Posted by: Catholic of Thule | June 15, 2011

Sheed on the ‘incredible folly’ which is sin.

It may be worth pausing at this first and most catastrophic of all sins to consider the nature of sin. In angels or men sin is always an effort to gain something against the will of God. Thus for angels and men sin is essentially ludicrous. All alike are made by God of nothing; all alike are held in existence by nothing save the continuing will of God to hold them so. To think that we can gain anything by hacking or biting or furtively nibbling at the Will which alone holds us in existence at all is a kind of incredible folly. It is precisely because apart from God we should be nothing, that Pride is the worst of all sins, for it is the direct assertion of self as against God. It is sin in its nakedness: all other sins are sin dressed up a little. Other sins are an effort to gain something against the will of God, pride is the claim to be something apart from the will of God.

I have said that sin is incredible folly. But it is made to look credible by the ease and frequency with which we do it. Sin is madness, but it is possible. Why? There is a profound mystery here: a mystery at its very darkest when we ask how pure spirits could have been guilty of a folly so monstrous, but a mystery still even when any of us considers his own most recent effort to gain something against god’s will. The rebellious angels must have known that it was madness, yet they did it; but after all, any instructed Catholic knows that it is madness, yet he does it. Sin, in fact, is not simply a matter of knowledge, mysterious as knowledge is; it is a matter of that far more mysterious thing, will, at the very ultimate point of its mysteriousness,  its freedom of choice. The will, if it wants intensely enough, can ignore the intellect’s information and go for what it wants. Even if the intellect knows that the thing will bring disaster, the will can choose it; even if it knows that the thing cannot be had at all, the will can still fix itself upon it. Not even by the intellect is the will coerced. Created beings are the resultant of infinite power working upon nothingness, and they are free to fix their choice anywhere between those two extremes. To choose anything at all as apart from God is quite literally to choose nothingness, for apart from God everything is nothing. To choose God is to choose the infinite. Either way, whether we choose nothing or the infinte, we cannot be either, but we can possess either. We are free to choose.

…But freedom to choose does not mean freedom to choose the consequences of our choice, for we are living in a universe, not a chaos: we can choose to do this or that, but the consequences of our choice will be governed by the laws of the universe in which we are. It is only when we use our freedom of choice (that is our freedom to choose without coercion) to make choices in harmony with the reality of things – in harmony with what God is, with what we are and with what all other things are – that we achieve freedom in its second sense, namely fullness of being, the act of being all that by nature we are and doing all that by nature we are meant to do.

F.J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity.

If the above is not recommendation enough, may I add that I cannot possibly recommend Theology and Sanity enough. It is still under copyright, or I would probably quote from it more often, but as quotations must then be restrictive, I thought the above not a bad choice.  The book  is available from, among other places, the bookdepository, which offers free postage with no minimum purchase.

Sheed  makes difficult topics more available to those without theological training (but without a distortive dumbing down of the material!) in a style which is lucid, elegant and, I would say, joy-filled and imbued with a becoming sense of humour tastefully applied. His work solidly refutes the odd notion that the study of theology is by nature and necessity a dry and sterile exercise, almost divorced from and even at odds with a personal growth in holiness. This notion is also directly addressed by Sheed:

All this is so crammed with fallacy as to be hardly worth refuting. A man may be learned in dogma, and at the same time proud or greedy or cruel: knowledge does not supply for love if love is absent. Similarly a virtuous man may be ignorant, but ignorance is not a virtue. It would be a strange God who could be loved better by being known less. Love of God is not the same thing as knowledge of God; love of God is immeasurably more important than knowledge of God; but if a man loves God knowing a little about Him, he should love God more from knowing more about Him: for every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him. It is true that some get vast love from lesser knowledge: it is true also that some get vast light from lesser knowledge: for love helps sight. But sight helps love too.

In his foreword, Sheed identifies the target audience for his book:

There are thousands who know more theology than I, and for them I have no message: they must teach me. But there are thousands who know less, and less is not enough: I must try to teach them. This book contains theology, not the great mass of it that theologians need, but the indispensable minimum that every man needs in order that he may be living mentally in the real world – which is what the word Sanity means in my title.

Sanity, remember, does not mean living in the same world as everyone else; it means living in the real world. But some of the most important elements in the real world can be known only by the revelation of God which it is theology’s business to study. Lacking this knowledge, the mind must live a half-blind life, trying to cope with a reality most of which it does not know is there. This is a wretched state for an immortal spirit, and pretty certain to disaster. There is a good deal of disaster around at this moment.

