Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Litany from the Fringes

God the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, world's Redeemer,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, life-giver,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy on us.

St Mary the Virgin,
pray for us.
St Joseph,
pray for us.
St Katharine Drexel,
pray for us.
St Casimir,
pray for us.
St Padre Pio,
pray for us.
St John Paul II,
pray for us.
St Josephine Bakhita,
pray for us.
St Charbel Makhlouf,
pray for us.
Coptic martyrs of 2015,
pray for us.
All God's children
in the church triumphant,
pray for us.

St Dominic Guzman,
do what you do best.
St Augustine of Hippo,
our hearts are hungry.
St Thomas Becket,
you knew the cost.
St Teresa of Avila,
you know what suffices.
St Thérèse of Lisieux,
flower us heavenward.
St John Baptist,
St Francis of Assisi,
use words if you have to.
St Benedict of Nursia,
St Scholastica,
we are family.
St Juan Diego,
you got it.
St Claude de la Colombière,
sing like the turtledove.
St Ephrem the Syriac,
harp us up a hymn of praise.
St Benedict Joseph Labre,
what time is it?
St Margaret Mary Alacoque,
look out for us,
won't you, now?

Blessed Julian of Norwich,
dive right in.

All you pesky Anglicans,
look sharp.

Papa Ratzinger of the holy garden,
Papa Bergoglio of the holy tenement,
we've got your back.

Sunday, March 01, 2015


Two evenings ago, just outside my apartment building.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It will flame out

The sky yesterday morning: are there words for it? At about 40 minutes before sunrise, as I looked directly east, the sky had turned from wee-hours black to a very profound deep "dark" blue -- the dark so aglow with the luminescence of the coming dawn that it was transfigured into something paradisal. Something like a coolly ardent sapphire, a wintry burning. I stood at the window (really, the door to the balcony) and watched for several minutes; perhaps it was a prayer.

The book I've just finished reading speaks of the prayer of "awe and wonder and praise." The author cites several phenomena that could contribute to this prayer: a sunset; the music of Mozart; sculpture by Michelangelo; painting; a person's face. My Wednesday prayer, then, was the dark blue sky, subtly aflame with the foredawn.

"Let us therefore describe the prayer which is awe and wonder and praise as parallel to what we feel when we are confronted with something of superlative grandeur and beauty -- a landscape, the ocean rolling in fullest pride, the magnificence of some blazing thunderstorm, the deep tranquillity of a remote countryside, a work of art which fascinates and compels.Such things indeed not only illustrate the wonder, awe, and praise we feel in God's presence. They are true and valid instances of it. For God's transcendence, what in picture language we describe as His being infinitely above and beyond us, is mediated to us by His immanence, by His being there in His transcendent majesty, in the landscape, the ocean, the thunderstorm, the countryside, the picture by Turner or the symphony by Mozart. That is what we mean when we say that we live in a sacramental universe. The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out." (H. A. Williams, Becoming What I Am; Darton, Longman & Todd, 1991, p. 80)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Current reading

In his writing on the Rosary, the late Dom Basil dazzles.

Jane Kenyon is, of course, a quiet magnificence, especially in her famous poem of Compline: "Let Evening Come."

About the prayers written by the late Dean of York, Eric Milner-White (1884-1963), I cannot summon superlatives adequate to their splendour. Catholics and Anglicans especially will be fortified, nay, will rejoice, to be acquainted with the profoundly orthodox, deeply poetic meditations found herein.

I was reminded of Milner-White when I encountered a few of his prayers in The Complete Book of Christian Prayer (Continuum Publishing Company, 1996).

A capacious selection, and something of a mixed bag. Lots of Standard Issue Progressivism in these prayers. But there are many felicities -- among 1207 prayers, there's bound to be something good! -- from Francis of Assisi to Francis de Sales, from Eric Milner-White to John Paul II, from Lancelot Andrewes to Mother Teresa, from John Henry Newman to Harry Williams. Williams has one of the most honest prayers in the collection:

O God, I am so hellishly angry;
I think so-and-so is a swine;
I am tortured by worry about this or that;
I am pretty sure I have missed my chances in life;
this or that has left me feeling terribly depressed.
But nonetheless here I am like this,
feeling both bloody and bloody-minded,
and I am going to stay here for ten minutes.
You are most unlikely to give me anything.
I know that.
But I am going to stay for the ten minutes nonetheless.

New Zealander Joy Cowley's invocation to "Springtime Jesus" -- in a somewhat colloquial key -- is also noteworthy.

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend The Complete Book of Christian Prayer; but, if the reader be patient, he or she will find many rewards in its pages.

Friday, February 06, 2015

From the personal library

The first book of poetry that I ever bought. Thirty-one years ago! Note the price.

Thursday, February 05, 2015