The Use of Talking

There is no end of things in the heart.

Hurrah, boys, hurrah!

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The better part of week has passed since my last intemperate screed. I seem to have done nothing except to grieve Mrs. C, one of my very few readers, and the one with the most clout with me. She made a very good point: “Have you spent a tenth of the time it took you to write that post praying for the synod and the pope?” And she’s right.Sacred Heart icon

And she’s right that I spend too much time mulling over ecclesiastical politics and not enough in more spiritually productive pursuits.

So instead of saying anything negative about anybody, I’ll be positive: God bless Cardinal Pell and the other synod fathers who asserted themselves this week.

And as for prayer: This is Friday, a good time to say the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for our church and those who guide her:

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
(Repeat have mercy on us. after each line)
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, one God,
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father,
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in
the Virgin Mother’s womb,
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the
Word of God,
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty,
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God,
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High,
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven,
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity,
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love,
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love,
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues,
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise,
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts,
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge,
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead,
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased,
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received,
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills,
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy,
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon You,
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness,
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses,
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches,
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities,
Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death,
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance,
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation,
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection,
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation,
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins,
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in You,
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You,
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints,
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, meek and humble of Heart,
Make our hearts like unto Thine.

Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Thy most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers Thee in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Thy mercy, in Thy great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever. Amen.

Written by hans castorp

October 17, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What the hell is going on?

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You know, I’ve been trying (really) to be a good boy about Pope Francis, but this last week is more than I can take without spewing a little bile.

The Synod on the Family has been a joke. Held in secret so the boys can “engage in honest dialogue,” with the bishops’ “interventions” turned in in advance to prevent surprises and kept in pectore by Cardinal Baldisseri. Comes down to time for the interim Relatio to be written, the Holy Father decides the official Relator, Cardinal Erdo, can’t be trusted to stick to the script, so he kindly  appoints six liberals, not all of them bishops, to “assist” him in the drafting. Never mind that there’s no precedent for that (or for the secrecy, either); it’s a new day, and besides, the pope can do whatever he wants. The result is a dog’s breakfast of ecclesiastical hand-waving that is subject to more interpretations than Finnegans Wake. Even Cardinal Erdo is unable to explain some of it, and must refer questions on the section about homosexuality to Bishop Bruno Forte, who actually wrote it. Nobody seems to know exactly what it means by “gradualism,” what path to the sacraments by the second-married it would result in, what it really means to do about “unconventional” families, whether it means to say that there is value in a sexual orientation the Catechism teaches is intrinsically disordered. It seems to wink at its audience in the media and the Catholic left while quickly crossing itself from time to time to mollify the more traditionally inclined. What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away.

Moderately conservative Catholic commentators—see this blog, for example—are twisting themselves into more knots than there are in the Boy Scout Handbook trying to make the Relatio come out more or less orthodox, while blaming all the fuss on the wicked media. The media, of course, can be expected to botch any news story involving the Catholic Church, but there’s more truth than poetry to some of their rejoicing today. Then there’s the pious reflection that all synods, like all papal elections, are guided by the Holy Spirit. Anyone who seriously thinks this doesn’t know any church history. Or maybe the Holy Spirit just has a sarcastic sense of humor. I know, I know, we are to interpret things as charitably as we can. But that doesn’t mean we have to deny our consciences or our common sense.

Truth be told, things are going just about as the pope has planned them all along. It now remains to be seen if the Holy Spirit revs up the bishops to rip the guts out of the Relatio in Week 2. Even if they do, I’m sure the Holy Father and his six friends will find a way to save it.

Oh, right, the real action will be in next year’s Ordinary Synod. Maybe they’ll do a 180. Yes, but who gets to write the final document, the Apostolic Exhortation that sums up the synod’s work? That would be Pope Francis.

