Friday, August 5, 2011


isn't s/he pretty? what is it?
sitting patiently for photos on the tip of an agave...
Many thoughts seem to lead us into a state of doubt. Particularly when we see the sins of man we ask ourselves: “Shall we tackle all this by force or by humble charity?” Always decide in favor of humble charity. Once you have decided in favor of it you will conquer the whole world. Humble charity is a terrible force; it is the greatest force in the world; there is nothing like it… 
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, via Father Zossima, The Brothers Karamozov

Safely back in L.A., I'm amazed anew at the light, the beauty, the depth of my love for this wacky place.


I just got a letter from a friend in the helping professions whose organization had just hosted a retreat for traumatized veterans. Two of the veterans had taken to cutting themselves. When they left, there was blood all over their rooms. 



  1. This summons to mind so many different things -- but I think my thoughts can be summarized briefly enough. We have to stop sharpening our knives. Mentally, spiritually. We have to stop carrying concealed weapons in our hearts. Why the plural? Let me amend. I have to stop doing that. As the largely forgotten (but often delightful!) poet José Garcia Villa once wrote, "Me. Me. My own perfidy."

    I would hope that if I were ever about to be victimized by an aggressor or thug or what have you, I would have the strength of soul to kneel before my errant brother, and say something to the effect of "you may do your worst, but God will do His best"! But more than likely, I'd protest at least inwardly at the violation! And I'd hate the person for the rest of my life, if I wasn't killed at that precise moment!

    Ah, so much for my being brief! Other thoughts of a more personal nature leap to mind, but perhaps I'll share them with you a bit later. Suffice it to say that I read this post with something akin to reverence. And an acute sense of how far I really am from being a Christian.

  2. Yes, exactly!

    It reminds me of a story about Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. Here is on version of it:

    One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in her face and refused.

    Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?”
    The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted.

    Completely non-violent and loving. Yet she moved a mountain off the baker's heart.

    Cor mundum crea in me, Deus...

  3. Ahh so good!! A blog with 2000+ word essays of real profundity is a blessing indeed.

    "This, too, is the genius of Christianity. There is no formula. There is no blueprint that says, You act this way in this situation and that way in that situation. We all get to take our emotional baggage, our strengths, limitations, weaknesses and desires into account, and though we remain teachable, woundable, and obedient, we get to forge our own path whether the people around us approve of it or not."

    I think that's key. Sometimes we get so caught up in the specifics we forget that we'd probably hear the answer if we just listened in the silence of our hearts.

  4. So we might have to give up the booze, drugs, anonymous sex, food, shopping, smoking, gambling and face life without anaesthesia.

    Am glad books aren't on that list!

  5. Your winged visitor is a dragonfly:

    They are wonderful to watch. I don't think they bite or sting. Their wings and bodies come in a wonderful array of colors.

  6. Could your dragonfly be a female Roseate Skimmer?

  7. The silence of our hearts...yes.
    You have to just say I believe Christ meant what he said when he taught us to love our enemies. It's the hardest thing he said and it's the most basic and important thing he said. And you say it in trembling and awe and with terrible cognizance, when it comes to war, of the soldiers and chaplains and parents and families of the soldiers who have served and died--"ours" AND "theirs"-- but that’s just it—you grieve so much for the death of ANY human being that your conscience shrinks from sending another to die in your place. You want to devote your whole life toward creating a world where young men and women won’t have to go to war anymore, where the conditions will no longer exist to form another Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot.

    And so you get to look at the Hitler in your heart. You get to see--I should say I get to see--that left to my own devices my thoughts and actions and words will be violent.

    All I know is that I cannot do one thing, take one breath, without Christ. I can't do anything on my own. Nothing is "accomplished" except through Christ. That's why prayer is essential. Prayer is the most important thing; all reflection must be underlain by constant prayer and I also have to be constantly at Mass, standing in the back of the church saying "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner"...That we are always bound to fall short can't dissuade us from praying for the willingness to surrender to God's love and open our hearts to our brothers and sisters everywhere...

    Roseate skimmer (which is a species of dragonfly?) looks very much like, except the pix look pink and mine was more orange...

    Thank you, everyone...

  8. What I struggle with is how there are areas of the world, like Egypt, that were once thriving Christian countries. Think of all the generations subsequently born without the beauty of the Christian faith, without the Way. And all because violence did seem to work, even for hundreds and hundreds of years. When you say violence doesn't work in the long run, you must mean the VERY long run.

  9. "What I struggle with is how there are areas of the world, like Egypt, that were once thriving Christian countries. Think of all the generations subsequently born without the beauty of the Christian faith, without the Way. And all because violence did seem to work, even for hundreds and hundreds of years. "

    Well did it, "work"? If what you're getting at is that it worked in mostly ridding Egypt of Christianity, well then I guess it worked. But just taking a glance at Egypt today would indicate that it hasn't "worked" at all.

  10. I believe Jesus said to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute - not because it "works" but because it is the heart of God. I guess I don't expect the love of God to "work" in the world, or in the systems of the world; only in my own heart. In fact, in the systems of the world, non-violent love is indeed foolishness, and to be motivated to love anyone, enemy or otherwise, because it "works" brings it back to a self-serving, make-life-more-comfortable-and-less-ugly manipulation, perhaps. To make peace and seek reconciliation and to be willing to love and pray and lay down your life for another for any reason other than obedience to the law of Christ with the longing that His Kingdom be witnessed, may also turn out to be foolishness, even in the longest run.

  11. I'm sympathetic to the argument because I think there's a beautiful consistency to it even if it doesn't quite gibe with, say, the theology of St. Joan of Arc.

    Perhaps in the next post on development of doctrine I'll see that we're moving towards pacifism for everyone, not just for clergy. If that's what God wants, then so be it!

    I got to believe there's a French Christian, alive today, who is grateful for those who sacrificed themselves in the Crusades such that a Muslim takeover of Europe was not accomplished and that they are not therefore Muslim . But then there are children of WWII soldiers (both Japanese and American) who are likely alive only because of the atomic bomb - that certainly doesn't make the bombing right whatsoever.

    It just takes a whole lot of faith to never do ill in order to effect some putative good. Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief!


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