Monthly Archives: June 2015

Spiritual Direction

We read in the Chronicles of St Francis, that a secular asked a good religious, why St John Baptist, having been sanctified in his mother’s womb, should retire to the desert, and lead there such a penitential life as he did. The good religious answered him, by first asking this question: pray why do we throw salt upon meat that is fresh and good? To keep it the better, and to hinder it from corruption, replied the other. The very same answer I give you, says the religious, concerning the Baptist; he made use of penance as of salt, to preserve his sanctity from the least corruption of sin as holy Church sings of him, “that purity of his life might not be tarnished with the least breath.” Now, if in time of peace, and when we have no temptation to fight against, it is very useful to exercise our bodies by penance and mortification, with how much more reason ought we do so in time of war, when encompassed with enemies on all side? St Thomas, following Aristotle’s opinion, says that the word chastity is derived from “chastise,” inasmuch as by chastising the body we subdue the vice opposite to chastity; and also adds, that the vices of the flesh are like children, who must be whipped into their duty, since they cannot be led to it by reason. –St Alphonsus Rodriguez ‘The Practice of Christian and Religious Perfection’.

Chastise: 1. To discipline, especially by corporal punishment. 2. To criticize severely. 3. Archaic to restrain; chasten. 4. Archaic. To refine; purify.

St Alphonsus Rodriguez writes guidance for the religious, yet I find his harsh, demanding perspective practical in contemplative pursuits as a layperson, while also touching upon a consideration into living a fully consecrated life. We are either fully in, or we are out. No dabbling. This is not a game of casualness, times of allowing explorations into the secular and nonreligious without salting ourselves. If we are not fully in, we must respect those fully in. Consideration and kindness are deeper than being casual and brash. Defenses must be up, ramparts in place, when journeying through life. I am reading a novel, ‘All We Know of Heaven” by Remy Rougeau, a Canadian Benedictine monk writing about a nineteen year old entering a Cistercian monastery. The novel captures me with its concise matter-of-fact, drab delivery; a boringness to the entire endeavor that pleases. Brutally honest realism, I suppose, with respect to Thomas Merton’s ‘Seven Story Mountain’. Poignantly ironic, I find the work of fiction realistic, and the biography delusional. In the novel there is not an underlying need for the author to establish himself as a recognized intellectual, an academic authority, a pop culture religious/literary celebrity. This is simply a monk telling a simple story. There is no great exploration of larger than life ideals, no religious history, nor romanticizing through flowery language, no desiring to expose the mystical and supernatural (a criticism I should consider reflectively), no tendency toward psychological self-absorbing introspections, no exposing of one’s inner-most being, no long sentences—saying so many things in a quick spewing. It is a simple realistic view into the occurrences within the life of a young man entering a Canadian Trappist monastery. Ordinary, yet set apart, an original thing in the world. Things can be defined by what they are not. “He walked into the house (his parent’s home after a week at the monastery) and felt as though he had returned from a foreign country; the television seemed a very odd contraption.”

No time, and thoughts are not coming out. I was aiming for the idea that God did not sacrifice His Son over two thousand years ago, and aside from the Church, basically disappear from the ways of man accidently. A God of order, there is a divine plan in place. It is difficult, demanding penance, mortification, and dedication, obviously trust and confidence, as well as obedience and surrender, the following of the ways of the Church if serious depth is to be achieved. Within and through the ordinary, the boring and mundane, we come into actualization, yet the process is difficult, the ways of the saints rigorous, brutal, and nearly impossible in regards to application.  Divine assistance please subtly abide. The extraordinary existing within the ordinary takes a fine process of revealing; romantic traps, emotional enticements, egotistical needs, the desire for intellectual gratification, artistic expression, boredom, and the flesh are always posed for a gradual or immediate devouring.  Not sure I am pleased with this entry, struggling personally with respect to perfection and longing for Ann–some days are difficult, yet never will I fully concede defeat, for as St Liguori teaches, the greatest defeat is to lose hope. My friend with the Catholic bookstore has a sign above her front door, above a holy water dispenser, ‘All yee who enter, abandon despair’. Always through faith, hope, charity and GRADUALNESS within fortitude, perseverance, and understanding–‘gratefulness for progress achieved’ maintained as a driving force, I move forward. To dabble or sit casually still is to die.  The sitting still must be done with precise purpose, adorably and prayerfully in the presence of the Eucharist. Dentist appointment this morning, natural world calls, salting performed.

All We Know of Heaven


Our Lady of the Pines retreat

Sometimes God is quick to the call.  This morning amidst sunshine, my secret garden providing pleasure upon a walk, a call from Our Lady of Pines in Fremont, Ohio established a retreat for my off week following the celebration of a nation’s independence on July the 4th.  The conversation effused from surrounding ambiance, men thinning out neighboring trees–deconstructing a small forest, attention to individual trees fallen, a toddler following the example of his sister exploring spraying fountains of water wonder, dogs leashed and walking, children enjoying tennis lessons, and for me a religious sister edifying, informing me there was a week of spiritual direction scheduled for the week I inquired upon.  I love when within conversation words pour forth.  The task being the containing rather than the thinking.  She tells she is going to set-up a special dormitory room for me.  She promises I will love it.  The week of spiritual direction has been planned for some time, all sisters conducting the directing.  The week will be a focus upon individuals revealing God’s plans for them through silence, reflection, and counsel.  There seems to be a concentration upon feminine spirituality, although the sister says not to fear, recognizing a difference between men and woman pursuing faith.  We determined spiritual direction for me will be conducted upon exploration.  The idea of me exploring a private retreat amongst the conductors of the spiritual directing week concretized.  That week there is a priest conducting a private retreat.  She is going to speak to him about spending time with me.  Thy will be done.  I am excited.  Speculating, I anticipate a near dozen sisters with thirty-two retreatants.  Walking at Cain Park, excitement blossomed.  Hopefully sounding strange, an artist whose work I have been viewing online inspired a vision, a visualization, colorful flowers bursting forth in a river from my heart was the expression of joy I felt upon a week of spiritual concentration.  The writing, ‘Man Tower’, picked up this morning.  Possibly, properly, alignment allowing, serious work can be conducted during my week at Our Lady of the Pines.  Some images I provide, allowing imaginative touching upon the story, black and whites from Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’, a cherished movie in my realm of influences.  The photos of the traveling carnival family paying tribute to a vacationing Romanian family very dear and close to my heart.

