Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, March 30, 2012

From next Monday's reading:

Reading 1 Is 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

No Man Is an Island

Cover of "No Man Is an Island"Cover of No Man Is an IslandFrom Thomas Merton's No Man Is an Island, I think it one of his best books.

The spiritual life is oriented toward God, rather than toward the immediate satisfaction of the material needs of life, but it is not, for all that, a life of unreality or a life of dreams. On the contrary, without a life of the spirit, our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, March 28, St Agnes

Christ has made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him Whom the Angels serve.

St. Agnes

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, March 25, 2012, Kontakia of St Romanos

The IntercessionImage via Wikipedia
The wicked one, on the watch, carried me off as booty as I lazily slept. He led my mind into error; he plundered my spirit and snatched away The wealth of Thy grace, this arch robber. So raise me up, as I am fallen, and summon me, Saviour, Thou who dost will that all men be saved.

Kontakia of St. Romanos, A Prayer.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, March 23, 2012

Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribut...Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribute money (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week's reading is from Tuesday's Gospel.  What does it take to believe in Jesus? 
Gospel Jn 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come."
So the Jews said,
"He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, 'Where I am going you cannot come'?"
He said to them, "You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins."
So they said to him, "Who are you?"
Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world."
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
"When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him."
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

A Beautiful Spring Day

 Went for a hike in Red Rocks Canyon today -- I took a day to play hooky.  He's one shot from the trail, more to follow.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, March 21, St Thomas Aquinas

ItalyImage via Wikipedia
Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually. This regeneration is effected by Baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [Jn 3:5].
St. Thomas Aquinas

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Desert Fathers, Sunday, March 18, 2012, St Isaac of Syria

English: Icon of St. Isaac of Syria Русский: И...Image via WikipediaThe Lord's Day is a mystery of the knowledge of the truth that is not received by flesh and blood, and it transcends speculations.  In this age there is no eighth day, nor is there a true Sabbath.  For he who said that `God rested on the seventh day,' signified the rest [of our nature] from the course of this life, since the grave is also of a bodily nature and belongs to this world. Six days are accomplished in the husbandry of life by means of keeping the commandments; the seventh is spent entirely in the grave; and the eighth is the departure from it.  

St. Isaac of Syria, The Ascetical Homilies.I
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Yes, but which Bible?

I’d like to do a post, even a series of relatively short essays, on my own ideas about lectio topics related to prayerful reading of Scripture.  I thought the first of these should be on which version of the Bible is suitable for lectio.  I excuse myself for taking on such a topic by stating clearly that I’m not a Scripure scholar, nor a recognized expert on prayer and such folks may rightly take issue with what I say here.  These essays are simply offered to show my own experience and, I hope, to offer encouragement to whoever may stop by here to try such prayer themselves.

The ideal answer is, the versions we have in the original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek.  However, few of us anymore have the skills in those languages necessary to do that.  Come to our aid is the almost overwhelming number of translations, that are available to us in English.  Still, in my own experience, these vary widely in terms of quality and usefulness.  So, to assist myself, I’ve come up with two or three simple rules for choosing a Bible translation for use in daily reading and lectio.

The translation should tend to the literal.  I like to think that the version of the Bible I’m reading is reliably true to the original texts.  I really don’t want to read what amounts to the opinion of some translator whom I don’t know I can rely on.  I expect to read God’s word as He intended it.  I might add, placing myself in considerable jeopardy of being labeled a sexist, I don’t want the translation abused through the imposition of gender neutrality.  I believe that putting words into the text that were never there in the first place is dishonesty, plain and simple, and doesn’t belong in any transation.
The language of the translation should be beautiful.  I have a funny idea that God’s word is beautiful and should be rendered in any language beautifully.  I think, too, the beauty of the translation affects our ability to receive God’s word, and improves our chances of praying in response to it.  To give you an idea of what I mean, here are three different versions of the first three verses of the 23rd Psalm, one from the Grail translation, one from the Revised Standard Version, the third from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

This is the Grail translation:

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
2 Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
3 to revive my drooping spirit.
He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.

