Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat



Well, we arrived in the Emerald Isle without trevail, and are now in the lovely town of Killareny which lies at the edge of the Ring of Kerry. Our hotel abuts the National Park, which is very nice as it means ready access to the trails that run alongside and above the lake- beyond which are some of Ireland's highest mountains.

The Ring of Kerry was spectacular. Words and pictures do not do it justice at all. The weather has alternated between horizontal driving rain to sunny and calm; the wind is usually blowing and one can usually see rain somewhere off in the distance. The rivers and lakes are in flood stage, and I have found that in Ireland mud exists everywhere, including near vertical slopes. My pants and boots have aquired quite a bit of it.

The food is alright; it's not Asia. The tea is good. It's all insanely expensive. If I ever come back to Europe I'm bringing a sleeping bag and a box of ramen noodles and a backpacking stove.

There are monastic sites, castle ruins, and churches everywhere. It's wonderful. I'm always the last to leave such things, somewhat to the consternation of my friends...

But I'm paying for my internet and nothing is cheap here, so I will end this dispatch. I hope to encounter a wireless hotspot eventually. Slainte!


Bound For The Isle of Saints

Tommorow morning at six-thirty I am scheduled to trundle off for the recently re-opened New Orleans International Airport, from whence I will embark with several companions for a forray to Ireland. We are traveling with one of our professors, and will be spending a little under two weeks in Ireland, traveling in a horseshoe from Kerry in the Southwest up to Belfast and then down to Dublin, from whence we shall return to America.

Hopefully, thanks to an abundance of Internet connections, I will be able to post commentary and possibly pictures while en route; if not, then certainly upon my return.

May God be with thee in every pass,
Jesus be with thee on every knoll,
Spirit be with thee by water's roll,
On headland, on ridge, and on grass;

Each sea and land, each moor and each mead,
Each eve's lying-down, each rising's morn,
In the wave-trough, or on foam-crest borne,
Each step which thy journey doth lead.

Are There Any Other Arms

"Indeed, apart from Scripture's utterances, are there any other arms with which we who oppose the devil may defend the liberty given us by God? For there we learn from the examples of the Lord himself and his saints- more clearly than from a light- by what tacticts the wars against vices are to be won. But the Philistines deprive Israel's sons of their armsmakers when evil spirits hinder the minds of the faithful from meditation on sacred reading by so preoccupying them with wordly affairs that the faithful may neither gain the confidence to resist the vices, which comes by training in this meditation, nor arouse by exhortation and reproof those others to do so who cannot read. They carry off armsmakers when evil spirits mire Holy Scripture's students so deeply in sins that they grow utterly ashamed to declare the good things that they have learned."

St. Bede, Thirty Questions on the Book of Kings, Q. 30


The Forgotten (In the West) Killer

From World Magazine: Kill or Be Killed:

In Africa, mosquitoes go blood hunting after dusk. They often drift in through open windows or doors, but any crack or crevice will do. Inside, they sniff out their prey: a mother scrubbing pots after dinner, a child's ankles as she finishes her homework.

Bedtime is the best time for feeding. Through the quiet darkness comes a mosquito's reedy whine when it zips past your ear. But in Africa mosquitoes mean more than itchy bites; just one can bring death through malaria. And trillions breed anywhere there is fresh standing water, even puddles.


From the Washington Post: Look Who's Ignoring Science Now:

The Ugandans know perfectly well that DDT can help them: As Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute recently testified to Congress, DDT spraying in one part of the country in 1959 and 1960 reduced the prevalence of malaria from 22 percent to less than 1 percent. Ugandans also know the record in South Africa, where the cessation of DDT spraying in 1996 allowed the number of malaria cases to multiply tenfold and where the resumption of spraying in 2000 helped to bring the caseload down by almost 80 percent.

So the Ugandans, not unreasonably, would like to use DDT. But in February the European Union waved an anti-scientific flag at them. The Europeans said Uganda might need to institute a new food monitoring program to assuage the health concerns of their consumers, even though hundreds of millions have been exposed to DDT without generating any solid evidence that the chemical harms people. The E.U. proposal might constitute an impossible administrative burden on a poor country. Anti-malaria campaigners say that other African governments are wary of even considering DDT, having seen what Uganda has gone through.