seventh_seal1_rgbThe wonderful circus family, inspiration to Gabriel, Calin, and Lavinia. Acrobat Jof, holding his son, is a dreamer, a lover of life, a circus performer, a writer of songs and poems, a tumbler extraordinaire, a man who is so in love with the idea of visions he is continually making them up.  The only problem is when he finally does have a vision of Our Holy Mother, his wife only laughs, loving him even more for all the visions he details.  Acrobat Jof is not dismayed, only desiring to sing an unfinished song and enjoy his son.    seventh-seal-126The world-weary squire, Jons, demonstrating his humor and penetrating insight, comments upon one who turned out to be a corpse. Antonius Block, the Templar Knight, chess combatant to the grim reaper, sent his quick-witted squire to question a man seated upon the beach.  Encountering the seated one, the squire confronted a skeleton.
seventh-seal-517seventh-seal-122A wonderful medieval song and dance performance by Acrobat Jof and his wife Mia is interrupted in this video clip by a doomsday procession singing Dies Irea (coincidentally enough a poem credited to Thomas of Celano).  In the opening of ‘Man Tower’, the procession following the debauchery of the child bishop being marched through the streets of Assisi, an actual medieval tradition of drunken excess the church would eventually ban, is based upon the procession in Bergman’s film.  I wish there were subtitles for the fire and brimstone sermon–the fiery words point to the Black Plague as a curse from God for the wicked ways of man.  Repent NOW the message. I am intrigued by Bergman’s cinematic effect of having the end times spiritual marauders vanishing from the earth, their chanting continuing.



Loving fellowship

Reviewing Thomas of Celano’s ‘Life of St Francis’, exhausted from a personal poisoning–spiritual draining, content within the simplicity of sitting before the Eucharist (leaving my wallet in the pew–made aware by Andrew), today’s post will idealize the Christian fellowship shared by the first friars. I feel God has wiped clean my world, creating space, allowing grace, demanding patience, trust, contentment, not the shallow filling of emptiness due to brokenness, vanity or shame. In order for a higher calling to endure, I must prove I can sit silently still, amassing love within a sanctified pace, virtuous and proud, unwanting while longing, purposefully a better crowd will divinely emerge. May we always inspire and uplift our brothers and sisters in Christ. I learned today I will have the week, following the 4th weekend, off due to customer shutdowns. I am trying to put together a week-long retreat, centering upon someplace fresh and new. In the process of searching, I discovered a discalced Carmelite monastery, Holy Family, right in my front yard. Thy will be done. A quick poem concludes. I also expanded yesterday’s Thomas of Celano quote. It truly is interesting when considering St Francis’ upbringing. By societal standards his childhood was above average in every manner. His parents were attentive, loving, and providing. Possibly perceived as an overly-critical and harsh summation by Brother Thomas, I propose, thus the juxtaposition, the Deuteronomy quote, the Shema, must be used to illuminate proper perspective. Eternity is at stake. Therefore standards for measuring proper child raising are based upon such severity.

For holy simplicity had so filled them, innocence of life was so teaching them, purity of heart so possessed them that they were utterly ignorant of duplicity of mind. For as they were one in faith so they were one in spirit, one in will, one in charity: agreement in disposition, harmonious behavior, the practice of the virtues, conformity of mind and piety in action ever prevailed among them…

Early friars

Early friars

I surrender, voiced internally,
A new love found, authentic authority, full fledged,
Beyond the twofold nature, primary colors blend within trichromatic vision,
Duplicity returning, unkind in regret, centered upon One in being three, colorful,
Tired of waging, progressing into peace and gentleness, disposition flowers,
No place to be, no one to be, no one to meet, no one…
Heaven sent, happy and content, four corners, a cross, a cloud amidst,
Bountiful prayer, the refined creating of interior space,
Victory at last, conceding, relieving.

And Brother Juniper answered: “When I feel the approach of a diabolical suggestion, I run at once and shut the door of my heart, and, to secure its safety, I occupy myself in holy desires and devout meditations; so that when the suggestion comes and knocks at the door of my heart, I may answer from within: `Begone; for the room is already taken, and there is no space for another guest’; and so I never suffer the thought to enter my heart; and the devil, seeing himself baffled, retires discomfited, not from me alone, but from the whole neighborhood.  –Little Flowers


Our Lady Undoer of Knots, day 7

Immaculate Virgin Mary from Whom countless graces flow for your children, the Hope of all who are afflicted, I stand before You to ask You to undo this knot (…) and also the knots that I sub-consciously have, that are the daily cause of my unhappiness, impeding me from praise, joy, and the desire to sow the seeds of goodness, but most of all, they keep me far from my God

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for me!

Consider the depth and ramifications of the petition to Our Lady. We place immense trust in her wisdom and insight. She perceives us as God sees us, understanding our deepest subconscious entanglements, knowing us in ways no psychologist could, able to untie us in ways nothing earthly can. She sees us as the infant we entered the world as, as the baby crying in our imperfect earthly mother’s arms, receiving the kisses of our earthly father’s lips as a baby. We were innocent, even though tainted with original sin, and God is pure love, comprehending all. He blessed Our Holy Mother with divine insight. Consider this quote from the opening of Thomas of Celano’s biography of St Francis, keeping in mind Francis’ parents were upstanding thriving Christian parents. Pietro may get a bad rap for being materialistic, yet overall he was a loving and caring father. Contrast Brother Thomas’ words with one of the most powerful quotes of scripture following.

