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(Post-Gazette) From 2015–Why Thomas Merton ‘continues to captivate’

“On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world.”

Few people have ever fixed their date of birth more indelibly than Thomas Merton did in that lyrical opening to his memoir, “The Seven Storey Mountain.”

A best-seller upon its 1948 publication, it remains in print in multiple languages as a modern classic of spiritual autobiography.

But its appeal only begins to explain why this Saturday — on the last day of January 2015 — people in Pittsburgh and elsewhere will be holding prayer vigils and other events to mark the centennial of the birth of Merton.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History

A Prayer of Thomas Merton on his feast Day

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Merton

Gracious God, who didst call thy monk Thomas Merton to proclaim thy justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Church of South India

Almighty God, who in many and various ways didst speak to thy chosen people by the prophets, and hast given us, in thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the hope of Israel: Hasten, we beseech thee, the coming of the day when all things shall be subject to him, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

–Psalm 25:14

Posted in Theology: Scripture

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full speech in last week’s Lords debate on the Brexit deal

What is obvious is that we are choosing a new path. For although a Remainer, like the noble Lord, Lord Hope, I fully accept the decision of the referendum, which must now be implemented, and the shape of which is now in the hands of parliament and particularly of the other place.

With that responsibility there is a moral agency and moral choice, and it is that that should guide our votes.

It must reflect a genuinely hopeful vision for our nation and its place, because there is a hope and global influence, a vision of that, to be grasped in this country with proper leadership.

Second, whichever way we go there is a requirement for national reconciliation, for restating what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, calls core values of civilised discourse, and for ensuring they are lived out.

The negative impact of the previous referendum is why I see another one as a possible but not immediately preferable choice, and then only if parliament has failed in its responsibilities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General

The Archbishop of York’s Prayer Ahead of the Brexit Vote

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Politics in General, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT Op-Ed) Can the U.S. Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Also this week in the White House, a round-table was held to debate topics like artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing, with top tech executive such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Safra Catz of Oracle and Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm in attendance. It was called a “listening session,” and it was reported that President Trump “popped” in, at a time when these issues need far more sustained attention from the top than that.

Which is why it came as no surprise when The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was not briefed about the planned arrest of Ms. Meng, even though it took place at the same time he was having dinner with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in an attempt to find a truce in the trade war.

From where I sit, the sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be: Good for the government for being tough on Chinese companies when they break the rules — that rule-breaking having been a longtime complaint of companies like Cisco and Apple. Vigilance is key, of course, but everyone would feel a lot more confident if the government was also focused on investing more in American innovation and if the crackdown looked less chaotic.

Which is why you can imagine a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. And our government should, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Science & Technology

Sunday food for Thought–Frederick Buechner on John the Baptist

From there:

“John the Baptist didn’t fool around. He lived in the wilderness around the Dead Sea. He subsisted on a starvation diet, and so did his disciples. He wore clothes that even the rummage-sale people wouldn’t have handled. When he preached, it was fire and brimstone every time.”

–cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Harold Anson

O great and glorious God, holy and immortal, who searches out the policies of nations and tries the hearts of men: Come, we pray thee, in judgment, upon the nations of the world; come and bring to destruction all that is contrary to thy holy will for mankind, and cause the counsels of the wicked to perish. Come, O Lord, into our hearts, and root out from them that thou seest, and we cannot see, to be unlike the Spirit of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He digged it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!

–Isaiah 5:1-7

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NY Magazine) Andrew Sullivan–America’s New Religions

Our modern world tries extremely hard to protect us from the sort of existential moments experienced by Mill and Russell. Netflix, air-conditioning, sex apps, Alexa, kale, Pilates, Spotify, Twitter … they’re all designed to create a world in which we rarely get a second to confront ultimate meaning — until a tragedy occurs, a death happens, or a diagnosis strikes. Unlike any humans before us, we take those who are much closer to death than we are and sequester them in nursing homes, where they cannot remind us of our own fate in our daily lives. And if you pressed, say, the liberal elites to explain what they really believe in — and you have to look at what they do most fervently — you discover, in John Gray’s mordant view of Mill, that they do, in fact, have “an orthodoxy — the belief in improvement that is the unthinking faith of people who think they have no religion.”

But the banality of the god of progress, the idea that the best life is writing explainers for Vox in order to make the world a better place, never quite slakes the thirst for something deeper. Liberalism is a set of procedures, with an empty center, not a manifestation of truth, let alone a reconciliation to mortality. But, critically, it has long been complemented and supported in America by a religion distinctly separate from politics, a tamed Christianity that rests, in Jesus’ formulation, on a distinction between God and Caesar. And this separation is vital for liberalism, because if your ultimate meaning is derived from religion, you have less need of deriving it from politics or ideology or trusting entirely in a single, secular leader. It’s only when your meaning has been secured that you can allow politics to be merely procedural.

So what happens when this religious rampart of the entire system is removed? I think what happens is illiberal politics. The need for meaning hasn’t gone away, but without Christianity, this yearning looks to politics for satisfaction. And religious impulses, once anchored in and tamed by Christianity, find expression in various political cults. These political manifestations of religion are new and crude, as all new cults have to be. They haven’t been experienced and refined and modeled by millennia of practice and thought. They are evolving in real time. And like almost all new cultish impulses, they demand a total and immediate commitment to save the world.

Now look at our politics. We have the cult of Trump on the right, a demigod who, among his worshippers, can do no wrong. And we have the cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical. They are filling the void that Christianity once owned, without any of the wisdom and culture and restraint that Christianity once provided.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(Hour of Death) Five Insights On Death And Dying From J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien describes the feeling the story of a boy’s miraculous healing at Lourdes gave him, and then says that for this unique feeling he coined the word “eucatastrophe.” He explains that the word means the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears. . . . And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives . . . that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorry because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

— From a letter to his son Christopher, who was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa (1944)

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology

Richard Baxter on his Feast Day: the Nature of the Saints Everlasting Rest in Heaven

What this rest presupposes…. 5. It contains, (1.) A ceasing from means of grace ; 6. (2.) A perfect freedom from all evils ; 7. (3.) The highest degree of the saints’ personal perfection, both in body and soul ; 8. (4.) The nearest enjoyment of God the Chief Good; 9-14. (5.) A sweet and constant action of all the powers of soul and body in this enjoyment of God ; as, for instance, bodily senses, knowledge, memory, love, joy, together with a mutual love and joy.

The Saints Everlasting Rest (1652)

Posted in Church History, Eschatology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Richard Baxter

We offer thanks, most gracious God, for the devoted witness of Richard Baxter, who out of love for thee followed his conscience at cost to himself, and at all times rejoiced to sing thy praises in word and deed; and we pray that our lives, like his, may be well-tuned to sing the songs of love, and all our days be filled with praise of Jesus Christ our Lord; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer