Saturday, October 27, 2007

Who are we?

Lisa at The Episcopal Majority posted a wonderful piece from the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward (it's slightly longer at the link):

A couple of weeks ago, while attending Trinity Episcopal Church in Meredith, New Hampshire, with my brother, Pete, a man sitting a couple of pews in front of us went to the front of the small church to present the week's "Ministry Minute." He said:

'In nearly every community in the United States there is the same sign. The sign is significant in its simplicity and in its message. What it says is "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You." That is what it says wherever you find it, in New Hampshire, California or Texas.

There are two words that are conspicuously absent from the sign. The two words are "except" and "unless." You will not find either of those words on the front or on the back of the sign or even in tiny fine print. You will not find, after the words "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" the words "unless you interpret the Bible differently than we do" or "except if you are a gay or lesbian person who has been elected bishop." The sign says simply and in a way God intends us all to understand, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You – No Exceptions, No Unless."'

This goes to the heart of our mark of the distinctive presence of the Anglican Church in any community. We forget it at our peril: what makes us worth our existence as a denomination is the grace, the openness, the plain Christlikeness of our witness and our love.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11.28-30)

All you that are weary.

He also said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6.35)


And he said this too: "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11.25-27)


Who are we to close a door our Lord has thrown wide, to put a price on the gift of eternal life?

Friday, October 26, 2007

A meme, a meme!

Sitting up too late with Google Reader, I discover I've been tagged by Paula, for her amazing 7 random &/or weird facts meme, so without further ado:

  1. Paula says, "Even as a baby I could not eat the film which forms on milk after boiling..." I love it - yum! Even better, Jan feels the same as Paula, so I get to eats hers too :-)
  2. I too hate to iron clothes. We both do. We therefore try and buy ones that don't need it. Or at least ones we can pretend don't need it.
  3. I have a bent ring finger on my left hand. It broke years ago when I hit a wall with the yard scraper on the tractor. (Don't ask...) It works fine, but it leads to some unusual fingerings on the guitar - it would take me ages to learn normal fingerings again if it were to be miraculously straightened tomorrow.
  4. I too love all cats. If I had a free choice I'd have two ordinary moggies, a black & white (neutered) tom, and a calico female, both shorthaired. But all our cats have been rescues, and that's the way it should be. So we've a dear little plain black, and a lovely crazy white & orange one, both girls.
  5. I like miso even better than milk skin. I'd walk miles in a rainstorm for a really good genmai miso.
  6. I'm very fond of spiders, all kinds of spiders, and I know most of the commoner British ones by their scientific names. I love their different webs (or absence of webs) and their cunning ways of making a living.
  7. My father was a church organist, and a very serious amateur classical pianist, but although I'm the spitting image of him to look at, I haven't inherited keyboard genes. I can play most things with strings, to varying degrees, and I blow a mean shofar - keyboards I just can't cope with.

I'm no good at tagging people for memes - I always seem to get people who'd never think of doing one, or else they've done the one I'm trying to tag them for already, weeks ago... So if anyone reading this feels like being tagged, consider it done, with peace and blessings from me!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Free Rice Game

I found this marvellous game at Junia's Daughter's excellent - generally very serious - blog, and though it's both great fun and a corporal work of mercy, it's dangerously addictive. Don't say I didn't warn you!

A life profession?

Many thanks to Sr. Claire Joy for passing on this wonderful little cartoon:


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dark days...

We are prone these days to feel, often as a result of the superb international news reporting available to us, that we are living in uniquely dark times, and that the good old days are fast slipping beneath a horizon stained with blood, and with the meltwater from the shrinking icecaps.

Now I don't mean to minimise for one minute the dangers of global warming, or the immense suffering and injustice in the world, even in the most "civilised" countries. But to think that "we've never had it so bad," to paraphrase Harold Macmillan, is just plain wrong.

Imagine being born in the fourteenth century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.

John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.

His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.

The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance.

(from Saint of the Day)

The Franciscans throughout that period reacted to the chaos and misery around them not with despair, nor with recrimination: they simply got on with following their Lord, in teaching, in acts of mercy, in prayer.

In the years following World War I, the Soviet Union grew in power and scope, until in 1928 Stalin's Five Year Plan set in motion an era-long nightmare for the whole of Eastern Europe. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet State, believed that "Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class." 

The Orthodox and Catholic churches were all but crushed, with only a few state-sponsored fragments remaining to placate the the faithful; most Baptists and many of the other Christians were driven underground, exiled, imprisoned or killed. Catholic religious, and those of the hesychast tradition among the Orthodox, most of whom were driven into exile (many of the latter ended up on Mount Athos in Greece) simply went on praying.

It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events.

(Saint of the Day again)

We forget at our peril, I think, the sufferings of those who have gone before us. Surrounded as we are by "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 21.1) we know that our generation is not the first to suffer, nor is it likely to be the last. How we handle that, as individuals, has at least I think the potential for eternal significance.

Saint Silouan, one of the great Russian intercessors who spent the years of the Soviet era on Mount Athos, wrote:

What does inner silence mean? It means ceaseless prayer, with the mind dwelling in God. Father John of Kronstadt was always surrounded by people, yet he was more with God than many solitairies. I became steward in an act of obedience and because of the Abbot's blessing I can pray better at my task than I did at the Old Russicon where out of self-will I had asked to go for the sake of inner silence... If the soul loves and pities people, prayer cannot be interrupted...