This Was Taken From Us, But Jesus Renewed It

“The humble man approaches ravening beasts, and when their gaze rests upon him, their wildness is tamed. They come up to him as to their Master, wag their heads and tails and lick his hands and feet, for they smell coming from him that same scent that exhaled from Adam before the fall, when they were gathered together before him and he gave them names in Paradise. This was taken away from us, but Jesus has renewed it, and given it back to us through His Coming. This it is which has sweetened the fragrance of the race of men.”

St. Isaac the Syrian, Homily 77, Ascetical Homilies

“For it is no wonder that every creature should obey his wishes, who so faithfully, and with his whole heart, obeyed the great Author of all creatures. But we for the most part have lost our dominion over the creation that has been subjected to us, because we neglect to obey the Lord and Creator of all things.”

St. Bede, Life of St. Cuthbert

In the lives of the saints a recurring motif is that of the saint’s close association with and understanding of nature. It is a thread that runs through numerous hagiographies, in many forms, and goes back arguably into the biblical narrative. These stories are usually dismissed by moderns as superstitious, and rather pointless- what service to humanity or one’s spirituality is done by receiving obeisance from crows or tending to an injured lion? And at first reading it is hard not find them not only difficult to believe, but quite, for lack of a better word, childish. Yet one may find in these often charming and almost magical stories deep theological implications; they reveal first the brokenness of the world and man’s place in it, and the possibility of redemption, redemption not limited to man, but extending through him to the whole created order.

While one may find examples in many saints’ lives, for our purposes let us restrict ourselves to Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert. St. Cuthbert flourished in Northumbria during the seventh century, as bishop and monastic. Bede records a number of miracles that the saintly bishop performs, and many of them involve nature, especially animals.

First, we should consider what is meant by miracle. Miracles are regarded with either outright rejection or extreme suspicion by most today, and their presence in medieval accounts is always a difficult point of contact for modern minds. Yet for the medieval person, miracles represented much more than remarkable manifestations of God’s power simply for the sake of being seen. Miracles are, as the Greek word indicates, ‘sign events,’ manifestations of God’s power that have a specific meaning. They have the same function in saints’ lives, though their exact meaning is not always immediately evident. They demonstrate something about the order of the world and God's operation in it. Ultimately all miracles are calls to repentance. They manifest God to the world, while also showing the brokenness of the world. We may see this in the Gospel accounts: Christ heals the sick, drives out demons, calms the angry sea, feeds the hungry- all acts of bringing healing, of binding up what is broken in the world, of righting a wrong. Each one serves as a sign of what Christ was- is- doing in the world as a whole. They are, as C. S. Lewis once noted, localized miracles flowing from and pointing to the one great miracle: Christ’s Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension; the true repairing of the world.

In the lives of the saints we see the same principle. Miracles are enacted words revealing the power of God through its very operation. What then of the miraculous animal stories? St. Bede leads us to it in the passage quoted above. If we were to confront Bede with the implausibility of these stories, he would probably agree: but he would stipulate that the reason they sound implausible is because we are fallen from the original dominion we had while in communion with God. Nature is severed from us and we are at enmity with it. Adam’s fall caused not only an ontological separation between himself and God, but between himself and other people, and between himself and the whole of creation. In the saints this ontological divide is reversed; their close communion with God removes the animosity and ontological separation intrinsic to fallen man.