There was in the city of Assisi, which stands on the borders of the valley of Spoleto, a man named Francis, who from his earliest years was brought up by his parents frowardly, according to the vanity of the world, and, by long imitation of their wretched life and conduct he became himself still more vain and froward. For this wicked custom has so taken root everywhere among those who bear the Christian name, and this pernicious doctrine is everywhere so settled and established as though by public law, that men purposely bring up their children even from the cradle with excessive carelessness and laxity. For at first, when we are beginning to speak or rather to lisp, little children only just born are taught by signs and sounds certain very shameful and detestable things, and when they are weaned they are forced not only to say but even to do actions full of lust and wantonness. Being compelled by the fear which is natural to their age, not one of them dares to behave virtuously, for this subjects them to harsh punishments. Well, therefore, says a secular poet, “Because we have grown up amid our parents’ practices, therefore [even] from childhood all evils pursue us.” This witness is true, for the more fully the parents’ wishes have been realized, the more harmful is it for their children. But after all, when the children are a little older they always fall into worst conduct still, of their own impulse. For a corrupt tree grows from a corrupt root, and what has once been thoroughly depraved can scarce be brought back to the rule of uprightness. But when they have begun to enter the gates of youth what manner of persons think you that they become? Then indeed, plunging into every kind of debauchery (since they are free to fulfil all their pleasure) they give themselves over with all their might to the service of wickedness. For, having thus become by voluntary servitude the slaves of sin, they yield all their members as instruments for iniquity, and, showing forth nothing of the Christian religion in their life and conduct, shelter themselves under the mere name of Christianity.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. –Deuteronomy

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

Our Lady Undoer of Knots


Discernment: to be or not to be….

I am trying to resume a story, yet when I sit down to work I feel so tired, distracted, unable to move forward.  I am not sure in regards to contemplative efforts how this all fits in.  Whether I should abandon the idea of writing or continue forward.  It also has to do with recovery efforts and the fact the story evolved into severe drinking.  Commencing the story during months of sobriety everything collapsed into demented isolated suicidal drinking.  I have always been convinced that the majority of those centering their identity upon creative efforts annihilate their soul in the process.  The desperate insecure need to become somebody of importance destroys the ability to mature and blossom spiritually.  I am still not sure about myself.  Where St John of the Cross and others teach us that the wisest act many can conduct with respect to spiritual growth is doing nothing, we tend to busy ourselves to the greatest degree.  Amassing complexity upon complexity onto brokenness, the chance of unraveling ourselves becomes only more difficult with the advancement of deeds.  I have always viewed the desert fathers as wise in their doing of nothing.  It takes a great man to do nothing, concentrating energy and being upon spiritual growth, content in the nonattainment of a worldly identity.  I have decided to post the opening of the story, a precise private motivation. I have made previous postings from the story.  The truth of humanity is contained within so there is vulgarity and brutality.  The squeamish of heart and mind should stop reading if affronted.  The italicized text is scripture taken from Thomas of Celano’s ‘Life of St Francis’ (first book).  My story is set during the life of St Francis.  The idea of the italicized text is a divine proceeding throughout the telling.  I have always found the biography by Thomas of Celano to be a spiritual manuscript in and of itself.  I pay homage by utilizing the incredible breadth of scripture employed by the religious author.  May God have mercy if my intent is perverse.

Man Tower

Man Tower

Comment on the moniker Man Tower. Defensive towers constructed by nobility during the High Middle Ages were essential to the landscapes and mindscapes of the time. Also ideas and concepts associated with the Tower of Babel. Man Tower embodies the corruption of tower building. I am not sure where I attained the following image, yet it is perfect in my imagining of a medieval city.

Medieval Towers

Medieval Towers

Breathtaking, the encompassing view of Assisi from the Rocca Maggiore, allowed the outcast orphan, there was a man, no reprieve from the anguish of a childhood, slaves of sin, within its fortified walls.  Spectacular in nature, the sweeping vista offered the city and surroundings in splendor: churches and military tower fortifications dominating, weapons of iniquity, the flourishing Spoleto valley beyond defensive walls; crenelated gates providing access, meandering roads within and without, one snaking through an arid ravine, and in the far distance the rise of mountains—beauty unmistakable.  Man alive, bourgeoning, inciter of evil.

Not all observers could admire the allure.  One unable to appreciate was tall in stature.  Alberto the Vanquisher, a zealous imitator, one gathered amongst the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick I, Barbarossa—Red Beard, saw nothing of majesty.  Convalescing from the monumental treaty signing with Pope Alexander III, he rested with Barbarossa’s imperial forces.  Interregnum, a time of no war, peace inapplicable.  Assisi, once his home, produced tension, a distancing.  Regarding a return to the city of his rearing, indifference dominated, tainted by an underbelly of bitterness, a subconscious staining.  There would be no armies fighting in the lands, yet in his heart emotion churned upon an unsettled murkiness of deprivation.  A war unacknowledged occurred internal.  All meant nothing to the Vanquisher, denial and burial a way of subsisting.  A man unconcerned with restoration, he pursued not healing.  He would continue wandering, aimless in eternal regards.  An unreliable steward, he felt no need to remain loyal to Barbarossa during a state of no war.  What was the need to stay with foreign troops if there was no battles being waged?

The Rocca Maggori, constructed after the conquering of Charlemagne, towered over the city of Assisi.  From the heaven the Lord looks down; He sees all mankind.  The intimidating citadel staunchly rose from the highest point of Assisi, once sitting within Roman walls.  Now, Conrad of Urslingen, for the sake of his own name, resided in the feudal castle.  Appointed by Barbarossa as Duke of Spoleto and Count of Assisi, the man carried a corrupt reputation due to his association with Christian of Mainz, the archbishop of ill-repute.  The people of Assisi viewed the towering structure with no admiration.  Meant to be a sign of power and esteem, its presence created loathing, subjugation bellowing from its towering.  Forces greater than individual prosperity and freedom its pronouncement.  A, continuous warring its reality.

