Month: August 2014

Ambiguity as blessing

Via whiskey river:


“The beauty of the unconscious is that it knows a great deal, whether personal or collective, but it always knows that it does not know, cannot say, dares not try to prove or assert too strongly, because what it does know is that there is always more – and all words will fall short. The contemplative is precisely the person who agrees to live in that unique kind of brightness (a combination of light and dark that is brighter still). The paradox, of course, is that it does not feel like brightness at all, but what John of the Cross calls a “luminous darkness,” or others call “learned ignorance.”


You cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without (1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity, (2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and (3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery. All else is mere religion.”


– Richard Rohr
A Lever and a Place to Stand


Claudel: The Day of Gifts

Going on with studies to do with French Catholicism in the early 20th century, revisiting old influences.


Paul Claudel:


The Day of Gifts

It’s not true that Your saints have won everything: they left me with sins enough.
Someday I’ll lie on my deathbed, Lord, ill-shaven and yellow as a lifelong drunk.
And I’ll make a general examination of myself, looking back over all my days,
And I’ll see that I’m rich after all, ripe and rich with evil in its unnumbered paths and ways.
I haven’t lost one single chance, Lord, to make matter for You to pardon.
Now I hearten myself with vice, having long ago sloughed off virtue’s burden.
Each day has its own kind of crime, plain to see, and I count them like some paranoid miser.


If what you need, Lord, are virgins, if what you need are brave men beneath your standard;
If there are people for whom to be Christian words alone would not suffice,
But who know rather that only in stirring themselves to chase after You is there any life,
Well then there’s Dominic and Francis, Saint Lawrence and Saint Cecilia and plenty more!
But if by chance You should have need of a lazy and imbecilic bore,
If a prideful coward could prove useful to You, or perhaps a soiled ingrate,
Or the sort of man whose hard heart shows up in a hard face—
Well, anyway, You didn’t come to save the just but that other type that abounds,
And if, miraculously, You run out of them elsewhere . . . Lord, I’m still around.


And what kind of a man is so crude that he hasn’t held a little something back from You,
Hasn’t in his free time fashioned something special for You,
Hoping that one day the idea will come to You to ask it of him,
And maybe this little that he’s made himself, kept back until then, though horrid and tortuous, will please Your whim.
It would be something that he’d put his whole heart into, something useless and malformed.
Just like that my little daughter once, on my birthday, teetered forward with encumbered arms
And offered me, her heart at once full of timidity and pride,
A magnificent little duck she had made with her own two hands, a pincushion, made of red wool and gold thread. 

Feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux

From Fr Basil Pennington OCSO:


Bernard’s spiritual writing as well as his extraordinary personal magnetism began to attract many to Clairvaux and the other Cistercian monasteries, leading to many new foundations. He was drawn into the controversy developing between the new monastic movement which he preeminently represented and the established Cluniac order, a branch of theBenedictines.  This led to one of his most controversial and most popular works, his Apologia. Bernard’s dynamism soon reached far beyond monastic circles. He was sought as an advisor and mediator by the ruling powers of his age. More than any other he helped to bring about the healing of the papal schism which arose in 1130 with the election of the antipope Anacletus II. It cost Bernard eight years of laborious travel and skillful mediation. At the same time he labored for peace and reconciliation between England and France and among many lesser nobles. His influence mounted when his spiritual son was elected pope in 1145. At Eugene III‘s command he preached the Second Crusade and sent vast armies on the road toward Jerusalem. In his last years he rose from his sickbed and went into the Rhineland to defend the Jews against a savage persecution.

Although he suffered from constant physical debility and had to govern a monastery that soon housed several hundred monks and was sending forth groups regularly to begin new monasteries (he personally saw to the establishment of sixty-five of the three hundred Cistercian monasteries founded during his thirty-eight years as abbot), he yet found time to compose many and varied spiritual works that still speak to us today. He laid out a solid foundation for the spiritual life in his works on grace and free will, humility and love. His gifts as a theologian were called upon to respond to the dangerous teachings of the scintillating Peter Abelard, of Gilbert de la Porree and of Arnold of Brescia. His masterpiece, his Sermons on the Song of Songs, was begun in 1136 and was still in composition at the time of his death. With great simplicity and poetic grace Bernard writes of the deepest experiences of the mystical life in ways that became normative for all succeeding writers. For Pope Eugene he wrote Five Books on Consideration, the bedside reading of Pope John XXIII and many other pontiffs through the centuries.


And in 2015, it will be the 900th anniversary of the Abbey of Clairvaux.





Pierre Reverdy, mystic at Solesmes

Juan Gris - Portrait de Pierre Reverdy





For the great poet Pierre Reverdy who is 1926 retired from the world and lived a ‘quasi-monastic’ existence near the Abbey at Solesmes with his devout wife Henriette.



A Heart Divided

He so spares himself
He so fears the coverings
The sky’s blue coverlet
And pillows of cloud
He is ill-clothed by his faith
He is so afraid of steps that go awry
And streets chipped in the ice
He is too tiny for winter
He so fears the cold
He is transparent in his mirror
He is so hazy he loses himself
Time rolls him under its waves
At moments his blood flows the wrong way
And his tears stain the linen
His hand gathers green trees
And nosegays of seaweed from the strand
His faith is a thorn bush
His hands bleed against his heart
His eyes have lost their glow
And his feet trail over the sea
Like the dead arms of devil-fish
He is lost in the universe
He stumbles against cities
Against himself and his own failings
Then pray that the Lord
Erase even the memory
Of this man from His mind

Edith Stein


Edith Stein



Feast of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, sent to her death in Auschwitz as  Edith Stein.


While travelling during Holy Week of 1933, Edith stopped over in Cologne at the Carmelite convent during the service for Holy Thursday. She attended it with a friend, and by her own account, the homily moved her very deeply. She wrote:

I told our Lord that I knew it was His cross that was now being placed upon the Jewish people; that most of them did not understand this, but that those who did would have to take it up willingly in the name of all. I would do that. At the end of the service, I was certain that I had been heard. But what this carrying of the cross was to consist in, that I did not yet know.

Bonhoeffer’s strange glory

From a NYT review of  Charles Marsh’s new biography, Strange Glory: A Life of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer:


On the final day of his life, before the Gestapo ushered him to Flossenbürg for execution, Bonhoeffer joined with others in the singing of “Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott,” which Johann Sebastian Bach composed to the words that Luther had written while exiled in Wartburg Castle — lyrics better known in English as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Though often rendered lugubrious in American churches, Bonhoeffer (and possibly Bach as well) preferred that it be sung briskly, with “bouncing rhythms.”

“We still love life, but I believe that death can no longer surprise us,” Bonhoeffer wrote in his final months — a fitting epitaph for a genocidal century.