7 Quick Takes, vol. 1

Eyyyy, I jumped on the Quick Takes bandwagon! Great idea, really, because some days I really just can’t organize my thoughts more than a paragraph at a time. Let’s see, how’s this thing work?

There we go.

1: Passive Purification
I finally had my approximately-bi-weekly conversation with Father T. I was all “It’s awful, everything’s great!” and he was all “Then what’s the problem?” and I was all “That’s just it!”

Part of the reason I fear the Holy Mallet is that I like to feel like I’m doing something; I don’t like to give God the reins. But, as Richard Wilbur says, there is nothing to do with a day except to live it. Sometimes you have to sit back like a good piece of clay and let God do the molding. Passive Purification is what Fr. called it. Bears praying about.

2: Grease Monkey Redux
My beautiful motorcycle is still ailing. Someone knocked her over several weeks ago, bending the handlebars and rendering her unrideable. I ordered new handlebars, went to put ’em on, and found out they were the wrong size. Ordered a second pair, put ’em on, reattached all the levers and cables, and now she won’t start. Tried to figure out why and made it worse: now she won’t even try to start. And winter is closing in.

I just want another ride or two before the snow comes! That, and the chance to actually drive her, somehow, to the barn where she’ll be waiting out the big freeze.

3: The Soft-Dying Day
Speaking of seasons, though, I always seem to think I don’t care about autumn, until the first smell of autumn hits me. What is it about smell that takes you right back to a particular time and place? For me it’s usually Milton, about twenty years ago. Smell isn’t the most refined sense, but it’s the most poignant, and autumn is the most poignant (or second-most-poignant?) season. These things can knock you right over.

4: Steam Train
Every since January of 2010, I’ve made a habit of spending 30 consecutive minutes a day in silent prayer. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Usually I spend it in Adoration. Lately, though, that’s been feeling dry, and I’ve decided to make the move to daily Mass whenever possible. Adoration is lovely, but the Mass is…well, I don’t know what it is. I just know that, if Adoration feels like biking up a hill (most times), Mass feels like hopping a train.

5: Help, Please
I love that readers send me emails. Some people write with encouragement and prayer, and I can’t tell you how much this buoys me up. A few people write with disagreement, and so far, I’m impressed by how courteous they usually are.

And some people write for advice. I’m complimented and happy to get emails like this, even though I usually don’t know what to say. The question I have the hardest time answering is this: “My son/daughter/nephew/niece/cousin just told me he’s gay. I want to show him/her that I love and accept him/her, but I also don’t want to support a lifestyle that I know is immoral. What can I do? What can I say?”

Readers, I have no idea! I’ve only rarely been in this situation, and never with anybody who’s that close to me. But I’m betting some of you have been there. What do you? What worked? What didn’t work?

6: Dead Trees
I’m excited to be working on my first print article. It’s going to be on the subject of vocation, and will appear in Our Sunday Visitor’s news weekly. I’ll let you know! I sure hope I know what I’m talking about.

7: I Feel So Moron
I forgot to mention that I got the Search Term Poetry idea from Simcha Fisher, who if you don’t read her, you really oughtta. Blogerarily speaking, she’s my idol. I just reread one of hers, and she definitely wins. Not that it was a contest.

Thanks to Jen Fulwiler for hosting the 7 Quick Takes! See y’all soon. Like Fr. T always says, let’s keep praying for each other.

13 Comments on “7 Quick Takes, vol. 1”

  1. My feeling about the how-to-treat-gay-people question is that you treat them the same way you treat fornicators, adulterers, masturbators, contraceptors, and divorcees. I would venture to say that nearly everyone I know commits sexual sins of one kind or another on a regular basis, and having committed quite a number of them myself, I know how difficult it is to live a life of chastity (and what a blessing it is too.)

    I am also certain that God is a lot more forgiving of unchastity in people who don’t know what they’re missing. They’re still missing the benefits of chastity, but there is a very significant difference in… well… certain acts, when performed by my agnostic friends and those same acts if I should put the pleasures of the act ahead of the peace and friendship of God’s grace.

    So, my approach has always been to answer questions honestly, never hide the fact that I accept the full teaching of the magisterium, on matters sexual as well as on other matters, and other than that to just enjoy the company of the people you love, however imperfect. Pray for them, but beyond that, don’t let things get awkward. Be kind and friendly to them and respect their free will. That’s what we do when our family members are addicted to pornography, on The Pill, divorced and remarried, or sleeping with their girlfriends: give them an example of chastity, and be friendly whether or not they choose to follow it.

  2. Jamie says:

    Your #1 reminded me of what I was praying about this morning: “Perfect love casts out fear.”

    I was like, “Well, Jesus, I know you love me perfectly, so why the heck am I afraid? And I don’t really even know exactly what I’m afraid of!”

    The gentle answer I eventually got was that I have to ALLOW Him to love me perfectly. Not that the love isn’t there already, but accepting it is half the battle sometimes.

    And then I realized I didn’t even know what Scripture I was thinking about, so I just googled it….and whadaya know, God can put things into words way better than I ever could:

    1 John 4:18 — “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (NAB)

  3. Laurie says:

    Just wanted to take the moment to let you know that I discovered this blog about a week ago and, as I’ve been catching up with the last couple years of your thoughts, I’ve been regularly blessed and encouraged. Thank you for putting your heart out there! It was Jen’s blog that led me here and Quick Takes has long been a favorite of mine.

