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Monday 2 September 2013

Persecution Watch in America-Can Happen Anywhere, Folks

Last Post on The Dark Night-Post 50: The Cardinal Virtues

Well, at least for a long while...I shall take a break from discussing the Dark Night. But, in this last post, let me note what St. John of the Cross tells us, that all the virtues are liberated and come to the fore in the Dark Night, finally coming into a greater power in the Illumination state. But, this Dark Night is the time for the maturation of faith, hope and love especially.

I want to mention just a few significant aspects of the Dark Night concerning the cardinal virtues.

One, the Dark Night is a grace. One can and must ask for this. Many people do not realize what they are experiencing and become disheartened or depressed, which is not necessary and hinders the process of learning to trust in God. This trust is an act of faith. The cardinal virtue becomes operative at a new level, as one cannot see clearly. 

The Dark Night is the time of faith. Living in faith is easier when God strips all away.

As a grace, a time of grace, one who knows what is happening has the advantage of resting in God to finish the task of purgation. David allowed himself to be purged of sin, and Saul did not. One became humble, and one remained proud. One became obedient, and one remained a rebel to the end. One accepted the truth and one did not. One king lived in faith, and the other lost his faith.

Two, one cannot become holy without suffering and in this suffering, hope is born. Suffering rids us of all that stands between us and God. Cooperating with suffering and becoming humble in the face of suffering is contrary to what most modern people think. One may feel alone in this suffering. Therefore, knowing that God is in control is of the utmost importance. Saul thought his suffering was all punishment from God, but he did not repent. He missed the point of redemption. He lost hope. Hope follows faith, and is the virtue which brings us confidence in what is not seen.

Three, the Dark Night brings self-knowledge and love. David loved God, but had to come to terrible self-knowledge before that final union of God could occur. He had to see his innermost evil and no longer lie to himself. Remember, he had a heart that was willing to be changed. Because of his great love for God, which overcame self-love and attachments to others, he finally came into union with Love, Who is God.

Timing is entirely up to God and as one learns both real patience and humility in the Dark Night, one can expect some length of time to be involved. However, I have known young people, in their early twenties or thirties, move through these stages of purgation fairly quickly, accepting suffering and resting in God.

The remembrance that God seeks us out to love us gets one through the hard times. God is always seeking us, but in the Dark Night, He changes the milestone.

St. John of the Cross is more clear on this stage than St. Teresa of Avila, simply because he has the theological and philosophical background to make it less mysterious and more accessible to the mind.

John explains what Teresa describes. Both are good,

St. David in the Psalms explains and describes his journey of purification, understanding this time of darkness moving into light. The fact that David could move from sin, to repentance, to the acceptance of suffering and judgment, to the realization that his sin was against God alone, to knowledge of his entire sinful state, to the understanding of the justice of God, and then to the knowledge of His deep mercy, are stages of intense spiritual growth. David ends up walking in faith and praising God, hoping, trusting Him and living in the Love Who is God.

Notice how that movement involves faith, hope and love, the cardinal virtues used and liberated in the Dark Night of the Soul,  a movement seen in this famous psalm of David.

Psalm 50 Miserere. The repentance and confession of David after his sin. The fourth penitential psalm. Douay Rheims

[1] Unto the end, a psalm of David, [2] When Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bethsabee.
 [3] Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. [4] Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. [5] For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.
[6] To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayst be justified in thy words and mayst overcome when thou art judged. [7] For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. [8] For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me. [9] Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. [10] To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.
[11] Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. [12] Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. [13] Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me. [14] Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit. [15] I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee.
[16] Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice. [17] O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise. [18] For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted.[19] A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. [20] Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
[21] Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.
Now, I have written on all these points at length in the perfection series as well, but I just wanted to remind you of these simple truths with regard to the cardinal virtues.

Just wondering...

Ireland raises and sells some of the best beef in Europe.

Why are the deli beef sandwiches SO bad?

Ireland had some of the best cheese in the world.

Why do the deli sandwiches have such wretched, boring cheese?

Ireland bakes some of the yummiest whole wheat bread ever?

Why are the deli sandwiches made with such lame, tasteless bread?

The vegies in the grocery shops are top drawer.

Why are the vegies on deli sandwiches so horrid?

For reasons that I had to be out and about a few times in the past two months, I have been to delis for sandwiches four times in different places in Dublin.

Never again. Without a doubt, unless someone points me to a good deli, the sandwiches in Dublin delis are by far the worst I have ever tasted anywhere else hands-down.