Here is the Revised Standard Version:

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; 2 he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake[1]

Finally, here is the New Revised Standard Version

1      The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2          He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3          he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake. [2]

Somehow, “drooping spirit” doesn’t do it for me, it sounds like something an EMT might do once the ambulance arrives.  God restoring my soul is much more meaningful, it tells me how God refreshes me, deep, deep within my soul.

The language should be reverent.  By this, I mean there should be a timeless element to the transaltion; it should not be loosely translated in the modern vernacular.  Scripture isn,t  a product of our culture, it transcends culture and it’s reading should remind us, however slightly, of this.  I don’t think it hurts if it’s even slightly challenging and slows us down to make us think about what we read. 

The book itself should be beautiful.  This is a point more related to version, or edition, than translation, I like the book itself to be both beautiful and functional to contribute to our attitude of reverence and humility before God’s Word, while still making it accessible.  I don’t think a cheap, paperback bible, even a large, hardcover Bible in poor condition is an ideal version to use.  If that’s all there is, then it should be used, but if better is available, that would be my choice.

I also don’t think a study Bible is useful for lectio because we might tend to turn prayer into study; they are not the same thing and one shouldn’t overlap into the other.

Yes, but which Bible? You may be asking at this point if I’m going to offer specific recommendations.  OK, yes I am. 
There are two translations that, I believe, meet the two requirements of literalness, beauty and timelessness.  They are the Revised Standard Version,  the New Revised Standard Version.  The reasons can be found in the comparisons of translations offered above.  A third choice would be the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).  This recent revision is much improved over the previous version, but still lags behind the other choices.

As to edition, the closest to ideal that I’ve found is the recent (I think) volume of the RSV published by St. Benedict Press.  It has, it’s true, not a leather but a “premium ultrasoft” cover, whatever that is, which is nevertheless pleasing to the touch.  It comes in a very nice size, roughly 5x 8½, and is not too thick.  Also, the price is right, around $30.00 on Amazon.  My only complaint, and it’s a big one, is that they set the words of Jesus in red.  Why they did that, I cannot imagine.  There are two disadvantages to this, the first of which is that I find the red type much harder to read.  Often, in printing, red type seems to come out lighter than the surrounding text, which presents a challenge.  Second, that’s a Protestant innovation of relatively recent occurrence, why a Catholic publisher would do that is beyond me.  I don’t have anything against Protestants, but not every idea they’ve ever put forth regarding the Bible is a good one.

There’s what appears to be a very nice NRSV-CE available on Amazon, the Go Anywhere NRSV Catholic Edition for about $25.00 that looks very suitable for lectio. 

All that being said, the best advice I’ve heard is – the Bible you’ll read.  If none of this is helpful, forget it and find a Bible that fits your preferences and that facilitates your reading it on a regular basis.  I’m sure you will anyway.

[1] The Revised Standard Version. 1971 (Ps 23:1–3). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ps 23:1–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, March 16, 2012

For next week, I am posting a selection from next Sunday’s readings, from the book of Jeremiah.  If this proves too short, there is all of chapter 31 to consider.

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 35

Reading 1 Jer 31:31-34

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, March 14,St Patrick of Ireland

English: Saint Patrick stained glass window fr...Image via WikipediaI bind to myself today the power in the love of the Seraphim, in the obedience of the Angels, in the ministration of the Archangels, in the hope of Resurrection unto reward, in the prayers of the Patriarchs, in the predictions of the Prophets, in the preaching of the Apostles, in the faith of the Confessors, in the purity of the holy Virgins, in the deeds of Righteous men.