Alberto the Vanquisher placed himself beyond images and structures attached to identities.  He removed his anger far from him, and for his own glory he bridled his sword so that he would not perish.  Raised above, teaching himself how to grow the furnace of poverty, he relaxed from battle mode, dropping an attitude of aggression.  There were times he sensed the hand of the Lord upon him.  Scanning the city he knew as a child from a high place, sheltered by a castle he despised as a child, he did not feel such a divine moment.  Details were unnecessary, nor contemplated.  An instinctual nonentity apart from a killing force, he did sense a change of the right hand of the Most High.  Directly, it had nothing to do with him, yet the inter-connectedness of all things when it came to the Almighty gnawed upon predispositions.

“Fierceness of Silence.  You sit alone observing your city.  What are you thinking?  Does insanity wrench upon your mind?  Have you gone too long without killing?”

Alberto did not reply, yet a slight turn of his head, distinct with the sole moving of eyes, allowed his commander to know he recognized his presence.  The commander tagged him with the nickname due to his lack of speech.  Man Tower held to silence, a thing few men could accomplish amongst warring troops.  Men one fought with demanded to know your voice through time.  Alberto, infamous, ignored the customs demanded by others.  Skill in battle, fearless bravado, and tremendous size, standing over six foot six, allowed advantages.

“Ah once more you hold your tongue.  We are through with you.  The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire moves on.  We no longer hold you to service.  You are free to do as you please.  Go back to the cowards and weaklings who spurned you.  There are always men in need of being killed and desiring to kill.  God have mercy upon the men who endure your travels, you vile and singular combatant of the ancient serpent.”

Upon the ground, the commander threw a sack of coins.  Alberto nodded, keeping his eyes upon Assisi.  Behold, I will hedge up your path with thorns, and I will stop it with a wall.  He rose, heading for his horses and armor adornment.  Ignoring the sounds of the men celebrating, he prepared for departure, conducting no farewells.

Galloping the short distance to the walls of Assisi, memories emerged, a broken introduction to adulthood domineering.  Travelling, motion altered his thoughts.  He began to mull over, plummeting within himself.  Without armor, stripped down, without surrounding commanders, knights, and foot soldiers, without the mask of war obstructing, an aberration budded, a flowering of bonds of vanities attempting.  It had been years since he rode so exposed.  He had thrown off from his neck the yoke of knighthood, the severity of slaughter.

Free from a mind concentrating upon brutality, empty glory, he opened a bit to the sun shining.  Without the shielding of amour, he fully felt the wind upon his face.  Invigorated, his hard heart, his life sustaining organ, did not pound so harshly, the blood not flowing with such extreme pressure.  The further he moved from foreign troops, the softer the beating.

Emitting anxiety, Assisi waited. There he grew as a child.  The complexities and loss of innocence remained a neglected mystery, forming unconscious barriers and resistance, creating an enigmatic knight of disdained reputation.  No rod of justice, he took pleasure in perplexing others.  Reconciliation with his past was never considered.  Leaving as a child, believing himself to be a victim of a cruel hoax, he parted a monster.  Returning with his warrior mentality passé, he thought of his mother.  He would seek her.  He must discover whether she was alive.  Lepers could not be counted on for life.

“It’s the one who betrays his own for wealth.  May God curse your soul, man harass your days, and demons disturb your vision during the night.”

“Silence my friend.  In fact, you do not know what you are saying.  It is the Man Tower, one strong and fully armed.  He kills simply for the thrill of seeing others die.”

In the name of the Lord God of hosts, I am not afraid of the bastard child of a priest.  Liberate Israel, I proclaim.  From conception to death, he is an unnatural life, one who should have never been brought into being.  Evil gave him birth, while also sealing his fate.  He stands no chance of redemption.   He rode with the ruthless archbishop of Mainz against his own people.  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  His father and mother were rotten and into rottenness he grew.  You good for nothing war whore born of severe sin why return to plague us.  We are good men and woman struggling, as a society, against the essence and totality of who you are.  You are wickedness.”

An old man, accompanied by another elder, both so frail it seemed death was only days away, confronted Alberto upon his horse.  The bolder man spit in his direction.

Alberto halted his horses, observing the old men.  Feeling nothing, he easily controlled the desire to kill.  Reaching toward his sword, he only massaged his back.  He kept his eyes upon the old men.  One stared with vengeance.  The other quaked in his boots.  Alberto retrieved a portion of bread from his rations, along with several gold coins, tossing the items to the one who stared.

“I should refuse your bribe, yet there are others who can benefit.”

The one who quaked picked up the bread and coins.

“Let us go before the stench of the man finally ends our days of suffering.”

“Away, we must go.  The night is upon us and the orgy moves our way.”

Bread in hand, the old men moved on.  Alberto proceeded slowly, recalling his days with the archbishop Christian of Mainz.  None were bloodier.

Tuscany felt the rage of the archbishop.  Alberto joined him as he moved into Umbria.  As one who finds an exquisite pearl, selling all he has to attain it, he pursued rank under Christian of Mainz.  Aligned with foreign forces, he partook of the massacre of those he was born amongst.  The Archbishop’s troops met no opposition they could not obliterate.  A spectacle, the rapacious warrior priest, wielding a two-fisted hammer for the smashing of armor, was always first in battle.

Demanding excess, Christian devoured the lands and people he conquered.  With no conscious, his men raped and plundered.  His journey was a bloody circus of war.  Bivouacking with a harem, he rollicked upon the lands he destroyed, surreally worshipping absurdity in both life and death.  Within his truth, there was no higher law than chaos itself.  A charmer and romancer, none could refuse his eloquence when he turned it on.  Usually off, combat his natural mode, it was worse for his foe.  His troops reaped the rewards of the brutal carousing.  If luck prevailed, when the Sabbath arrived, the troops enjoyed the archbishop conducting mass, Father in secret.