Now, I can vouch for the usefulness of this book for those who know less theology than Sheed. It is useful both for the instruction of things hitherto not known at all or things not understood or seen as clearly as it is after reading Sheed. And, while he supplies what he deems a minimum, he awakens the taste for further study. However, I should think that Sheed is too modest, even though no dobut entirely sincere, in his assessment that the book is of no use for those who know more.  I should imagine his clear and engaging presentations might be of use in helping some of those who know more to communicate some of what they know to those who would fall within the avowed target audience of the book.

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | June 12, 2011

Paul Selmer’s first experience of Mass (English edition)

Finally, a translation of the original edition of Paul Selmer’s first experience of Mass in Sigrid Undset’s Wild Orchid.  Perhaps not the best translation but it’s hopefully better than nothing.

For context, after a night out with his friends and on his way back to his digs, Paul runs into his Catholic landlady, who is on her way to early morning Mass.  On a whim, he decides to go along with her. This is obviously a low Mass from the day before the liturgical changes.

He tried to grasp something of what the priest was doing up in front of the altar. But the man kept turning his back to the people the whole time, and it was beyond the bounds of possibility that they could hear a single word of what was whispered as he was busily employed and moving about up there. And as Paul discovered that the service must now be in full motion and the deep silence continued to reign in the empty sunlit room, and the few people in the pews remained kneeling as if they were intensely withdrawn into themselves, he felt a certain sense of enthrallment. This was indeed beautiful in a way; he felt that he suddenly understood what people meant by speaking of the invisible God – here he could imagine that both the priest and the congregation were together to worship something invisible.  This service could not possibly have any other meaning, because there was nothing in the way of the priest turning around to face the congregation and occupying himself with them, but it was rather as if this man at the head of them all was leading some form of worship. And for the first time in his life he thought that he could discern some kind of sense in the service – in the silent adoration he could imagine that there was a Being present and receiving the souls. Of course, it must have been a similar form of Christianity which had possessed sufficient power for such a colossal expansion – and it was for that matter prior to becoming a religion of preaching that it had arrived in this country –

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | June 7, 2011

Sigrid Undset on the English martyrs.

If these men and women had gone to their deaths for a purely worldly cause, it is fairly certain that many more people would have known their story; it would have been related for the edification of brave young boys and girls – readers and illustrated popular publications would have glorified their courage and chivalry and cheery disregard for death if they had died for another cause than that of the unity of Christ’s Church and the supremacy of the spiritual life over the changing shape of secular society, and if their last word had been something other and more popular than that of the name of Jesus.

Sigrid Undset in her article on St Margaret Clitherow written and/or published in 1928.

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | May 19, 2011

Laudate Dominum!

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | May 17, 2011

Grace and prayer.

In the spiritual life there are two great principles which should never be forgotten: Without grace we can do nothing (John 15:5); with it we can do all things (Philippians 4:13)….God places the treasure of his graces at our disposal, and its key is prayer. You desire more faith, more hope, more love: “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” Your good resolutions remain sterile, resulting always in the same failures: “Ask, and it shall be given to you.”

…Prayer will draw down into your soul the omnipotence of God, “It is stronger than all the demons,” says St. Bernard.

Vital Lehodey, The Ways of Mental Prayer.

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | May 14, 2011

List of centre pieces and crucifixes available for rosaries.

This post will be a wee bit boring for those of you who are not interested in purchasing a handmade wire wrap rosary from me. However, as I am experiencing difficulties emailing pictures of the available centre pieces and crucifixes to potential buyers, I decided to post it here instead for their reference. And as this is my blog, I can do that kind of thing, so there.

So below follows the list with photographs. Unlike most of the bead caps I use, the centre pieces and crucifixes are not precious metal. The cost of that would probably  be quite prohibitive.

I am not selling these apart from the rosaries. The prices refer to how much a particular centre piece or crucifix would add to the full price of the rosary.

The title and description of the parts are written above the pictures of the corresponding part.

Pardon crucifix. Cost: 13 NOK. Size: 2 1/4″.

Stations inlaid crucifix. Price: 19 NOK. Size: 2 1/2″.

Nails Crucifix. Price: 24NOK. Size: 2 1/2″.

Fluted crucifix. Price: 13NOK. Size: 1 5/8″.

Leaves and grapes crucifix. Price: 12NOK. Size: 2″.

Crown of thorns crucifix. Price: 12 NOK. Size: 2″

Molded filagree crucifix. Price: 13 NOK. Size: 2″.

