I enjoyed this novel far more than I initially expected, and especially relished the central sections, an astoundingly accurate reminiscence of a perc...moreI enjoyed this novel far more than I initially expected, and especially relished the central sections, an astoundingly accurate reminiscence of a perceptive adolescent's take on Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, theology. Those who endured confirmation classes of any sort as a teenager will appreciate Joyce's vividly imagined/remembered preachments and conversations on sin, hell, and God. As I was reading this novel, I remembered a night of drinking with my best friend noyoucmon, 15 or so years ago, in which we enjoyed a "hell off": I read descriptions of Tibetan Buddhist hells from Words of My Perfect Teacher, while he read from the present volume. Fun times. (less)
I checked this book out from the library hoping that it would explain holy cards to non-Catholic reader, in the same way that Windows to Heaven expla...moreI checked this book out from the library hoping that it would explain holy cards to non-Catholic reader, in the same way that Windows to Heaven explained Orthodox icons to the non-Orthodox reader. Alas, this was not the case. Instead, it is a coffee table book that collects images of holy cards from the last few centuries and presents them with little explanation. Many of the images are beautiful, but there isn't enough context for the non-Catholic to appreciate them properly. (less)
Contemporary conservative Catholic intellectual, writer, and poet Zmirak retells--in blank verse, no less--Dostoevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisito...moreContemporary conservative Catholic intellectual, writer, and poet Zmirak retells--in blank verse, no less--Dostoevsky's parable of the Grand Inquisitor. Weird and challenging, provocative but ultimately unsatisying. I would like to read this again, though, after taking on both Paradise Lost (the source of the blank verse style) and the original parable in the context of The Brothers Karamazov.(less)
In an excerpt from "Brother Lawrence's Way of Life," the Abbé de Beaufort explains how the practices of this simple monk are relevant to all who seek...moreIn an excerpt from "Brother Lawrence's Way of Life," the Abbé de Beaufort explains how the practices of this simple monk are relevant to all who seek a deeper spiritual life:
Although Brother Lawrence spent his life retired from the world in a monastery, there is still no one who cannot take great profit from what is given here concerning his way of life. He teaches people engaged in the world to turn to God, asking for grace as they fulfill their duties, take care of their business affairs, carry on conversations, and even engage in recreation. By his example they will be moved not only to give thanks to Him for His blessings and for the good His grace has allowed them to do, but also to humble themselves before Him for their faults.
This is not a speculative devotion that can be practiced only in monasteries...
From the Second Conversation with Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, September 28, 1666:
In his spiritual sufferings [Brother Lawrence] had not consulted anyone; but with faith as his guide, and his only knowledge being that God was present with him, he was content to live and act for Him, come what may. He was willing to lose himself for the love of God, and in so doing, he found satisfaction.
The multitude of thoughts that crowd in on us spoil everything. Evil begins in our thoughts, so we must be careful to reject them as soon as we become aware that they are not essential to our present duties or to our salvation. Doing this allows us to begin our conversation with God once again. (68)
The notion of being aware of thoughts arising and of "rejecting" those thoughts is central, in one form or another, to Christian contemplative prayer, as well as to forms of Buddhist and Hindu meditation.
Another notion that arises in all these traditions is that of renunciation. In his ninth letter, this one to the Reverend Mother N..., Brother Lawrence exhorts her:
[L]et us generously renounce for the love of God everything that is not Him. He is worthy of infinitely more. Let us think about Him without ceasing and put our whole trust in Him. I have no doubt that we will soon experience the effect of trusting in Him, and that we will experience the abundance of His grace, with which we are capable of everything, and without which we are capable only of sin.
We cannot avoid the dangers and reefs that life holds without the very present help of God. How can we ask for it unless we are with Him? How can we think often about Him except through the holy practices that we must form within ourselves? You will probably tell me that I am always telling you the same thing. That is true! I know no more proper or easier method than this one. And as I practice no other method, I advise it to everyone. (103)
Again, in his twelfth letter, also to Reverend Mother N..., he discusses renunciation, focus of mind, recalling the mind from its wandering, and doing so without worry or trouble. The tone of this practice might be familiar to those who have read Pema Chödrön's works on meditation:
So, after having given myself to God to make amends for my sins, I renounced for His love everything that was not Himself, and I began to live as if there were only He and I in the world. I sometimes considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge, and at other times I regarded Him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshiped Him there as often as I was able, keeping my mind in His holy presense, and recalling it whenever I found it had become distracted from him. I had no trouble with this exercises, which I continued in spite of all the difficulties I found in practicing it, not becoming troubled or worried when I was involuntarily distracted... (110)
[W]e can give no greater witness to God of our faithfulness than by continually renouncing and turning from the created things around us to take pleasure, even for a single moment, in our Creator.
This is not to suggest that you should withdraw inwardly forever. That is not possible. But prudence, the mother of virtues, will guide you. Nonetheless, I maintain that it is a common error among spiritual persons not to withdraw from outward things from time to time to worship God within themselves and to find comfort and pleasure in the peace of His Divine presence for a few moments. (126)
Brother Lawrence, quoted in an excerpt from "Brother Lawrence's Way of Life," by the Abbé de Beaufort, explains that the practice of the presence of God isn't about intellect, emotion, or even mystical illumination, but something simpler and more profound:
"He [God] alone...is capable of making Himself known to us as He is. We search in reasoning and in the sciences, as in a poor copy, what we neglect to see in an excellent Original. God paints His own portrait in the depths of our souls, and yet we do not want to see Him there. We leave Him alone in order to engage in foolish arguments, and we disdain to converse with our King who is always present in us.
