handle on the thinking of Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope.  The book was published in 1985, after all.
However, I think there is not so much to gain from reading today, when Pope Benedict's thinking has been widely laid out everywhere.
I think if a reader had just come back from a wilderness expedition and wanted to get up to speed fast, this book would be valuable.  Otherwise, no.
The only thing that really stuck out for (okay, I read it fast) was Ratzinger's sympathy for the "anti-nuns" (my word, not his.  Short hand for habit-less, activist, feminist types), whom he viewed as victims of a society that had de-emphasized the differences between men and women to the point where the anti-nuns had become tragically misguided about their vocations.   He did seem to have a great deal of compassion for the anti-nuns,  as well as (I suppose) the "anti-priests", which is perhaps why heads are rolling a lot slower than less compassionate people might have hoped for upon his election.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

hmmmm ...

you are olivedrab

Your dominant hues are green and yellow. There's no doubt about the fact that you think with your head, but you don't want to be seen as boring and want people to know about your adventurous streak now and again.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the html color quiz

(hat tip Caritate Dei)

Monday, May 23, 2005

On Anaesthesia

A few weeks ago, I had two wisdom teeth extracted.  I was given the choice of general or local anaesthesia and chose local.
Boy, was that unpleasant.   Most people have two roots per wisdom tooth, but I am one of the lucky few that has three.  In addition, my gum tissue is so tough it bent the standard gauge needle used for injecting novocaine.
At any rate, after twenty minutes the two teeth were out and I was biting down on a gauze bandage to stop the bleeding.  I went home and spent the next day and a half on codeine.
So, it was unpleasant ... but the novocaine and codeine prevented me from having the sort of experience most people in history have had when they needed a tooth extracted.   I can only imagine what the whole process would have felt like with no pain medication other than, perhaps, a couple of slugs of whiskey.
Last week I read Romano Guardini's The End of the Modern World. In it he posits that modern man came to an end with World War II, and that the man of the future will be "mass man."   A lot of what he says was prophetic for the time the book was written (1950s), but old hat to us today because it has all come true.
But he discusses at some length how "mass man" will be a "non-human human" and part of that non-humanness comes from being cut off from the classic human experience, such as pain.
Other examples--abortion/euthanasia, of course.  But also insurance and savings accounts.   Providing financially to cover every "suboptimal outcome" that could happen to us gives us mass men a sort of illusion of control over things that are really out of our hands.
For instance, if I have good insurance and plenty of savings and I die, well then my wife and kids are well provided for.  On the other hand, I am still dead.   To what extent does "I've got everything covered" leave out the spiritual aspect?
I am thinking about this because I work in industries that pay well but have considerable uncertainty looking to the future.  Perhaps I am employable in five years, perhaps not.  To what extent does socking yet more money way take me away from being a "lily of the field" as it were?
One obviously has obligations to provide for one's family, but at what point does this just become an excuse?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

No surprise here, I suppose

These are my quiz results ...

St. Pius X
You are Pope St. Pius X. You'd rather be right than

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Gregorian Chant 24/7

Friday, May 20, 2005


"... the development of power has created the impression that power objectifies itself; that is, power cannot really be possessed ... it unfolds independently from the continuous logic of scientific investigations ... The conviction grows that power simply demands its own actualization.

Yes, this does mean that power has become demonic."

Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World

The End of the Modern World

The question is not whether the glass is half full or half empty, but what do you do when you know it's empty.

Richard John Neuhaus, in his Foreword to Romano Guardini's
The End of the Modern World

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Real Traditionalists (funny)

"Real Traditionalists" at The Society of St. Pius I

(hat tip Domenico Bettinelli)

Jubilate Agno

This is an excerpt from a poem by Christopher Smart, a Protestant who was in and out of insane asylums during his adult life. What is magnificent about it, other than its sheer magnificence in and of itself, is that it was written during a particularly dismal time in English poetry, when Alexander Pope ruled the roost and having precise meter was more important than having anything to say.

1For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
2For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
3For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
4For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
5For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
6For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
7For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
8For this he performs in ten degrees.
9For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
10For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
11For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
12For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
13For fifthly he washes himself.
14For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
15For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
16For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
17For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
18For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
19For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
20For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
21For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
22For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
23For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
24For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
25For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
26For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
27For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
28For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
29For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
30For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
31For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
32For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
33For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
34For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
35For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
36For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
37For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
38For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
39For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
40For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
41For he is tenacious of his point.
42For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
43For he knows that God is his Saviour.
44For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
45For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
46For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
47For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
48For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
49For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
50For he is docile and can learn certain things.
51For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
52For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
53For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
54For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
55For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
56For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
57For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
58For the former is afraid of detection.
59For the latter refuses the charge.
60For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
61For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
62For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
63For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
64For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
65For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
66For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
67For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
68For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
69For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
70For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
71For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
72For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
73For he can swim for life.
74For he can creep.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ooh! My Favorite Books!

Hey! I was lucky enough to get tagged by Andrew at The Angry Twins for a meme game. I'll play ...

Total Number of Books I've Owned

In excess of 1000. I've given hundreds away over the years.

Last Book I Bought:

The Resurrection of the Son of God

Last Book I Read:

The Way of A Pilgrim. I just read this book, really liked it, and will reread it soon. It may become a top 5 book for me down the road.

Five Books that mean a lot to me:

  • Sayings of the Desert Fathers This book is second only to the Bible, IMO. Tons of deep spiritual truth compressed into space that you can read in a few hours (though you will want to read it again and again).

  • Ivanhoe In terms of slam-bang action, the greatest novel ever written! And the hero is a Catholic (as are the villains, alas).

  • Hyperspace Introduction to string theory for the layman. Give it to an atheist materialist and ask them how they can still be an atheist materialist after reading it.

  • Wise Blood. Short, Sick, Violent, Funny, Profoundly Catholic.