Alberto, unseasoned upon joining the ranks of the archbishop, teach me to do his will, earned a dastardly reputation.  His enigmatic distance between life and others created a void easily filled by the archbishop’s militaristic pandemonium.  Performing for the imposing archbishop as a foot soldier, the eyes of majesty, he showed no remorse or mercy fighting against his fellow Umbrians.  In fact, insanely drunk from waking to passing out, he was filled with great joy, amazingly able to physically carry on as no man should have been able to.  Slaughtering, raping, ravaging, pillaging and inflicting his wrath upon the world as only one who sees himself as a victim can.  He wanted all to know there were no ends he would not pursue in the bloodiness of battle.  His hidden treasure being the vile reputation he obtained.  In perverted faith and truth, the bloodthirsty archbishop recognized the savagery, applauding Alberto’s marauding, granting the mammoth youth a suit of armor after the annihilation of Terni.  The troops rested for three days as the extra-large armor was cast and refined.

Stories abounded about Alberto at Terni after he singlehandedly executed over a hundred men.  Superiors condemned the captives.  Peers brought them to Man Tower, forcing them to kneel before him.  He removed their heads.  Losing his mind during and after the executions, he wandered the city searching for women to penetrate, never attaining climatic gratification.  Physical pleasure consisted of sterility and disassociation.  Internally, a lack of distinction existed regarding the removing of heads and raping of bodies.  At night trying to sleep, he could feel his past dissolving, shadows filling the voids.  The nonbeing of being and the being of nonbeing overwhelmed any desire for good.  A minister of the Gospel, diametric to his deceased father, he was not.

An appointed  time, darkness settling in his return to Assisi, his armor stowed upon his pack horse, Alberto recognized a parading commotion approaching.  There was a boisterous procession heading his way.  Disturbing a pack of dogs, forcing them to flee, he positioned himself and his horses in an alley for observance.  He would watch those of the world pass by in their charade.  Another dog came aggressively attacking into the alley, a leash dragging along.  Alberto dismounted, sword in hand, prepared to protect his startled horses.  He wasted no time dispatching the dog, driving his sword deep into its body.

“NO!  NO!”

A boy came bursting into the alley.  Weeping, he fell upon the dead dog.  His tear stained face turned up to Alberto filled with fury.  He drew a small knife as he crawled away from his dog.  Sizing up Alberto, the panting boy knew he stood no chance, yet he could not flee due to the strength of his desire for revenge.  He had to keep the object of scorn within view.

Alberto spoke.  “Go child before you get yourself killed.  There are other dogs to be tamed.”

Drumming from the street, bawdy singing, drew the attention of both Alberto and the boy.  Absurdly, another boy appeared passing down the street as a soldier of Christ.  Leading the raucous procession, among his relatives and acquaintances, costumed as a bishop, oversized proper staff and hat in place, he marched himself as high authority.  Regally passing, he melodramatically played the part of clownish bishop.

Surrounding the boy, exalting his stupidity, were other boys pretending to be administers, lauding their ridiculous superior.  Drunken adults participated also.  Dancing and marching in honor of the diminutive bishop.  Loudest of all followed a flat wagon hauled by oxen, crazy screaming voices demanding attention from its traveling stage.  Circling the wagon, male drummers, singing warnings of evil women, danced about the street.  Atop the cart, swigging wine, laughing crazily, scantily clad women caroused.

The procession halted, the wagon of sultry women stopping in front of Alberto’s alley.  The men threw whatever they could at the women and the women posed themselves in scandalous positions.  One shaking her naked breast at the world noticed Alberto in the alley.

“Tall knight in the alley I see you.  Put on your armor and save me don’t you recognize me?”

A drunkard slovenly approached the alley, judging Alberto to be a wealthy knight of noble rank.  Failing clarity, he spat sloppy words.  “…to possess wisdom…is better than gold…to acquire understanding…is more precious than silver…”

The sluttish woman, ignoring the words of wisdom the drunk tried to convey, removed her skirt, massaging her hands over her body.  Alberto watched.

“Tall knight you do not recognize me.  I am the princess and they are leading me to be fed to the dragon.  It was my horrible lot to be chosen as a sacrifice.  Please save me.”

Another woman, dress torn and tattered, nearly knocked the princess off her feet, screaming as she did.  “…servants of the most High God…”

The others carrying torches all joined in as they noticed Alberto.  Alberto stepped out from the darkness of the alley.  The boy steadied his horses.  The women on the cart began moaning as one, two embracing in a drunken kiss.  Attention was upon Alberto.

“You have come for the princess.  I know you.  I know you.”  The naked woman waved her finger at Alberto.  She turned, bending over, exposing her backside in a sensual manner.  She turned back, licking her fingers.

“Come up here on the cart tall handsome knight because you have been exposed.  All know you are St. George.  You have been sent to save us.”

“St. George.  St. George.”

“St. George.  Save us.”

“Yes, save us from ourselves.”

The laughing reached a fever pitch as the procession once again proceeded forward.  The naked woman fell as the cart jerked forward.  It did not dampen her spirits as she manically bellowed upon her back.

As the flesh peddling cart and the final revelers paraded forward, a contrasting crowd followed.  Old men and women, some huddling in tears, some praying rosaries, some looking inwardly with sorrow of heart, others pointing and scolding, trailed in the wake of the merrymakers.  One carried a large cross.  Following the reproaching elderly, flagellators, men screaming for repentance stumbled along, demanding retribution for scandalous, rebellious ways.  Bloodied, stumbling through pain, the final portion of the procession moved passed Alberto.

Alberto returned to his horses, taking the reins from the boy.  He observed the scrawny lad closer.  His tattered clothes pronounced the status of a street child, a waif.  He recalled the fierceness within the boy’s eyes as he drew his knife.

“You live alone upon the streets?”

“There are other boys I run with, however now they want to kill me.”


“They say I stole from one of the other boys while he slept.”

“Did you?”

The boy looked into Alberto’s eyes.  “No and now my dog is dead.”

“So what do you do?”

Calling together friends and neighbors, they will find me.  I must flee the city to leave room for their anger.”

“Come with me.”

Startled, the boy stammered.  “The Lord would free me from the hands of those persecuting my soul.”

“Do you think you can build fires and perform the task I will demand?”