The soul cannot know peace unless she prays for her enemies. The soul that has learned of God's grace to pray, feels love and compassion for every created thing, and in particular for mankind, for whom the Lord suffered on the Cross, and His soul was heavy for every one of us.

The Lord taught me to love my enemies. Without the grace of God we cannot love our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit teaches love, and then even devils arouse our pity because they have fallen from good, and lost humility in God.

(from the above link, and from Hieromonk Gregory's obituary of Silouan's pupil Archimandrite Sophrony.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The truth of loss...

Loss, any kind of loss - rejection, abandonment, divorce, death - is a shocking, numbing, gray thing that at the outset, at least, freezes the heart and slows the mind. Loss changes life at the root. Irrevocably. What was once the center of life - the person, the position, the plan, the lifestyle - is no more. What shaped our identities, what fashioned our days and filled our sleep, what gave us meaning and direction, comfort and support, has disappeared like sunset on a cloudless night.

And yet loss, once reckoned, once absorbed, is a precious gift. No, I cannot be what I was before but I can be - I must be - something new. There is more of God in me, I discover in emptiness, than I have ever known in what I once took to be fullness.

There are spiritual lessons to be learned from loss that can be barely divined by any other means and often despite ourselves. We learn, just when we think we have nothing, just when it feels that we have not one good thing left in the world, that what we do still have is ourselves. We have, deep down inside us what no one can take away, what can never be lost either to time or to chance: We have the self that brought us to this point—and more. We have gifts of God in abundance, never noticed, never touched, perhaps, but a breath in us nevertheless and waiting to be tapped. And more, whatever we have developed over the years in the center of ourselves - the grit; the hope; the calm; the bottomless, pulsating, irrepressible trust in the providence of God despite the turns of fortune—is here now to be mined like gold, scratched out and melted down, shaped and shined into a whole new life. We have within us the raw material of life. And we have it for the taking.

The truth of loss is a freeing one: It is the grave of something we loved - this person, this path, this place - that calls forth the resurrection of the self. Then the past has done its doing. Then the Word of God becomes new life to us. Then life becomes a series of possibilities which, when taken seriously, make us whole. Then, we take another road, not because we know what will happen at the end of it but because we cannot be whole without walking it.

from The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman’s Life by Sr. Joan Chittister OSB, ill. John August Swanson (Eerdmans, 2000)

I can't claim always to have enjoyed the experience, but everything Sr. Joan says has proved to be true for me. She's absolutely right, the truth of loss is freedom, a strange, beautiful kind of freedom. Ultimately, it's the freedom to be what God is calling us to become.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

(Matthew 5.3-4)

Praying amid the unspeakable...

In view of headlines like this - Iran's hard-line nuclear reshuffle - the following quote from Merton's classic, Raids on the Unspeakable, makes chilling reading:

One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the [Adolf] Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it at all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing...

The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared. What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake...

[T]hose who have invented and developed atomic bombs, thermonuclear bombs, missiles; who have planned the strategy of the next war; who have evaluated the various possibilities of using bacterial and chemical agents: these are not the crazy people, they are the sane people.

Thomas Merton. "A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann" in Raids on the Unspeakable. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1964: pp. 45, 46-48.

As always, we are called not to despair but to prayer, as Fr Sophrony was called to pray through the Russian Revolution and through the Second World War, and on into the Cold War, which was only beginning to be resolved in the last few years before he fell asleep in the Lord.

Amazing Grace

Following a lovely story of her grandmother's gift of grace to her, Jan has this amazing passage:

What is surprising about all this is that I have not been seeking for healing or praying for such inner work. The grace of healing is just HERE. This is a perfect example to me of God's grace - totally unearned. Divine Grace was working within me, without me knowing it, healing me in unknown ways. This is God, who is working in each one of us, loving us into the people he wants us to be.

That is just how I have found it to be over the last couple of years. God has met me where I least expected it - in ways I had never expected, that I had not the intelligence or the spiritual insight to imagine - with the gift of limitless grace, often in circumstances that at first looked to have no redeeming features whatever.

Jan quotes Julian of Norwich's beautiful line from Chapter 27 of The Revelations (I'm using my favourite Sheila Upjohn translation) "The cause of all this pain is sin. But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

This passage always brings me straight into one of my essential verses of Scripture, one where this unsought, un-thought-of grace appears most clearly, Romans 8.28: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

Grace in the hardest places, mercy where we least expect it: the unsearchable riches of Christ, the mystery hidden in God. (Ephesians 2.8-9 NIV)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not exactly surprising...

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Orthodox

You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.













Given my history with the Jesus Prayer, what else would you expect?

(Many thanks to Kirstin.)

Again, we pray and pray...

Again, we pray and pray, and no answer comes. The boon does not arrive. Why? Perhaps we are not spiritually ready for it. It would not be a real blessing. But the persistence, the importunity of faith, is having a great effect on our spiritual nature. It ripens. A time comes when we are ready for an answer. We then present ourselves to God in a spiritual condition which reasonably causes him to yield. The new spiritual state is not the answer to our prayer, but it is its effect; and it is the condition which makes the answer possible. It makes the prayer effectual. The gift can be a blessing now. So God resists us no more. Importunity prevails, not as mere importunity (for God is not bored into answer), but as the importunity of God's own elect, that is, as obedience, as a force of the kingdom, as increased spiritual power, as real moral action, bringing corresponding strength and fitness to receive. I have often found that what I sought most I did not get at the right time, not till it was too late, not till I had learned to do without it, till I had renounced it in principle (though not in desire). Perhaps it had lost some of its zest by the time it came, but it meant more as a gift and a trust. That was God's right time - when I could have it as though I had it not. If it came, it came not to gratify me, but to glorify him and be a means of serving him.

