Igitur non dormiamus sicut ceteri.

Thomas More College

#GodForStrat


I received the news yesterday that Stratford Caldecott, the preeminent English Catholic author whom I’ve written about before, has fallen asleep in the Lord last night at the all-too-early age of 60.

After such a heroic fight, and with the love of his amazing family, he still has words that will shine bright in this world. We were never thankful enough for him. If you are unfamiliar, I actually think this essay, written a mere couple of months before his death, is one of the most powerful works by the Good Man. In it, Mr. Caldecott reflects,

God entered deeply into the world—so deeply that we can call it a merging, a uniting of his own nature with the world itself. It is no illusion, but a real uniting. We can participate by joining in the rhythm of life and death. God hides himself deeply within the world, not as an extension of life, such as an experience or two, but as the totality of being. At first it all seems inaccessible and impossible. The Cross seems impossible, incredible. It seems foolish, crazy. But we must join fully, deeply, truly. And we must start as soon as possible.

I will be writing more about Stratford, his work, and his amazing life in the next couple of days, but for now I would like to invite all of you who are inclined to please join me in praying for him.

Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your servant, Stratford Caldecott, who has fallen asleep, in Your Kingdom, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering. In Your goodness and love for all men, pardon all the sins he has committed in thought word or deed, for there is no man or woman who lives and sins not, You only are without sin.

For You are the Resurrection, the Life, and Repose of Your servant Stratford, departed this life, O Christ our God; and to You do we send up glory with Your Eternal Father and Your All-holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Stratford.

Stratford Caldecott reading The Ballad of the White Horse to a group of us next to the Uffington White Horse. Some of my most pleasant memories.

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How Borders Taught Me To Move Forward


I’ve been working since I was sixteen and thus I am no stranger to job hunting. This practice has made me usually optimistic when changing career paths and I always manage to find a way to make myself an invaluable employee, no matter how many of my resumes will be rejected. Now, as you’ve no doubt read before, my reader, I am in a precarious situation shared by millions where my past successes aren’t exactly indicative of future greatness. Looking back on my previous jobs, perhaps stability was not always my calling.

Harper Library, via Justin Kern / The Golden Sieve

When I first entered the working world it was largely in restaurants, working among the salt-of-the earth that is the back kitchen, an experience I wouldn’t trade. Of course, my affection for books eventually led me to believe that a bookstore was an ideal place for employment–proof that going to grad school wasn’t my first decision led by my heart. I was initially turned down over and over again but my persistence finally led me to landing a job in a Presbyterian-run Christian book shop and even doing data entry for a great intellectual bookstore. When the Presbyterian store went out of buisness, I found a job with Waldenbooks and finally Borders. As usual, I was always praised for my interaction with customers and my odd cherriness when working the graveyard stocking shift.

At Borders I was sometimes arriving at 4am to start shelving the books and the dreaded Hobby/Games section. That upbeat attitude I talked about was my reaction to having a job I really enjoyed and my general unfamiliarity with the early morning hours. However, it was really helping people with book recommendations that I loved in each book shop I worked in. Every book was a chance to change someone’s life or at least see to it that they had a great time with a book. My crowning achievement was helping a young girl who was looking into religion and being able to send her home with Augustine, Chesterton and Anthony Flew. It was also at these stores that more and more philosophy and religion titles claimed a spot on my bookshelf.

However, Borders soon let me go due to one of Oregon’s many economic lulls and I worked part time at Waldenbooks in conjunction with several other positions until I decided to go back to college. Now, with them out of business, I am trying to understand how a giant in the industry is gone and one of several buildings I worked in is soon to be empty. This marks several of my former employers who are no longer operating, three of them bookstores. Along with so much that is unknown in my life, employment shouldn’t be such a new one.

The economy is the prime example of instability, as is perception of a college education and even our political model. Today I am reading emails and facebook status updates of my friends who are enduring Hurricane Irene. As I found out in graduating from a liberal arts school, even a bastion of stability like a university or a liberal arts college can change locations or curriculum in what seems to be a split second. Perhaps there was never that much stability in my life anyways, but being able to only find temp jobs that pay worse than Borders sure makes the unknown that is the future that much scarier.

As I said in my last overly-personal post, the freedom that many gradate school quitters desire comes with that price of uncertainty. For the first time in over six years, I don’t know what I’m doing this Labour Day and I have nobody dictating what I will have to do for the next nine months. At once this is a feeling of liberation and oppression: I’m free to choose my road in life now, but I’m having to daily fight the paralysing fear that sometimes comes with that choice. I could find the job of my dreams and really start paying off my debts so I can truly explore the religious life or I could be working temp jobs for another few months. Heck, I could just randomly decide to move to Boston tomorrow and rejoin my friends and live in a city I have come to adore; but nothing is certain and that can make me stop altogether.

I should end this rambling missive, my reader, but there is one thing I have to say to all the googlers who find my website and might be deciding which path to choose. That one thing is that staying in what seems to be a stable life purely out of fear was a much worse feeling than any kind of anxiety I experience now. While in graduate school I was having to see counsellor once a week and I was, by the end of my time, on four different types of medicine that were aimed at alleviating my stressed-out mind. Where I am now is not where I want to be but I am finally able to be open to change or a new calling and I can read what I wish when I wish to. If your vocation is in the academy, then I commend you, but don’t stay or go to the ivory tower purely because of uncertainty. Being lost is about the best thing you can do with your twenties before the joyful responsibilities of family and real life come into play. Have a good time with it!


I Think This About Sums It Up


For all of you thinking of grad school, here’s something to consider.  Especially my good friends applying at TMC.

 

Click the picture for the Honest Grad School Ad

 

 


‘A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra’ by Richard Wilbur


Update: I have been receiving a lot of traffic for this from google searches and it looks like people are either looking for an interpretation of the poem or are seeking photos of the fountain.  While I do have an interpretation of this poem, I’m not a professional literary critic and I’m, at best, a hack academic.  However, I am happy to lend a hand to any Wilbur fans so do email me at m.jordan.lichens [at] gmail.com if you would like me to refer you to resources.  For the photo hunters, I do have plenty of pictures of the fountain in the Villa Sciarra in Rome, which I had the pleasure of living next to.  While the photos are mine, it must needs be said that I do not own the rights to this poem and am only quoting it to share the pure art.  I am in no way turning a profit from this or claiming any ownership.  Cheers, mjl.

Under the bronze crown

Too big for the head of the stone cherub whose feet

A serpent has begun to eat,

Sweet water brims a cockle and braids down

Past spattered mosses, breaks

On the tipped edge of a second shell, and fills

The massive third below.  It spills

In threads then from the scalloped rim, and makes

A scrim or summery tent

For a faun-ménage and their familiar goose.

Happy in all that ragged, loose

Collapse of water, its effortless descent

And flatteries of spray,

The stocky god upholds the shell with ease,

Watching, about his shaggy knees,

The goatish innocence of his babes at play;

His fauness all the while

Leans forward, slightly, into a clambering mesh

Of water-lights, her sparkling flesh

In a saecular ecstasy, her blinded smile

Bent on the sand floor

Of the trefoil pool, where ripple-shadows come

And go in swift reticulum,

More addling to the eye than wine, and more

 

Interminable to thought

Than pleasure’s calculus.  Yet since this all

Is pleasure, flash, and waterfall,

Must it no be too simple?  Are we not

More intricately expressed

In the plain fountains that Maderna set

Before St. Peter’s – the main jet

Struggling aloft until it seems at rest

In the very act of rising, until

The very wish of water is reversed,

That heaviness borne up to burst

In a clear, high, cavorting head, to fill

With blaze, and then in gauze

Delays, in a gnatlike shimmering, in a fine

Illumined version of itself, decline,

And patter on the stones its own applause?

If that is what men are

Or should be, if those water-saints display

The pattern of our arête,

What of these showered fauns in their bizarre,

Spangled, and plunging house?

They are at rest in fullness of desire

For what is given, they do not tire

Of the smart of the sun, the pleasant water-douse

And riddled pool below,

Reproving our disgust and our ennui

With humble insatiety.

Francis, perhaps, who lay in sister snow

Before the wealthy gate

Freezing and praising, might have seen in this

No trifle, but  shade of bliss –

That land of tolerable flowers, that state

As near and far as grass

Where eyes becomes the sunlight, and the hand

Is worthy of water: the dreamt land

Toward which all hungers leap, all pleasures pass.