In The Life of St. Cuthbert, the first miraculous event with animals is one in which St. Cuthbert had been praying in the sea off of Lindisfarne all night, one of the monks secretly watching him. After some time he comes up on to the shore and began praying. The narrative continues, saying, “Whilst he was doing this, two quadrupeds, called otters, came up from the sea, and, lying down before him on the sand, breathed upon his feet, and wiped them with their hair after which, having received his blessing, they returned to their native element.” Two things about the saint are revealed here: first, the manner in which animals willingly approach him and do him service. This is a direct reversal of the postdiluvial passage in which God says to- fallen- man, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.” (Genesis 9:2) This dread clearly stems from man’s fall; earlier in Genesis we are told how God brought each animal to Adam for Adam to name. With the fall the created order no longer has the same connection with man, for man forfeits his closeness to God, from which the connection with the natural order stems. But in the saint this ontological fall is shown to be overcome able, through union with Christ in prayer and humility- the last aspect in particular being greatly emphasized by St. Cuthbert.

We are also told that St. Cuthbert blessed the otters, showing that the saint does not see creation as mere means of utility, but invests in it love and care. His love for creation flows from his possessing dominion from God, Who is love and care towards all His creatures: “Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord” (Psalm 36:6). Man’s dominion must be dominion in imitation of the humble Lordship of God, Who deigned to die for His creation, man, upon the Cross.

Later in the account, Bede relates a story in which St. Cuthbert and a young man, Cuthbert’s attendant, were on a journey preaching the Gospel in remote villages of Northumbria. Because of the remoteness of the region, the young man began to worry whether they would have anything to eat that evening. Cuthbert admonished him not to worry; if God so willed he could send an eagle to bring them food. A little further along they came to a river, and on its bank was an eagle with a large fish. The young man went and took it from the eagle, but was reproved by St. Cuthbert: “What have you done, my son? Why have you not given part to God's handmaid? Cut the fish in two pieces, and give her one, as her service well deserves.” They then took their half of the fish and walked to the next village, where they cooked and shared their bounty, making “an excellent repast, and gave also to their entertainers, whilst Cuthbert preached to them the word of God, and blessed Him for his mercies.”

This story is meant to especialy emphasize God’s providence in supplying His servants, and demonstrates the proper response of His servants to His gift of creation. Cuthbert saw the eagle as the “handmaiden” of the Lord and of His servants, and therefore deserving of her fair share. The food they received in thanks and shared with the villagers, along with the word of God, receiving and further giving creation eucharistically, in imitation of Christ, both in His becoming man and entering into creation as the Second Adam, and in His instituting the Eucharist.

In the remaining stories of St. Cuthbert’s interaction with nature we see the same principles. Cuthbert is able to exercise a grace-given dominion over creation because he has returned to God. He is restored to holiness, which enables him to approach the natural world in imitation of God. This holiness, the sanctity of the saint, is seen to be something that is perceptible even to animals, for it is an ontological feature of the saint, he having been brought back to communion with God, and thus to communion with the natural order as well. Upon receiving back the natural world he re-offers it to God in blessing and thanksgiving, as Christ did throughout His ministry on earth, fulfilling the role Adam failed to fulfill. Cuthbert, in union with Christ, is re-made a priest after the example of Christ, and relates the world back to God, whether in the act of preaching the Gospel or proffering a blessing upon a pair of otters on the ocean-side. Having been brought back to harmony with God in Christ, man may now be brought back into loving harmony with himself, with his fellow man, and with the entire creation, instead of the enmity and separation of sin.

Thus the stories of the saints and animals are ultimately stories of Christ re-making man. In Christ we can come back into the divine harmony, through union with Him, back into his God-given dominion in humility, back to closeness to the natural world. To quote St. Isaac the Syrian from above, “This was taken away from us, but Jesus has renewed it, and given it back to us through His Coming. This it is which has sweetened the fragrance of the race of men.”

St. Cuthbert and the Eagle


Inconvenience and Adventure

"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered."

