Wednesday, 25 June 2014


'...those who desire the things of the world but are worn out by the labor of adversity should be advised that they wisely consider how great it is that the Creator and Dispenser of all things watches over all those whom he does not release to their own desires. For when a physician despairs for the life of a sick man, he allows him to take anything that he desires. But if it is believed that he might be made well, he is not permitted to have many of the things he desires.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of the Pastoral Rule, p.168. 


'....the hearts of novices who are growing in their understanding of the Word cut themselves with the sword of error as they make for themselves a reputation as teachers. Therefore, when we  instruct these people not to follow perverse teachings, it is necessary that we first advice them against seeking vainglory. For if the root of pride is cut out, then the branches of false teaching will wither.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.157. 


' hate God's enemies with a perfect hatred is to love what they were made to be but to reprove what they do; in other words, to reprove the actions of the wicked but to remain of assistance to them.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.152. 


' is a perfect justice for the one who receives from the common Lord to use it for the common good.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.146. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


'Let the humble hear how the things they strive for are eternal, and the things that they despise are transitory; let the proud hear that the things that they pursue are transitory, and the things that they abandon are eternal.' 
Gregory the Great, Book of Pastoral Rule, p.131. 

Monday, 23 June 2014


''s a sort of law, if you like, of political assassination that the person you hit should be a moderate - someone who holds the prospect of improvement rather than a hardliner. Hardliners are always the friends of extremists, moderates are their worst enemies.' 
Christopher Clark, 'Sarajevo' (Episode 1 of Month of Madness), BBC Radio 4, 23rd  June 2014.  


Exhortation to Prayer

What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of pray'r,
But wishes to be often there.

Pray'r makes the dark'ned cloud withdraw,
Pry'r climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings ev'ry blessing from above.

Restraining pray'r, we cease to fight;
Pray'r makes the christian's armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel's side;
But when thro' weariness they fail'd,
That moment Amalek prevail'd.

Have you no words? ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow-creatures's ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath this vainly spent,
To heaven in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft'ner be,
"Hear what the Lord has done for me!"

William Cowper, Verse and Letters, p.153.

Friday, 20 June 2014


'If there is anything more difficult or more real than the death of one's mother, I don't know what it is.'
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, p.54.


'Seeing him somewhere was always a pleasure, like taking a drink of water.'
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, p.7.


'O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.'
Gerard Manley Hopkins. 'No worst' in The Major Works, p.167.  


'It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss - that is all. It will take the mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and this learn the whole extent of the loss. A man's house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts around for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential - there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself half balked, hampered by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of the disaster.' 
Mark Twain in Frederick Buechner, Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say): Four Who Wrote in Blood,  p.78. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


'...the kind of equality which implies that the equals are interchangeable (like counters or identical machines) is, among humans, a legal fiction. It may be a useful fiction, but in church we turn our back on fictions. One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolise to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and seminal figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.'  
CS Lewis, 'Priestesses in the Church?' in Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (Edited by Lesley Walmsley), p.401.  

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


The Contrite Heart

Isaiah, lvii, 15

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow:
Then tell me, gracious GOD, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, 'tis only pain,
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclin'd
To love thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that's good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry "My strength renew,"
Seem weaker than before.

They saints are comforted I know,
And love thy house of pray'r;
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

O make this heart rejoice, or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be.

William Cowper, Verse and Letters, p.147. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


'...often those who are overtly silent, when they suffer some injustice, develop a greater pain because they do not speak about what they endure. For if their tongues spoke calmly about what they suffered, the pain would fade from consciousness. For wounds that are enclosed are more painful. But where the pain that burns internally is released, the wound is opened for healing. They should know, therefore, that they aggravate the seriousness of their pain by withholding all speech when they become annoyed. They are to be advised, therefore, that if they love their neighbors as themselves, they should not keep silent about the things that justly deserve censure. For by the medicine of the voice, both parties can receive healing: for the one who inflicted the harm, his evil actions are checked, and the one who sustained the pain is relieved by releasing his wound.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.122. 

Monday, 9 June 2014


'The wise of the world and the dull should be advised differently. For the wise should ignore what they know, and the dull should be encouraged to learn what they do not know. For the former, the first thing to eradicate is the notion that they are intelligent. For the latter, whatever is already known of heavenly wisdom is to be encouraged because, as they do not suffer from pride, their hearts are able to sustain some building.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.98. 


'...consolation is to be offered to those who are tried by the "furnace of poverty," while fear is to be instilled in those who exalt in the consolation of temporal glory. The first are to learn that they possess riches that they do not see, and the latter are to know that they cannot truly possess the riches that they behold.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.91. 

