St. John of the Cross

carmelite feasts

I’ve been a lay Carmelite ever since October 2001. The Order is quite ancient and has its origins well before the eleventh century, traditionally hearkening back to before the Birth of Christ.

The Order, since the days of Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila in Counter-Reformation Spain, has been divided into two main branches, the Discalced, and the Calced (or Ancient Observance).  Although they have much in common, each branch has its own separate customs, rules, and traditions. Each month of the liturgical year has at least one Carmelite feast day.

July is quite an important month for Carmel since it’s the month during which we honor both St. Elijah, the Prophet and our Father, on the twentieth; and the Virgin Mary.  Mary gets two days.  The first is the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the sixteenth. Her other feast day is the Mother of Divine Grace, on the twenty third. It’s on the nineteenth in Europe.  Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary, are also honored on July 26 as the protectors of the Order.

Carmelite Feast Days


Feast ~Christmas



Midnight In the Pantry


the new carmelite priest


Morning prayer has just ended at St. Elias Priory in Middletown. Father Mike has enjoined Brother Charles, soon to be ordained, to await his turn to be interviewed.

“I suppose I’m set,” thought the prospective Carmelite priest.

“I’ve studied the Rule of St. Albert,and Teresian and Sanjuanist theology and philosophy, for eight years.”

In spite of all his confidence, he couldn’t help getting an unbearably dry mouth. His coarse brown habit and cream colored mantle were starting to feel heavy.

“My married friends and relatives have one kind of responsibilities in their vocation,” he thought, “and I have another.”

to deal with boredom

Everyone, over the course of his lifetime, simply has to figure out how to deal with boredom. Life for me can be so quiet and ordinary at times. During the course of those kinds of times I often read even more than I usually do anyway. If I happen to be feeling truly brave I may even presume to attempt to re-read something as difficult as  “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross.  I really have to make sure I become as familiar as possible with all kinds of Carmelite reading material anyway. Since weight, these days, hasn’t presented me with any kind of a problem lately I can also feel quite free to go over to the refrigerator and to get something fattening to eat. Alas, that’s quite a very bad habit to indulge in inordinately, but at least it helps to keep my mind occupied for a while. Noise has quite a tendency to annoy me such a lot. If a baby starts crying continuously in the distance, or some other unwelcome sound persists, that can truly spoil my ability to concentrate, and will always leave me quite frustrated and restless. Conveniently I don’t usually get bored anyway but I at least have done quite a reasonably good job of learning to handle it.

a carmelite

Fray Titus knelt to pray in his cell

To meditate at night.

A statue of John of the Cross

Was all that he could see.

His coarse brown habit fit him well,

A novice distracted

By light from a far away world.

Not a sound could he hear.


Distractions abounded that night

As he stayed all alone.

 Only his silent vocation

would he have for a friend.

A Little Way to pray for souls

With nada and todo.

Fray Titus was so happy now

As he knelt in his cell.

sanjuanist me

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 stjohncrossthat 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.





epistemology, teleology and ontology

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.

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.

Although I’ve always quite thoroughly enjoyed music, I’ve never been talented enough to become famous.   I most certainly can’t sing.   As far as I can see, my main talents appear to lie in writing and public speaking.   In spite of what people seem to think these days,  all the great writers of yore were in the conservative tradition.    Now in our modernist and post-modernist era  people are entirely too smitten with things like semiotic deconstruction and other means of deception-a pox  be upon you, Jacques Derrida!    It’s most certainly not the least bit coincidental that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Milton are so often touted as the greatest of writers in the western canon.    Each of them could tell quite an exceptional story.   Each of them also put forth significant points about both human nature and the significant political, philosophical and social currents of his era, but in narrative rather than didactic form.   They were very good at following Emily Dickinson’s rule about telling all the truth slant.   If I were a writer I could get to know all the intellectual and literary figures who shape our current modes of thought.    To my chagrin all my favorite public figures are those from the past.    T.S. Eliot, Walker Percy, Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor were among the very best of twentieth century writers.  I don’t really know of anyone from this era  who strikes me as especially good or interesting.   Unlike a lot of great authors throughout history, I simply don’t have a healthy enough constitution to get away with their hard-drinking, hard-living behavior.    Mine would have to be quite a quieter, less intense sort of lifestyle.    I’ve always had quite a flair for the more comedic and lopsided side of  life.    It might be a really good idea, then, for me to emphasize all sorts of dysfunctionality in at least a few of the characters I may write about.     I could take advantage of all sorts of ideas and literary traditions I’ve always really liked.    Knowing me I’d have to write something in the style of either Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” or Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”, each of which refers to other literary works within its story line.     Each author seems to have his favorite kinds of symbolism to which he has frequent recourse.   Graham Greene was fond of using hard-drinking alcholics among his most prominent characters.   Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot were known for their Sanjuanist themes.     I often think I could do quite well at public speaking too.   Of course I should have to be a lot more knowledgeable than I am currently but with a little extra effort I honestly believe that I could do quite an effective job of arguing my side of any subject.  Nothing has ever been able to stop me from arguing unofficially anyway.   In college classes I’ve taken, I’ve always struck my classmates and professors as quite a formidable opponent in a debate.   Under those circumstances I can suppose that I should be the same, in didactic form, as I should be in a narrative sense, with my writing.   Shakespeare, Austen, Homer, King, Dickinson and ShelleyThe humanities have always been my favorite intellectual discipline.    Whenever I get into a significant debate about matters of either a theological or philosophical nature I get exactly as exceptionally enthused as I do about classic western literature.   Our current cultural climate is quite seriously disturbing and someone simply must speak out against the way things  are going now.    We need as many people as possible, these days, who are both willing and  competent to defend traditional western cultural mores from the absolutely insatiable leftist determination to control us all.   My imagination, combined with my understanding of reality, and a determination to get my point across to people, could really make quite an impact if I were famous.