I know, he’s Mr. Popularity with everyone and his Aunt Sally. He was touted for the Nobel Peace Prize, for goodness sake (no doubt for not-being-Ratzinger, just as Obama got his for-not-being-Dubya). But to me, there’s always been something a little off-key about him. He establishes his humility with gestures that call attention to himself. He talks a lot about collegiality, but so far we haven’t seen much, certainly not in the last week. In fact, he seems to have accelerated the reduction of the church to the papacy that started in earnest with Pius XII. Oh, I know, that’s the media’s fault. But you don’t get on the front page and the six o’clock news unless you get in front of the cameras, and Francis is certainly adept at that. Alongside his morning homilies there are the deniable-but-never-really-denied off-the-cuff comments, interviews, and phone calls that call forth even more contortions by his conservative apologists. I don’t doubt that he loves Christ many, many times more than I do, and thinks he is doing what the Lord wants done for his church. But the same was true of the soon-to-be-beatified Paul VI, and the church suffered during his reign. Nota bene: I think he would be worthy to be called Blessed on the strength of Humanae Vitae alone. He paid for it, though, alas, he did little to see that it was taught in the churches. Perhaps the conservatives are right, and Francis will have his Montini moment. And maybe not. 

The toothpaste has been out of the tube since the Council; St. JP II and Benedict XVI’s attempted to get at least some of it back in; now it seems the tube is being given another squeeze by their smiling successor. One time through the ’seventies is enough.

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

As I’ve said before, I am a man of little faith. Today especially, I’m hanging on by my fingernails. Pray for me.

Written by hans castorp

October 13, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Catholicism, Faith

Tagged with ,

September Song

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Well, it’s a long, long time
From May to December.
But the days grow short,
When you reach September . . .

That song has always been a favorite of mine. I’m a fan of the bittersweet, be it chocolate or songs. This May, though, the song hits closer to home. Back in October I officially become a “senior citizen.”

Nicholas_Roerich_in_Tibetan_RobeThe thing of it is, I don’t feel like one. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel resigned or indignant; I’m incredulous, wondering where this old man with the white beard and the neck bands (that’s what Google says they are) came from. I’m bewildered when someone offers me a seat on the subway. Can’t he see that I’m just as capable of standing as he is?

At sixty-five, I ought to be wiser than I was as a twenty- or thirty- or forty-year-old, at least a little. But somehow I find myself repeating the old mistakes and making new ones.

At sixty-five, I should have accumulated a useful stock of knowledge. After all, I’ve lived with (and in) books all my life, and I’ve always used them as both a resource and a refuge. Instead, I’m constantly reminded of how much I don’t know, of the deep waters I really can’t swim in. (The internet makes it worse; I discover my limitations there every day.)

At sixty-five,, I ought to be able to look back with some satisfaction at what I’ve done. But even my genuine accomplishments (and I do have some, starting with my five children) can be sources of regret for things not done or not done as well as they should have been.

Now, being sixty-five does have its advantages. There all those senior privileges: discounts at museums, on carfare, even at the opera; kind young folks giving you a seat on the subway even if you really don’t want one. And there are the drawbacks as well, aside from having a closer look at the guy who played chess with Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal.  It may be because I was so late coming to that road I was talking about, but I’m pretty tired of people looking at my son and me and complimenting me on my good-looking grandson. And then there are the disappointments—believe me, not retiring to Florida or Arizona isn’t one of them. In my feyer moods, I thought I’d give myself permission to be eccentric—all right, more eccentric—when I reached this milestone. I saw myself parading around the neighborhood in oriental robes, like Nicolas Roerich (that’s him on the upper left), or at least wearing a homburg and carrying a walking stick. But Mrs. C. put the kibosh on that. Maybe when, Deo volente, I turn seventy, she’ll relent.

Oh, and if you have a homburg or a walking stick you’re looking to get rid of, drop me an email.

Written by hans castorp

May 2, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Autobiography

Tagged with

The Pope

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Last night I dictated a post about Pope Francis. It was cranky, mannered, and not entirely coherent. Fortunately, when I tried to transfer it to WordPress, it disappeared. I’m not going to try to reconstruct it now. But let’s just say I’m puzzled and even a bit frightened about what’s been going on in Rome. Try as I might, I can’t warm up to Francis. The daily homilies, the omnipresence in the media, the (maybe not so) off-the-cuff remarks, the protracted tease about communion for the divorced, and now the rehabilitation of Fr. Fagan; it’s all too much for me.

