Please purchase this new book, about the Holy Rosary, a favorite prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was written by Father Donald Calloway, M.I.C.
Of course I most certainly don’t give any credibility whatsoever to the dualistic claims of eastern religions and modes of thought which claim that each individual must go through a series of different lifetimes in order to be purged enough so that he may be happy in the next life. Beatle George Harrison may have been quite an absolute expert at music but he got it all wrong when it came to that topic. God puts each of us here for only one opportunity to do the right thing. In that sense my view of life is more linear than cyclical. Whenever a new baby is conceived, God does not insert a new soul into a material container. Each individual is conceived with his body and soul inextricably linked permanently to each other. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that for over two thousand years.
“It is appointed unto men to die once but after this comes the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27). That’s where the Four Last Things-Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell-must be dealt with. Once someone has faced up to his Particular Judgment immediately upon his decease, he goes either to Purgatory temporarily, straight to Heaven, or straight to Hell.
“You know, friend Beelzebub,” said Mephistopholes, “The rule of three controls all of reality.”
“Yes, Master,” replied his smitten servant.
“Once I plug my machine in,” exclaimed the evil genius, “The world is mine. Text, context and subtext; melody, harmony and rhythm; plot,theme and setting. I can irrevocably own mankind, each individual’s very soul. Any fool can win deliberately evil sadistic people to us. These three switches, however, merely by distorting things, can bring all those well-intentioned characters to us too. Yes, that’s all it takes. Just juggle things around so they don’t understand.”
I suppose that I have known, since a very early age, of the inevitably of my eventual death. When I was first born I was very sick, with a life-threatening problem, and after effects that lingered all throughout my childhood, so I was constantly reminded of the risk of my early death. The earliest death that really stands out in my mind, in a concrete way, is my Uncle Gino’s when I was a twelve year old kid. As far as I know, there wasn’t any feeling of total awe at my having realized that I would, sooner, or later, be required, by definition, to die. Having always gone to Catholic schools, I was always reminded of it, but it must have inevitably struck me as just some entirely abstract factual reality. Unlike many people I simply don’t have a profoundly cathartic story to tell about how some ultimate moment of truth profoundly changed my life and perception of that specific aspect of reality. Sooner or later, each of us shall be in either Heaven (usually by way of Purgatory), or Hell. That’s the ultimate inevitable eschatological reality of the four last things. Death carries with it at least two main fears for each of us: the fear of all the physical and emotional torment that goes with the end of his life, and the fear of eternal damnation for those who go to hell. I really have to wise up and to start dealing with it in a more first hand manner very soon.
I’d say that I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction about the same, though for different reasons. Right now I’m reading Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline” and Jane Austen’s novel, “Sense and Sensibility”. I’m also reading “The Story Of A Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux. I’ve always been interested in novels and poems because they allow me to travel to other places and time frames. I can permit my imagination to get entirely out of control. A well written novel or poem also can teach interesting lessons about human nature. Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” are exceptionally good examples of this. One problem with Dostoyevsky, though, is that he tends to be exceptionally didactic. Reading something of his always makes me feel as if it’s written in the form of a thinly disguised theology and philosophy lecture.I’ve always enjoyed seeing how many different symbols I can see in various works of literature. Two of the most famous examples of symbolism in classic western literature are a bookworm character, who reads a story within the story, a convention begun by Cervantes in “Don Quijote”, and travel, begun by St. Augustine of Hippo in his “Confessions”. Among works of non-fiction, I especially enjoy biographies, and classic works of theology and philosophy. By now I’ve read very many biographies of a wide variety of famous people, including writers, politicians, musicians and saints. Although I only have thirteen credits in philosophy, and no college credits in theology, I’ve always had quite a voracious interest in those fields. As a lay Carmelite I’ve read all the Carmelite classics I’ve been able to find. Since I really like to get involved in a good debate about the culture war, reading these kinds of things keeps me well informed.
