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The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen, bringing the events and encounters of your day to prayer, is an ancient practice exhorted nigh universally among the Catholic spiritual writers I've read. Those who write about the Examen consider it an indispensable tool of growth in the spiritual life, and so all should strive to make it a part of their spiritual exercises. As such, it is one of the spiritual practices to be done by Servants of the Secret Fire.

The examen is sometimes also referred to as the Examination of Conscience, but I tend to avoid that term when talking about the Daily Examen, for the Examination of Conscience is a term I associate with preparation for Sacramental Reconciliation. One should make a thorough examination of one's conscience, especially with regard to one's sins before Reconciliation, and reflecting on one's sins is a part of the Daily Examen, but it is not limited to that, while the Examination of Conscience before Reconciliation would not include all that the …
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Ah, Hell!

When Jesus is asked  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answers “Strive to enter through the narrow door" nicely dodging the question for those who love precision about such things. (Lk 13:23 & 24) John in his vision strives to see how many have been saved while granted a glimpse of heaven, but is likewise thwarted a census when the number is that "which no one could count." (Rev 7:9) Was it a small fraction of the seething multitude of the total human population over time? Was it everybody? No straight answers are offered.

Stuck in our desire to be in the know about who and how many will be saved, we're often presented with two viewpoints well illustrated by two early theologians. Origen erred on the side of Universalism, that in the long run EVERYBODY gets saved (apokatastasis), even the fallen angels, including Satan. So powerful is God's mercy and the saving power of the Cross that no creature can resist it. This opinion was condemned by the Ch…

Catechism philology

Terms or phrases from the Catechism of the Catholic Church the editors wanted to make sure you knew in Hebrew [Hb], Greek [Gk] or Latin [Lt]. Aeiparthenos - [Gk] the "Ever-virgin", title of Mary (CCC 499) Akathist - [Gk] hymn of praise in the Eastern Liturgies (CCC 2678) animi cruciatus - [Lt] (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart) (CCC 1431) auriga virtutum - [Lt] "the charioteer of the virtues"; i.e. Prudence (CCC 1806) bara - [Hb] the verb "create" - always has God for its subject (CCC 290) basileia - [Gk] can be translated by "kingship" but often translated Kingdom, as in "Kingdom [basileia] of God" (CCC 2816) Dominicus character - [Lt] "the seal of the Lord" (on us) (CCC 1274) Ecclesia domestica - [Lt] "the domestic church" i.e. the family (CCC 1656) epiousios - [Gk] (epi-ousios) "super-essential"; translated as "daily" in the Lord's Prayer. The Catechism points out i…

Prayer in Benson's Lord of the World

Fascinated by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson's description of Fr Percy's prayer in The Lord of the World. [H]e hid his face in his hands, drew a couple of breaths, and set to work.  He began, as his custom was in mental prayer, by a deliberate act of self-exclusion from the world of sense. Under the image of sinking beneath a surface he forced himself downwards and inwards, till the peal of the organ, the shuffle of footsteps, the rigidity of the chair-back beneath his wrists--all seemed apart and external, and he was left a single person with a beating heart, an intellect that suggested image after image, and emotions that were too languid to stir themselves. Then he made his second descent, renounced all that he possessed and was, and became conscious that even the body was left behind, and that his mind and heart, awed by the Presence in which they found themselves, clung close and obedient to the will which was their lord and protector. He drew another long breath, or two, …

Become all Flame

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office. I fast a little. I pray. I meditate. I live in peace and as far as I can. I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up, stretched his hands towards heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
 --Sayings of the Desert Fathers (tr. Benedicta Ward)


The Rather Unextraordinary Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By tradition August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the 22 was once celebrated as the feast of her Immaculate Heart before it was moved to correspond with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. The feast thus would have been celebrated as the octave of her Assumption (Aug 15). Scripture connects these feasts, for Christ told us Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be, and Mary’s greatest treasure was the Kingdom of her Son. With her treasure firmly in Heaven, Mary’s human heart—along with the rest of her body—could not but be drawn up by God into the celestial abode.
Even the little insight into Mary’s inner life the Gospels offer reveals untold depths of love for God and a soul loved by God. Mary’s heart is full of grace and perfectly conformed to the will of God: I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Her heart ever proclaims the greatness of the Lord and exults in God her Savior. The events of her son’s life, she cont…

Traditional Monkeys: Received Wisdom and "The Five Monkeys Experiment"

In which the pilgrim wonders at the strange misreading skeptics give a modern fable, pontificates about the discernment and value of Catholic Tradition and traditions, and sings along with Tevye.

The Pilgrim ran across this contemporary fable today: The Five Monkeys Experiment An experimenter puts 5 monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.  The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.  The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey …