Christmas Eve

ski trailThis afternoon
as flakes of powder
buried the Nativity scene
in the front yard
I shovelled
a deep canyon, white
to the road.

Now dusk advances
and firelight dances back and forth
across cherry-panelled walls.
Enormous Norway branches
stretch colored constellations
across the room
above a drift of packages.

Silence is interrupted only by
the occasional shifting of glowing embers.
Looking out, I see that
my boot prints have been lost
in approaching darkness, drift and
accumulation.

Earlier today I went skiing
through the pine woods behind the slough
and through the sloping meadow.
After descending Swanson’s hill,
I paused to look behind me —
above my solitary tracks
which sliced the pale earth,
motionless pines stood alone
against the grey, snow-heralding sky.
My ears grasped for the fading song of the chickadee,
but it was gone,
and the stillness enveloped me.

I felt required to remain in the quiet,
as if the moment would last while I stood still.
But I felt my wool socks soaked with melting snow
so I decided to move,
to return to the house and
to light the fire and
to ssee if the mail had come.

Now night has arrived
and the fire has burnt itself grey.
The meadow is still quiet, I imagine.

I go to bed early; tomorrow will find the house busy.

from the collection Only Say the Word

sleep

2019-12-14-01-19-003God speaks:

I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have created.
And I myself rested on the seventh day.
He whose heart is pure, sleeps. And he who sleeps has a pure heart.
That is the great secret of being as indefatigable as a child.
Of having that strength in his legs, those new souls,
And to begin afresh every morning, ever new,
Like young hope, new hope.
But they tell me there are men
Who work well and sleep badly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me.
It is almost more serious than if they worked badly and slept well.
Than if they did not work but slept, because laziness
Is not a greater sin than unrest
And despair and lack of confidence in me.
I am not talking, says God, about those men who don’t work and don’t sleep.
Those men are sinners, to be sure. They have what they deserve.
Great sinners. It’s their fault for not working.
I am talking about those who work and don’t sleep.
I pity them. I am talking about those who work and who, in this,
Obey my commandment, poor children.
And who on the other hand lack courage, lack confidence, and don’t sleep.
I pity them. I have it against them. A little. They won’t trust me.
Like the child who innocently lies in his mother’s arms, thus do they not lie
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They lack the courage to be idle.
They have enough virtue to work. They haven’t enough virtue to be idle.
To stretch out. To rest. To sleep.
Poor people, they don’t know what is good.
They look after their business very well during the day.
But they haven’t enough confidence in me to let me look after it during the night.
As if I wasn’t capable of looking after it during one night.
He who doesn’t sleep is unfaithful to Hope
And it is the greatest infidelity.
Because it is infidelity to the greatest Faith.
Poor children, they conduct their business with wisdom during the day.
But when evening comes, they can’t make up their minds,
They can’t be resigned to trust my wisdom for the space of one night
With the conduct and the governing of their business.
As if I wasn’t capable, if you please, of looking after it a little.
Of watching over it.
Of governing and conducting, and all that kind of stuff.
I have a great deal more business to look after, poor people, I govern creation, maybe that is more difficult.
You might perhaps, and no harm done, leave your business in my hands, O wise men.
Maybe I am just as wise as you are.
You might perhaps leave it to me for the space of a night.
While you are asleep
At last
And the next morning you might find it not too badly damaged perhaps.
The next morning it might not be any the worse perhaps.
I may yet be capable of attending to it a little. I am talking of those who work
And who in this obey my commandment.
And don’t sleep, and who in this
Refuse all that is good in my creation,
Sleep, all the good I have created,
And also refuse my commandment just the same.
Poor children, what ingratitude towards me
To refuse such a good
Such a beautiful commandment.
Poor children, they follow human wisdom.
Human wisdom says Don’t put off until tomorrow
What can be done the very same day.
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God.
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you today
And might very well devour you today.
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is he who puts off. That is to say Blessed is he who hopes. And who sleeps.

Sleep by Charles Péguy

Juan de la Cruz

Cross_iconIt’s the feast day of St. John of the Cross, one of my favorite spiritual writers of all time. (Doesn’t sound very detached, does it? Still working on that nada doctrine.)

I’ve created a multimedia retreat with Saint John of the Cross — and his Sayings of Light and Lovehere. It works well on mobile devices… such as tablets and smartphones.

Also, I did a series of posts on John of the Cross during Lent of 2004. Here are the links:

Lenten retreat starts

Prologue to The Dark Night

Why is the dark night necessary?

pride

avarice

lust

anger

gluttony

envy and sloth

one dark night…

discernment of the night of the senses

how to respond to being placed in the dark night

fired with love’s urgent longings

the value of trials

Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of DiscernmentSin obscures. So does selfishness. The cross purifies. All of us ordinary mortals are wounded, immersed in our own darkness. A healthy self-denial sensibly practiced and rightly motivated slowly lifts one out of his egoism, laziness, hedonistic inclinations. We are fitted to receive the clean light of the Spirit.

The saints invariably possessed a remarkable wisdom. Even the most simple of them were gifted with a penetration into reality and into the God of all reality that books and studies cannot produce. This penetrating gaze into the real was made possible by their prior purification. This must be at least part of the meaning of that mysterious saying of St. John of the Cross: “The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.” In another place the saint amplifies this idea when he remarks that “the purest suffering brings with it the purest and most intimate knowing, and consequently the purest and highest joy, because it is a knowing from further within.” One who lives the paschal mystery, life through death, lives more and more deeply and thus will see more and more penetratingly. Authenticity is begotten on the cross.

Suffering reduces us to our own ashes; it strips away egoism and makes love possible. A Scripture commentator can remark that “to be a ‘tried’ Christian or to experience the Spirit is one and the same. Trial disposes to a greater gift of the Spirit, for He now achieves by trial His work of liberation. Thus freed, the tried Christian knows how to discern, verify, ‘try’ everything.”

If adaptation to the modern world has actually meant settling for a more comfortable life, a rejection of the hard road and the narrow gate, it is no renewal at all. If updating in a religious congregation has consisted largely of mitigations, we have a clear sign of resistance to the Spirit of the living God. If the renewal of moral theology consistently means more pleasure and less sacrifice, it is no updating at all. It is a surrender to the world.

from Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., “Moral Behavior: Cross-Asceticism”

Novena of Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen begins December 12

Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. SheenIn response to the postponement of the Beatification of Fulton J. Sheen, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria has asked the faithful to participate in a special nine day novena to “petition God unceasingly” that the Cause may move forward to the Beatification and Canonization of Fulton Sheen.

On the 40th anniversary of Sheen’s death, Bishop Jenky decided to make known this upcoming special novena trusting in the “power of prayer” to move heaven as well as instill hope to all those saddened and disappointed by the delay announced so close to the expected Beatification.

The nine-day novena will start on December 12th, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and include daily meditations on reflections from Fulton Sheen.  The novena is available in English and Spanish and will be carried on several Catholic television networks as well as social media sites.

Bishop Jenky asks the many supporters of Archbishop Sheen to give themselves over to prayer, which is always the best way to support the Cause.  Together, we seek God’s will in the ultimate judgment of the Apostolic See.