  • Notes from the Underground. Short, Sick, Violent, Funny, Profoundly Russian Orthodox.

tag 5 people and have them do this on their blog

Oblate-Man, Anastasia, Lana Rosen, G. Thomas Fitzpatrick, Atgnatus

RIFSP, Version 0.3

First Year of the RIFSP

  • 1. Pray Rosary daily and Jesus Prayer when commuting.

  • 2. 1/2 hour of lectio divina (in my case in Latin)

  • 3. Almsgiving (10% tithe minimum)

  • 4. Fast (2 small meals daily except Sundays and Solemnities) and abstain (no meat on Fridays or during Lent)

  • 5. love others, consider them better than yourself, and judge no one. Also, keep the "Melchizadek Rule", avoiding debates/controversies that do not concern you.

This revision eliminates the Morning/Evening Prayer requirement for Xofezura, replacing it with the Rosary requirement. It also eliminates the Daily Mass requirement, which Xofezura can't even dream of satisfying at this point in his life.

Under Version 0.2 of the Rule, Xofezura went down in flames in only 3 weeks, failing on points #1, #2, #4, and #5. #3 is really part of the Rule only so Xofezura cannot totally fail ... it's a "gimme."

I'm ready now to try again and battle on points #4 and #5, but #1 and #2 as originally written were hopeless for me. There's something (for me) actually depressing about doing communal Morning/Evening Prayer outside of community. I was getting to where I dreaded it. I felt like the Last of the Mohicans or something.

Since the Rosary is a private devotion, it seems like a good switch.

Specialist or Generalist

Given a finite amount of energy and willpower, is it better to work on the things you are best at spiritually or worst at?

Don't answer: "do both" even though I'm sure that's the right answer.

I guess I work so hard to bring my many F grades up to D-'s. Sometimes if I shouldn't just work on pushing that solitary B up to an A-. It would have to be easier, it would certainly be more enjoyable, and I wonder if it wouldn't be more spiritually profitable.

More on Purgatory

Jesus Christ declares (Matthew 12:32): "And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come."   (Implying that some sins are forgiven in the world to come)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechet. Mystog., V, 9, P.G., XXXIII, col. 1116) describing the liturgy, writes: "Then we pray for the Holy Fathers and Bishops that are dead; and in short for all those who have departed this life in our communion; believing that the souls of those for whom prayers are offered receive very great relief, while this holy and tremendous victim lies upon the altar."
St. Gregory of Nyssa
St. Gregory of Nyssa (P. G., XLVI, col. 524, 525) states that man's weaknesses are purged in this life by prayer and wisdom, or are expiated in the next by a cleansing fire. "When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil."
St. Paul
A further argument is supplied by St. Paul in I Cor., iii, 11-1,5: "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."
Second Maccabees
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (II Mach., xii, 43-46).

(Quotes lifted from New Advent article on purgatory)


I've heard Purgatory dismissed as something Catholics "just made up" so I thought I'd look into the issue.  This is a violation of the Melchizadek Rule of course, but I held out for a few days.  I will investigate this matter then go back on the MR.
To investigate I picked up a book called "The Resurrection of the Son of God" by a historian who looks into ancient Jewish and Greek thinking about the afterlife.
It's interesting (to me anyway).  I'm only partway into the book, but it would appear that Purgatory would be eminently defendable from the Old Testament alone.
For example:
    1.  David in the Psalms is quite certain that when he dies he will go to Sheol.
    2.  The author of Ecclesiastes says that a ticket to Sheol is our lot in life, so we better get used to it and enjoy the sun while it shines.
    3.  Job argues that all the damage done to his life has to be repaired NOW because when he gets to Sheol and becomes a mere shadow, it will be too late.
So, is Sheol hell?   When I was brought up Protestant, I was taught that "Sheol was just another word for hell".  THAT seems like a gross oversimplification.   Sheol doesn't even seem like a place where you get punished ... it's just a place where you barely exist. 
I was also taught that when Jesus died, he went and preached in hell/Sheol for three days, and folks like Moses, David, then got their chance to leave hell and go to heaven.
Well, isn't hell a place of ETERNAL punishment (aka damnation?).   If David went to hell for a couple thousand years ... doesn't that start to sound like purgatory?  If not, why not?
I realize that Jesus said to the thief "this day you will be with me in paradise", but Elijah also rode a fiery chariot to heaven.    There's treatment for special cases, and then there's treatment for the general case.
Anyway, I'm only 100 pages into a 700 page book so I'm horribly ignorant on this subject.  All I can say is anyone who thinks Jewish and/or Greek thinking on the afterlife was consistent and unchanging from the time of Adam till the time of Jesus should read the book.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Canadian Thinks About Moving to


Malta, despite the negatives associated with joining the E.U. does seem to be the exile location of choice.

Check out the 360 degrees views of the tourist attractions, including any number of fortresses and Catholic churches at Visit Malta

Rosary Thoughts

I tried doing the Rosary last night (Sorrowful Mysteries).

I don't now how other people think, but my interior monologue runs every minute I'm awake and gets divided into 3 or 4 threads. So work thoughts, part-time business thoughts, thoughts about the family, and a free-floating "topic of the week" set of thoughts all compete for space. Absolutely maddening, especially when sitting in traffic.

Anyway, the problem with "pray by talking to Jesus as a friend" for me is that only one thread gets occupied--and it is mostly full of blather on my side. Thus it's like having a conversation in a noisy restaurant.

So ... my Rosary experience. One thread was fully occupied by the recitation of the prayers, another by visualizing the mysteries, another by "this kneeling is making my legs tired!" ... leaving only one thread to wander, get distracted, etc.

So, it worked. This time. Some old-time Catholics report that saying the Rosary becomes one hundred percent mechanical over time. In my case, time will tell I suppose.

Abba John the Dwarf

One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, 'John, your vessel is full of poison.' Abba John said to him, 'That is very true, abba; and you have said that when you only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?

(Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What to Do When a Jehovah's Witness Comes to Your Door

Courtesy of the Angry Twins

LA Cathedral

The Anchoress rants about how ugly the Los Angeles Cathedral is.