No doubt a lot of this is a reflection of my own insecurities. Most of the time, and especially lately, my faith seems tenuous. I feel like I’m desperately trying to hold on to allege that juts out over an abyss. Maybe I’m looking for a kind of certitude that just isn’t in the cards. Maybe so much of my mind and heart is taken up by frustrations and anxieties that I can’t help projecting them everywhere. So I can’t credit myself with seeing particularly clearly. But I can be pretty sure that it would be very, very hard for me to become a Catholic today.

For now, I’m just trying to live with my uncertainties. The alternatives to the church of Peter, as far as I’m concerned, just don’t exist. But for me, at least, these are hard, hard times to be a Catholic.

 

Written by hans castorp

May 1, 2014 at 9:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Coming Back

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It’s been a long time since I posted here. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, but that I’ve had a lot of trouble figuring out how to say it. And, of course, there has been my constant, but usually losing, battle with my demons.

Anyway, I’ll leave the explanations for later, if I make any at all. What, after all, is the use of talking?

Written by hans castorp

May 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9/11/2001

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images (1)

Still Falls the Rain

(The Raids, 1940, Night and Dawn)

Still falls the Rain—
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss—
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.

Still falls the Rain
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat
In the Potter’s Field, and the sound of the impious feet

On the Tomb:
Still falls the Rain

In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain
Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.

Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross.
Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us—
On Dives and on Lazarus:
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.

Still falls the Rain—
Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man’s wounded Side:
He bears in His Heart all wounds,—those of the light that died,
The last faint spark
In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark,
The wounds of the baited bear—
The blind and weeping bear whom the keepers beat
On his helpless flesh . . . the tears of the hunted hare.

Still falls the Rain—
Then—O Ile leape up to my God: who pulles me doune—
See, see where Christ’s blood streames in the firmament:
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree

Deep to the dying, to the thirsting heart
That holds the fires of the world,—dark-smirched with pain
As Caesar’s laurel crown.

Then sounds the voice of One who like the heart of man
Was once a child who among beasts has lain—
“Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee.”    —Dame Edith Sitwell

You can hear Dame Edith read the poem here. You can listen to Benjamin Britten’s setting here.

Written by hans castorp

September 10, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Posted in In memorium, Poetry

Tagged with ,

Stoneheart

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The Gospel at mass last Sunday was Luke 13:22–30. Here’s the Revised Standard Version translation of it:

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

This is not one of the warm and fuzzy passages in the Gospels. It’s not “inclusive;” it doesn’t “celebrate diversity.” It doesn’t tell us that God is going to save everyone, no matter what. I squirm a bit when I hear this Gospel. Sure, I recite the creed every Sunday, I read the Bible, I pray (not as much as I ought to), I go to confession (ditto). But  where is my heart truly? Where are my treasures? Do l give my life, or at least some appreciable portion of it, to God, to my loved ones, to my neighbors. In my thoughts, words, and deeds, am I as Luther, following Augustine, says, curvatus in se, turned in on my self? The answers to those questions are not comforting. 

I love the 22nd chapter of the Revelation to John. Verse 17 reads (in the Authorized Version):

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoeverwill, let him take the water of life freely.

Whosoever will.  What do I will? What is it I really want? Under all the selfishness, the self-deception, the sin, who is it I truly love?

LORD, how I am all ague, when I seek
What I have treasur’d in my memorie !
Since, if my soul make even with the week,
Each seventh note by right is due to thee.
I finde there quarries of pil’d vanities,
But shreds of holinesse, that dare not venture
To shew their face, since crosse to thy decrees :
There the circumference earth is, heav’n the centre.
In so much dregs the quintessence is small :
The spirit and good extract of my heart
Comes to about the many hundredth part.
Yet, Lord, restore thine image, heare my call :
And though my hard heart scarce to thee can grone,
Remember that thou once didst write in stone.

George Herbert, “The Sinner”

Written by hans castorp

August 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Faith

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