Category Archives: Personal

New Blog

I have started a new blog, in case anyone is interested, dealing more with personal issues and ideas but continuing some of the themes from this blog:

The Domestic Hermit

So pop-in and comment.

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A new start!

I have deleted the posts for the last three or so years together with the comments.

So this is either new start or a resurrection! The old is gone.

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The paradox of identity

Last night I read Thomas Merton’s describtion of his first visit to Our Lady of Gethsemani to the children. He went for Easter 1941 just after he had moved to St Bonaventure University. Reflecting upon the monks of the Abbey, Merton writes in The Seven Storey Mountain:

But what was the answer to this paradox? Simply that the monk in hiding himself from the world becomes not less himself, not less of a person, but more of a person, more truly and perfectly himself: for his personality and individuality are perfected in their true order, the spiritual, interior order, of union with God, the principle of all perfection. Omnis gloria ejus filiae regis ab intus.

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!

In two paragraphs Merton puts before us the paradox of our world and the paradox of our own identity. Our identity is not tied up in what other people think of us or what other people say we are. It is in the abandoning of self to God that we find who we truly are.

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Prayer for Self Knowledge

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen.

St Augustine of Hippo

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The victory of meritocracy?

I will leave the political analyses of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address to the more qualified. Yet something struck me when I listened to it:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

  1. Is this the pronouncement of the final victory for meritocracy?? What if we turn the President’s statement around: If prosperity and freedom come from those who are risk-takers, doers, and maker of things, where does poverty and economic or social slavery come from?? Are the poor and out-casts of our society there because they have not worked hard or are lazy??
  2. Do our actions really establish who we are?? Is this the crowning glory of the scientific revolution?? Fact over being, action over ontology??

The above would explain the President’s attitude to the unborn – what have they done for society??

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Two aphorisms

These are not my own but rather distilled from recent conversations and thoughts:

  1. Truth over vocation.
  2. The Catholic Church is bigger than any one experience of her.

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Technique makes perfect

I have spent the last three Saturday mornings taking our oldest daughter to her swimming lessons. I like watching the care and devotion of the teachers. I am always struck by the care the teachers take in explain the correct technique. The poor children do lap after lap correcting the position of their elbow, or the position of their hand upon entry into the water, etc. Experience has taught people that to go really fast in the pool requires much more than a collection of training drills or past philosophies of swimming. It requires the correct technique now.

Theology, to face the problems of today and tomorrow, must be much more than a systematizing and collection of datum. The task of theology is surely much broader than proof texting the official pronouncements of any particular denomination. Theology aims for the perfect technique – the perfect mindset. That technique will help us face the future with the help of the past but will fight the temptation of staying in the glory days of yesteryear. That technique will make us see the world from outside of ourselves – from God’s perspective – but will not ignore the blight and pain of the people around us. It will be grounded in God himself and not any idea or philosophy about him. It will not be afraid to ask the hard questions and explore them to their extreme but it will know when things have gone too far.

Theology, to be truly productive, must be more than a collection of information. Maybe technique does make perfect.

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