Having been there, I concur wholeheartedly but she left off one particularly awful detail.

If you read about the Cathedral in a typical write-up, it will discuss how the windows, instead of being stained glass, are made of multiple thins layers of alabaster pressed together. I'm not sure why that is supposed to be good. However, I can tell you from direct observation that the appearance of this finely pressed alabaster is exactly like glass which has not been washed in a long time.

So, sitting inside the Cathedral, once you are forced to take your eyes off the tapestries (which after all are to either side of you) and look forward or up, you find yourself asking over and over again "why doesn't someone wash those windows? Oh, yeah ... they're alabaster."

The crucifix up by the altar is also ugly, and the whole layout is weird. Bah. I went once, will not go back.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Note on the Translation Project

Seems like a reasonable knowledge of English gives you 25-30% insight into Bible Latin. Add familiarity with the text (another 25-30%), and a month of Latin (see Latin resources on right hand side) and you too could be doing your very own deplorably bad translation!

Why bother?

Well, I want to learn Latin and am way too old to sit and patiently go through formal instruction of any sort. My oldest daughter learned to read long before age five, simply by us throwing stuff at her and making her try to decipher, and then telling her the answer after a suitable amount of struggle.

I did the first translation sans dictionary, but I'm sufficiently lame I'll use the dictionary going forward. However, I'm not quite sure how the Latin dictionary words with all the stems and endings, so ... often I can't find the word anyway!

I can't find a Latin New Testament for less than about $26 anywhere, but of course it's free online.

Mark 1:14-20 (the Xofezura translation)

14 postquam autem traditus est Iohannes venit Iesus in Galilaeam praedicans evangelium regni Dei

after John is (autem traditus), Jesus comes in Galilee preaching the evangel of the kingdom of God.

15 et dicens quoniam impletum est tempus et adpropinquavit regnum Dei paenitemini et credite evangelio

and they say (quoniam impletum) is time and (adpropinquavit) the kingdom of God do penance and believe the evangel.

16 et praeteriens secus mare Galilaeae vidit Simonem et Andream fratrem eius mittentes retia in mare erant enim piscatores

and they preach (otherwise? Beside?) the Sea of Galilee (vidit) Simon and Andrew brothers (eius mittentes) using a net in the sea they were indeed (fishermen?)

17 et dixit eis Iesus venite post me et faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum

and Jesus said (eis) come after me and I make you (fieri) fishermen of men.

18 et protinus relictis retibus secuti sunt eum

and immediately deserting (retibus secuti) they (were?).

19 et progressus inde pusillum vidit Iacobum Zebedaei et Iohannem fratrem eius et ipsos in navi conponentes retia

and going forwards from there (pusillum vidit) brothers Jacob and John Zebedee and (the same) in a boat using a net.

20 et statim vocavit illos et relicto patre suo Zebedaeo in navi cum mercennariis secuti sunt eum

and at once (he called them hither? – vocavit illos) and (they?) deserted their father Zebedee in the boat who was with hirelings

Mark 1:1-13 (Translated from the Vulgate by Xofezura)

1 initium evangelii Iesu Christi Filii Dei

Beginning of the evangel of Jesus Christ, Son of God

2 sicut scriptum est in Esaia propheta ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam qui praeparabit viam tuam

It was written in Esaia the prophet: "behold, with my angels before you were made who prepares your way."

3 vox clamantis in deserto parate viam Domini rectas facite semitas eius

A voice clamors in the desert prepare the way of the Lord make straight (semitas eius)

4 fuit Iohannes in deserto baptizans et praedicans baptismum paenitentiae in remissionem peccatorum

fuit ... John in the desert baptizes and preaches baptism for penance in remission of sins.

5 et egrediebatur ad illum omnis Iudaeae regio et Hierosolymitae universi et baptizabantur ab illo in Iordane flumine confitentes peccata sua

et egradiebatur ad illum ... all Judea ... regio et Hierosolymitae ... universal and baptized ... ab illo in the Jordan river ... confitentes peccata sua

6 et erat Iohannes vestitus pilis cameli et zona pellicia circa lumbos eius et lucustas et mel silvestre edebat

and (it was?) John camel hair vestments and (zona pellicia circa lumbos eius) and locusts and (mel silvestre) ate

7 et praedicabat dicens venit fortior me post me cuius non sum dignus procumbens solvere corrigiam calciamentorum eius

and preached words come stronger than me after me (cuius) I am not dignified (procumbens solvere corrigiam calciamentorum eius).

8 ego baptizavi vos aqua ille vero baptizabit vos Spiritu Sancto

Therefore I baptize (from?) water (ille vero) baptizes (from?) the Holy Spirit.

9 et factum est in diebus illis venit Iesus a Nazareth Galilaeae et baptizatus est in Iordane ab Iohanne

and (factum) is in (diebus illis) Jesus of Nazareth comes to Galilee and (is baptized?) in the Jordan (by?) John

10 et statim ascendens de aqua vidit apertos caelos et Spiritum tamquam columbam descendentem et manentem in ipso

and (statim) ascends from the water (vidit) opens heaven and the Spirit (tamquam columbam) descends and (manentem in ipso)

11 et vox facta est de caelis tu es Filius meus dilectus in te conplacui

and a voice (facta) is of heaven "You are my Son (dilectus in te conplacui)"

12 et statim Spiritus expellit eum in desertum

and (statim) the Spirit expelled (eum) in the desert

13 et erat in deserto quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus et temptabatur a Satana eratque cum bestiis et angeli ministrabant illi

And (it was?) in the desert 40 days and 40 nights and tempted by Satan (eratque cum) beasts and angels ministered (illi)


A Desert Father was praying in his cell when some
monks called him out to ask him a question about the
nature of Melchizadek. The father said: "Woe to me,
for I have left off what I ought to be doing, and am
now discussing something that is none of my business."
And ran back to his cell.

That's a loose paraphrase.

Anyway, I was thinking about "need to know."

I think 200 years ago things were a bit easier. You
lived on a farm, you saw people outside your family
once a week at most. If you owned a book, it would be
the Bible.