From The Soul of Prayer by P. T. Forsyth, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Meditations, compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998).

Courtesy of Vicki K Black.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Word of God?

Friar Jack has some interesting thoughts in his latest E-spiration. Writing about the inspiration of Biblical texts, he says,

We know the entire Bible is God’s inspired word, though the Gospels and Epistles enjoy a kind of preeminence. The Gospels are the account of the life, ministry and saving death of Jesus, the Word made Flesh, and the Epistles give us a development of Christian doctrine in the formative years of the infant Church.

It is understandable that some statements in the Bible are more important than others. For example, Jesus' words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and the Our Father are more important than something from Proverbs, such as “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Additionally, Paul’s magnificent description of how Jesus “became like us in all things but sin” carries more significance and importance than a list of dietary rules and regulations found in Deuteronomy. Still, everything is inspired.

What does the Church mean when saying that the Bible is the inspired word of God? You will find that there are various interpretations of inspired among many Christian denominations. Some will say that every word in the Bible is God’s direct word and that the Scripture writers were simply taking dictation from God. That’s why, for example, some Christians will say that—no matter what we discover about the universe and planet earth—God created it all in six days (with one day of rest). After all, they say, the Bible says “six days” and that’s that. It’s God’s word. Catholics don’t see it quite that way.

The Catholic Church teaches the following on the Bible’s authors:

"To compose the sacred books [the Bible] God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #106)

...The Scripture writers were not stenographers simply taking dictation from the voice of God. They wrote as themselves, which is why you find different writing styles among them. The Greek of Mark's and Luke’s Gospels are quite different, Mark’s being rather plain in comparison to Luke’s much more polished text. However, each author wrote what he believed to be the Good News based on what that he witnessed with his own eyes and heard from others who knew Jesus.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke say that Jesus went to Jerusalem one time during his ministry, while John’s Gospel has Jesus traveling a number of times. These differences in no way indicate error on behalf of the authors. Rather, they recorded what God wanted, but at the same time were using sources of information that varied from place to place. Yet, what each wrote is God’s Word. And that is the core of their mystery. They wrote what God wanted written, but God never took from them their own freedom or their individual personalities.

We do not know the true experiences of the Bible's writers and whether they felt inspired. Certainly the prophets of the Old Testament give that very impression as they chastised and challenged the Israelites in the name of God. But more likely the writers were doing what they thought they should be doing in writing the history of the Old Testament and the Gospels and epistles of the New Testament. The Bible's authors may not have at all felt inspired as we imagine it. But when they wrote (even while using their own words and expressions), the result was indeed the inspired Word of God, the Word of God in human language.

This is one of the sanest and wholest accounts of Scriptural inspiration I've ever read.

So often what, even today, we do and write and think and say seems just like our own ordinary attempts at following our Lord. and yet sometimes even in our own lives we can look back, years later, and see God's hand in it all. Certainly it seems to have been so for the people we revere as Saints. They themselves were often just as confused, and afraid, and tentative as any of us (think of Mother Teresa's recently published letters, and Fr. Alex Ayeung's wise and beautiful commentary on them) and yet they were faithful. As a blogging friend wrote to me recently, when we accept to be Christ's, we are not sacrificing anything for him: we are the sacrifice. This is not, she went on to say, heroics - no sheep ever volunteered for the slaughter. It is just the bare faith that if we are crucified in Christ, either literally or metaphorically, then we will be raised in him. She is so right.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist and Martyr

If you read nothing else for the Feast of St. Luke, go and read Padre Mickey's moving, scholarly post. He says, after many other fascinating things:

No one is really sure about Luke’s life after the martyrdom of St. Paul. Epiphanius says that after the martyrdom of St. Paul, St. Luke preached in Italy, Gaul, Dalmatia, and Macedon. Fortunatus and Metaphrastus say he passed into Egypt and preached in Thebais. Nicephorus says he died at Thebes in Boeotia around the year 84, after settling in Greece to write his gospel. St. Hippolytus says St. Luke was crucified at Elaea in Peloponnesus near Achaia. There is a Greek tradition that he was crucified on an olive tree. The ancient African Martyrology gives him the titles of Evangelist and Martyr, and St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Paulinus, and St. Gaudentius of Brescia all claim that Luke went to God by martyrdom. Bede, Ado, Usuard, and Baronius in the Martyrologies only say he suffered much for the faith, and died very old in Bithynia. Whether he died a quiet death at 84 or whether he won the martyr’s crown, he will always be known for his wonderful two-volume work. What would Christmas be like without Luke’s story of the shepherds and the angelic choir? His story of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost has always been an inspiration. And what would Evening Prayer be like without the beauty of the Magnificat? Luke was instrumental in helping spread the word, helping spread the Good News, that forgiveness of sins and the coming of the Reign of God is available to all, and that is why we remember St. Luke today.