Yuck! Even when these are made right in front of you...really bad.The bread is either old and stale, or mushy and falls apart; the beef is really bad; the vegies old and brown; the cheese tasteless. If one gets chicken, the sandwich is worse-no taste and very boring.

Is there a Dubliner who can make a good sandwich? If I have to be out and about again, I shall just go to McDonald's, which is pricey, but not any more expensive than a so-called fresh deli sandwich. At least I know what I am getting at Macs, and the beef is excellent.

Maybe the wee folk know....

Wow, Freedom of Speech Gone in America For Sure?

America is blocking Russia Today, where I and a million other Americans get really good news, especially on the Middle East conflict and on financial information.

This is iniquitous.

Many of the real stories coming out of Egypt and Syria have not been on American stations, but on France24 and RT.

All citizens should have a choice on news.

Wonder why the block?  Guess....

UPDATE-a reader has a note on this. It was not the American government which did the blocking but, blocked by subreddit mods.

The Dark Night Part 49

This is the penultimate post on the Dark Night of the Soul and the Spirit. I want, in this short post, to list the desires which mark the soul in the darkness of being brought closer to God. One moves beyond desire to a passivity in waiting for God, a trust in the darkness.

One could make a little prayer out of this list. These are sixteen desires, like the sixteen small tanzanites on this ring. I use this picture, as if Christ was the amethyst goal of all my desires and my small desires lead to Him.
Want to be weak in the world, made strong only in and through God.

Want to love God in silence, the silence of meditation and finally, contemplation.

Want to overcome the predominant fault and be brutally honest with one's self.

Want to become love for the sake of Love, not for one's own sake, but for God's alone,

Want all who one meets to experience not the "me" but the love of God.

Want all who one meets to experience a peace, and love even if one does or says nothing.

Want to love Christ in silent love, willing to do anything to meet Him there.

Want to live entirely on and in faith, relying on Christ alone.

Want to die with Christ, in order to live in Christ.

Want to embrace suffering.

Want to walk in the footsteps of Mary on the Way of the Cross.

Want to be in the desert of the Dark Night in order for the seven virtues to shine forth unknown.

Want the one thing that matters, be in and with Christ no matter what the obstacles.

Want to be love.

Want to love more than one receives, but know this is impossible with God.

Want to be a Bride of Christ, the Bridegroom.

Home Schooling Advice Part 27 Virtues and Concentration

The second state of the normalized child is concentration. Barring a learning disability, and in a house with no television, the normal time for a three year old to concentrate on one thing is 45 minutes.

(2) Concentration

To help such development, it is not enough to provide objects chosen at random, but we [teachers] have to organize a world of 'progressive interest' (The Absorbent Mind, p. 206)

And I add; virtues of peace, patience, diligence, temperance, purity of mind and heart, faith, hope, integrity, obedience, zeal.

What usually breaks a child's ability to concentrate is the parent herself. 

One thing about home schooling is that one cannot rush a child in early learning stages.

For example, I was making land forms with my three-year old son and he was learning vocabulary and the reality of peninsula, island, gulf, isthmus, cape, strait, bay, and lake with clay and water. There are myriad sites which tell you how to do this at home. I am delineating virtues and concentration. Now, after making and baking the clay forms, when these are dry, the child pours water into the small containers, (I used aluminium baking tins), and does this in silence first. Vocabulary and cards for labeling follow.

Well, the three-year-old wanted to do this over and over and over and over. Of course, the vocabulary was provided by me.

That is an island ....and so on.

Concentration went over an hour, and then longer. The child was basking in concentration, peace, patience (emptying the water and pouring again and so on). Zeal and integrity as well as confidence grew. Then, when I suggested it was time to do something else, the child was so happy, that he agreed. Of course, he helped clean up and obedience in that and putting away the items followed. 

But, one must give time to the natural love of learning and the natural concentration. Schools ruin these and once lost, these are almost impossible to regain.

When the Dorset Council education lady came for the first visit, as required, the child showed her the 1,000 chain which takes a long time to set up with the cards. At three and a half, he did it all by himself. She was delighted at both peace, concentration, zeal, order, confidence, and obedience.

The child showed her a portfolio of other things he had learned, such as parts of a bird, shapes, colors, numbers, and so on. I did not have to say a thing. He took her by the hand and showed her other things in the school room which he could do-I just watched.

Concentration, if not interrupted, lasts a life-time as do the virtues learned. And, when the child knows peace, he can share with others, and be charitable.

Obviously, older children helping with the younger ones teaches virtue as well. The great virtue of charity and the lesser one of generosity come when the older ones help the younger ones. Patience and hope are also encouraged by sharing and helping. The older ones cannot always see how their patience helps, but such activities build hope. 

