"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I Remember September 11th

It's hard to believe it's been fifteen years.  I still remember the whole day.  One of these days or years I'll write down where I was at and the events around me.  It was nothing exotic.  I wasn't at any of the tragic locations, but everyone's story was unique.  This was one of the events of my life that shaped who I am.  For now I'll just post a little photo essay.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Faith Filled Friday: The Holy Spirit’s Fire by St. Catherine of Siena

The August 2016 edition of Magnificat magazine had this wonderful quote from a letter St. Catherine of Siena wrote.  It doesn’t say who the recipient of the letter is (my guess it’s Raymond of Capua, her friend and confessor), but obviously a male.  It’s not clear what the context is either but Catherine is urging him to contemplate God’s love, imagined as a burning and consuming fire.

So I want you, my son, to open your mind’s eye and focus it on Christ crucified, for he is the fountain where we can drink to the full, drawing from him sweet loving desires.  These are the desires I want to pour out on the body of the holy Church for God’s honor and every person’s salvation.  If you do, your words and actions will become like an arrow drawn red-hot out of the fire, that wherever it is shot sets on fire everything it strikes, since it can’t help sharing what it has.  So, son, think of your soul as entering the fiery furnace of divine charity, and love’s power will make you shoot out and share what you have drawn from the fire.

And what have you drawn from God in this way?  Hatred and contempt for yourself, and love for virtue, and hunger for the salvation of souls and the honor of the eternal Father; for that is all that is found in this gentle Word.  You see, it was for hunger that he died.  So intense was that hunger that the force of love produced a sweat not of water but of drops of blood.  How could a heart be so hard and stubborn as not to burst with emotion from the warmth and heat of this fire.  Contemplating it, we can only be flax stubble thrown into the fire; it can’t help burning, since it is the nature of fire to burn and to transform into itself whatever comes near it.  So we, when we contemplate our Creator’s love, are drawn at once to love him and turn our affection completely to him.  In him all the dampness of selfishness is dried up, and we take on the likeness of the Holy Spirit’s fire.

Look at what a marvelous, natural poet she was: our selfishness is dried up so that we become dried stubble, ready to be consumed by the Holy Spirit’s fire.  And then notice how it connects with the previous paragraph: a person so consumed with the Holy Spirit is like a red-hot arrow setting fire to everything it strikes.  The little lady from Siena, who was uneducated, was a genius.    

PS: I really love that icon of St. Catherine.  I've seen a number of icons portraying her, and this is the best one.  It shows her stigmata, the lilies of virginity, the book showing she is a Doctor of the Church, her Dominican garments, and the crown of thorns which I think stands for the suffering she endured.  Plus I like the way her face and halo around her head are drawn.  I would consider buying this if it were available for purchase. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lines I Wished I’d Written: The Simple Path by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta [UPDATED}

Unless you live in a bubble, you have probably seen that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized into a saint this week.  I just came across a wonderful quote from our saintly lady, and that was something she wrote in her book, A Simple Path.  I have not read the book, but when I perused it in the Amazon sample, it was there.  These lines designate the simple path, the path to spiritual wholeness.

The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace.
            - St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Now I was tempted to make this a “Notable Quote” entry, but on looking over the craft in the rhetoric, I’m in awe, so I made this both “Notable Quote” and “Lines I Wished I’d Written” entries.  First off, each sentence is simple, held together by a to be form linking verb.  This sentence form creates an equation: “The figurine is a dog.”  The simplicity of the sentences accentuates the message of simplicity she is projecting.

What is interesting here is that each sentence follows a repetitive pattern.  Each sentence starts with “The fruit of…”  Such a repetition of sentence structure is called in rhetoric anaphora.  The subject of each sentence is “fruit” but in each case it is modified my an adjective phrase, “of xxx.”  Each sentence ends with a noun complement.  So each sentence sets up an equation of fruit equating to a powerful noun, which is rhetorically what she wants you to come away with: prayer, faith, love, service, peace. 

But the noun complement of the preceding sentence becomes the noun in the adjectival phrase, so that there is a linking progression from one sentence to the next.  What is most interesting to me is how the anaphora makes the sequence so much more powerful.  Mother Teresa could have just had a sequence of even simpler sentences: “Silence is prayer.  Prayer is faith.  Faith is love.  Love is service.  Service is peace.”  That version would have been static.  Adding the anaphoric subject, “The fruit” creates a dynamic and movement that would otherwise be lacking.  The “fruit” is the outgrowth of the noun complement, a development which implies time and motion.  It implies a path, a simple path.  That is so much more powerful.

St. Mother Teresa, pray for us.

Updated: 9 September 2016, 9:28 AM:
It occurred to me yesterday that I missed one of the most important elements to that prose poem, the loaded meaning on the word "fruit."  A word is "loaded" when because of its context, associations, or connotations carries more meaning than the dictionary definition.  Mother Teresa here did not choose the word "fruit" haphazardly.  From the Hail Mary is the line, "blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus."  The association with "fruit" in the Hail Mary expands the meaning of the word "fruit" in Mother Teresa'a prose poem.  Each noun complement is almost a birthing output out of the womb, and each is associated with Jesus!  I realized all that while praying the Hail Mary the next morning after I posted this.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Matthew Monday: Matthew’s Seventh Birthday

Matthew turned seven this past week and we had a couple of celebrations.  In one of them my wife snapped this photo as Matthew was blowing out the candles.  What a remarkable picture.

The years just seem to be streaming by.  Happy Seventh my little boy.

PS.  I’ve been delinquent in posting lately.  My new project at work has been sucking up all my energy.  Not only don’t I have any mental breaks for a quick read of a few pages or even a lunchtime break for a more extensive read, I come home zapped of all energy.  The only thing I want to do when I get home is vegetate watching a baseball game.  So I’m behind in reading and posting.  An engineering project tends to take a while at the beginning to settle into a routine.  It takes a while to get things under control.