Luke is one of my favourite Bible writers: quite apart from his beautiful writings, his openness to people of whatever race and tradition and whichever sex, I love the fact that he was the one disciple who stuck it out with Paul till the very end. Luke would have been the kind of man you'd want for a friend, I think. Today we can remember to be grateful for his leaving us those two luminous, gentle books so that we know that he is with us still, one of "so great a cloud of witnesses" with whom we are constantly surrounded.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A kind of submarine life...

My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silence, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between Believer and Unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an Unbeliever more or less! Only when this fact is fully experienced, accepted and lived with, does one become fit to hear the simple message of the Gospel - or any other religious teaching.

The religious problem of the twentieth century is not understandable if we regard it only as a problem of Unbelievers and of atheists. It is also and perhaps chiefly a problem of Believers. The faith that has grown cold is not only the faith that the Unbeliever has lost but the faith that the Believer has kept. This faith has too often become rigid, or complex, sentimental, foolish, or impertinent. It has lost itself in imaginings and unrealities, dispersed itself in pontifical and organization routines, or evaporated in activism and loose talk...

[A] faith that is afraid of other people is no faith at all. A faith that supports itself by condemning others is itself condemned by the Gospel.

Thomas Merton. "Apologies to an Unbeliever" in Faith and Violence. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968: pp. 213-214.


Merton, almost as an aside, is underlining something here that is becoming more and more urgent and important in my own life. When he writes of being a "solitary explorer" living "a kind of submarine life," my heart leaps in answer, like a lover's heart leaps when they see the name of their beloved. It really is that close, that physical.

Peculiar things are happening to me lately. I am getting less and less able to watch TV dramas involving human suffering and fear. The same thing applies to films, or novels, unless there is a strong current of redemption and grace running through the work. For instance, there is fear and suffering in the work of Tolkien, of Phil Rickman, and there is little else in some of Charles Williams'; yet these are luminous, redemptive works, like Solzhenitsyn, or Hesse. Poor Jan, she loves TV dramas. She like to watch them with me for company, and to exchange the odd remark or look at crucial moment, and yet increasingly I'm having to leave her to watch them on her own, while I come up here and write posts like this!

The world is not distant. I feel closer to the lives of the people and animals that populate it than I ever did, and yet I am increasingly distant from the way the world thinks, the things it wants. Sometimes I see an advertisement, or an article, about the things the world is supposed to long for - money, impressive possessions, power, prestige - and I catch myself thinking, "Why would anyone want something like that?" as if it were an advertisement for chenille Wellington boots, or a garden fork made of glass.

I long for dim, obscure places, like a hedgehog in the middle of a city square. Something in me weeps for the sea between islands, for the steep paths of the Black Mountains of Wales. I want to become trackless.

Lao Tzu describes the wise men of old:

Hesitant, like crossing a wintry river
Cautious, like fearing four neighbors
Solemn, like a guest
Loose, like ice about to melt
Genuine, like plain wood
Open, like a valley
Opaque, like muddy water...

(Tao Te Ching, tr. Derek Lin)

That would be a good way to be.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another of those, "Ouch, it's true" moments...

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader

Book Snob

Literate Good Citizen


Fad Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

...with thanks to Lutheran Chik!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Another beautiful bit of Merton:

I came up here [to his hermitage] from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

Thomas Merton. "Rain and the Rhinoceros" in Raids on the Unspeakable. New York: New Directions Publishing Co., 1964: 9-10.

Love What Is True

Thanks to Vikki K Black for this beautiful quotation:

The soul that truly loves God loves all good, seeks all good, protects all good, praises all good, joins itself to good people, helps and defends them, and embraces all the virtues: it only loves what is true and worth loving.

Do you think it possible that one who truly loves God cares, or can care, for vanities, or riches, or worldly things, or pleasures or honours? Neither can such a soul quarrel or feel envy, for it aims at nothing save pleasing the Beloved. It dies with longing for his love and gives its life in striving how to please him better.

Teresa of Avila, quoted in The Joy of the Saints: Spiritual Readings throughout the Year, edited by Robert Llewelyn (Templegate, 1988).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Dhammakaya Project

For those of you who are interested in what the world's Buddhists are up to - and which of us isn't after Burma? - there's a remarkable peace project going on in Thailand. Well worth a look.

The Dhammakaya Cetiya website.

The Dhammakaya Project fund-raising site.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One thing...

Fr Mike, OP, has a marvellous post over on Intentional Disciples, where he says:

What is the "one thing" for the Christian? Mary discovered it [Luke 10:38-42]: being focused on the Lord. It is very easy for us to be anxious and worried about many things - including good things, like hospitality, or even "serving the Lord." In my own ministry I was - and still am, unfortunately - often very busy. But if my focus is taken from Jesus, the ministry will falter, and I'll begin focusing on myself. "How am I doing? Is our ministry successful? How's our attendance at Mass?" and on and on.

Just as my focus can shift from Christ to me in the active life, it can also shift from Christ in the life of prayer! I can approach the life of prayer like a checklist: "Did I get to Mass today? Say my rosary? Did I get the Divine Mercy chaplet in?" Or I can get upset that Mass wasn't just as I wanted: not reverent enough, or too formal; the music was poor or from the wrong period; the church architecture too traditional or too modern; the priest used inclusive language -or didn't - and on and on. Again, the focus has shifted from Christ to me.

When we are anxious and upset over anything, it may well be a sign that we've begun to focus on the means, rather than the end, which is the encounter with Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Love, our Life. It is so easy to replace the end, the one needful thing - or, better, the One we need - with something that ultimately will pass away.

