If God made the earth before the sun, as Moses says, then it clearly doesn’t have to go round it.

Is it a lost art, buried under the avalanche of texts and phone calls and skypings and e-mails? It has certainly become rare. Perhaps it will never again be common. But I think that the wise will not wholly abandon it.

A pleasant letter I hold to be the pleasantest thing that this world has to give. It should be good-humoured; witty it may be, but with a gentle diluted wit. Concocted brilliancy will spoil it altogether. Not long, so that it be tedious in the reading; nor brief, so that the delight suffice not to make itself felt. It should be written specially for the reader, and should apply altogether to him, and not altogether to any other. It should never flatter. Flattery is always odious. But underneath the visible stream of pungent water there may be the slightest under-current of eulogy, so that it be not seen, but only understood. Censure it may contain freely, but censure which in arraigning the conduct implies no doubt as to the intellect. It should be legibly written, so that it may be read with comfort; but no more than that. Calligraphy betokens caution, and if it be not light in hand it is nothing. That it be fairly grammatical and not ill spelt the writer owes to his schoolmaster; but this should come of habit, not of care. Then let its page be soiled by no business; one touch of utility will destroy it all.

If you ask for examples, let it be as unlike Walpole as may be. If you can so write it that Lord Byron might have written it, you will not be very far from high excellence.

But, above all things, see that it be good-humoured (Anthony Trollope, ‘The Bertrams’, chapter 18).

In general, false and counterfeit purposes fall into three kinds. 1) to pray to be glorified in men’s eyes; 2) to pray to be vindicated in God’s eyes; 3) to pray to be justified in one’s own eyes.

Matta el-Maskine, Orthodox Prayer Life: the interior way (a present from a book fairy)

Best of British with the ole Lent thing, everyone.


Completely unconnected:

How good You are, to seek with a special mercy certain lost, soiled, fallen souls, Magdalene, Zaccheus, Paul, Augustine,  and this unworthy being that addresses You, who has one thing in common with these great saints: to have sinned and to have been converted by Your divine goodness: without, alas, having their fidelity and their fervour after their conversion …

… elle ne support pas les craintes pueriles que certaines d’entre nous auraient pour les insectes et autres animaux, elle tient absolument a ce qu’on se domine sur ce point; sur tous les domains il faut etre maitresse chez soi, sinon il faut renoncer a la saintete.

(a nun of Solesmes, on their first abbess)


L’oraison est une priere personelle, un discours interieur qui comme tout acte humain doit se passer dans l’intelligence et dans la volonte. […] Il ne faut pas s’habituer a attendre le souffle de Dieu sans rien faire. Il s’agit d’abord de meubler son intelligence de choses saines et fortes afin qu’elle s’etablisse plus facilement du cote de Dieu.

Mere Cecile Bruyere OSB, commentary on the Conferences of Cassian, 29 August 1889, quoted in Oury, Lumiere et Foi

[telephone conversation, in which metronomes come up]:

Tepidus: “When I was wee, I used to like setting it to the slowest speed it would go … it was never slow enough, though.”

Berenike: (pauses, sure this isn’t about to show her in a good light) “I used to like setting it as fast as possible.”

There was that newspaper thing inviting people to write in on the subject of “What’s Wrong with the World”, to which  Chesterton the Great wrote saying “Dear Sir, I am.”

For the Lord says “my name is blasphemed among all the peoples” and again “woe to him by reason of whom my name is blasphemed”.  Why is it blasphemed? Because we do not do what we say. Hearing from us the word of God, so good and so great, people are full of admiration. Then, seeing that our actions are not worthy of the words we speak, they turn to blasphemy saying that this word is some fable and an error.

For when they hear from us that God says “You have no gratia, [credit, says RSV; DR has thanks]  if you love those who love you; butyou have gratia, if you love your enemies and those who hate you”, they admire [its/the] sublime goodness. When however they see that we don’t only not love those who hate us, but not even those who love us, they laugh at us and blaspheme the Name.

A sermon of a second-century author, trans. bat Ionah b/c St Josaphat trumped Friday of the 32nd week of Ordinary Time this year, and so the English is not on Universalis.

… about friendship.

“One soul dwelling in two bodies”



What benefits and divine exaltation the silence and solitude of the desert hold in store for those who love it, only those who have experienced it can know.

St Bruno, letter to his friend Raoul le Verde

Jesus himself, God and Lord, whose virtue was above both the assistance of solitude and the hindrance of social contact, wished, nevertheless, to teach us by his example; so, before beginning to preach or work miracles, he was, as it were, proved by a period of fasting and temptation in the solitude of the desert; similarly, Scripture speaks of him leaving his disciples and ascending the mountain alone to pray. Then there was that striking example of the value of solitude as a help to prayer, when Christ, just as his Passion was approaching, left even his Apostles to pray alone — a clear indication that solitude is to be preferred for prayer even to the company of Apostles.


The monk, who continues faithfully in his cell and lets himself be molded by it, will gradually find that his whole life tends to become one continual prayer. But he cannot attain to this repose except at the cost of stern battle; both by living austerely in fidelity to the law of the cross, and willingly accepting the tribulations by which God will try him as gold in the furnace. In this way, having been cleansed in the night of patience, and having been consoled and sustained by assiduous meditation of the Scriptures, and having been led by the Holy Spirit into the depths of his own soul, he is now ready, not only to serve God, but even to cleave to him in love.


Therefore the dweller in cell should be diligently and carefully on his guard against contriving or accepting occasions for going out, other than those normally prescribed; rather, let him consider the cell as as necessary for his salvation and life, as water for fish and the sheepfold for sheep. For if he gets into the habit of going out of cell frequently and for trivial reasons it will quickly become hateful to him; as Augustine expressed it, “For lovers of this world, there is no harder work than not working.” On the other hand, the longer he lives in cell, the more gladly will he do so, as long as he occupies himself in it usefully and in an orderly manner, reading, writing, reciting psalms, praying, meditating, contemplating and working. Let him make a practice of resorting, from time to time, to a tranquil listening of the heart, that allows God to enter through all its doors and passages.

Statutes of the Carthusian Order


This is a saint worthy to be remembered, who has passed to the glory of the angels. While on his earthly pilgrimage his thoughts and desires were turned towards the heavenly homeland.

R/  The Lord led this holy man along a sure path.

V/ He showed him the kingdom of God.

O God, to depart from whom is death, to walk with whom is life; who, our father and your confessor having removed himself from the company of men, lifted him by the gift of contemplation ; grant us, we beseech Thee,the spirit of the grace of salvation, by which we are formed by his example,strengthened by his merits, and helped by his prayers. This we ask through Jesus Christ Your only Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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