Today it's unimaginable for us to think of living that
way (though hundreds of millions do in the 3rd and 4th

But that style of life was potentially very Desert

Think of the distractions that intrude daily via TV,
radio, and internet. Just a random sampling. After
each one, ask yourself "do I really need to know
anything about this topic? Why?"

1. North Korea
2. Michael Jackson
3. The "nuclear option" regarding Senate filibuster
4. "Closing in" on al Qaeda for the 14th time.
5. Illegal immigration

That's just the first five that came to mind, and I
could list 20 others. There are of course people
that need to know about each one of those topics, if
their job is involved some way (politician, military,

But for the rest of us ... what benefit is there?

Then we could go to church controversies, which might
be closer to home. Let's see:

1. Ordination of women
2. Liturgical reforms
3. Dialogue with Islam
4. Intra-Christian dialogue
5. scandals of heterodoxy

I think all these issues are in fact closer to home,
but again ... is it necessary for the layman to follow
the play-by-play?

For instance, is it necessary for Xofezura who lives
in the USA to know that one of the principle beefs
between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic
Church is over charges of "sheep stealing?" Of what
possible benefit is such a topic to me?

I wonder seriously if the desire to "stay informed" is
really the desire to avoid unpleasant or difficult
tasks, such as, for example, prayer (ugh). I could
not excuse myself for shirking prayer, if I was
whiling away the hours on a new computer game, but
'staying informed' -- oh, that is ever so important.

As an experiment, I will try to avoid any contact with
"news" and see how long I can hold out. Due to the
nature of my work, I do have to keep on up on
financial news, but I will avoid all the rest starting
from ... now!

p.s. My experiment will include both avoidance of
learning about "current affairs" and discussing them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Alternate Realities

I confess to having a very pessimistic view about the future of civilization.  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there ...
Anyway, I tend to get derailed in terms of "taking care of business" because I look at the big picture and think 'what is the point?'   What is the point making the turrets on the sand castle perfectly square when you know a wave will come in and wash it out in 5 minutes?
Now of course I need to repent of this foolish despondency.  I'm aware that "civilization" is a will o' the wisp and that all that matters is the kingdom of God, of which it is much more difficult to ascertain the current condition.
But, as a matter of preventing future sin, what do other people do to prevent this "everything is going to hell" feeling?   Turn off the news?  Read only books written before 1950?
I know what the Desert Fathers would have done ... move out to the Mojave Desert, 40 miles south of Needles, CA or thereabouts.
But what do people who remain in the world do?   I suppose I read too much news and should give it up, but I have a (vanity based?) fear of being uninformed ...

The Contrast in These Photos

is funny.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Anglican Priest

Recommends Orthodoxy or Catholicism.

Again, not new but new to me. I'll add Pontificator on the right hand side.

Very old, but new to me ...

Discussion of transubstantiation.


I've started work on a family shrine in my house. "Work" at this point means ordering a couple rosaries, icons, and chotkis. When we bought the house five years ago we both commented on how the living room was chapel-like, with a high peaked ceiling. The windows open out eastwards, so really it's ideal. I'm thinking a lot of the problem with my RIFSP plan is (other than my total lack of discipline) is the lack of atmospherics. It is hard to commit to morning and evening prayer when you are reading it off a computer screen in between stock quotes. Atmospherics don't matter unless you are a weak, ridiculous person, I suppose -- but I, alas, fall into that category. Anyway I'll try to upload a photo when I get the shrine up and running.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Blew a Fuse

Went to Mass on Mother's Day at my parish.

Priest thought -- in honor of mothers, I suppose --
why not let a lay woman (and mother) give the homily?

Other than the fact that having the laity giving
homilies is prohibited, sure what could possibly be
wrong there?

Well, I blew fuse #1, but in the interest of the day
and to not aggravate my wife more than necessary, I
decided "so what? the regular homily is no good
anyway. Just tune it out."

And got mentally back on track.

So then, time for the Eucharist comes around and the
priest decides to yield his spot to an Extraordinay
Minister of Holy Communion who happened to be a

What's the problem there? Well ... if you want to
receive the Eucharist from a priest (because you think
Extraordinary Ministers should not be used in
perfectly ordinary situations) you have to sit in a
certain part of the church. This is well known and
people who generally don't care for a lot of the
Vatican II changes and want to receive the Eucharist
from a priest will position themselves in those seats,
even coming to church early.

By the priest switching positions, he was breaking an
unwritten agreement, in my opinion.

Well, I blew fuse #2. I refused to go up for the
Eucharist, and it's just as well as I was in a
powerfully ugly mood and full of rage.

Having been forced to go to a year of touchy-feely
RCIA classes that provide very little actual
instruction in the faith, it seems reasonable to me
that I might actually be able to attend a Catholic

I have a tendency to paranoia, and I cannot help
thinking that after my parish's experiment with
liturgical dancers backfired, the heterodox people
that control the wheels of power have decided to
demote the priest (old and befuddled) and just move
Vatican III forward by other means.

There's another parish in our area that is much more
faithful, with far less experimentation and
"creativity" in the Mass. It's just a pain as we are
settled in and know people now at the current parish.

I hate the idea of "parish shopping" but I'm drifting
into a bad cycle of rage->depression->rage at these
very interesting Masses I get to attend.

For the life of me I do not understand why cradle
Catholics have such an itch to act like Protestants
and to turn Catholicism into something it is not, when
there are Protestant churches up and down the street
that have everything they are apparently looking for,
and which will give them much more than the Catholic
church ever will in their lifetimes.

This is a very negative post, but next one will be
more positive I think.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Saint Joseph of Panephysis

Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father,
according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my
little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative
silence; and according as I am able I strive to
cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I
do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his
hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps
of fire. He said: "Why not be totally changed into

Note: this is from Merton's 'Wisdom of the Desert'

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Consistency and Discipline

are very underrated as virtues.

Xofezura's third week on the RIFSP* has been very sad,
failing on just about everything.