I’ve been a lay Carmelite for most of the twenty first century. For that reason St. John of the Cross, who along with St. Teresa of Avila co-founded the Discalced Carmelites in Spain during the second half of the sixteenth century, has always been quite a favorite patron saint and mentor of mine. The problem with Sanjuanist literature, though, is that he wrote in such a dry didactic manner that it’s always been quite difficult for the average individual to understand him. Unlike Saints Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and several other famous Carmelites, who wrote in every day language that can be understood by the common man, Saint John tended to write in a formalized style which only Carmelite Religious can be expected to recognize. I’ve read quite a lot both by and about Saint John so I know that he was quite an exceptionally easygoing and approachable man and that his writings were geared toward teaching each and every specific individual how he should live out the demands of his specific life and vocation. It provides much of the foundation for the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Saints such as Teresa and Therese, unlike John, wrote about common everyday occurrences and circumstances. Saint John, though, as a mystical theologian, always wrote in terms of God’s action upon the soul and his vocabulary is too thick do be dealt with except by way of extreme caution and attention to detail. In the prologue of Book I of “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel”, John writes about “love’s urgent longings”, saying that “Love is repaid by love alone”, and that “In the evening of our lives, we shall be judged by love alone”. Too many people have tried to understand John without a legitimate regard for text, context and subtext. Because of the complexity of John’s work, significant caution must be exercised in reading anything of his. Unfortunately Saint John is too frequently perceived as unapproachable and intimidating, although according to legitimate Sanjuanist scholarship he was quite a good natured gentleman. If I could have a chance to meet him in person he could teach me about all the legitimate practical application of his ideas. That way, I could really see firsthand exactly how he applied all the theory behind his ideas to his life in practice. People are too often repelled by misunderstandings of his writings but if I could meet him, he could show me exactly how it all works.
The von Hildebrands, along with Sartre and de Beauvoir, were having a leisurely walk, and a rousing debate. “God wants us to live by faith and reason”, argued the orthodox Catholic von Hildebrands. “There’s no god, just radical freedom and despair”, replied their existentialist friends. People from St. John of the Cross to Dostoyevsky have reminded us that what one is, he sees in others and in life in general. The two couples were so far apart, while standing side by side. They continuously befuddled each other, Dietrich and Alice, Jean Paul and Simone.
I’ve always been quite obsessively smitten with theology and philosophy. I don’t think the von Hildebrands were ever friends with Sartre and De Beauvoir but they were contemporaries. Alice von Hildebrand is the only one who’s still alive.
If I were ever to get a chance to visit a foreign country it would be only in Europe. I know the liberals don’t understand it but I simply couldn’t care less about anyplace in the Third World. All the truly interesting places are in the West. Perhaps I could see Ireland first. My mother’s ancestors came from there. It’s the land of Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and a lot of really interesting history. St. Brendan the navigator supposedly even founded the Americas, when he landed on the mythical island of Hy-Brasil in A.D. 565. I always read things about how the Catholic Church is very prominent there and the Carmelites have a significant presence there. The people are so actively engaged in their culture and politics and I’d really like to see that up close. People who’ve been there say the scenery is quite beautiful. Then maybe I could go to Italy. My father’s parents were both from there. I took two years of Italian in college and I’d really need a lot of practice with the language but I think I’d be able to handle it fairly well. They also have a lot of culture, religion and politics, history and literature that can keep me interested. I’ll be especially interested in all the Carmelite history over there too. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, and many other famous Carmelites, were from Italy. Several of the Church’s great religious communities were founded in Italy and I can find out about all their history. I can see the famous art of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Titan , among others, and visit all the museums and other tourist traps. The food and drinks there are supposed to be excellent. I should have to sample things like that only in moderation though. An excess of that kind of enjoyment would make me very sick. After that I can go to Spain, the birthplace of the sixteenth century Discalced Carmelite reform. That’s the land of Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. I can visit places like Avila and Fontiveros and find out about all the order’s most important history in one of its most significant settings. The Jesuits were founded there too. Counter-Reformation Spain has always really interested me. I should really like to visit La Mancha too. It’s the home of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, the author of “Don Quijote”. That must be quite a very colorful environment with a lot of interesting stories to tell. I took three years of Spanish in high school and really need quite a lot of practice with the language. No trip to Europe would be complete without a visit to France, the home of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. No Carmelite could leave out a trip to Lisieux. France is also a place steeped in history and culture, as well as exceptionally good food and drinks. I can imagine how impressive Paris must be. The scenery is supposed to be quite fine and everyone raves about the food and drinks. England would simply have to be on my itinerary too. It’s the land of Shakespeare and the Beatles. Shakespeare died on this day in 1616. Cervantes died around this time that year too. I’ve always been steeped in western literature so I’d have to find out all about the Bard of Avon and Milton in their homeland. I should also have to visit the Carmelites’ Aylesford Priory, home of St. Simon Stock. England has plenty of things for me to get entirely engrossed in. Liverpool is the homeland of the Fab Four so I should have to spend quite a lot of time there. I’ve spent all my lifetime listening to their music and keeping track of everything about them so it only makes sense that I’d have a really interesting time in their hometown.