  4. Christine says:

    I’ve been reading for about a month now. I’m a heterosexual female, but I feel like in many ways I can relate to you. Maybe I’ll go into those ways in a future comment, but I won’t bore you with my own story here.

    Your writings on the “Holy Mallet” reminds me of a quote by the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, from his book The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms:

    “Nothing plays a greater role in God’s pedagogical art than the shift from one to the other extreme. No sooner have we learned something half-way and begun to grasp it than (oh, shock!) out of the warm bath and into the cold! This is meant to ensure that we do not settle into any situation but remain pliable, and to make us recognize that true insight does not come from what we have grasped but from ever-greater readiness and deeper obedience.”

    1. Good stuff. Thank you. I have been meaning to read von Balthasar for ages. Do you recommend any particular work of his as a good starting point?

  5. Sonja says:

    Christine, awesome quote.

    Steve, You should really read John of the Cross’ “Dark Night” if you haven’t. It will help SO much to identify and organize all the junk that happens through the passive purification. It makes you want to suffer since you understand how and why.

    1. Oh, maybe I am finally ready for a little more SJotC. But I just (re-)started Story of a Soul — we’ll see how far I make it this time.

  6. Nayhee says:

    I feel the opposite way about Mass and Adoration. If only the priest would just be quiet so we could sit and pray! 🙂

  7. Zach says:

    On number 5…

    I understand how chastity is treated around here, and I respect and have a certain awe for the treatment it gets here. That being said-

    Telling anyone they’re meant to live a chaste life because of something they can’t control is a heavy burden. Steve, I know you know that.

    But we can’t impose our religious beliefs on anyone, not even our sons or daughters. My parents were caring enough to understand that, and my direct family welcomes me and my partner with open hearts. My more distant family reminds me I should be chaste, but its always with such a vicious and condemning tone.

    A last thought… Catholics like to mention that we should treat homosexuals the same way as adulterers ( and other sexual sinners, etc). Do you understand how absurd that sounds?

    ” I also don’t want to support a lifestyle that I know is immoral.”

    Anytime I hear this from people (in real life), it always come off as selfish. [Your] view that my “lifestyle”, living my life with another man, is immoral is absolutely irrelevant to whether I do it or not. It’s like you just *have* to get your opinion in, even though you don’t want it to change the way they see you?

    (this is so long! i’ll wrap it up). People try to go in circles when a close one comes out. This is the biggest mistake. Apathy is honestly the best policy. Apathy with a smile and reminder that we love them is even better.

  8. viego pobre says:

    on # 5

    there is no one answer to give to someone (if you are trying to be helpful).
    it takes real discernment. from advice i have heard in the past:.

    to someone who is a christian and struggles with SSA, you strengthen them in their struggle and clarify it for them. you also pray with them.

    to someone involved in the lifestyle looking to Christ but not ready to give it up, you say Christ will always be waiting for them when they are ready.

    to a Christian who is confused about all the attempts to normalize SSA you teach in a humble way what the traditions says.

    to one who thinks that SSA ranks as the top sin and that pride, greed and hetero lust, divorce can be winked at you correct them

    to someone who has really struggles with this issue and is living their life with real honesty in accord with their conscience, we do not judge and show them respect. we have enough to focus on the beam in our own eye.

    to younger people growing up in this pan-hyper-sexual culture, it is not important to bring up the topic until they do, and then discuss it in ways that affirm the innate self -dignity they are trying to discover for themselves.

    it is constantly remembering that we are all a work in process and real humility, listening and respect given in friendship will create the environment of trust that we all need to grow. this is real discernment. IMHO

  9. Christine says:


    As far as where to start with Balthasar, it can be a bit tricky because he is quite dense. I have a few recommendations:

    1. The Grain of Wheat: Aphorisms. It’s just a collection of aphorisms, arranged by category, and not all of them are originally von Balthasar’s. It wouldn’t give you a systematic treatment of his thought but there’s a lot of profound stuff in there. I read it when I was a sophomore in college, so it’s pretty accessible. I found it to be good spiritual reading.

    2. You Crown the Year with Your Goodness. These were originally delivered as sermons on the radio. That makes them simpler to understand than his major works (like the Theo-Drama), but they still give you a good idea of von Balthasar’s thought on various theological topics. I don’t remember much of it, but it was a good window into his writings.

    3. Love Alone is Credible. I never read this, but it was on the recommended reading list as an introduction to von Balthasar in one of my master’s courses on theological method. I own it and intend to read it, because with a title like that I imagine it must be good. My professor chose it, so my guess is that it’s a pretty good introduction to von Balthasar’s method.

  10. devon says:

    Steve & Christine,
    I would also recommend “Heart of the world” by Balthasar. It’s a book about Jesus coming into the world taking on the form of the human heart and what that means to us and our limitations, failings, mission, and existence in general.

    here’s a taste of the heart he is talking about:
    “The human heart: most foolish, most obstinate, most fickle of all creatures; the seat of all fidelity and of all treachery; an instrument richer than a full orchestra and poorer than a grasshopper’s empty chirping; in its incomprehensibility a mirror of God’s own incomprehensibility. This it was that he drew from the world’s rib as it slept, and He fashioned it into the organ of His divine love.”

    1. Thanks, Balthasarians! I’ll look some of these up. I just happen to know a Catholic bookseller that owes me a favor or two…

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