"It is not enough...to love God and to know Him only by what books tell us about Him, by what we feel about Him in our souls, by fleeting spiritual illumination. We must make our faith alive and by faith rise above our feelings, to adore God and Jesus Christ in all Their divine perfections, such as They are in Themselves. This way of faith is the spirit of the Church, and it is all we need to arrive at a high degree of perfection." (143)
The book provides many wonderful descriptions of contemplative prayer and of "mixing meditation with real life":
Sometimes a crowd of unruly thoughts would violently shove out his thoughts of God. He would then simply push them gently aside in order to return to his normal conversation with God. finally, his perseverance was rewarded with a continual remembrance of God. His different and varied acts were changed into a simple vision of God, into an illumined love, into an enjoyment without interruption.
"The time of business," he used to say, "is no different from the time of prayer. I possess God as tranquilly in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, where sometimes several people ask me different things at the same time, as if I were on my knees before the Blessed Sacrament." (144-5)
"Books in this series focus on the work of informally trained or self-taught artists rooted in regional, occupational, ethnic, r...morefrom the front matter:
"Books in this series focus on the work of informally trained or self-taught artists rooted in regional, occupational, ethnic, racial, or gender-specific traditions. Authors explore the influence of artists' experiences and aesthetic values upon the art they create, the process of creation, and the cultural traditions that served as inspiration or personal resource. The wide range of art forms featured in this series reveals the importance of aesthetic expression in our daily lives and gives striking testimony to the richness and vitality of art and tradition in the modern world."
In this case, the informally trained artist was Father Mathias Wernerus, and his art form the grotto, a traditional Roman Catholic artificial cave made with concrete, colored glass, and donated odds and ends. The book situates Father Wernerus and his parish in the context when grotto-building was the fashion across the Midwestern US, and also relates the dual themes in the Dickeyville Grotto--Catholic spirituality and American patriotism--to the often tenuous character of American Catholicism and the questionable status of German-Americans during and after WWI.(less)
Coleman's paintings are like anti-icons, spiritual portals that draw the gaze unflinchingly toward what Kurtz called, "The horror! The horror!" Vibran...moreColeman's paintings are like anti-icons, spiritual portals that draw the gaze unflinchingly toward what Kurtz called, "The horror! The horror!" Vibrant color, painstaking detail, and a graphically realistic style provide access to a deeper, darker, more awe-full reality than that which most inhabit by (usually unspoken) consensus. To say that these images are difficult to contemplate would be understatement, yet their very real dark beauty and power, like that of a black hole, to magnetize and pull in the viewer, make them, and the horrors about ourselves, about our species that they present, impossible to ignore.
"Coleman isn't simply an artist who moved from low means to high art means. His deft use of bright colors, minute details, and graphic emphasis, as well as his combinations of image and text, suggests that the strongest precedence for his art is the illuminated manuscript. It is with this in mind that the viewer should look at his modestly scaled acrylic paintings on masonite. The difference is that the illuminated manuscripts were based on sacred texts, while Coleman collapses together both the sacred and the profane." - John Yau, p. 37
"His attention to all kinds of detail embodies as well as echoes his awareness that the world is undergoing continual, unavoidable change, that torment and mortality are an inevitable part of the process of living. The news he tells us is discomforting: We cannot escape our past (our fate), and the best we can do is confront it head-on, look at it in the eye." - John Yau, p. 38
"Society purges itself by sequestering, isolating, condemning or executing those who threaten its illusions, but it finds it more difficult to bear responsibility for the injuries it thrusts on those who are helpless. This is the hypocrisy Coleman addresses in his paintings." - John Yau, pp. 40-1
"Beneath our skins, his art seems to say, we are nothing but bone, blood, and corruptible matter. But if we keep digging further, there is the hope--even the faith--that we will discover something infinitely greater: the redemptive power of the soul." - Harold Schechter, p. 118
"The promoters of the systemic evil involved in killing President Kennedy counted our our repression and denial of its reality. They knew that no one...more"The promoters of the systemic evil involved in killing President Kennedy counted our our repression and denial of its reality. They knew that no one would want to deal with the elephant in the living room. The Dallas and Bethesda doctors who saw the truth staring up at them from the president's dead body, and who then backed away from it, were not unique. They are symbolic of us all." p. 315
"The extent to which our national security state was systematically marshaled for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy remains incomprehensible to us. When we live in a system, we absorb a system and think in a system. We lack the independence needed to judge the system around us. Yet the evidence we have seen points to our national security state, the systemic bubble in which we all live, as the source of Kennedy's murder and immediate cover-up." - p. 370(less)
I purchased this book right after I finished reading Borg's *The God We Never Knew,* and it complements that book nicely. The first half provides insi...moreI purchased this book right after I finished reading Borg's *The God We Never Knew,* and it complements that book nicely. The first half provides insight into how our images of God influence how we relate to ourselves and one another, and suggests that all the received images of God as wrathful and bloodthirsty miss the point that Jesus was trying to make about a radically re-imagined God. The mainstream doctrine of substitutionary atonement (with its image of God as a psychopath who must kill his own son to forgive me for being the way God made me) falls short of what I'd consider "good news," and this book provides an alternative understanding of the Gospel. The second half of the book provides a more in-depth Q&A where the authors provide reputable sources for some of their more unorthodox assertions about Christian theology. This book is definitely a keeper. (less)