In particular, Morning/Evening Prayer tends to turn
into a speed-reading exercise. Why spend 10 minutes
doing Morning Prayer properly when you can get through
it in 2? *sigh*

My mind wanders all over the place during the
Jesus Prayer. I was able to do 500 reps in traffic a
couple of times last week, but this week that has
fallen to maybe 30, because no sooner do I do two than
the "cares of the world" intrude.

I deliberately set the RIFSP to be not very hard, and
am amazed I cannot jump the two foot hurdle.

*Rule of the Imaginary Fraternity of Saint Pambo.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Key to Religious Revival Is ...

A free market!

Read the article on religous competition and revival in Italy ...

Thursday, April 28, 2005


First time to say the Jesus Prayer 3000 times. It took longer than I thought (I had to pace at the end to stay awake.) It was much easier than I thought - I was surprised each time the tassle came around after 100 knots.

I never knew there were so many meanings to "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me". Thanks be to God.

Modern Sayings

Trying to build a "Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Part
Two" here. Only requirements are that author has to
be famous, recognizably Christian and
saintly/admirable. And the quotes should be on the
pithy side, and have the nature of being a "saving
word" as the Desert Fathers gave. And to be
completely arbitrary, we'll limit each author to ten
quotes to ensure variety.

Please post quotes with authors in the comments, and
this list will get updated accordingly!

Fr. Seraphim Rose

  • The only "social responsibility" of a Christian is
    to live, wherever and with whomever he may be, the
    life of faith, for his own salvation and as an example
    to others. If, in so doing, we help to ameliorate or
    abolish a social evil, that is a good thing—but that
    is not our goal.

  • If we would live our faith more deeply, we would
    need to speak of it less.

St. Francis of Assisi

  • Preach the Gospel, sometimes using words.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Only Social Responsibility of a Christian

The only "social responsibility" of a Christian is to live, wherever and with whomever he may be, the life of faith, for his own salvation and as an example to others. If, in so doing, we help to ameliorate or abolish a social evil, that is a good thing—but that is not our goal. If we become desperate when our life and our words fail to convert others to the true Kingdom, that comes from lack of faith. If we would live our faith more deeply, we would need to speak of it less.


Modern idealism, which is devoted to the realization of the idolatrous "Kingdom of Man," has long been making its influence felt in Christian circles; but only in quite recent years has this influence begun to bear real fruit within the womb of the Church itself. I think there can be no question but that we are witnessing the birth pangs of something that, to the true Christian, is indeed pregnant with frightful possibilities: a "new Christianity," a Christianity that claims to be "inward," but is entirely too concerned with outward result; a Christianity, even, that cannot really believe in "peace" and "brotherhood" unless it sees them generalized and universally applied, not in some seemingly remote "other world," but "here and now." This kind of Christianity says that "private virtue" is not enough—obviously relying on a Protestantized understanding of virtue, since everything the true Christian does is felt by all in the Mystical Body; nothing done in Christ is done for oneself alone—but not enough for what? The answer to that, I think, is clear: for the transformation of the world, the definitive "realization" of Christianity in the social and political order. And this is idolatry. The Kingdom is not of this world;


Let the contemporary sophisticate prattle of the childishness of seeking "future rewards" and all the rest—life after death is all that matters. And hope in it so fires the true believer—he who knows that the way to it is through the hard discipline of the Church, not through mere "enthusiasm"—that he is all the more in the present (both in himself and as an example) than the "existentialist" who renounces the future to live in the present.


And what of the "old" Christianity of "private virtue"? Why has it become so stale? Because, I think, Christians have lost their faith. The outward Gospel of social idealism is a symptom of this loss of faith. What is needed is not more busyness but a deeper penetration within. Not less fasting, but more; not more action, but prayer and penance. If Christians really lived the Christian hope and the full path of unification that looks to its fulfillment, instead of the easy compromise that most laymen today think sufficient—and doesn't the "new Christianity" tell them that working for social ideals is really more important than following the Christian discipline?—; if Christians in their daily life were really on fire with love of God and zeal for His Kingdom not of this world—then everything else needful would follow of itself.


The above was written here

Another Cool Lutheran

Soren Kierkegaard

Author and Trouble-maker

Wrote numerous books. I think I read every single one of them in college. Repetition and Fear and Trembling are the two I would go back and re-read.

One Cool Lutheran

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


  • The Cost of Discipleship ("Cheap grace is the enemy of the church")

  • Ethics ("The first task of a Christian system of ethics is to do away with the notion of good and evil")

[paraphrases by Xofezura, who can't find his copies of above mention works at the moment, but has read both and recommends them. The Cost of Discipleship in particular dovetails nicely with the spirituality of the Desert Fathers.]

Statement of Purpose

Within the space of 48 hours I've managed to say
things that offended two different people. Imagine if
this blog were read by hundreds of people instead of
... two!


I've violated Article #5 of the Imaginary Rule of the
Fraternity of Saint Pambo, which is

  • love others, consider them better than yourself,
    and judge no one

That article was included only at the insistance of
Atgnatus. I had feared (rightly so, it turns out)
that keeping Article #5 would be a lot harder than
doing Morning and Evening prayer, etc.

My apologies all around of course. I sometime think
of changing the Fraternity of Saint Pambo to the
Fraternity of Saint Agathon, who was wise enough to
keep a stone in his mouth for 3 years until he learned
to be silent.

At any rate, the purpose of this board is to explore
and learn about early Christian spirituality and to
put it into practice. The Desert Fathers are the main
example we tend to draw on, but more modern ones are
all right, as long as it doesn't lead to
denominational squabbling or doctrinal disputes.

I will set up an "important posts" section on the
right hand side and tack this up there, so people can
direct me to it next time I slip into malicious
murmurings ...

Father Aidan Nichols, O.P.

Here's a chapter online from his book Christendom Awake

It deals with spirituality in the modern area, and says that we no longer have to go out to the desert to be like the Desert Fathers, for the (spiritual) desert is all around us these days.

