November 2008 Archives

Listening to Tradition, Sunday, November 30, 2008


Athansius.jpg"The Lord doesn't allow unthankful people to have peace.  'For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.'  They work in pain and grief.  The Lord didn't even forgive the one owning ten thousand talents.  For this man, who had been forgiven of great things, forgot to be kind in little things.  Therefore, he paid the penalty even for his previous debt.  This was definitely fair. For having experienced kindness himself he should have shown mercy to his fellow servant.  Also, the one who received the one talent, bound it up in a napkin, and hid it in the earth was cast out for unthankfulness . . .Of course, when he was required to deliver that which belonged to him to his master, he should have acknowledged the kindness of the one who gave it to him.  He should have acknowledged how valuable the gift was.  For the one who gave it wasn't a hard man.  If he had been, he wouldn't have given the money in the first place.  And the gift wasn't useless.  He never found fault with it. For the giver was good and the gift was capable of bearing fruit." St. Athansius

A Personal Update, with Reflection


First, a caveat.  I feel like, without knowing what I'm about to write, this will degenerate into what one writer called "selfish introspection."  If that happens, please forgive.


Over the last two months we have gone from having 3 cats to 5, all Burmese.  This fact has been the center of my life since about the 1st of October.  I'll explain.


    Thumbnail image for Phil and Cece.jpg  Since April, we have been treating, and trying to deal with, terminal cancer in our first Sable Burmese, St. Cecelia, Cece for short.  Cece must be enjoying the prayers of her saintly patron; despite the fact that we have been told several times since April that she has only a month or so to live, she is still very much alive and kicking; she spent a good part of last night playing on the bed with her favorite green glitter ball, and is now assisting with this post, so I guess it's good that she doesn't know she's sick.


              Thumbnail image for P1010019.JPG  We have another Burmese, Ariel, also a Sable, whom we appropriately did not name after a saint.  Despite her faults, she is quite attached to two things in life, Bach (at right, listening to the Brandenburg Concerto on "her" iPod) and Cece.  With Cece it is almost in a mother daughter relationship and has been from the time we adopted her.  Cece is nine years old, Ariel is nearly four.  In July, Ariel came down with a severe upper respiratory infection that nearly killed her and finally settled in her eyes which nearly blinded her.  After a month of treatment, including a few days in kitty Intensive Care and a trip to a veterinary Ophthalmologist (yes, there are such are things), we arrived at the diagnosis if a herpes virus, treatable with Interferon eye drops and daily doses of L-Lysine. 


The third cat in the original trio is St. Philomena, Philly, a Platinum, a truly neurotic eleven year old, but physically healthy as a horse, who has managed to stay above the chaos and confusion of the last 90 days.  She could care less if the other two live or die.


Three or four months ago, knowing how bonded Ariel and Cece are, we thought it might be helpful to bring a kitten into the household in order to have someone to keep her company after Mom passes on.  Somehow, one kitten turned into two, Sts Felicity and Sarah, both Sable Burmese, and wouldn't you know it, Sarah promptly began going into convulsions immediately after eating only her third or fourth meal in our household.  Another trip to the vet Intensive Care unit, the determination that she needed an Endoscopy that could only be performed by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, a two hour drive north of here.  So, up to Ft. Collins we go.


They first did a video fluoroscopy and from that thought the problem to be a lack of motility in the esophagus; the prognosis did not look good.  There was one other test that could be performed, an endoscopy, but they weren't sure they had the instruments to do that on so small a kitten (she weighed 1 pound at the age of 3 months).  They finally got one from the Zoology department, did the test, and learned she had a stricture in her esophagus which could be treated with the insertion of a balloon in order to expand it, much like an angioplasty in humans.  She would live a relatively normal life after up to three of these procedures over the next 60 to 90 days.  She has now had two, the latest on Friday, the 21st.  She is eating well, and beginning to grow a bit, and, of course, become quite the little celebrity at the Vet School in Ft. Collins.  The hope is that as she grows her esophagus will expand and provide a more natural cure to her difficulties.


On top of all this, my wife and I have been trying to maintain busy schedules at work and keep the house straight and clean, plan for the holidays, and who knows what else.


I've been trying to reflect on all of this in light of what I've learned about St. Benedict and the Rule.  If there is anything that is central to Benedictine spirituality, it must be learning to listen, which means trying to see God's hand in every circumstance of life, no matter how mundane.  These events certainly haven't been mundane.