We cannot be satisfied by something that is good, perhaps, but not the Good. When that happens we'll always end up seeking "the More". When we lose sight of "the One," we'll become lost and engrossed in the many.

Fr. Mike is so right.

When I first read this I thought about the bothers we have still, to some extent, in the Anglican church. Some people are still worried about whether they're going to get Prayer Book or Common Worship, whether it's going to be Wesley hymns or Matt Redman, bells and smells or a Geneva gown, a woman priest or a complementarian bloke. Not me, of course.

Then I got to thinking about my own post the other day, about how hard I sometimes find it to trust God. Losing sight of the One? Yes - this is just what I do. The obverse of that - keeping the One continually in sight - is so much a function of the simplicity to which we are called as Franciscans, and which this dear Dominican has shown me so clearly. And of course we are back with the Jesus Prayer again (well, I am, where else?) and praying continually, which is such a true and trustworthy way to keep him always in mind - or should I say to keep our mind always in him?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Green Martyrdom...

I owe this train of thought to SaltSister, who was talking about "God-incidences" in her life, and about the recurrence of things to do with St. Jude, and the colour green, and many other interesting things.

Following links and a bit of searching brought me to this excellent article from The Wild Goose, the Quarterly Newsletter of the St. Aidan Trust - USA.

In it, Christopher Bygonaise writes:

The early Christian Celts were well aware of the dangers of comfort and routine on the spiritual life, and they understood that "dying to self" was the only way to grow nearer to Christ.  Martyrdom was very characteristic of this early church.  Perhaps in following with their deep veneration for the Holy Trinity, however, the Celtic Christians divided martyrdom into three distinct categories: white martyrdom - forsaking one’s home for the sake of mission - exemplified by the likes of Columba, Patrick, Brendan and Columcille, among others; red martyrdom - giving up one’s life for the faith; and finally the most accessible - but perhaps the most elusive type: green martyrdom, which is the daily struggle for goodness and purity, the shedding of bad habits and routines that separate us from God. We must wrestle daily with our baser nature. Just as in Tolkien’s world view, where the mixing of good and evil in a person is not an option, Saint James reminds us that a spring cannot bring forth both salty and sweet water (James 3:11). Every day involves myriad choices to be a better person than before.

How many of us try to keep alive the Celtic idea of green martyrdom in our lives?  Listening to the mass media on any given day would convince the average person that Christianity is a religion in decline, filled with scandal upon scandal, division, self-interest and chaos.  There is such a need today for individuals to live the faith, not necessarily in some grand manner that attracts attention and honor, but in the quiet way of the simple monk, the original green martyr, who would daily follow the cycle of prayer, works and fasting that brings the light of God quietly into the world slowly and steadily.  This alone is sufficient because, as we all know, the ultimate victories belong to God (1 Cor 15:57); we simply choose either to cooperate or become part of the problem. Green martyrdom can therefore be seen simply as a calling to shed all that is false and embrace the authentic self that God created us to be. What good work will go undone if we spend our lives poorly, chasing after this or that passion?

Once again, I am reminded of the wholesome beauty of obscurity. St Francis spoke of being betrothed to Lady Poverty, "a wife of surpassing fairness." (CathEn article on St Francis - para. 5). I can't claim such high ambitions. I would like to marry Susie Obscurity, a quiet gentle country girl, with rosy cheeks and wide, honest grey eyes. That is, of course, were I not already married to my own darling Jan!

Monday, October 08, 2007


Abba Moses said: "Strength, for one who desires to acquire the virtues, consists in not losing heart when he chances to fall, but in continuing again on his way: not to fall is characteristic only of angels."

(Thanks to Sophocles for reminding me of this!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mercy & Pity

"O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity." (from the Collect for Proper 19, Year C)

Br. Bede Thomas Mudge, OHC, has a fascinating and moving post on his blog, where he discusses the effect suddenly hearing this amazing sentence full on had on him. He says,

"Good God" I thought: "I never think of power in terms of mercy and pity. I think of power in terms of getting what I want. I think of power as the ability to Get Things Done. I think of power as the ability to run straight over any opposition. I think of power in lots of ways. But I never think of power as being merciful and showing pity."

What made this such a stunning moment, I think, was my body. I wasn't just thinking this dilemma, I was feeling it, and I was feeling it in my body. For some reason, when the officiant of that office sang the words "your almighty power" I really felt that power - or at least what my senses think of as power. And I was wrapped up in feeling my version of God's power when the words "mercy and pity" came along, and they completely toppled me off my (intellectual) horse. Because power - the power I think about with my mind and feel with my body, has to do with a lot of things, but not with mercy. Not with pity.

But God's power has everything to do with mercy and pity. That's what the collect says. And if that is true, I have a lot of work to do.

Do go and read the whole thing... a profound, and profoundly honest, bit of writing. But I will make one little connection here that Br. Bede Thomas doesn't make - it isn't really part of what he's working towards - that suddenly struck me as I read his words. I have often written here and on The Mercy Site about the power that there is in the simple little Jesus Prayer, and how it flows out into intercession, ultimately into intercession for the whole of Creation (Romans 8.19-27) The power of the Jesus Prayer, apart from its Trinitarian* nature, lies in the word "mercy." "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

In the Prayer I ask for mercy. I know that, as I ask it from, and in the name of, Jesus, I receive it in the very act of asking. This is a sacramental act, with implications far beyond the little pocket of time and place where it is being prayed. But it's not just me that receives it. What affects me affects Creation. The mercy that is poured out on me overflows to all Creation. In some extraordinary way that I can take no credit for, the Creation is being loved through me. That is surely the power Br. Bede Thomas is writing about.