A couple of quotes on existentialism from the chapter:

The decision to act in a certain way, to take up a particular posture by something one does, can enable one to shift the vantage-point from which the world is seen.

Sometimes, choosing to act in a certain way, choosing a particular form of existence, is the only way through to a theoretical grasp of truth.

Fr. Nichols appears to be highly prolific. One book to look at is Light from the East which is an introduction to great Orthodox theologians.


Learning Latin is of little value from a religious aspect at present, at least if you live in Los Angeles. There are few Latin Masses around, and at my parish I only hear Latin spoken on Easter Sunday, and then as part of one brief chant.

However, there's reason to be optimistic that Latin will make a comeback. The Church needs a lingua franca (Latin again!) and English is not a good choice for a number of reasons.

Any reason to learn Latin based on it becoming more popular in the Church is based on hope, of course. But there are other useful reasons to learn it -- to read the classics in original form, to generally "improve yourself", and as far as learning a foreign language goes it is much easier to learn to read the dead Latin language than to learn to read,speak,listen to, and write a living language. Latin will always clue you in to the secrets of big English words ("why are inscription and description so similar? scribo/scribas/scribit Oh, I get it"). And of course, Latin is a gateway to French, Spanish, Italian, etc.

Anyway, I have an 8 year old and two 5 year olds. For the 8 year old I got "Minimus", a comic-book style intro to Latin with the adventures of a mouse living in Vindolanda, an outpost in Roman Britain.

For the 5 year olds I need to go a little slower, since they are still learning to read English.

However, one thing we're doing is memorizing the standard prayers in Latin.

The kids learned the Signum Crucis, the Pater Noster, the Doxologia Minor, and the Ave Maria in English some time ago. We are still doing the Our Father and Hail Mary in English as they are somewhat lengthy.

My wife says it's spooky to hear the kids before meals going: "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen." She says it's like living in a monastery.

FSP, Week Two

The purpose of these updates is not so much "what's
going on with Xofezura" as fine-tuning of the FSP's
imaginary Rule, if fine-tuning is required.

1. Morning Prayer has been a success. Evening
Prayer+Night Prayer get shirked fairly often. This is
a failure of Xofezura, not the Rule. I have gone back
to instead of This may be just a question of
taste. The difference is that universalis will tend
to put "insert appropriate hymn here" whereas
liturgyhours will actually insert a hymn. In my
opinion these inserted hymns don't read too well, and
they don't sing them on the audio, so ... it doesn't
work for me.

2. Attend Mass daily never was going to be possible
with my current schedule, but I have been shirking the
lectio divina of the Mass Readings, which is the
minimum requirement. Again, I chalk this failure up
to Xofezura and not the rule.

3. Re: alms, nothing to say on that score. This is
the easiest requirement to meet, if you have the
wherewithal, and if you don't, the Rule would allow
some ramp up time, and even consideration for
particular circumstances.

4. Fasting/abstinence has been highly irregular! One
problem is that it is easy for me to maintain on the
weekdays, but failure looms every Saturday. I need to
think about this one more.

5. Point #5 of the Rule (inserted only at the
insistence of that pesky Atgnatus!) is "love others,
consider them better than yourself, and judge no one."

On point 5, there has been some success. I find that
when getting in a judgmental state of mind, the Jesus
Prayer is very effective in shutting that down. More
effective than just willing the judgmentalness to
stop. I have found myself losing my patience less
often, being more considerate, etc. All good stuff.
Whether this is just initial enthusiasm that will wane
or whether this a product of points #1-4 plus an
effort at humility, etc. remains to be seen.


Supplemental re: "Jesus Prayer". Point #1 of the Rule
is "Pray the Jesus Prayer throughout the day." In the
case of the Pilgrim, this meant for a time 12000x per
day. I think it might be useful to set up some
numerical targets, just to give people an idea what to
shoot for. The pilgrim did 3000x, then 6000x, then
12000x, then his prayer became "self-activated" and he
no longer needed to count.

I'm starting with approximately 500x. I roughly
calculate I can do that many in an hour, and I have
about an hour on my morning commute. That has been
going okay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The "Success of Protestantism"

Protestantism is competition for Catholics, and for others.

In The Next Christendom, the author predicts that the number of Pentecostals in the world will roughly equal the number of Catholics by 2050, even counting Catholics of the charismatic flavor.

And of course the number of Pentecostals will dwarf the number of Orthodox believers.

Is this a good thing?

Well ... I'm no great fan of Pentecostalism and I believe the "catechism" of Pentecostals such as it is ("accept Christ as personal savior, read the Bible, and wait for the gifts of the Holy Spirit") is defective in a number of particulars ...

But it is competition. And one thing that is very clear is that whenever one flavor of religion has a "lock" on a country or region of the world, that flavor tends to go down the tubes quickly in terms of quality.

Catholicism is the obvious example of that with the Reformation (bad) which led to the Counter-Reformation (good), or the excesses that led to the Albigensians (bad), which led to the reforms of St. Francis and St. Dominic (good).

[Xofezura's offense-giving remark about the Russian Orthodox Church deleted -- ed.]

I suppose in Xofezura's dream world, it would be 100% Catholic in every country, except perhaps Israel and Greece, just for the sake of variety. But in real life how would that world work? Badly, I expect. We would not be getting popes like Benedict XVI, that is for sure.

"Failure of Protestantism", Part II

"Failure of Protestantism" is perhaps too harsh a title (sorry, Oblate-Man!), but I'll keep it with the quote marks for the sake of continuity.

Maybe "Insufficiencies of Protestantism" is better.

This protestant says it much better much better than I do.

I thought the streams/river analogy quite good, as well as the short summary of anti-Catholic propaganda at the beginning (most of which was taught to me in either Protestant church or sunday school).

I have to say I got interested in Catholicism at the age of eight or nine. We used to run into the occasional nun or priest in full garb at the grocery store. I remember thinking/feeling even at that age "that's the sort of stuff religious leaders ought to wear" and then wondering why my pastor wore a business suit.