Friday, 6 June 2014


'It should also be known that good spiritual directors desire to please others, but this is to lead their neighbors by the sweetness of their own character to an affection for the Truth. It is not because they desire to be loved, but instead because they use affection for themselves as a sort of road to introduce the hearts of their audience to the love of the Creator. For it is certainly difficult for a preacher who is not loved, regardless of how well he speaks, to be heard. The one, then, who is set over others should study how to be endearing so that he may be heard, but not so that he can be loved for its own sake.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.76.  


' is important that the spiritual director be vigilant that he is not assailed by a desire to please others, or else even though he might carefully penetrate the things of the internal life and provide what is necessary of external concerns, he seeks the love of the laity more than he seeks the Truth; or supported by his good works and appearing to be otherworldly, his love of self separates him from his Creator. For he is the enemy of the Redeemer, who through the good works that he performs desires to be loved by members of the Church rather than by him. For indeed, a servant is guilty of adulterous thoughts if he desires to please the eyes of the bride when he is sent by the groom to offer gifts.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.74. 


'Doctrine does not penetrate the mind of the needy if the hand of compassion does not commend it to the soul. But the seed of the Word grows well, when the kindness of the preacher waters it in the heart of  his audience.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.72. 


'...when he was small to himself, he was great to the Lord; but when he thought of himself as great, he became small to the Lord.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.63.


'Often...a spiritual director swells with pride by virtue of being placed in a position in a position of authority over others. Because everything serves his needs and his orders are quickly performed according to his wishes and all the laity praise him for the things he does well but have no authority to critique what goes wrong, and because they often praise what really should be rebuked, the mind of the priest is often seduced by the approval of those below him, and as a consequence, he is exalted inordinately. And while he is outwardly encircled with immense favor, internally he loses his sense of truth. Forgetful of who he is, he scatters himself among the voices of others and believes what he hears them say about him rather than what he should discern about himself from within.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.62. 


'By nature a human is superior to a brute animal, but not other humans.'
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.62. 


'...those who preside over others should exhibit a type of behavior that will lead the laity to disclose their secrets to them. Consequently, when the weak endure the waves of temptation, they will return to their pastor's counsel as a crying child seeks its mother's breast. And in the solace of his counsel and the tears of prayer, the laity will cleanse themselves of the the defilement of sin that attacks them.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.60. 


'The spiritual director should be the first in service so that by his way of life he might show the laity how to live, and so that the flock (which follows the voice and behavior of its shepherd) may advance all the better by his example than by his words alone. For indeed, the one who is compelled by his position to speak of the highest things is also compelled, by necessity, to show the highest things by example. For his voice more easily penetrates his listeners' hearts when his way of life commends what he says. Thus, what he enjoins by speaking he helps by showing how it is to be done.' 
Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, p.51. 


In honour of St Alphonsus Rodriguez

'Glory is a flame off exploit, so we say,
And those fell strokes that once scarred flesh, scored shield,
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
Record, and on the fighter forge the day.
On Christ they do, they on the martyr may;
But where war is within, what sword we wield
Not seen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.
Yet, he that hews out mountain, continent,
Earth, all, at last; who, with fine increment
Trickling, vein violets and tall trees makes more
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.'

Gerard Many Hopkins, The Major Works, p.182. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


'If you can accept the existence of a Being powerful enough to be called God - the Creator and Sustainer of the universe - why is it so difficult to believe that he would be capable of communicating authentically and clearly to his creatures? That seems a somewhat smaller matter than spinning all the electrons around all the nuclei of billions upon billions of worlds, never mind simultaneously attending to the broken hearts and crushed spirits of his sentiment creatures.' 
Kathy Keller, Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry, p.12.

Monday, 2 June 2014


'...feeling and thinking are like two hands with which we grasp the world and that together serve us in gaining knowledge. Just as without good thinking we are prone to inappropriate feelings, so without our feelings we are actually incapable of proper feeling.' 
Michael Jensen, 'On Being Moved: A Theological Anthropology of the Emotions' in True Feelings: Perspectives on emotions in Christian life and ministry,  p.182. 


'Finally I thought of one true thing, which is that sometimes I act just as juvenile as I ever did, but as I get older, I do it for shorter periods of time. I find my way back to the path sooner...' 
Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually), p.251. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014


'God has not revealed His truth in a system; the Bible has no system as such. Lay aside system and fly to the Bible; receive its words with simple submission, and without eye to any system. Be Bible Christians and not system Christians.' 
Charles Simeon in Andrew Atherstone, Charles Simeon on the Excellency of the Liturgy, p.29. 


'That the constant repetition of the same form does not forcibly arrest the attention as new sentiments and expressions would do, must be confessed: but, on the other other hand, the use of a well-composed form secures us against the dry, dull, tedious repetitions which are but too frequently the fruit of extemporaneous devotions. Only let any person be in a devout frame, and will be far more likely to have his soul elevated to heaven by the Liturgy of the Established Church, than he will by the generality of prayers which he would hear in other places of worship...' 
Charles Simeon in Andrew Atherstone, Charles Simeon on the Excellency of the Liturgy, p.25.