The fierceness that was in the boy’s eyes upon drawing his knife returned.  He straightened himself to his greatest height.

“Even, fasting and weeping, yes.”

Alberto recognized something within the boy, something very familiar.  He cast his care upon the Lord. 

“You can ride my warhorse.  You are so light you will not burden him.  You must be sure he remains tethered.  The horse will kill you if he is not tied to me.”

Elegantly, the boy bowed.

“Rise.  You will not bow to me.  Just listen and do whatever I say.  Even if you feel you know better, listen to me.”

“I will be obedient.”

“What is your name?”


“I am Alberto Abatantuono”

“You are Man Tower.”

“I am known by many names.  People possess free will and with their tongues they inflict names.  I allow no name to claim.”

The strangeness of the situation would not cease for the boy.  He should have known who he was dealing with.  No other knight possessed such great height.  How did he not recognize the giant?  Now the knight offered to take him into his service.  The boy faced the situation, realizing it was beyond even his dreaming.  He formed an inner fire, a conviction he would thrive.  Everything he did for the knight, everything he did in general, would be done with the greatest effort and the greatest attention to detail.  He was upon the brink of despair and now a future opened before him.

The past he easily fled from.  Throughout life a distance blocked his perception from reality.  His inner world never matched his experience.  Misunderstandings plagued him.  The other boys he worked hard to gain their trust, yet he always felt an outsider.  One particular older boy, the one who accused him of stealing, despised him, constantly complicating matters.  There were times he felt privileged with superior intelligence, only to have life so utterly crash down upon him—consequences debilitating, forcing him to struggle mightily just for survival.  He was good with his hands, able to build things, carve items from wood with his knife.  Pleasure immense in the work and creating, his little statues became gifts for others.  A random little girl crying in the street would receive a delightful feline resting in sleep.  These gifts and a good mind God gave him, yet he knew not how to make use of them.

There was a teacher from the university, a man who also taught children mathematics, and the reading of books.  The concept of a university grew in status within Assisi.  No home, no buildings, as the Church possessed churches the learning apparatus of finer knowledge lacked defined spaces.  Wherever convenient and providing, teachers in association with a governing body, conducted classes for the learning of finer knowledge, entrance into professions of advanced skills and wisdom.  The university proliferated understanding of depth and precision throughout the cities.  One particular teacher singled out Ricco after observing one of his statutes, instructing him privately and taking him to his teaching lessons with him.  Ricco treasured the lessons, amazed the man could so expertly communicate higher knowledge.  Pleased the man saw something special in him, the orphan grew in confidence.  His waifish existence became bearable, hope emerging within a mind able to grow through education.  The time of learning ended when the teacher became ill, dying from a coughing sickness during a harsh winter.

The teacher of little time was the only and last person Ricco felt understood his thoughts, or for that fact even cared to know his thoughts.  Others he learned to mentally hide from.  He felt defensive about his ability to outthink the older boys.  His intellect caused anger, focusing the older boys’ attention aggressively against him.  He took to stealth in regards to attention, utilizing his cleverness to keep himself alive, showering it upon his dog, teaching tricks and obedience to the loyal canine he named Midnight.

“Let’s leave the city.”

“Where are we going?”

“Do not ask questions.  If I want you to know something I will tell you.”

“I understand.”

“When we are around others, do not speak.  Speak only if commanded.  Watch me.  Follow my example.  I never speak unless it is of the upmost importance.  Observe and watch instead of speaking or preparing to speak.  You are worthless to me if you are constantly filling your head with possible, desired, conversations.  Eliminate chatter in the mind.  Stop arguing, stop trying to impress people, stop pleading your case in your mind.  Stop crying like an infant to yourself.  Learn to observe with an unobstructed mind.  Notice every little detail and movement.  In a pit and in darkness, surviving upon the streets, I suppose you are accomplished already to a certain degree or you would be dead.  However, I demand more.  Like a hawk, I want your eyes to penetrate everything.  It may save both of our lives.”

The boy did not answer, understanding the seriousness of the words.  Within the offered silence, Ricco perceived proper attention, a process paying homage to his intelligence.  He sensed the knight sensed worthy attributes.  In reflection, it overwhelmed Ricco.  Man Tower spoke of permanency, the ability to dictate one’s future, a life beyond pitiful survival.  In a matter of moments, his life transformed like a dream.

“Come here.”

The boy drew close to Alberto and his warhorse.  Alberto guided the nose of the mighty horse into his hand, before speaking, “call him Shield of Wrath.”  The horse nuzzled.  The boy stroked his snout.  Alberto brushed his mane, watching the boy closely.  The boy possessed intelligence.  He saw it in his eyes.  Similar acts of taming were performed for the pack horse and traveling horse.  All three of the horses became familiar with the boy.

“You will lead them out of the city.”

Ricco drew away, turning his back to Man Tower, observing Midnight.  He went to his lifeless dog, stroking the corpse.  He said nothing.  Alberto appeared with a blanket, carefully gathering the dog in its fold.  He secured the dog to his traveling horse.

“We will bury him outside the city.  What did you call him?”

“Midnight for the darkness of the black that colored him.”

The entourage moved into the street, starting for the gate.  Traveling only a few steps, a pack of ruthless boys appeared, blocking the street; like the mud in the streets, I trampled them down.  The boys held knives, one sporting a short sword.  Alberto motioned to halt.  Ricco easily brought the horses to a controlled stop.  Pleased, Alberto saw the horses already recognized his command, something they would not do for a nervous being.

“Are you children looking for something?”

“Yeah we want that thief hiding under your skirt.”

Alberto drew his sword.  Other boys emerged from hiding, taking up stones to cast at him. 

“That is the last insult you will utter to me.  Show me this thief and I will assist you in apprehending him.”

“He is right there, holding your horses.”

“You are mistaken.  That is no thief.  That is my squire.  My squire I will protect to the death.  Move aside children.  Do you not recognize me?”

The boys whispered amongst each other, looking back and forth from Alberto to one another.