do your best and leave the rest to fortuosity

I like always both to adhere to a strict code of conduct and to keep an interesting sense of humor about things.   Beware the false dichotomy.   The more I see of today’s leftist ‘who-am-I-to-judge’ mentality, with its permissive approach to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, reverse discrimination and all sorts of other horrors, the more I see that we simply can’t afford to allow it to go on.   What they call diversity I call chaos.   Genuine legitimate freedom is being begrudged us in favor of a need to demand that we feel a sense of supposed indebtedness to a bunch of self-pitying, self-aggrandizing special interest groups.   Amazingly we are expected to trust the judgment of the likes of Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and television, movie and talk show personalities    People are encouraged, now more than ever, to take advantage of each other for the sake of pleasure and profit.   I like to mind my own business as much as possible but I’ve never been able to resist a good debate about these kinds of things.   As everyone knows I’ve always been quite the staunch conservative.    Liberalism, while claiming to reject censorship, presumes to censor each and every single move we make in order to affect a supposed Great Society.   Lately there are movements afoot to ban the use of the words ‘retard’ and ‘bossy’.   This is simply not permissible.   Although I’ve always been determined to be as articulate as possible I have no intention of putting up with anyone else’s controlling my speech.    Christianity (Catholicism) has always been so very important for me.   Liberals, as well as other totalitarians, manipulators and control freaks, see fanaticism and hypocrisy in this claim because it begrudges them absolute control over people’s lives.    They want a world devoid of formal or final causality because that would put them in charge.   I like to be as strict an orthodox Catholic as possible.   On an everyday basis I should really like to think that I do a reasonably good job of humoring people.   I’ve always tried to be at least fairly good natured.   Unfortunately I’ve always tended to be somewhat short tempered and I have a major problem with forgiveness.   My ability to hold a grudge is quite legendary though I’m not very happy with it.   At least I’ve learned over the years never deliberately to throw the first punch.    Hep Larry understands that people are quite a mixed bag of nuts.   Real  Larry needs quite a few lessons in patience and understanding though.  One lesson I have to keep track of is like the warning given by St. John of the Cross in his “The Living Flame of Love” about how each of us  tends to see his own character traits, both good and bad, in other people.   If I can have so hard a time dealing with a particular individual, I can just imagine how hysterical he must be over my character defects.   As I said earlier keeping a very good sense of humor about life is exceptionally important.    People can often be hard to take and I know they have the same problem with me too. etiquettebook_sm   Because each of us, in his life and worldview, has such a wide variety of distinct quirks and preferences, many of which deviate from those of other people, an inability to laugh at it all can be toxic.  Because all the things I’ve been complaining about are forms of fanaticism, I really like to refrain from any sort of an extreme position about anything.   In the end it’s all about text, context and subtext.   Whenever someone pushes too hard he finds out in the end, the hard way, that things always backfire anyway.




dear sir or madame would you read my book?