* The Jesus Prayer is one which is slowly repeated. It is not a mantra, but a definite invocation to the Son of God. Being explicitly addressed to the Second Person of the Trinity, the First Person is implicitly included. Moreover, St Paul writes that no-one can call Jesus ‘Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor: 1-23). Thus the Jesus Prayer is Trinitarian. (Br. Brian SSF New Zealand)

The Mandaeans

Please continue to pray for the ancient Mandaean people of Iraq. It is reported in the New York Times that perhaps a small gateway of hope has opened for them - read more here.

Monks lead London's Burma protest (BBC News)

Please do continue to pray, and to do whatever good your hand finds to do. (You could start by signing the petition on this blog!) Check if there are any protests going on in your own city, if there are any Burmese expatriates you could help give support and comfort to.

The BBC coverage of the tragic events in Burma seems to me as good as any. They seem to have good access to whatever news is escaping the junta's attempted blackout, and are usually relatively unbiased in their reporting.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Trusting God

I always trip up here.

Somehow though it's so hard to avoid becoming anxious, however much I may know (and I do know) that I can trust him whatever happens, however apparently hard the circumstances. I know so well that I can trust God implicitly, that all his ways are good and true, and that truly "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose..." (Romans 8.28 NIV) and yet to let that actually become real in my life and in my reactions is not easy!

"But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, [his] faith is reckoned as righteousness..." (Romans 4.5)

Prayer is the only answer - for me, the only way to know God's mercy is real, and that it really does apply to me, that I'm not for some unfathomable reason outside that mercy, unlike the rest of Creation!

St Ignaty Brianchaninov has a wonderful essay on practising the Jesus Prayer, in which he says:

St. Isaac the Syrian put it marvellously: "When you turn to God in prayer,
be in your thoughts as an ant, as a serpent of the earth, like a worm, like a
stuttering child. Do not speak to Him something philosophical or high-sounding,
but approach Him with a child's attitude" (Homily 49). Those who have acquired
genuine prayer experience an ineffable poverty of the spirit when they stand
before the Lord, glorify and praise Him, confess to Him, or present to Him their
entreaties. They feel as if they had turned to nothing, as if they did not
exist. That is natural. For when he who is in prayer experiences the fullness of
the divine presence, of Life Itself, of Life abundant and unfathomable, then his
own life strikes him as a tiny drop in comparison to the boundless ocean. That
is what the righteous and long-suffering Job felt as he attained the height of
spiritual perfection. He felt himself to be dust and ashes; he felt that he was
melting and vanishing as does snow when struck by the sun's burning rays (Job

That is the answer, always. Finally in that obscurity of heart is healing, "for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3.3)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dives in Misericordia (for the feast of St Faustina)

Thanks again to Saint of the Day for this quote from Pope John Paul II's visit, four years after St Faustina's beatification, to the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki (near Krakow in Poland) where he addressed members of her congregation. He said:

The message of divine mercy has always been very close and precious to me. It is as though history has written it in the tragic experience of World War II. In those difficult years, this message was a particular support and an inexhaustible source of hope, not only for those living in Krakow, but for the entire nation. This was also my personal experience, which I carried with me to the See of Peter and which, in a certain sense, forms the image of this pontificate. I thank divine providence because I was able to contribute personally to carrying out Christ's will, by instituting the feast of Divine Mercy. Here, close to the remains of Blessed Faustina, I thank God for the gift of her beatification. I pray unceasingly that God may have 'mercy on us and on the whole world.'

It's fascinating to compare this with the teaching on the Jesus Prayer, where, over time, the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" comes to "pray itself" in the heart of the believer: precisely the Pope's prayer. Truly, mercy is at the centre of all we do as Christians, or we are just hollow shells.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
   nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
   nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
   so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
   he remembers that we are dust.

(Psalm 103.8-14)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy...

(Jesus, from the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More wonderful reading for the Feast of St Francis...

From The Canticle of Chiara:

It was certainly rash, and even foolish, for a man like Francis to suddenly
forsake the plans that had been in store for him since his youth… he was raised
to eventually become a merchant, like his father. When he finally decided to
give his life to God, his future was very unclear. Where would he live? Where
would Francis get his clothing and food from? What would he "do" for a living?
These are questions that plague many young people. In a time when there is so
much pressure put on teens and young adults to define rather nebulous futures,
many young people- myself included- spend a large amount of time worrying. In
high school, we worry whether we’ll be able to get into a choice college, be
able to pay for college, and also worry about our choice of college. After those
problems are resolved and we have made it into college, we worry about new
issues. What subject will we major in? Will we be able to pass a particular
class? Will we be able to find gainful summer employment? As graduation draws
near, a whole new set of questions arise. Will we find jobs? Will we get into
grad school? The biggest question of all, "What do we want to do with our

About a month ago, I had a conversation with a young women from one of my
church groups. She noted how important it is to place such worries and questions
God’s hands, trusting that He will lead us in the right direction. She said
something like, "a year from now, you'll be looking back and wondering why you
were so worried about your future when God eventually worked everything out for

Francis is the embodiment of this simple trust in God’s love and
providence. At first glance, it seems foolish to place one’s livelihood in God’s
hands… but Francis understood that when we spend less time worrying about
ourselves and trust in God’s providence, we're able to spend more time loving
and living for God and our neighbors. I pray that eventually - through St.
Francis’ intercession - I will be able to embrace such a faith-filled mentality!

