I read A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis on the car ride home from our vacation. Felt like a journey or a walk with Lewis himself. Written after the death of his wife, a Grief Observed began as his journal to work things out, but he thought it might help others cope with their own loss so he published it. As he says, it is the story of him first, his wife, and God. In that order.
My natural history piece was published for Planet Detroit News—The Mysterious Origin of Detroit’s Jesuit Pear. I love Michigan’s pioneer history. I could write pieces like this forever!!
📸 : Library of Congress
Another treasure I bought lately from Thriftbooks.com. I was surprised it came with a dustcover! This was another book recommended by Thomas Merton. This and the Confessions of St. Augustine were both recommended to him by a Hindu Monk, which, as I’ve mentioned before, led in part to his conversion to Catholicism. This copy translated by Ronald Knox is considered the best translation and recommended by scholars and priests alike.
We are halfway through the Bible! Since the Fall of 2019, I have been writing really brief reviews of the books of the Bible. They are my own contemplative thoughts that no one has to agree with, but I hope speak only truth and leave room for your own contemplation.
The order I have been following is the below. Given to me by a priest and a friend. .
Leviticus Galatians Numbers Colossians
Ruth Acts (of the Apostles)
2 Samuel Mark
2 Kings 1 Corinthians
2 Chronicles 1 Peter 2 Peter
Psalms (I SUGGEST READING ONE A DAY THROUGHOUT)
Ecclesiastes 1 Timothy 2 Timothy
Song of Solomon 1 John 2 John 3 John
Daniel 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians
Jonah 2 Corinthians
I had to track this down. It was recommended by Thomas Merton, and I think it led in part to his conversion. F. J. Sheed’s translation is supposed to be the best. I’ve read compared to other translations Sheed kept the words of Saint Augustine alive and breathing, rather than dead. I’m very excited to read this! . Plus it was mailed with an old letter in German still stuck inside from the 60’s. .
The absence of God leads to a life of vanity & vexation. This is the main theme of Ecclesiastes. What are we filled with when God is absent from our souls? Ego, pride, vanity—the ‘self’. When we are consumed with ‘self’ all we produce and put into the world is filled with ‘self’ and therefore false. Without God we are empty vessels with no foundation, empty because anything we put in our vessel falls right through the bottom and we spend our lives hastily trying to fill it up again with no success. I have watched people spend their lives this way, and any mention of God makes them laugh. God hasn’t yet touched them, and they have not yet touched God. It is a mutual reaching out. I like to think of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when I picture this union.
Ecclesiastes is a special book to me because it began my deeper journey with God. It was the moment God reached out for me, woke me up and unlocked the door on which Christ was perpetually knocking my whole life. You see, it all began because I had a dream. A woman came to me and told me to read the Bible, Ecclesiastes specifically. It was a profound dream and it changed my life, because I listened to the woman, I read Ecclesiastes the next morning and the rest of the Bible too. And now I write these posts for the public as evidence of His calling. Christ is always knocking, waiting, calling. It is the person who listens for His voice that gets called. Those who volunteer themselves for His work and pray: ‘I am listening. What is it you’re calling me to do? Use me as you wish for good in the world.’ Then listen carefully with the ears of your soul and watch carefully with the eyes of your soul. Then make use of time to discern what you are hearing & seeing is truth, denies ‘self’ and promotes love. If it does all of these then act on that nagging notion, because God is calling
The Book of Job is sort of an epic poem. It is the story of a man of devout faith who is very fortunate. But God decides to test him to see if his good fortune is the only thing that has kept him faithful, so he takes away everything from Job. But Job remains faithful no matter what. Even Job’s friends encourage Job to admit he must have done something wrong to receive God’s wrath, but Job insists he remained righteous and he didn’t not lose faith in God. Really I think Job’s friends here are missing the point, God has plans we don’t know of. And yes, people who don’t have faith could say you are only saying ‘God has a plan’ in a deplorable situation because that is a cliched believer’s excuse to not lose faith, but that is exactly the case! We don’t want to lose faith, because to lose our faith would be to lose everything. And most of us actually do believe He has a plan beyond our understanding. It’s not a matter of God’s wrath, there is no such thing, He does not want to hurt us, he only wants to guide us and bend us and show us and teach us
In what simple way is God calling you to act that would draw you closer to Him? For me it was spending a year to read and study the Bible. .
These are my own contemplative thoughts. If you disagree with the below that’s ok! .
Before Christ, in the Old Testament, under the old covenant, only priests were allowed near the altar, and they acted as the mediators between God and man. The book of Esther is symbolic to this as it describes her standing in the inner court in front of the king’s hall. The king sees Queen Esther just outside his inner court, HE FINDS FAVOR IN HER (a statement we read often in scripture when God’s relationship to his people is discussed) and holds out his scepter to her as a sign that it is ok to approach him. She moves towards him and touches the very tip of his scepter, a sign of her obedience and humility. To me her approach is like those hoping to come to God either for the first time or after a long hiatus. We have to approach with humility and an open heart, yet we do not have to be pure, or holy, or of a certain worldly stature. We are allowed to come as we are. Esther, who despite knowing she was doing something against the man-made laws of the day said she would approach the king to save her people the Jews from being slaughtered, “even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” In this statement she showed her bravery. This kind of bravery is what God wants to see from us, wants us to cut through all the worldly “laws” like our own expectations, guilt, rules, etc., right to Him. And He will find favor in us for this—we will become his special students in that moment, He will take us under His wing and show us wonderful miracles and bless us tremendously, especially show us how to find His kind of joy in this life if we keep our eyes open to Him. .
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For months I did my own personal study on tears, because I was crying everyday for various reasons, mostly for other people. Not really knowing what would come of it, I began journaling my experience and realized that my tears for others and tears for my family were a form of contemplative prayer for them. I confided in a priest, telling her that I was crying a lot and, for example, I wept over the story of Jesus learning that his beloved friend, John the Baptist, was beheaded. I wept for John and I wept for Jesus. The priest just blinked at me and she said, “but weeping for someone is not doing anything to help them.” I said “surely my weeping is felt in heaven and my tears are cast upwards as a prayer and shed back down to earth as a blessing of love for whom I am weeping.” I said this in so many words, and as I spoke I realized for the first time that my weeping was prayer. These days when all we CAN do is pray and weep, surely our tears are blessed. It is OK to cry. Tears heal us in so many ways. They are a prayer for your people and a blessing for you. .
A SONG OF FREEDOM
by Alice Mulligan .
In Cavan of little lakes / As I was walking with the wind / And no one seen beside me there / There came a song into my mind / It came as if the whispered voice / of one, but none of human kind / Who walked with me in Cavan then / And he invisible as wind. .