I read today that Pope Benedict thinks every priest should wear a soutane (cassock). Here, here.

You might think "it's a stupid external, like the candles, chants, statues, etc."

Let me tell you, when you grow up in a church made from white cinderblock (I'm not kidding), with no decorations (I'm not kidding), and a preacher in a business suit ... for years! ... those little externals suddenly seem really important.

One more point. This is not to beat up on Protestants, but where is all the Protestant art? I read (I think) that Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans felt that all novels/plays were wicked because they were, um, lies -- because they didn't actually happen! Duh.

Orthodoxy is apophatic in prayer, kataphatic in liturgy. Catholicism tends to be kataphatic in both.

But Protestantism is apophatic in both. The negation is horrible. Sitting in that white cinderblock prison cell all those hours was like having the Eye of Sauron looking at me.

Know First With Your Mind, Then Your Heart

A pious Orthodox scholar of modern times constantly stressed that worldly knowledge is of no consequence to the spiritual man. But equally strongly he resisted ignorance and those who teach that man need not use his intellect. “The intellect,” he said, “must serve the spiritual. The correct and humble use of our minds in spiritual pursuits is commended by the Fathers.”

He often related that some of the desert Fathers had come to believe that God, man having been created in His image, was like a human being: “Even Abba Serapion, an old and deeply pious ascetic, we read in the ‘Conferences’ of Saint John Cassian, believed in an anthropomorphic vision of God. Only when a learned monk from Cappadocia convinced him that both Scripture and the Orthodox Church support the view that God is ‘immeasurable’ and ‘incomprehensible,’ and ‘cannot be limited by a human frame or likeness,’ did Serapion repent of his misbelief.

“When the great desert holy man, Abba Isaak, was asked how such a pious ascetic as Serapion could have been seduced by demons to believe wrongly, he answered: ‘This error is not, as you think, a modern delusion from the demons, but an inheritance from the ignorance of the ancient heathens.’ We learn here that piety and simplicity do not excuse ignorance or prevent its erroneous consequences. We must all begin our spiritual lives knowing properly with our intellects what the Church teaches of God. Otherwise, we might all cry with the repentant Serapion: ‘Woe is me! They have taken my God from me and I have none to grasp.’ If we know of God first with our minds and then with our hearts, He can never be taken away. Knowledge and humility, not ignorance, are our goals.”

Interesting Article on Benedict's Plans

Monday, April 25, 2005

What Denomination Should You Be?

Found this courtesy of From the Back Pew

Somewhat bogus as it finds you a denomination that agrees with your particular bugbears, but the guy that put it together at least tried to avoid "red flag" cultural items and stick with theology or church structure, etc.

Here's how I did. What a relief! Imagine if "Methodist" had come up after I spent a year in RCIA, haha.

1: Roman Catholic (100%)
2: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (75%)
3: Lutheran (72%)
4: Eastern Orthodox (68%)
5: Presbyterian/Reformed (59%)
6: Congregational/United Church of Christ (46%)
7: Church of Christ/Campbellite (43%)
8: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (37%)
9: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (25%)
10: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (16%)
11: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (15%)
12: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (10%)
13: Seventh-Day Adventist (3%)

Here's the Denomination Selector

Feast of Saint Mark

Today is apparently the Feast of Saint Mark, and both Disputations and Recta Ratio have interesting thoughts on St. Mark and his Gospel.

Prayer of the Heart Cheatsheet

(This is taken from The Way of the Pilgrim which I highly recommend)

  • Sit or stand in a dimly lit and quiet place

  • Recollect yourself

  • With the help of your imagination find the place of the heart and stay there with attention

  • Lead the mind from the head into the heart and say, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," quietly with the lips or mentally, whichever is more convenient; say the prayer slowly and reverently

  • As much as possible guard the attention of your mind and do not allow any thoughts to enter in

  • Be patient and peaceful

  • Be moderate in food, drink, and sleep

  • Learn to love silence

  • Read the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers about prayer

  • As much as possible avoid distracting occupations

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lord's Prayer ...

saturday night notes

I'm adding Christianity and Middle-Earth to our blogroll. I just found it today but am intrigued.

Re: Way of the Pilgrim, it is fantastic and so is The Pilgrim Continues on His Way.

I actually read The Pilgrim Continues on His Way this morning during my four hour wait to sign my kids up for religious ed at my parish.

There's such a shortage of hands-on "this is how to do it" books out there, and this book, well ... read it yourself! There's a cheatsheet on the Jesus Prayer from the book that I'll try to post tomorrow. There's also a cheatsheet on "what are the good parts" (i.e., most accessible) of the Philokalia.

I'm trying to read St. Athanasius's Life of Saint Anthony at the moment, but not getting a whole lot out of it.

Some humor

on the recent Papal election

Friday, April 22, 2005

Benedict Begins Scorched Earth Policy

Catholics should resist this law even if it means losing their jobs.

The Way of a Pilgrim

Got my copy last night and read through it quickly.

It's like "Desert Fathers for Dummies" -- something we
really need here on on this blog.

Highly recommended, so I put it over in the "Books"
section to the right. Now, I need to go and read
through it more carefully ...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Another Great Resource

Who is ...

More "Amma Teresa"

Be glad when you are blamed [unfairly], and in due
time you will see what profit you experience in your
souls. For it is in this way that you will begin to
gain freedom; soon you will not care if they speak ill
or well of you; it will seem like someone else's

God deliver us ... from saying "We are not angels,"
or "we are not saints," whenever we commit some
imperfection. We may not be; but what a good thing it
is for us to reflect that we can be if we will only
try and if God gives us His hand!"

If anyone is under a vow of obedience and goes
astray through not taking the greatest care to observe
these vows with the highest degree of perfection, I do
not know why she is in the convent.

The Komvoschinion

The Prayer Rope or Komvoschinion in Greek is different from the Rosary. The Prayer Rope’s purpose is to help establish a rhythm when praying the Jesus Prayer. Today, outside Russian monasteries, there is not necessarily any meaning associated with the number of knots as the Jesus Prayer is to be prayed continuously.