Almost certainly today's two best posts on St Francis...

Go and read - Padre Mickey's done it again!

Feast of St Francis of Assisi

A Poem about St Francis of Assisi - Longfellow

St Francis & Creation

I just found an excellent article on St Francis over at the St Anthony Messenger site, dealing with the disconnect between some of the popular, birdbath ornament views of Francis, and some of the very serious-minded, scholarly attitudes that are horrified by that. Fr Jack Wintz OFM says:

PERHAPS THE MOST popular sculptured image of Francis of Assisi is that of the bearded little man standing on a birdbath. This figure is so universal that you can find it as readily in an Episcopalian’s backyard or a Buddhist prayer garden as at a Franciscan retreat center.

To those who complain, "This birdbath art is too lowbrow and sentimental!" I say, "Relax, it’s not always inferior art. Besides, Francis belongs to the popular arts (e.g., key chains, fridge magnets and the like), as well as to the fine arts."

To set Francis on a birdbath or in a flower garden or to depict him with birds circling his head is simply a popular way of saying, "This man had a special link with all God’s creatures, and it’s just like him to be standing there humbly among them."

Francis was in awe of the swallow, the cricket and the wolf. "Where the modern cynic sees something buglike in everything that exists," observed the German writer-philosopher Max Scheler, "St. Francis saw even in a bug the sacredness of life."

Another reason Francis should remain on the birdbath or in the garden is that his being there helps us recognize, as Francis himself did, that the world of God and the world of nature are one. Francis did not build an artificial wall between the natural world and the supernatural, the secular and the sacred...

St. Francis of Assisi addressed creatures as "sisters" and "brothers," that is, as equals, not as subjects to be dominated. And that is why the humble figure of St. Francis standing on the birdbath or among the shrubs is so right for our day. He truly saw himself as a simple servant and caretaker of creation - little brother to the birds and the fish and the lowly ivy.

Sometimes we can be too highbrow for our own good, and we miss the grace God has for us. We should continually, like Jesus, praise God that he has "hidden these [spiritual] things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Luke 10.21 NIV)

Free Burma!

Free Burma!

Just click on the graphic to see how you can help...

And keep praying - read this BBC account to see why we must do all we can to help!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Oh dear, this is just what Jan was afraid of... says I'm a Dorky Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!


Hat tip to SFO Mom via A Minor Friar.

Read and pray, please

More belated angels...

I found this too, which I must have read years ago, but had forgotten. Read this and tell me the hairs on your neck don't stand on end. I dare you... Comes from the ANG*L site:

We can become aware that our life is "marvelously guided by good powers," as Dietrich Bonhoeffer experienced in a Nazi prison. Christian tradition speaks of these guiding powers as Guardian Angels and celebrates them on this special feast.

The first two stanzas of Rainer Maria Rilke's Second Duino Elegy counteract the saccharine sweet images which we all too often see of Guardian Angels.

Every angel is terrible.
Knowing this, I invoke thee,
O Deadly Birds of the Soul.
Gone are the days of Tobias,
when shining Raphael,
awful majesty disguised,
stood at a door, twin
to the youth who gazed
out, curious, upon him.
Should such an archangel
now descend a single step
from behind the stars,
our hearts would rise and
rage until they burst!
Who art thou?

Primordial Perfection!
First darlings of Creation:
mountain summits crimson
in the dawn of genesis -
pollen of Godhead in
resplendent blossom,
essence of light...
halls, stairs, thrones,
places of pure being,
shields shaped of ecstasy,
swirling storms of rapture -
all suddenly ceasing...
mirrors!...commanding all
the scattered sweetness
into themselves again.

(translated by Robert Hunter)

St Bernard on Angels

Late as usual, I still couldn't resist posting this lovely passage I found on the CCF Calendar of Saints:

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux on The Holy Guardian Angels:

"He hath given his angels charge over thee." O wonderful bounty and truly great love of charity! Who? For whom? Wherefore? What has He commanded? Let us study closely, brethren, and let us diligently commit to our memory this great mandate. Who is it that commands? Whose angels are they? Whose mandates do they fulfill? Whose will do they obey? In answer, "He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." And they do not hesitate even to life thee up in their hands.

So the Supreme Majesty has given charge to the angels. Yes, He has given charge to His own angels. Think of it! To those sublime beings, who cling to Him so joyfully and intimately, to His very own He has given charge over you! Who are you? "What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?" As if man were not rottenness, and the son of man a worm! Now why, do you think, he Has given them charge over thee? -- To guard thee!

With what great reverence should you treat this word! What devotion should you proffer it; what great confidence should you place in it. Reverence because of their presence; devotion because of their benevolence; confidence because of their solicitude. Walk carefully, in all thy ways, as one with whom the angels are present as He has given them charge. In every lodging, at every corner, have reverence for thy Angel. Do not dare to do in his presence what you would not dare to do if I were there. Or do you doubt that he is present whom you do not behold? What if you should hear him? What if you should touch him? What if you should scent him? Remember that the presence of something is not proved only by the sight of things.

