OBSESSED BY THE SPIRITS OF THIS AGE

James Whistler's "Nocturne in Black and Gold: Falling Rocket," 1875. John Ruskin accused Whistler of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face" when the work was unveiled. Rather, this dark but gorgeous painting says, "The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. "

Still dealing with The Ground Squirrel. The good news is that I’ve managed to wrest an essay out of it–stay tuned.


October was all St. Thérèse of Lisieux, all the time. A couple of podcasts I don’t think I posted:

AUGUST 14, 2022
“Barriers to Receiving Love,” Podcast with Mary Jo Parrish of Kingdom Builders, Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a focus on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

October 30, 2022:
Podcast with NOMAD: FAITH, DOUBT & REIMAGINATION
“The Little Way: The Spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux


I’ve embarked on nine months of the Ignatian Exercises, and it seems I am ready for this particular adventure. What is holding me back from giving myself FULLY? What are my “possessions,” as in the Parable of the Rich Young Man (Matthew 16:19-22), that I simply can’t or won’t give up? The best I can figure my “possession” is my will: my schedule, my need to “give a good account of myself (by MY lights) at the end of the day, my need to be right, my (pride-based) very low tolerance for being “bored” or “annoyed,” my comfort, my rest, my way…

Meanwhile, I’ve gone back to Caryll Houselander, and am re-reading Maisie Ward’s That Divine Eccentric. I find it very encouraging that Caryll was so sharp-tongued (suffering reams of remorse over it), so loved a “Rabelaisian” story, was under certain circumstances so full of fun that many people suspected her of being a hypocrite and that her so-called faith was a sham.

Awhile back, I was pondering on how Jesus said Blessed is he who brings forth from his storehouse both the old and the new, and how “conservatives” in the Church want to go back and live in the past, while “liberals” want to erase the past.

Here’s Caryll Houselander, writing back in the ’40s or so, with insights that are still relevant today, if not more so:

“Some people cling to what is past; some, the fewer and braver, face the future; but to live harmoniously in the present is an almost superhuman task.

The modernist writers are not the contemptible egoists which they are too often supposed to be. They refuse to write anything which is not an integral part of their own experience, and most of them have no experience of the Faith as we understand it. The problems tormenting those of the modernist sort outside the Church are a thousand times more terrible than those within.

My position is that I am obsessed by the spirit of this age, with all its faults I love it and believe in it.

I believe that it is the most serious duty I have, to see, to recognize Christ in it and to go on, never to go back; that alll our modern inventions and conditions are to be used, cleared of abuses and lifted up but not swept away, that compromise with the present and a looking back to the past is a sin.

I find no sympathy with this view in the thought of my fellow Catholics, who seem to me to be always striving to return to the past and to set fierce limitations on the use of the present.

I find in this attitude a deadlock, a deadening and a choking of effort.

I do not trust myself to stand alone, I will not range myself amont those who, though they clearly share my desires, do not share my faith in Christ.

Consequently I am tortured.

I desire supremely and above all to be in perfect harmony with the whole world.”


My position is that I am obsessed by the spirit of this age, with all its faults I love it and believe in it.

That’s my position, too, or at least I want it to be.

On that note, my friend Rita sent me this excellent National Catholic Register piece yesterday, entitled “Polarization in the Church: How Can It Be Overcome?”

“Polarization has indeed been a painful wound and, frankly, a scandal, which has greatly hampered the mission of the Church in our time”…

“Is orthodoxy in and by itself what Christianity brings to the world? In fact, one could argue that our problem today is not so much a mere rejection of truth, but that truth and life are divided. Either life is affirmed as the primary value, or truth is affirmed in the abstract, but has a hard time becoming life, being verified as truth in experience“…

“At the beginning of Christianity, Jesus did not primarily propose a set of doctrines or a list of moral principles. Primarily, he proposed himself as “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” The disciples did not just meet a teacher and a moral exemplar; they met God-made-flesh.”


So how are we encountering Christ today–in our own lives, in the people around us, in the world as it is? Could we articulate our hope and joy, in the midst of uncertainty and suffering, in words a “simple” fisherman could understand?

4 Replies to “OBSESSED BY THE SPIRITS OF THIS AGE”

  1. I just go to morning Mass preceded, thank you Fr. Joe, by adoration and pray for the whole world. It’s all I can do.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Now THAT’S activism–to me, the best kind. Right there with you, Melanie. God bless.

  2. You are so! precious, dear Heather! Thank you for sharing such high and mighty humbleness!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha, thanks for your high and mighty support, dear Glenda! +++

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