Now, situations like illness interrupt the natural process, but not the supernatural process. The same virtues learned in doing studies pass over into other situations. 

My son contracted a serious illness at the age of nine. His life changed from one of a normal child to a child in pain and in a wheelchair off and on for four years.  For eleven years, he had health issues from that original illness. Thankfully, he was finally free of all of those. But, the virtues  the formation of patience and courage, learned in simple things, like early sensorial and practical life training, geography and math studies, helped him through harder times.

As a teacher, it was so hard for me to see students who no longer wanted to learn. Their natural gift of wanting to learn and find God had been destroyed by the school systems. 

One of the things I did was become a consultant for classical education and the Socratic method, helping schools either from scratch or change from newer forms of methodology back to classical and Socratic methods. Parents were shocked when they saw their children regain a love of learning after one half-semester.

All I did was see the drive which was latent and encourage that God-given gift. 

I have wonderful stories of even junior-high boys wanting to learn religion, Latin, and literature because the desire for learning was re-kindled in them. The same thing was done with high school students, young men and young women. All I did was fan the little sparks which became flames.

The key is respect for what God has given and cooperation with that gift.

God gives grace, but we have to cooperate with that grace. 

To be continued....

Home Schooling Advice-The Virtues Part 26 Coping with Frustration

Looking at all the possible ways of encouraging the virtues, one sees the need to create a pattern of hands-on activities and studies leading to the formation of the Catholic child.

Teaching virtues through the use of the senses and practical life skills may see obvious to most parents. When the child is learning to pour milk, he is learning patience and temperance.

When the child is learning to put his work back on the shelf, he is learning obedience, perseverance, patience, temperance. And so on....

The small chart in a previous post early yesterday shows the sensitive periods of the child's growth. In each of those, virtues can be encouraged. Remember two things: the child has the gift of the virtues from baptism, and he wants to learn these through grace and his natural hunger for God.

Learning small and large motor/muscle movements also develops patience, and in a family of more than one child, justice and mercy are soon learned as part of sharing. Indeed, charity is one of the first virtues obviously learned through sharing and selflessness.

Even pushing a chair back in under the table, and bringing dishes to the sink form the child in virtue.

I want to emphasize, however, in the next few posts the learning of virtues through the subjects the child learns before eight.

All things that the child does is for the creation of the man he will become. The parent guides that process

Let me start with language skills, such as speech, reading and writing, which I shall put under the title of Grammar.

The time for a child's sensitive period in language skills is early, between one-and-a-half and three. This process is enhanced by the parent using all the material at hand, which I said could be found on the Montessori sites. But, what I want to emphasize is the beginning of virtue formation.

How does this happen? Going back to the four abilities of the normalized child, one sees that the first is the love of learning. This is God-given and encouraged by the parents.

In language formation, the child begins by imitating the parent and other children in the house, if there are some siblings.

What the parents are doing is cooperating with nature in the development of these language skills which quickly move from speech to reading and writing. By five or six, this initial process is mostly finished with the proper tools, but I am repeating a bit here for emphasis.

1) Love of work

The first characteristic of the process of normalization is love of work. Love of work includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202). 

And I add; virtues of love, honesty, wisdom, peace, diligence, patience, zeal, perseverance. prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, rectitude, obedience, reverence, humility.

The problems occur when the parents do not cooperate with the sensitive periods or when there are outside influences which interrupt the love of work. The virtues help stem deviations. 

All children want to learn, but this is ruined early in some cases by deviations. Here is a list from this website.

There are several deviations that are not fostered by adults and are often seen as "normal" stages of development. Dr. Montessori referred to these as deviations as fugues and barriers (The Secret of Childhood) and deviations that are demonstrated by the strong and the weak (The Absorbent Mind).
  • Fugues – A fugue is when a child "runs away" from a task. While they are never still, they lack purpose. They begin a work, leave it unfinished, and rush to another.
  • Barriers – A barrier is a deviation which is strong enough to keep a child from engaging in his surroundings. It may be disguised as disobedience or obstinacy. It manifests itself as dependence, possessiveness, power struggles, feelings of inferiority, fear, lying, and psychosomatic illness.
  • Strong – Being strong means being able to overcome obstacles. When children are not strong, they are prone to aggression, violence, rage, insubordination. They can be destructive and unable to concentrate. They are termed naughty, disobedient. Dr. Montessori observed that "They have difficulty in coordinating their hands. They are generally noisy, unkind, and often greedy at the table."
  • Weak – Children who are demonstrating a deviation in the weak give in to unfavorable conditions. They cry easily, are passive, manipulative, and easily bored. Rather than do something for themselves, they exert effort in trying to get others to do it for them. They are afraid of the world around them and cling to adults.

