Archive for September 28th, 2014

Burnt Straw


Why and Where

After my baby’s scalding I posted several versions of ‘why’, directed at the holy Being we call ‘God’.

Please note that I have never asked this question when I have personally been punched in the soul by tragedy or medical crisis, as I have many times. I do not know if it is the cultural and familial Calvinism that I have come to realize forms a large part of my outlook in spite of myself, or just the simple perception I have always had of the absolute perfect holiness of the One, but I always figured I deserved worse than I got and did not complain.

But a baby. A fat happy baby. One who had already faced more physical trauma in his first year than I did in my first forty.

I asked why.

And my dear friend Mary, the atheist mystic, said ‘Gravity. I think it was gravity.’

And you know, that struck me. It was gravity, whatever other explanation we can salvage.

For this is the uncharted territory of mystery, of theodicy. Even the Bible does not offer one answer to the problem of evil. Job thought that God was the author of both good and evil. Other texts suggest an invisible hostile intelligence is responsible. Or see a direct link between our personal sin and evil consequences (which theory Jesus pretty much demolished).

I do not know, but I think gravity was to blame.

You would think that for a convinced apophatic that this would be effortless, the embrace of mystery, but I am the sort of apophatic who can’t help but try to unscrew the inscrutable.

But it hit me the other day that however we try to untangle it that  there is one place that God Is. The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life, as we say in the Creed. He was present in the Life surging in my little one’s body, in the way that he so quickly began to heal, in his bravery and easy smile, even through the pain.

And He is present in the outpouring of love and prayer that occurred in response to Sam’s injury.

Sam had Catholics and Orthodox, Baptists and Pentecostals, monks and bishops and witches and libertarians and communists and astrologers and atheists all praying for him, though the atheists would not use the word.

It’s all good, this tide of love and concern for a small person suffering.

Which small person is doing fine, happy and smiley and healing well.

Thank God, and thank all of you.


Real True Stories Plus Alleged Poetry

Okay, I am going to post a link to my top secret blog, the laboratory where I was going to write anonymously. You know, the secret one with my name in the web address.

Which pretty much reveals my technological competence. It is not well known, but until only a few years ago everything I wrote for the blog, or the magazine before it, was handwritten on paper and mailed to Maclin and Karen Horton, who typed it for me.

Now, are those friends, or what?

After Maclin left to write exclusively for his ‘Light on Dark Water’ blog, I had to learn to use this thing. It had been so forbidding, but I learned quickly that it didn’t take that much, mostly cutting and pasting and other simple things.

So my new blog, ‘Every Birdsong a Blessing’ which will be memoirs and poetry, with the secret stuff in unpublished draft form, was a real achievement, as I set it up and designed it myself. Yeah, I know, big deal. But for a temperamental luddite, who accepted the internet only slowly, and who can figure out not much on his own, it seemed an accomplishment. I really like the way it looks.

I doubt I will post any more poetry here. The one alleged poem I published the other day, hoping for real criticism, was a disappointment: one positive review, one guy who prefaced his remarks with ‘I don’t know much about poetry’ and then went on to prove it (sorry Zeb).

So if you are interested:http://dnichols72153.wordpress.com/

Journalistic Negligence

A few weeks ago, when President Obama was still trying to figure out a strategy for dealing with ISIS, I was driving home. I usually listen to music these days, but I was skimming the radio. I came to the Catholic station, and Al Kresta was on. His guest was talking and had a notably annoying voice, droning on in a boring tone, interrupted regularly by guttural ‘Uhhhh’s as he gathered his thoughts. He was making the case for Ukraine and against Russia. At the break Kresta mentioned that his guest was George Weigel, and that they would discuss Iraq and ISIS when they returned.

Weigel. My nemesis for thirty five years, and I had never heard his voice. I do not know much about Ukraine and Russia, only that it is heartbreaking to see the heirs of such a beautiful culture, peoples indistinguishable to any but themselves, killing each other.

But if Weigel is for it, it is probably safe to be agin’ it. General rule.

When the break was over Weigel launched into a familiar narrative. Obama was Chamberlain and ISIS was Hitler, yada yada yada. American military force must be employed against this latest threat to the homeland (okay, so he did not actually say ‘homeland’).

Did Mr Kresta ask Mr Weigel if he regretted, in light of the total disaster that had unfolded in Iraq since 2003, that he had travelled to Rome with Michael Novak to make the case for Church approval for Mr Bush’s preemptive war? (They were shown the door).

No, he did not.

Did he ask Mr Weigel if he felt at all responsible, as a leading voice in favor of that American aggression,  for the rise of ISIS, which directly corresponds with the rise of Sunni unrest in the aftermath of that debacle?


Did he ask Mr Weigel how he sleeps at night in light of the thousands of dead Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, all to establish the present chaos?



Pure journalistic negligence.

Shame on you Mr Kresta.

The Paradox of Universalism

It occurred to me the other day, praying the Lord’s Prayer, that every time we pray that prayer we are praying for universal salvation: ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.’ St Paul tells St Timothy that God wills all to be saved, so praying for his Will to be done is to pray for eternal life for everyone.

It cracks me up that Calvinists and others who claim and, one senses, hope, that they are among the chosen few, pray the Our Father.

May God grant their prayers and confound their idolatry.

If the Church is Universal…

…then shouldn’t the term be not ‘Roman Catholic’ but  ‘Catholic Roman’? Or ‘Catholic Byzantine’, etc?


Photo by Ritva Kovalainen

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