And Now For Something Completely Different


Dear Reader, my apologies for the stream of consciousness which follows in this post.  I wished to announce a change in program and a new direction in my blogging but found myself bearing a lot more of my heart than I generally like to do on the internet.  That being said, I hope you can forgive an amateur author on the Digital Vanity Press for his sudden outbursts.

I am sitting in my room suffering from the most severe writers block with regards to everything I’m supposed to be working on.   The University of Chicago is a wonderful school that demands much and I am sometimes afraid that I fail at answering the call.  All the same, I know that it is my vocation to write in whatever capacity I can and to share in whatever minor truths that I find cause a cause to rejoice.  No doubt, my most endearing reader, you have noticed a lot of changes to the layout of this blog; these outward signs are quite indicative of an inner change that I’ve been going through the last year and a half.  Insofar as I remain the Catholic Coffee Drinker and a man driven to madness for love of the truth, I have also begun so many new things since I started self-publishing over three years ago.

In 2007 I was still a new convert to the faith and my zeal could not be contained.  A convert to any grand idea will tell you of the excitement of unburying an ancient truth and of parading that long-known truth around as if it was the most grand and revolutionary idea that any person has ever come upon.  When it came to Catholicism, especially of the orthodox variety, I was just such a convert and I found myself quoting Chesterton, St. Paul, Elijah, and Augustine as if they had just written me letters on a new way to be human and this excitement drove me to read and write like no other time in my life.  A few things have changed.  I am a Catholic, but now I see that I suffer with–and perhaps, though indirectly, from–the Church Militant that truly is one great family with all the love, joys, pains, and awkward conversations that come with every family.  I need not tell you of the crises of faith and praxis which have taken hold of the Church these last few decades, and, even less so, do I need to tell you of the power and the glory that comes with being part of that very Church.

Further, I have grown up considerably and am no longer the bright-eyed child of the Liberal Arts who is rediscovering eternal truths.  I still look in wonder at the volumes of wisdom contained over the thousands of years but am now in grad school and find myself needing to remember the joy I feel after long study.  A friend of mine once exclaimed, “I wish I could remember how I felt after I went for a run,” and I too need to remember the joy I feel after completing my studies, saying my prayers, and jotting down a few hasty notes on the experience.  In all of this, I realized that my blogging needed to be reprogramed and thus my announcement to the handful who still read this blog.

A few changes you will see or have already seen:

  • A new look and a slightly more diverse set of subjects.
  • My posts need to become a little more honest while not falling into the folly of keeping an e-diary.  Language is given to us by God to make our thoughts known to one another, but I am rather certain there are still a few things I will keep private.
  • With regards to the previous point, I am also determined to tackle the hard subjects of life and faith.  These subject cause me a lot of anxiety, but they are the anxiety of many of us and only by talking about it do we begin to renew the things that matter most.
  • I am also taking the time to go through my years of postings and deleting the ones that were rather unkind or unconstructive.  As well, I am trying to be better about my editing.
  • Finally, I am going to put a pause on my Best of Chesterton blog.  I would like to undertake the project again, but will need to be better disciplined about two blogs before I undertake a wholly different venture.  That said, do feel free to contact me if you should like to help with such an adventure and perhaps write or edit the blog.

I thank you for reading this and do ask that you return as I start my new project.  As well, if you have any ideas of what you’d like to read on this blog or see more of than do please contact me or leave a comment.  My warmest gratitude to you, my constant reader.

Pax Christi,

MJL


In Memoriam


Nicholas Sanchez, an old friend from my days at Thomas More College died yesterday, July 29, 2009.  I have no details that I feel comfortable writing here so I will just simply ask for prayers that God receives his soul and for peace with his family.  I will, however share some memories of someone who left a memorable impression everywhere he went.

In the centre, Nicholas Sanchez.

In the centre, Nicholas Sanchez.

I met him while TMC was having a Halloween dance, I was dressed kind odd and smoking a cigar.  He turned to me and asked out of the blue, “So, where’s my cigar?” It was from there that we talked much and he was the one who introduced me to Melkite Rite of the Catholic Church and encouraged my discernment for the Dominicans.  Granted, I could always count on him for a little East and West taunting, but I could also rely on him for a good meal, a good drink, and some great conversation.  He always insisted on being called Uncle Nick, and in many ways he rejoiced in being TMC’s strange uncle.  I will alway remember his large laugh and love of Rumpole, and especially his enjoyment of friends around a claret.