St. Patrick of Ireland

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, March 11 2012, St Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216).Image via Wikipedia
"But faith, which the Greeks disparage and regard as useless and barbarous, is a voluntary preconception, the assent of piety; “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of those things which are’ not seen,” according to the divine Apostle. “For by it most especially did the men of old have testimony borne to them; and without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God.  Others, however have defined faith as an intellectual assent to a thing unseen, since certainly the proof of a thing unknown is manifest assent. … He, then, that believes Scriptures with firm judgment, receives, in the voice of God, who gave the Scriptures, an unquestionable proof. Nor by proof does faith become more firm. Blessed, therefore. are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
St Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Florilegia, Friday, March 9, 2012

Reading 1 Dn 3:25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:
"For your name's sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,

or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Word on Wednesday, Wednesday, March 7, 2012, St Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) aka Moth...Image via WikipediaIf I had to advise parents, I should tell them to take great care about the people with whom their children associate . . . Much harm may result from bad company, and we are inclined by nature to follow what is worse than what is better.

                                               St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Early Church Fathers, Sunday, March 4 2012, Eusebius

English: Ignatius of AntiochieImage via Wikipedia
While [Ignatius of Antioch] was making the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, he strengthened the diocese in each city where he stayed by spoken sermons and exhortations, and he especially exhorted them above all to be on their guard against the heresies which then for the first time were prevalent and he urged them to hold fast to the tradition of the Apostles to which he thought it necessary, for securities sake, to give form by written testimony (Ecclesiastical History, 3:36 [A.D. 325]).
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Freedom of Conscience, Saturday, March 3, 2012

 It’s the liberal argument, made especially vehemently in the controversy over the HHS mandate, that religious belief should not be introduced into public life.  I’ve long felt, since I was in college and even somewhat before, that such thinking is nonsense.  Like it or not, religious feeling, for or against, is part of being human and, as humans we’re incapable of cutting ourselves up, as it were.  We can’t separate ourselves into separate compartments that allow us to act one way while playing one role, and another way in another role.  As I heard a Presbyterian minister say one time, “God isn’t just God on Sunday.” 

Something forgotten in such debates today is that one of the central philosophical notions of the Founders is that the rights enjoyed by every citizen belong to that citizen as a gift of God, not as a concession from any government or king.  Nathaniel Peters makes this case in a column on the First Things web site:

Furthermore, even before the twentieth century, religious liberty and talk about the rights of conscience had formally entered into the Catholic tradition. This development grew over time, from the scholastics to John Henry Newman and John Courtney Murray, but it flowered in the Second Vatican Council’s declaration “Dignitatis Humanae.” There, in light of Catholic tradition, the Council Fathers made Catholic arguments on Catholic grounds that religious freedom truly is a Catholic and Christian thing. Some have objected to this development—most notably the schismatic Society of St. Pius X—but most have come to see that the freedom to follow the dictates of one’s conscience in matters of religion is not an unfortunate concession to the modern age but a sound development of Christian truth. Today, as George Weigel recently wrote, paraphrasing Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “the overwhelming majority of Christians believe that it is God’s will that they be tolerant of others who have different notions of God’s will. Religious tolerance, for Christians, is not a mere pragmatic accommodation to the fact of religious difference; it is a virtue, a moral good.”

Furthermore, protecting the freedom of conscience is not simply a concession to the privatizing tendencies of liberalism. Arguing for religious liberty need not entail denuding the public square. Religious liberty strives to protect a minimum standard: The government cannot coerce a person to perform an action that his conscience deems wrong on religious grounds. It shields the private exercise of religion not to keep the exercise of religion private, but rather as a necessary prerequisite for making it public. Moreover, claiming opposition to something on the grounds of private religious conscience need not inhibit separate public arguments against that thing.

Liberals, I might add, have not hesitated to make this argument when it suited their own purposes.  Peters writes:
For example, consider a young pacifist Quaker during the Vietnam War. The Quaker’s religious convictions prevent him from fighting in the Vietnam War. They also make him believe that all wars, not just the Vietnam War, are wrong, and that part of his duty as a Christian and a citizen is to make public arguments that this is the case. If the government seeks to ignore his conscientious objection and draft him, the Quaker can claim that the government should not violate his conscience and make him fight in the War. But in making that argument, he does not cede the separate argument that Vietnam is an unjust war—or that all wars are unjust—and he does not lose the ability to make such arguments publicly. Indeed, claiming the right not to fight in the War is his first step toward further public advocacy, on public grounds, that the War is unjust and should not be fought at all.