In this, therefore, brethren, let us affectionately love His angels as one day our future coheirs; meanwhile, however, as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble? Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide. As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: "Lord, save us; we perish!"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Descent of the Dove (with apologies to Charles Williams)

Wonderful quote from Lancelot Andrewes, posted by Vicki K Black. I really should read more Lancelot Andrewes: he always blows my socks off when I do -

The Holy Ghost is a Dove, and he makes Christ’s Spouse, the church, a Dove, a term so oft iterate in the Canticles, and so much stood on by Saint Augustine and the Fathers, as they make no question. No Dove, no church.

And what shall we say then to them that will be Christians, and yet have nothing in them of the church, nothing in them of the dove; what shall we say? You may see what they are, they even seek and do all that in them lies to chase away this Dove, the Holy Ghost. The Dove, they tell us, that was for the baby-Church, for them to be humble and meek, suffer and mourn like a dove. Now, as if with Montanus they had yet “another Holy Ghost” to look for, in another shape, of another fashion quite, with other qualities, they hold these be no qualities for Christians now. Were indeed, they grant, for the baby-Christians, for the “three thousand” first Christians, this day; poor men, they did all in simplicitate cordis. And so too in Pliny’s time: harmless people they were; the Christians, as he writes, did nobody hurt. And so to Tertullian’s, who tells plainly what hurt they could have done, and yet would do none. And so all along the primitive churches, even down to Gregory, who in any wise would have no hand in any man’s blood. But the date of these meek and patient Christians is worn out, long since expired; and now we must have Christians of a new edition, of another, a new-fashioned Holy Ghost’s making.

For do they not begin to tell us in good earnest that they are simple men that think Christians were to continue so still; they were to be so but for a time, till their beaks and talons were grown, till their strength was come to them, and then this dove here might take her wings, fly whither she would; then a new Holy Ghost to come down upon them that would not take it as the other did, but take arms, depose, deprive, blow up; instead of an olive branch, have a match-light in her beak or a bloody knife.

Methinks, if this world go on, it will grow a question problematic, in what shape it was most convenient for the Holy Ghost to have come down? Whether as he did, in the meek shape of a dove? or whether, it had not been much better he had come in some other shape, in the shape of the Roman eagle, or of some other fierce fowl de vulturino genere?

But lying men may change—may, and do; but the Holy Ghost is unus idemque Spiritus, saith the Apostle, changes not, casts not his bill, moults not his feathers. His qualities at the first do last still, and still shall last to the end, and no other notes of a true Christian, but they.

From “Sermon VIII of the Sending of the Holy Ghost” by Lancelot Andrewes, quoted in Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, compiled by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams (Oxford, 2001).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Merton on the purpose of it all...


The doctrine of man finding his true reality in his remembrance of God in whose image he was created, is basically Biblical and was developed by the Church Fathers in connection with the theology of grace, the sacraments, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the surrender of our own will, the "death" of our selfish ego, in order to live in pure love and liberty of spirit, is effected not by our own will (this would be a contradiction in terms!) but by the Holy Spirit. To "recover the divine likeness," to "surrender to the will of God," to "live by pure love," and thus to find peace, is summed up as "union with God in the Spirit," or "receiving, possessing the Holy Spirit." This, as the 19th-century Russian hermit, St. Seraphim of Sarov declared, is the whole purpose of the Christian (therefore a fortiori the monastic) life. St. John Chrysostom says: "As polished silver illumined by the rays of the sun radiates light not only from its own nature but also from the radiance of the sun, so a soul purified by the Divine Spirit becomes more brilliant than silver; it both receives the ray of Divine Glory and from itself reflects the ray of this same glory." Our true rest, love, purity, vision and quies is not something in ourselves, it is God the Divine Spirit. Thus we do not "possess" rest, but go out of ourselves into him who is our true rest...

In the surrender of himself and of his own will, his "death" to his worldly identity, the monk is renewed in the image and likeness of God, and become like a mirror filled with the divine light.

Thomas Merton. "The Spiritual Father in the Desert Tradition" in Contemplation in A World of Action. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1971: p. 287.

Obscure Sacrifice

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

It's an odd thing. When I was younger I used to long for - if not for fame exactly, then certainly for people to know my name. I'm coming to realise that in this business of following the Lord that's more of a disadvantage than otherwise. I'm not entirely sure why that should be, really, but certainly I'm coming to realise that there's a real hunger growing in me for obscurity. (Ironic, perhaps, that I'm posting this on a weblog, but there you go...)

I said in an earlier post that:

There is something so wholesome about obscurity in God - one of my favourite Scripture passages is Colossians 3.3, "...for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

...We should really never long to do great things for Christ - we should long only to obey him, to do only those things our hand finds to do. The results may be unheard, almost unremembered... or they may change the world... [but] that is not up to us....

Obscurity is... nourishing, like good brown bread. When we live in obscurity, we live in wholeness, and our hearts are free to love.

Increasingly I come to understand why some of the old solitaries like St Cuthbert were so reluctant to accept high office - in Cuthbert's case, to take up the duties of a Bishop. I don't think it was just that they were unwilling to leave their hermitages or their deserts and move into the city. I think they must have known- instinctively or intellectually - that there is a secret life we have with God that we somehow risk by too close a connection with the world of synods, newspapers, public debate.

Pray for our leaders, for ++Rowan Williams, ++Katharine Schori, Pope Benedict XVI, Pastor Berten Waggoner, ++Mark Hanson... you fill in the gaps. My heart goes out to these people. Not in a million years would I want to stand in their shoes.