First, gratitude for life, even the life of a cat.  Cece is a real "people" kitty; she loves to be with us and will stay at our feet constantly, even at the risk of getting underfoot and being stepped on.  At the moment, she has given up assisting with this post and is just sitting quietly nest to me in my wife's desk chair.  I have often thought that it would be wonderful to have the degree of trust and love she shows for us in my relationship with God.  Just to be happy to sit quietly for a few minutes in His presence would be a great gift.


The experience with Ariel also teaches me to take nothing for granted.  We got the kittens thinking that we would have Ariel for many years and just assuming that Cece would be gone well before her.  There was a very real danger for a few days that she would die before Cece.  So much for the best laid plans.  I am reminded that my plans can very easily come to nothing when faced with God's plans.  The thing is, and this is quite a big part of what St. Benedict wished his monks to learn, is that it is now that is important and life is meant to be lived in the present moment.  We simply don't have tomorrow and God has given us so many gifts that can, and should be, enjoyed now, no matter the circumstances.


The kittens have reinforced this lesson.  When Sarah started having trouble, I was quite stressed about it.  I was worried for her, but more, for the additional disruption in my life, which I didn't feel I needed at the moment.  So, back to Lesson One from St. Benedict, learn to welcome every event in event in life.  Also, that I don't own anything in life, not even a kitten.  I finally put this all in the Good Lord's hands and have felt a good deal better ever since.

Happy Thanksgiving

20071121-first-thanksgiving.pngWishing everyone a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving

Listening to Tradition, Tuesday, November 18, 2008


[Reading] continuously tells of the clash of virtue and vices. . . . Reading is the food, light, lamp, refuge, solace of the soul, the spice of all spiritual flavors. It feeds the hungry, gives light to the one sitting in darkness, offers bread to the one fleeing shipwreck or war, comforts the contrite heart.



ON AFFLICTION AND READING (Quoted in Hugh Fiess, Essential Monastic Wisdom)

Sowing to Our Own Flesh


For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8


Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience. Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict


For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment.  Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict


Reading St. Paul brought the passages from Benedict to mind, which in turn, put a new slant on the way to salvation.  Paul says we should not sow "to our own flesh" which I take to mean, that following our own will and seeking only to please ourselves leads us far from the path to God. 


It occurred to me that, while nearly everyone would say they desire eternal life, i.e. to get to heaven, few people really act like it.  Few people act as if God were watching, and caring about, everything they do.  We like to take little short cuts, and do the easy thing, whether it is a good thing to do or not.  I've known any number of people who would freely do things that are unethical, if not down right dishonest, and easily rationalize it by saying, "Well, business is business."  Yet, they would never treat their friends the way they treat fellow workers or customers, failing to see that the two situations are really not any different.  Simply put, they want to go their own way and do what they want to do and they don't want to deal with the consequences. 


These are usually the same people who would loudly proclaim themselves Christians and proclaim loudly their wish to go to heaven.


Benedict sees clearly that whenever we act to please ourselves and go our own way, we are in danger of ending up with an angry Father who may well deny us admission to eternal bliss, in fact, deliver us "to eternal punishment."  He knows the little things add up and I pray that I will begin to take his teaching to heart.

Listening to Tradition, Tuesday, November 11, 2008


[If one turn from the Gospel,] wherewith we are adorned today, my brethren,-- to another gospel he is a child:-- in a time of greatness of understanding--he is become without understanding.


For in the degree of full age--he has gone down to childhood--and he loves the law of bondmen,-- which when he is confident smites him--and when he rejoices buffets him.


Ephraim (Early Church Father)

Listening to Tradition, Thursday, November 6, 2008


Quotes from John Adams


" The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity... I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."

• "[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."

-John Adams in a letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress

Listening to Tradition, Tuesday, November 4, 2008


What Jesus Yearns for in Us

But if the flesh is harrowed and the soul does not bear fruit, it is as if a field were continually ploughed and yet the crop never grew, or as if a man fashioned a statue of gold on the outside and of clay within. For what use is it if without the city walls war is being waged, while within it suffers ruin? As if a man dug outside his vineyard and right on its boundary, while leaving it, untilled within, to thorns and thistles. For of what use is the religion of the outward man, if there is not also shown an improvement in the inner? That person can be false and a thief, that person is false and a hypocrite, who displays one quality in his bearing and another in his character. Then let us not be like "whited sepulchers" (Mt.23:27), let us study to show ourselves splendid and adorned within and not without; for true religion resides in lowliness not of habit but of heart. For where else does the Lord dwell, save in the heart of the truly humble...

St. Columban

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2008 is the previous archive.

December 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.