Repeatedly, the name Man Tower was excitedly spoken.

“I will make a deal for a patient man is better than a proud.  In order to pass through the streets and quarters of the city, I will pay a toll.”

The boys remained silent, staring with as much bravado as they could muster.  Alberto retrieved some coins, tossing them to the boys.  Greedily, they retrieved the coins, disappearing in argument regarding shares.  Alberto imagined one or two of them might die in the settlement, in the flood of many waters.  He motioned to advance.  Ricco and the horses responded.  Again Alberto was pleased with the response of the horses to the commands of Ricco.  The horses accepted him.  They recognized him as the leader of the herd.

“After burying Midnight, we will get you some proper clothing and footing.”

Ricco look into Alberto’s eyes, holding his attention.  There was a strange light coming from somewhere unknown.  Torch lights from a hidden place.  The tender illumination made him think of the Holy Mother, and the thought she was moved by maternal instinct.  Alberto held the stare.  He became his helper, of the world, of the great King.  Within the boy’s eyes was the question why, and more impressive to Alberto restrained tears.  Alberto perceived the anguish of one of so little years; a weighty, hopeless loneliness dominating him.  There was always hope, yet every turn in life crushed the hope from the previous moment.  Unperceived to the bearer; intelligence, strength and loyalty were there within Ricco’s eyes.  Warring, Alberto had been around many men, his name was spread.  Percipient, he knew how to read a man, or in this case a boy.


Exercising to exhaustion

Relishing my secret garden, Cain Park, within Evan’s Amphitheater, a bluegrass folk quartet proficient upon various instruments—guitar, standup bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, tambourine, harmonic, flute—a sultry alluring woman of red entertaining upon an Irish pennywhistle, the bandleader expounding upon her acquiring her musical skills in prison—a surprise since she appears innocent, anything but an ex-convict, musically at other times she is able to hypnotize with her husky voice, sound effusing, traditional music popping, the practiced perfection is appealing. Minimalist in attendance, the performance does not suffer. Spider Stompers and Sugar Pie. The Conversion of St Paul’s Shrine providing morning Sabbath mass, a sixth day amidst an Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena, Adoration–Sister Mary Thomas hovering near, Father’s day, a nice Saturday with family, my mother experiencing her first wedding anniversary alone, myself celebrating a yearly anniversary of private matters, today, this day, I enjoy a Sunday afternoon of reclining, comfortable in the Evans Amphitheater. Yesterday, I spent the early evening with my niece’s toddler Andre. My niece, vacationing in Mexico, will be away for a week or so. Interregnum, Andre stays with his great-grandmother. I spend the night entertaining the child. I found something spiritual within the endeavor. Walking just under a half mile to a local park, I wanted to see how he would do upon a small adventure, thinking I might have to carry him. He was fine, walking the whole way, holding my hand, calling out at various things he found interesting while walking. His father having abandoned him, a lack of adult male figures in his life, I am touched how much my attention and approval means to him. Once at the park, his shortness of years did not allow him to cover up how obvious of intent he was in impressing me. I smiled, chuckling, providing attention as he sought one courageous exercise after another. Sometimes, I would have to step in when bravado placed him in precarious positions—following older children to the highest slide, or other types of activity beyond his size and abilities. The boy is not afraid of anything as far as I can see. The trip home also proved quite enlightening regarding character. Playground activity behind him, departing the park, he suddenly determined it was no longer necessary to hold hands. I concluded no harm, grasping his hand, showing him he was not the boss, before letting go of his hand, granting his freedom. To my surprise, he responded with a scream ‘I run’ and like that he started running. I could maintain pace with a hurried walk so next to him I traveled. I will be darn if he did not make it almost the whole way home jogging. I could only laugh when we arrived at my mother’s with Andre soaked through his shirt with sweat. Even more delighted was I after a bathing from great-grandmother, Andre collapsed completely into sleep, utterly exhausted. Something spiritual within the endeavor, I imagined God Our Father, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Holy Mother witnessing our endeavors within life, the tiring, the exhausting of ourselves, and then the conclusion of eternal sleep. It must please everything Divine to the greatest degree to witness us expel ourselves in passion and the pursuit of perceived pleasures, fearing for our salvation, and the delight of us collapsing into salvation. The ruminations, send me to a Henry Suso exploration. Henry Suso’s writing is such a joy. There is something so endearing, wonderfully profound, amusing, a tinge of comedy, within his words. Confident, I am positive we would understand one another, enjoying one another’s company splendidly, two characters of the same making.

Another afflictive exercise…limit himself to an exceedingly small measure of drink…once before Christmas…the Servitor…utterly renounced and put from him all bodily comforts, and moreover had taken upon himself three penitential exercises…he remained after matins until daybreak standing on the bare stones before the high altar…he avoided going to any warm place…never warmed his hands…horribly swollen…the cold…exceeding great….slept upon his bench…stood before the altar on the bare stones till daybreak….abstain altogether from drinking during the day, however great his thirst might be…mouth as dry as that of a sick person in a distemper, and his tongue was so cracked that for more than a year afterwards it would not heal…he stood in choir at compline thus parched with thirst…when the holy water was sprinkled around…he would eagerly open his parched mouth, and gape wide…a little drop of water might fall upon his dried-up tongue and cool it a little…appearing…the gentle Mother of God in heaven…”it is I, the Mother, who gave thee to drink from the little goblet the other night; and, since thou art so exceeding thirsty, I will in pity give thee once more to drink….I will give thee to drink of that healthful drink which flows from my heart….not a corporeal drink which I will give thee, but a healthful, spiritual, and excellent drink of real and true purity”…the Servitor had become very ill, owing to the excessive burden of the afore-mentioned exercises…Our Lord went to the Servitor with the box…opened it…in the box there was fresh blood…Our Lord spread it over the Servitor’s heart…spread it over his hands and feet and all his limbs…”Lord! why dost Thou mark him thus?”…”I will lovingly mark his heart and all his frame with sufferings, and I will heal him, and restore him to health, and I will make of him a man after My whole heart”…from his eighteenth to his fortieth year, a life of exercises…described above—and when his whole frame was now so worn and wasted that nothing remained for him except to die or leave off these exercises, he left them off; and God showed him that all this austerity and all these practices were nothing more than a good beginning, and a breaking through of his uncrushed natural man; and he saw that he must press on still further in quite another way, if he wished to reach perfection. ‘The Life of Blessed Henry Suso’