Requiscat in Pace Mr Sanchez, you won’t soon be forgotten.


Prayer Requests


Please pray for Nicholas Sanchez and his family. Mr. Sanchez is an old friend of mine and someone whose name has been on this blog before.  The details are sketchy, but I know that he may not have much longer to live.  Keep him in your prayers my dear readers.


I Thought You Were Visiting For My Writing!


A lot of folks have been searching for info on my beloved (and feared) alma mater, Thomas More College in New Hampshire, and I’m curious why that might be?  I guess some are looking for controversy, even on summer break, or they’re hoping for news.  Sorry to say, though, yes, TMC is a place full of drama and rumors and tears, fears, triumphs, and songs and shouting, but I cannot really provide news of the place and don’t know that I’m quite capable of seeking controversy.

NB: This is directed at those doing query searches such as “Thomas More College firing” or “Thomas More College controversy.”  I am happy to discuss the school in any depth in any fashion, and would encourage people to
write me an email at this link
but do be sure to subject it “TMC Info?” or something of that sort.  Happy to talk!  However, this is not the forum for gossiping and whispering behind the curtains.  Thanks for checking in!


Silver Lining


My coments to the Nashua Telegraph regarding graduation were selectively quoted to be quite negative.  I’ll admit that graduating in this economy has me and many other graduates quite frightened, but I also hold out for a lot of hope that the future of any grad from TMC will be something beautiful.  In many ways I enjoy the economic woes simply because every other college graduate finds their degrees as worthless lacking immediate value as much as most liberal arts majors have.  For far too  many years we have had to endure a lot of sneering from Marketing and Business majors about how we Philosophy and Lit majors would never find much value for our degree once we were in the real world.  Now, those same Marketing majors are finding their struggle to be as great as mine and I meanwhile have had plenty of practice defending my degree as worth it for the life of the mind.  Pardon me, dear reader, if I find this more than a bit humorous.

As for the article, the folks at the Cabinet publish some thoughts of a silver lining for many of us graduates who are going to graduate school to deal with the economic woes.  “That’s great for them,” we are thus encouraged, “and it might also be, in the long run, good for the nation.”  The lining looks silver to these good writers for the simple reason that they see a population of well educated men and women in this generation being beneficial for the broader community.  With that, dear reader, I’m going to beg from you in the great Dominican tradition for money.  However, this wannabe barking friar shall do it in a fashion more befitting of the modern era for now you can do it by paypal!  Your donation will ensure a little extra help while I try to catch up on my finances to go to the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and further discern a vocation to my beloved Order.

Just Click ME to Donate!

I will promise to not use any donated money for coffee, cigars, or beer (unless the donor wishes it were so) but promise that every donation will enable me to make a happy face similar to this:

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How You Can Be Rich Like Me! Or, How not to give a good commencement speech.


I suppose on some personal news, I am now a graduate of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts as of  11 May 2009 and am quite happy to be out of college and into the ennui of watching movies and job hunting.

There are plenty of articles out there about how 2009 is quite possibly the worst year to graduate with all the unemployment rates, dwindling financial aid, and all around panic.  Nonetheless, it is as Chesterton liked to say, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”  The post-graduation time I suppose is an adventure in trying to determine what my education was worth and what I ought to do with it.  Dr. William Fahey, my college’s acting president, had a great time telling us that now was our time to justify our liberal education to a world that does not understand what it’s for.

Mr Durst and I from left to right at our graduation

Mr Durst and I from left to right at our graduation

After many years of listening to commencement speakers I am glad to say that my own commencement featured Cardinal Arinze who gave a moving speech that touched on a variety of topics and was quite a bit more memorable and honest than many other speeches I’ve heard.  It is supposed that a commencement address ought to be a passsing of a secret to success for all the youth to listen to and carry with them as they leave the ivory tower.  Myself, I never understood why the wealthy always feel like their sharing a secret I can’t just as easily buy at Barnes and Noble or may very well have no interest in.  Do pardon me, dear reader, but having no money and greatly desiring to be out of debt may have made me a bit bitter about America’s love of wealth.  All the same, I always wished that some Dominican would stand up at commencement to tell us, “The desire of all me is the happy life which is not of an ephemeral wealth and prosperity, but found only in a life devoted to God.  Turn and give up all joys for wealth, for you are man and greater than the things of this world and will only find joy in the beautific vision.”