St Benedict crucifix. Price: 10 NOK. Size: 1 1/2″.

Sacred Heart of Jesus. Price: 10 NOK. Size: 3/4″.

Our Lady of Mercy. Price: 9 NOK. Size: 1″.

Miraculous Medal. Price: 11 NOK. Size: 1″.

Our Lady of Sorrows/Jerusalem cross. Price: 8 NOK. Size: 3/4″.

Fatima. Price: 8 NOK. Size: 7/8″.

Chalice. Price: 10 NOK. Size:  7/8″ 3D.

Sacred Heart/Scapular. Price: 11 NOK. Size: 1″.

St. Benedict medal. Price: 10 NOK. Size: 7/8″.

Ecce Homo. Price: 8 NOK. Size: 5/8″ narrow.

Divine Mercy/Madonna. Price: 8 NOK. Size: 5/8″.

Divine Mercy 2. Price: 9 NOK. Size: 1″ oval oxy

St. Michael. Price: 8 NOK. Size: 1″ oval oxy.

I also have a St. Philomena/St. Jean Vianney centre piece, which I will have to add on a later occasion.

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | May 11, 2011

Pie Pelicane!

Pelican of mercy, Jesu, Lord and God,

Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:

Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured

Might from all transgression have the world restored.

(From a poetic translation of Adoro te devote)

I love the image of the pelican feeding its young with its own blood, as it was believed to do in a case of emergency, as a metaphor of Christ feeding us with His own blood, cleansing us, imparting to us eternal life and maintaining that life in us if we only would let Him. Lately I have specifically been looking for pelicans, and have found quite a few in Belfast, though I didn’t have a camera with me all the time. I was pleased to find two pelicans in St. Peter’s cathedral in Belfast, one behind the sanctuary and another in a side window. There is also a Pelican in St. Kevin’s in Dublin. I think every Catholic church should have a pelican somewhere!!!

The pelican above is from the  sanctuary steps in St. Malachy’s in Belfast.  I am particularly happy with its central position  in front of the altar and also aligned with the tabernacle on the high altar immediately behind it. I appear not to have got a picture of the surrounding words, but  it says either ‘Behold’ or ‘Adore’ ‘Christ’ or ‘the Lord’ ‘in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar’. If I had a better memory, I could tell you exactly which, but obviously I don’t. However, you get the gist of it, I’m sure.


The position of the image and the inscription on either side obviously accentuates its role as an image of Christ feeding us with His own blood. In St. Malachy’s it thus serves as a particularly striking and moving reminder of the love of God and what He has done for us and is still doing for us in Holy Mass, not only in the literal feeding of us when we receive Holy Communion, but importantly in the shedding of His blood for us in His sacrifice on Calvary made sacramentally present to us in an unbloody but very real manner in the sacrifice of the Mass. No sacrifice, no living bread. Too often it appears that people remember only the living bread and not the sacrifice which in God’s great mercy makes it available to us, to the detriment of our understanding and appreciation of either.

I was in St. Malachy’s on Sunday 1 May for the monthly traditional Mass celebrated by Fr. Martin Graham, the curate of St. Malachy’s. It is normally celebrated in St. Paul’s, my old parish church, on every first Sunday of the month, but was moved this Sunday due to the annual Divine mercy liturgies in St. Paul’s.  Father celebrated Mass beautifully!  I’m including an image of the sanctuary as the altar was being cleared after Mass. I would love to have an image from Mass, but the drawback of that is actually having to take a picture at that time, so you will have to enjoy the sanctuary of St. Malachy’s sans Mass.

PS: On a somewhat unrelated topic,  I also spotted the tardis on my travels, in Glasgow to be precise.  No sign of the Doctor, though. He must have been out and about on one of his missions to save the universe:
Posted by: Catholic of Thule | April 24, 2011

Christus resurrexit, sicut dixit! Alleluia!!!

I’m just back from a wonderful traditional Easter Vigil Mass in St Kevin’s, Harrington Street, Dublin.  Needless to say, the Mass was blessedly replete with reverence and solemnity and a worthy high point to the liturgical year.

Happy Easter to you all!

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | April 18, 2011

Hosanna filio David!

A somewhat belated Hosanna filio David! But I’ve had this chant popping up in my head on various occasions for a while now, so I just had to go look it up on youtube and share it.

Posted by: Catholic of Thule | April 17, 2011

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens…

…usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.

I just love this version by Anerio!

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