According to Wikipedia:

A prayer rope is a loop made up of knots, usually made of wool, that is used by Eastern Orthodox Christians to count the number of times they have prayed the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Historically it typically had 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 50 or 33 knots can also be found in use today. There is typically a knotted cross at one end, and a few beads at certain intervals between the knots.

Its invention is attributed to Saint Pachomius in the fourth century as an aid for illiterate monks to accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations. Monks were often expected to carry a prayer rope almost constantly, to remind them to pray constantly in accordance with Saint Paul's injunction in I Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

In some Russian Orthodox service books, certain liturgies can be replaced at need by praying the Jesus Prayer a specified number of times, anywhere from 300 to 1,500 times depending on the service being replaced. In this way prayers can still be said even if the service books are unavailable for some reason. The use of a prayer rope is a very practical tool in such cases, simply for keeping count of the prayers said.

For more on the Russian use of the Prayer Rope see

It can also symbolize the ladder seen by Jacob in his dream, reminding the user of the spiritual ladder of ascent into heaven.

The knotting of prayer ropes is a common monastic activity, partly because Orthodox monastics make use of them as a primary “weapon” in the spiritual warfare.

It is normally made of wool to remind us of Christ our Shepard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Byzantine Rosary

An Anglican Chooses Orthodoxy

This fellow thinks too much!

A Desert Mother From the 16th Century

I'm reading St. Teresa of Avila's Way of
, a handbook for cloistered nuns of the
Discalced Carmelites.

St. Teresa is a lot more verbose than the Desert
Fathers, but she frequently acknowledges her debts to
the "ancient hermits in the desert", etc., and these
thoughts sound very Desert Father-y:

Do not think of complaining about the weaknesses
and minor ailments from which [you] suffer, for the
devil sometimes makes you imagine them. They come and
go; and unless you get rid of the habit of talking
about them and complaining of everything (except to
God) you will never come to the end of them ... For
this body of ours has one fault: the more you indulge
it, the more things it discovers to be essential to

... anyone who would be perfect, must flee a
thousand leagues from such phrases as: "I had right on
my side"; "They had no right to do this to me"; "The
person who treated me like this was not right." God
deliver us from such a false idea of right as that!
... Do you think you can ever possibly have to bear so
much that you ought not to have to bear any more?

Failure of Protestantism

When the protestants meet on Sunday, they go to understand the bible, to hear their pastor's interpretation of the bible. When a Catholic goes to Mass on Sunday he goes to ritually re-present the realities recorded in the bible. For the protestant, the bible is history, for the Catholic it is an eternal Word, the protestant looks at Jesus as a good historical role model, the Catholic participates here and now in the mysteries of Christ's life, death and resurrection. The protestant condemns himself to history, the Catholic opens himself to eternity. Such is the difference between the spiritual life characteristic of man, the cult, and the barely disguised descent into the profane which is Protestantism.

From the Noetic Muse

This is why I converted to Catholicism, by the way.

Trends in Ecumenism

Ancient and Future Catholic Musings has a post outlining hopes for Pope Benedict's pontificate. In the comments for that post, you'll note speculation that some mechanism might be found for conservative Anglicans to rejoin the Catholic Church en masse. That would be an interesting development ...

Dissent Poisons

'Not just going to mind the store'

What Has Been Working

I've been trying out the Rule of the Imaginary Fraternity of Saint Pambo for a week now. I am having difficulties with the "Liturgy of the Hours", as I mentioned. I'm going to stick with it on days when time permits, and use a Rosary as plan B for days when my only free time is sitting in traffic.

However, what has been working? The Jesus Prayer has been working. It seems to be particularly useful when sinful thoughts intrude. I don't have my copy of "Way of the Pilgrim" yet ... but I'm encouraged so far.

My Prayer Book Arrived

I ordered "My Daily Orthodox Prayer Book" - a Light 'n Life publication ( I have mixed feelings about. On the plus side, it has a solid basic introduction to Praying the Daily Hours, several prayers for the Exorcism Against the Devil, a (small) section on praying with a prayer rope and a variety of general prayers. On the minus side, it is very basic. The language and the rule of prayer has been made as "accessible" as possible.

A good starting point.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Christian Order

Christian Order is a British Catholic magazine that is basically a Jeremiad against everythng wrong with the world today.

To read the articles, you need a subscription. But, you can read the editorials for free ... and they are unbelievably depressing. Use sparingly, when you need a dose of reality.

Liturgy of the Hours -- Comments

Well, I have tried praying the Liturgy of the Hours for one week now.

Perhaps I have not given it enough time. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong.

The problems I face are these:

  • It is not practical to memorize the LH, so doing it in my car during my commute is not feasible. This means I end up doing it at home before I rush off to work ... which means I end up speed reading through it, instead of lectio divina.

  • I've tried the LH audio (see Links). Somehow it is not the same as being in church. I am not really an auditory person, and listening to the LH with no visual cues ... I don't seem to get much out of it.

  • The audio LH has a couple of psalms in it, and some readings ... but also some poetry I don't care for. Petty complaint on my part, but I was an English major many years ago and I find the forced rhymes distracting.

I suppose I should try to persevere before giving up, but I already see a need to have an "alternative option" for situations where I have to rush off to work in the morning, or if it is late at night, say, and I don't want to disturb my family by being on the computer.

Being Catholic, I'm wondering if the Rosary would be an option here. It's a step away from the Desert Fathers, but the LH doesn't seem all that close in spirit to what the Desert Fathers were doing anyway.

Suggestions welcome ...

In Honor of Benedict XVI ...

Courtesy of Disputations

God Bless Pope Benedict XVI !!

The Ratzinger Fan Club site has been overwhelmed, of course. When it's up again, I'll have to order a "putting the smackdown on heresy" t-shirt.

Pope Benedict XVI has written a ton of books, but my understanding is that the place to start is:

The Ratzinger Report