As Americans, we have a right to voice our deepest held beliefs publically and not to be forced to do something deeply repugnant to us morally.  The issues raised by the HHS mandate are serious philosophical and constitutional issues that affect our liberty as Americans.  I hope it won’t be obscured through the deliberate recasting, and misdirecting this in terms of separation of church and state, by which they mean something never written into the Constitution. It isn't a matter of one group, Catholics, trying to force their beliefs on the rest of the country, it's Catholic's trying to prevent the beliefs of others being forced on themselves.  It's critcal to understand the difference.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Florilegia

For the next week, I suggest the reading from Matthew found in next Tuesday's readings.

Gospel Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
"The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people's shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Too Busy Not to Lectio

Deutsch: Trappistennovize bei der Lesung in se...Image via Wikipedia
Too Busy Not to Lectio

In this economy, those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs have probably grown tired of the refrain, “We have to do more with less.”  Everybody’s busy and it seems the more technology we have, the worse things get.  To help provide an antidote to hectic lives, I’ve added a regular posting series on the ancient practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading.  To anyone familiar, though, with the classic practice of lectio, it should be obvious that isn’t what I’m offering here, not primarily.  What I’m suggesting is something that might be called, lectio for the overworked, or lectio for the too busy person.

The classic practice of sacred reading involves the steps I’ve include on the lectio page of this blog, which, if practiced as designed, involves some daily commitment of time and effort.  It’s usually suggested that be a daily period of a minimum of 30 minutes.  For many people, myself included, that’s a tough thing to do.  Finding 30 minutes when we can be silent and alone is near impossible with all of the other duties and responsibilities we  have.

But, spending perhaps 10 minutes of prayerful time with the Word is much less a challenge, and, I may be overstating the case, but I think no less beneficial.  Based on my own experience any regular daily time spent reading a short passage of Scripture and pondering it’s meaning for our lives can be a great blessing.  I’m hoping to encourage you to do so by providing short passages, usually from the daily Mass readings for the following week.


I’d like to offer a few suggestions concerning beginning and continuing this practice.  First, there are no rules.   I’m providing a short passage each week, if that passage speaks to you stay with it, even if it means continuing with it into the following week.  If it doesn’t speak to you, you might try reading the entire chapter the reading is from, or perhaps something from the preceding or following chapter.  If, as in the case of this week’s reading, the passage is from a short book, you might read the entire book and begin to pray from that, even if it means staying with the book for a week or two.  If that doesn’t help, turn to the Mass readings for that day and begin there.

Next, if a passage does speak to you in prayer, trying writing a portion of it on a card, or better, try memorizing it so as to have it with you the rest of the day.  That way, if things seem to be getting too hectic and you need to stop for a few minutes, you can review your lectio from that morning to gain some refreshment and reassurance that even in the chaos of a busy day, God is there with you.

Try to do this at the same time, in the same place, every day.  This regularity is very helpful in establishing the habit of prayer in our lives and also helps our experience of prayer. 

Finally, as you read, take it slow.  Even a passage of seven or eight verses can take several days to quietly and meditatively read through, especially in short sessions.  Reading is not, in this case, study.  You’re not trying to gain a greater understanding of something or gather useful information.  You might think of this as time wasted, at least in the way the world looks at such things.  In this case, seven or eight verses can be more than enough to keep you in prayer for the entire week; if so, so be it.  Go with the flow.

I’ll try to write more, over the next month or so, on some things I’ve learned about this way of doing a daily prayerful time of reading God’s word.  I also hope to provide more information on lectio on the new lectio page, for example helpful web resources and books on the topic.  In the meantime, if you try this I hope you discover why I say you may be too busy not to lectio. 
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