Now, I do not need to emphasize the negative, as deviations can be controlled in most cases by virtue formation. What the parent-teacher does is gently help by emphasizing not the negative, but the opposing virtue.

For example, if a child is not still, which is abnormal and not normal, the parent needs to determine if the child has enough time for large motor movement, such as walking, dancing, playing outside and so on. Most Americans are good about such things as sport, but may not realize that simple tasks or chores can give the very young child the same needed motor movement.

The parent guides the child to the opposite of the problem through a gentle arrangement of the situation. Many parents know how to do this automatically, but if a virtue is in mind, it becomes easier.

The child's body, mind, and soul cry out for order and discipline, but never in anger from the parent, and always with patience.

For example, a two year old throws her work across the room in frustration. Ask yourself why, do not merely discipline. There is a reason for every action. Does she need more physical exercise? Is she tired? Does she not understand the work?

In homeschooling I learned a simple rule very fast, and here it is.

The biggest reason for deviant behavior is boredom.

And, here is the corrollary which must be learned by the parent.

Boredom is caused by two things-and this is very important, parents.

Boredom is caused because the child wants to learn but the material is too hard.


Boredom is caused because the child wants to learn but the material is too easy.

I learned this in Montessori teacher training and applied it to home schooling.

Pay attention to the child's real needs. 

Help the child develop patience and perseverance, moving into that love of learning, which is the first characteristic of the normalized child.

So, if the language materials are too easy, the child may be frustrated. She might not be able to say, "I know all this, Mom!"

Or, if too hard, the frustration is real as well. Go back and try other methods of showing that same skill.

And, in yourself and in the child, emphasize, even verbalize, the corresponding virtues. One can say, "Let us be peaceful and look at this....".

And pray, God inspires parents daily. 

I shall look at the other three characteristics of the normalized child in the next  several posts.

To be continued...

Home Schooling Advice Part 25 The Lost Tools of Learning

When I was teaching teachers and parents, either for classical education school start-ups, or for home schooling talks, I used Dorothy Sayer's The Lost Tools of Learning-a must for all home schooling parents.

Also, of late, I have been running into more and more young Millennials in religious or lay orders, or seminaries, who have been home schooled.

That is no accident.

The Dark Night Part 48

Drawing to a close on this series, I want to highlight a few points from St. John of the Cross.
Some of this is repetition.

One, St. David, King, went through these states and into Union with God. His psalms reference the journey, as St. John so clearly notes. If we meditate on the Psalms, one of the points of using the Breviary, we join in that process.

Two, St. John refers to Aristotle, calling him The Philosopher, as does Aquinas. In one reference, John notes that Aristotle writes in Metaphysics that the clearer and brighter are Divine things, such as infused contemplation, the darker these things seem to the soul which has not been completely purified.
St. John also refers to St. Dionysius writing of this same light and dark observation.

One commentator notes that the root of infused contemplation is darkness but that it brings light. This is not necessarily a fast process. (Kavanaugh)

Only in Union is all light.

Three, the Dark Night of the Spirit brings the experience of love into the soul, mind, will and body which has undergone purgation.  If these faculties are purified, one experiences the power of the Holy Spirit, yet unknowingly, until the Illumination State, when the Catholic becomes a powerhouse of holiness, which spills out in obviously inspired work. Such was the enduring work of SS. Benedict, Dominic, Francis, and other founders of orders and great movements, notes Garrigou-Lagrange.

Four, Grace leads one into forgetfulness of self. But only one attachment, states St. John, only one, ruins the whole process and puts the liberty of the fruits of the Spirit on hold. One attachment interferes with the experience of the true love of God.

Five, St. John of the Cross and St. Bernard state the same thing, that the Bride must go out and seek the Bridegroom. She realizes finally that she was lost and not the Groom. The poem of St. John's on the Dark Night echoes the Song of Songs, and St. Bernard's sermons that the purged and humbled Bride must seek the Groom, correspond. This is our position in the Dark Night-seeking God Who is hidden until we can bear to see Him. Here is the passage from the Bible. Song of Songs, 3: 1-3; DR

In my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and found him not.
I will rise, and will go about the city: in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and I found him not.
The watchmen who keep the city, found me: Have you seen him, whom my soul loveth?

To be continued.....

Labor Day Post