Henry Suso

Henry Suso

Andre close to trouble

Andre close to trouble


Spiritual nesting

Waking early, with two days of leisure before me, I am pleased with a reduction in work hours, reflective once again. Yesterday was another turnaround shift rotation, second to first, leaving me exhausted once again. Age aware, I did nothing more than sit outside the Evans amphitheater at Cain Park watching people, witnessing, content with watching an older crowd mingle before settling in for a Herman and the Hermits concert beneath a setting sun, followed by popcorn and porch sitting with Carter. Distant yet a part, I felt comfortable, writing a poem about aging, allowing love to arise as a predominate aspect of life. An early evening mass with Mercerdarian priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian parish, a communal Rosary alongside an older woman who sits with me quite often before the Eucharist at St Paul’s Shrine. Speculating with a good heart, the woman struggles a bit with mental issues. I have determined I will approach her, informing if there is ever anything I can do for her to please allow me the privilege of assisting her. Once again, to serve is to bring meaning to my life. It would be such an honor to be of benefit to her. She is an older woman turning her life over completely to worship, a person sharing a transformative communal bond. Details disappearing, it is enough. An interesting thing occurred during Father’s Justin’s mass, an overwhelming longing for St Paul’s has settled into my heart. Yearning, I missed my noon mass and adoration. The Eucharist and the Poor Clares’ home has become a tangible presence centered within my being. Without a daily encounter, I feel a bit empty. Marching forward in the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena–an untying, splendid communal prayer with the Mercerdarians and an Indian man discerning a vocation seated upon the sanctuary, I contemplated the cloistered life, the establishing of a religious home, redundant, repetitive, intense practicing of my faith in order to properly unravel myself. My time at the friary was not long enough, yet I comprehend the depth existing within praying daily in the same spot, possessing my individual choir stall, a nest. Reading material assembled, Rosaries, prayer cards, images, a Bible, Liturgy of the Hours collection—it all becomes transformative. Metamorphoses, transformation, transfiguration, becoming, the idea of dying to self in order to come into actuality as a follower of Christ. Psychological healing, overcoming shortcomings, removing blockage, a lifetime of alcoholism assuaged, the cloistered life, a deep prayer life, routine and stability, a comforting environ, a spiritual nest, the egg of something truly unique cared for, a mother bird resting, sitting, warming, waiting for the hatching. I reflect upon the image of the ostrich as a mother in Job. It is the spiritual life of the many. In the Old Testament book of Job, the ostrich laying her egg upon the surface of the earth is presented as an image. Wandering away, exposing the egg to predators and the elements, the ostrich is contrasted with the stork, a loving mother going above and beyond to ensure the safety of her eggs. Speaking from the whirlwind the Lord speaks to Job: The wings of the ostrich wave proudly (majority of devout Catholics); but are they the pinions and plumage of love? For she leaves her eggs to the earth, and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them, and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear; because God has made her forget wisdom, and given her no share in understanding. When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider (secular world). “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with strength…His majestic snorting is terrible. He paws in the valley, and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons. He laughs at fear, and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword…fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet…. The lack of depth existing within such a spiritual life is truly childish, even dangerous, and it is not the practitioner to blame. The world is hard, being human is complex, and easily, naturally, do we give the horse its strength.

Storks nesting in Ephesus

Storks nesting in Ephesus

Older, slowly flowing away, dissipation, Herman and the Hermits,
Through watching towers ascending, fading, the accumulation never ending, a finality appears,
Through brickyard walkways calling forth evenings remembered, crescendos once demanding,
Now silent endeavors, white hair, watching rock-n-roll without passion, unwanting, clapping hands in contentment,
Expecting nothing, dreaming nothing, reminiscent of all things and nothing, at peace within a small crowd within a simple evening,
Funny how details disappear, yet everything remains imprinted, people together appeases yet distance remains, no need for new friends, no corruption in people gathering,
Life long, life pleasant through the pain, teenagers now still hearts beating through the advancement of experience, memories, comfortable, allowing subtle drums pounding to pace,
It was worth it, love emerging above all things, bitterness brittle broken, hardness softened through previous rains, within storms defenses lowered, blessings counted within every breath, nothing taken for granted
A friendly hello from a stranger, nothing more, nothing wanted, no invasion, everyone a part of the same game, advancements no longer necessary as nowhere to go remains the same, consistency in no longer desiring, uneventful appreciated amidst an event,
A crowd gathering, ushers assisting, seats being taken, nobody pushing to gain in the enterprise of a mutual refrain,
Here it comes, the same old songs from youth, now wiser, realizing nothing means nothing, the glory of greatness through faith, hope, and charity allowing the embracing of tumultuous times in absolute reserve,
Let it go, enjoy the show.

A final note, I was contacted by the priest from the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Pleasant telephone conversation, a French name I believe. He will be out of town for the next week, putting time between our meeting, if there is to be one. Thy Will be done. I also received a card, wonderful photo of Padre Pio, from the Franciscan Brothers Minor.

Spiritual direction from St Peter Eymard regarding a transformative lay religious life: “Belong entirely to God through love, entirely to your neighbor through a gracious charity, entirely to the divine Eucharist by the offering and sacrifice of your whole self. Bear with yourself in the patience of our Lord.”  The saint is telling us to be accepting of ourselves.  We are human.  Perfectionism is spiritually crippling–contentment within progress, rather than a concentration upon perfection.

More St Peter Eymard, this one really makes me smile: “A life that is purely contemplative cannot be fully Eucharistic: the fireplace has a flame.”

The Eucharist as a fireplace

The Eucharist as a fireplace