G.K. Chesterton, On Running After Ones Hat


St. Kenneth of Kilkenny

 Troparion of St Cainnech tone 8 In honour thou dost rank with Ireland's Enlightener,/ O Lover of the Desert, Composer of sacred verse,/ Father of Monks and Founder of Monasteries, O Father Cainnech./ Labouring for Christ, both in thy native land and in Scotland,/ thou art a tireless intercessor for the faithful. Pray for us who hymn thee, that despite our frailty we may be granted great mercy.From the Celt-Saints E-Group:

Born at Glengiven (Derry), Ireland, c. 515-527; died at Aghaboe ("the ox's field") in Laois, c. 599. According to the tradition Saint Kenneth was the son of a scholar-poet, who became a pupil of Saint Finnian (f.d.December 12) at Clonard. He may have gone with Saints Kieran (f.d.September 9), Columba (f.d. June 9), Comgall (f.d. May 11) on mission to Saint Mobhi (f.d. October 12) at Glasnevin, preached for a time in Ireland. When plague scattered the community, Canice became a monk under Saint Cadoc (f.d. September 25) at Llancarfan, Wales, where he was ordained.

Canice was a close friend of Saint Columba whom he accompanied on a visit to King Brude of the Picts at Inverness, because he was of the Pictish race and spoke the language. Thus, he assisted Columba in establishing his base at Iona, where there was once a Killchainnech. He served similarly in introducing Comgall at Lismore. For a time Canice worked in the Western Isles and on the mainland of Scotland, where he is known as Kenneth. A number of place names and old dedications confirm his presence in Scotland, notably the islet called Inch Kenneth in Mull. He founded churches on Tiree, South Uist, Coll, and Kintyre. He was the first person to build a church at Saint Andrews, then known as Rigmond. As Aengus records, "Aghaboe was his principal church and he has a Recles (monastery) at Kill-Rigmonaig in Alba." The Irish abbot of Rigmond, Riaghail or Regulus, whom some believe to have been a 4th-century Greek monk named Rule, carried the relics of the apostle Saint Andrew (f.d. November 30) to Rigmond. But the relics were not acquired until 736, at which time the name was changed to Saint Andrews.

When he returned to Ireland he founded the monastery of Aghaboe in Ossory, c. 577. Other foundations included Drumahose in Derry and Cluain Bronig in Offaly. Saint Canice is said also to have had a foundation at Kilkenny. That city is named after Canice, who was the titular patron of the Brethren of Saint Kenneth.

Canice copied a manuscript of the four Gospels. He was known as an effective preachers, when, according to the saint, he was divinely illuminated by God.

Canice is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and patron of Kennoway in Fife.

Like other Irish monastics saints, Canice periodically lived as a hermit and enjoyed the close communion such a life afforded with nature.

"Another time when Saint Cainnic was in hidden retreat in solitude, a stag came to him, and would hold the book steady on his antlers as the Saint read on. But one day, startled by a sudden fear, he dashed into flight without the abbot's leave, carrying the book still open on his antlers; but thereafter, like a fugitive monk to his abbot, the book safe and unharmed still open on his antlers, he returned" (Plummer).

Lord Have Mercy

"For minutes I thought I had died," he said, describing how he passed out. "But after gaining consciousness, I looked around and saw a friend of mine lying near me."

Qureshi's hands suffered deep cuts when hit by falling debris, but he climbed through a hole in the wall to safety, dragging his friend behind him. He said he believed the other students in his class were critically injured or killed.

The teenager's ordeal was not over. He rushed home but found only a pile of rubble. His parents and grandmother were dead.

A day after the disaster, he sat on the rubble of his school building, still in his school uniform because all his possessions were gone.

"There is nobody who can help me save my classmates," he said. "Is there anybody who can help me?"


Meditation on the Prodigal Son

“Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.”

St. Luke 15:13-16
The Prodigal Son has taken his share of the inheritance from his Father, and is now journeying away from his Father’s House into the “far country.” First it would be noted that upon leaving the Father’s House the inheritance, glorious as it must be, is of no good use to the son once he has departed. Taken from the presence of the Father the inheritance cannot really help him. So it is with us: we may have many gifts and graces bestowed on us by God, whether they be ‘natural’ graces of intellect or ability, or even those gifts of grace that God bestows upon His children as especial and unique favours. But remove them from their end and goal in God, take them out of His House, His divine community, and they cease to be of any real use. So it is with anything one possesses in this world. And so we see the young man taking what he has into the far country.

The far country: it is a place alien to the Father’s House, by its very designation. It is in fact foreign to the young man himself; he does not belong there. Yet he finds that with his possessions, which he now uses for himself, he can support himself for a time. He is “reckless” in his living, it says, for in carrying his inheritance to the far country he ceases to use it within reason. Sin is the corruption of a good; it is a determinedly irrational action, for it violates the order that God has made the universe in. It contradicts God Himself, Who is the very Logos, the Maker of the universe. Thus the young man squanders his property for he turns it to the wrong uses. He tries to make himself a citizen of this city, and fulfill himself in it. But he cannot.

Instead, he “spends everything.” All his resources are wasted; and since he is away from Home, he cannot replenish them. They cease because he has left his Father. Now he finds himself “in need.” He experiences an existential crisis, so to speak, which only increases until he reaches his great epiphany; for he is caught in a “severe famine.” This famine is the ultimate emptiness of that “far country,” alienated from God, alienated from the good, alienated from any sense of true fulfillment. It is a hungry land, for it has rejected God. Why is the famine said to suddenly strike? Was it not always there? It was, in a sense, but the young man and his companions were able to stave it off through their limited resources. Man entertains himself and distracts himself, desperately (though he hardly knows or acknowledges it) seeking to escape the famine. He ignores it through means of money, sex, power, food, drink, entertainment, whatever can fill his mind. He surrounds himself with pleasures and noises, not so much because he truly enjoys them, but because without them he would succumb immediately to the famine.

So the young man is caught in the midst of the famine. He has expended all that he took from his Father’s House; he must place himself at the mercy of the citizens of the far country. However, he finds in them none of the love and abundance of his Father’s House. Instead, he is sent to feed pigs. He remains hungry, for the people of that place “gave him nothing.” Why? For two reasons: first, they truly have nothing to give. They also are empty people, even if they possess the goods of the world. Second, it is not in their manner to give: the young man’s money has disappeared, and so has his importance and worth in the world. For the system of the far country sees humans in terms of “use” and varying degrees of importance. It is a system which allows for the murder of the unborn, for the ignoring of the elderly, for apathy towards the oppressed. It is concerned only with self. The young man is now at the low point of his existential despair, down in the bottom of the pig-pen, but the citizens of the world will not, cannot offer him anything.

But it is at this point, where he is gripped by the depths of the famine’s hunger, that he is finally able to “come to himself.” There are no more distractions; the only noise he can hear is the slopping of pigs, and it is through this undignified silence that he finally hears the voice of reason beating in himself. He cannot escape the despair of his situation; the nagging dissatisfaction he had always had could not be sated with wine, women, or song: the whole artifice he had bought into, wasted his Father’s property in, is now exposed in its emptiness. He is hungry, and there is nothing else to fill him.

“But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."'And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.”

St. Luke 15:17-24
We all know the conclusion of the young man’s story. The young man does at last come to his sense; he rises up from the pig-sty and journeys back to his Father. The emptiness of the world into which he wandered, seeking fulfillment, has at last been laid fully bare before him. He realizes his great need and finally gives in to it. He returns to God, and is met with open arms. Where the citizens of the world had met him with further emptiness the Father meets him with all his riches and honor; where the citizens of the world had drawn away from him when the famine came, the Father welcomes him with the fullness of love. The citizens of the far country are distant, offering nothing; the Father feels compassion and kisses his son, immediately removing the alienation and separation. The story does not end at the existential dead-end; it unfolds instead into a “eucatastrophe” in which the young man does not remain in the deadness, the emptiness of the far country, but is brought back to life- he was “dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” There is a happy reversal- he is resurrected from the death of sin into the life of the Father’s House. The love and fullness of God triumphs.


Che Guevera

Ten Shots at Che Guevera. Why Communist chic is accepted in certain elements of our society is beyond me- no, actually, it's not, because certain elements of our society choose to ignore all the attrocities commited in the name of Communism. They comfortably ignore the attrocities of Communist regimes, both those past and the ongoing ones, and yet expect to maintain some sort of moral imperative when attacking US foreign policies. Grrr...