Ever since I was still only a little kid, I’ve always been quite the compulsive bookworm.    When my parents, Mary Anne and I used to go back and forth to northeastern Pennsylvania regularly to visit relatives, I spent each entire trip reading billboards and other signs along the way.   I can still remember being quite mesmerized over what Cutty Sark could possibly have meant.    Whenever I ate or drank something I paid quite an inordinate amount of attention to abbreviations like oz. and lb. on the labels.    In school I developed quite a reputation for having won virtually every spelling bee in Queens and Suffolk County.    I was the kind of kid whom my teachers, on standardized tests, always gave credit for having been around five years above the average reading level for my age range.    I can remember having read, at St. Gabriel’s and the local East Elmhurst Public Library, books and stories like “The Five Chinese Brothers”, “Skeeter Chariot High In the Sky” and the collected works of Dr. Seuss.   I first heard of Edward Lear at St. Gabriel’s, when I read his “There Was an Old Man With a Beard..” poem.    In the sixth grade, Brother Thomas made my classmates and me read, among other literary works, Steven Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage”, and Edward Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Corey” and “Miniver Cheevey”.     Throughout my days at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School and Farmingdale College, I was exposed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, Blake, Joyce and countless other writers.    The Beatles, and other singers and bands from their era,  have always been my musical favorites.    The songs of the 1960’s reflect quite a lot of classic literary influence.   Joan Baez’ “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving” is based on Byron’s poem.    Yoko Ono’s “Who Has Seen the Wind” is based on Christina Rossetti’s poem.   The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” come right out of Lewis Carroll.   I’ve heard that  Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  was derived from an old medieval or Elizabethan poem.    As with my taste in show business and pop culture, I tend to be a bit of a literary snob.    The majority of the writers who really interest me are from the distant past.  Because of my pathological aversion to change-I’m ever the stick in the mud-my reaction to someone’s “We need another Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost” would be quite a resounding “Whatever good would that do? We already have the real Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost”.   When someone else has nothing to do he may eat, read the sports page. or watch television.   When I have nothing to do I read the collected works of the Brownings, Brontes or Shelleys, or some other classic author.    Right now I’m reading Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park”.    I have to be careful though.   Once I tried to read  seventy five pages James Joyce’s  “Ulysses” over the course of a day.   I got an unbearable migraine that lasted for three days.     I always have to laugh when I’m in a book store and see books by and about everyone from Tim Conway to Suzanne Somers.    I enjoy all kinds of reading material, ranging from biography to poems, novels, philosophy and theology.   Because of my having always been smitten with the humanities, people often take it for granted that I majored in theology and philosophy in school.    As a lay Carmelite I really have to keep up with developments in Sanjuanist and Teresian theology.     Sometimes I feel as if I don’t fit in very well with a lot of the people I’m expected to associate with but you never know when my interest in classic literature can come in quite handy.    On New Year’s Eve Steve an I went to a party in the neighborhood.    Although everyone else there, unlike me, was married with children and enjoyed sports,  I ended up getting into a really interesting conversation, with a guy named Kirk, about the collected works of Flannery O’Connor.    Not many people could have kept up with someone who wanted to talk about her.


too stubborn

I’ve always liked to consider myself quite an easygoing fellow.   In my high school yearbook people both gave me credit for having been so good natured and complained of my having been too much of a pushover.    It would make me happy to know that to this very day I’m still exceptionally flexible and good natured.    It’s always been very easy for me to be that way when the question that’s being dealt with is as easy as an argument over round or square pizza.  Unfortunately life’s problems aren’t usually that simple.     I’ve always enjoyed peace and quite to the point of bitterly resenting any kind of people or circumstances I may have to deal with where things are entirely too loud.  I’ve really been known to lose my temper in an environment where excessive noise becomes a problem and I can become quite aggressive about it.    I honestly believe that no one should have to bother with such an intrusion and I’m quite especially tough on anyone who isn’t careful with his cell phone.    That’s one of the areas where I not only show absolutely no mercy whatsoever but I even push things entirely too far, punishing the Scylla of excessive volume with the Charybdis of quite a display of nastiness.    Another area in which I can  be inordinately tough is whenever there’s any debate about anything relative to the culture war.   As everyone knows I’ve always been quite the arch-conservative.    I tend never to budge even slightly in my dealings with liberals.  The questions that are dealt with in any debate of this nature are literally about life and death, freedom and control.    This also ties in with my resentment of being treated unfairly in general.    If I see I’m being pushed into a corner, and expected to accept insulting treatment, or to be begrudged my rightful due, I get quite infuriated.    You can call it affirmative action if you want to.   It’s still reverse discrimination.      I see the spurious arguments and revisionist history the liberals expect us to put up with as analogous to what any manipulator does.   A major part of the problem with liberals is that they barge into every move people make and leave nothing alone.   Everything from language to food is considered  within the purview of their  obsessions.   My excessively stubborn streak is a part of my life in which I have quite a lot of growing up yet to do.    Having read “The Living Flame of Love” by St. John of the Cross, and Dostoyevsky’s  “The Possessed” a few times over the years I should suppose by now I can recognize that the problems that get me crazy in my dealings with other people are the things I most frequently can be most guilty of.