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The Ordered Cosmos

Humans are peculiar creatures, and deep down we all know this to be so. We are bound by time but tend in a certain manner toward eternity; we are bodily and yet possess an immaterial or spiritual principle; we are formed from the dust of the earth but are nevertheless made to the image of God. Sub-human animals do not attend to the time of day, nor do they, except by a kind of ineluctable inclination or instinct, concern themselves with seasons. At the other end of the hierarchy, angels are not worried about corruption or dissolution; they need not devote time to study or the arduous cultivation of virtue.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, the Old Testament reading for today’s Holy Mass, reflects on the rhythm of God’s material creation. There is a time and place for all things, seasons of birth and growth and maturity and decay. But for the human person in a special way there are times to be at work and at leisure, to fast and to feast, to speak and to keep silent, to weep and to laugh, and all the rest. That human life ebbs and flows is inevitable, for we are, again, beings bound by time and space. And this is precisely as God wills it to be, even if we are meant ultimately (without ceasing to be creatures) to be caught up into His own eternity and immutable perfection.

What does Ecclesiastes have to teach us? After all, we all know existence to be constituted by moments both good and bad, lovely and tragic, life-giving and death-dealing. The sacred author wants us to see that all things are ordered by God’s wisdom. The rest of creation participates in its own manner in God’s ordering wisdom, but human beings in a far higher and more perfect way. We can, in short, because we are intellectual creatures, order as God orders and guide as God guides. We can perceive the ordered pattern of creation and act in accord with it. This is nothing trivial or unremarkable, but rather something wonderful for which to thank God.

The Church’s liturgical calendar provides a much-needed structure to the Christian life. The Church is a good Mother, and just as our parents teach us how to live and act in the world in an ordered way, in accord with the times and seasons, so too does the Church. In her case, though, she is using the times and seasons, sanctified by her divine Spouse and Head, to lead us to eternal life.

As we focus this year on the sacraments, the highest expressions of the Church’s liturgical life, let us see them as wise and good gifts of God, remedies for sin appropriate for the peculiar creatures we are. As the sacred author of Ecclesiastes knew so profoundly, the God who transcends every imperfection and change orders all things well, whether in nature or in grace.

All the Trees of the Wood Sing for Joy Before the Lord

When life gets busy, as it so often does, with all the distractions it can be easy to lose sight of the most important things while trying to juggle all of the small stuff. Not that all of the small stuff doesn’t have its own place and importance, but things become problematic when the small stuff becomes a distraction for, or even takes the place of, more important things. St. Augustine tells us that things are either used or enjoyed. Things enjoyed bring us happiness, and the only thing which can bring us true happiness is God. God is the only thing we should enjoy. Everything else should be used in order to lead us to God. “Those things which are objects of use assist, and (so to speak) support us in our efforts after happiness, so that we can attain the things that make us happy and rest in them.”[1] All of the small stuff should be ordered so as to bring us closer to God and not become distractions or ends in their own right.

This can be easier said than done in a world with a lot of anxiety and constant busyness. When life gets busy and focused on the wrong things, I find myself drawn to taking a walk in the woods or sitting alone in a beautiful garden. This always helps to redirect my thoughts to God. There is something about nature which has a calming effect on the soul.

The French aristocrat and commentator on early American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, in an essay titled “Two Weeks in the Wilderness,” expressed what he experienced when stepping away from the cities and entering the American wilderness.

In that spot, the wilderness was probably just as it appeared six thousand years before to our ancestors’ eyes—a delightful and scented solitude festooned with flowers; a magnificent dwelling, a living palace constructed for man but into which the master had not yet made his way. The rowing boat slipped along effortlessly and silently. All around us reigned total serenity and peace. It was not long before we ourselves became, as it were, soothed at the sight of such a scene. Our conversation began to become more and more intermittent. Soon we were only whispering our thoughts. At length we fell silent altogether and, both putting up our oars, we descended into a quiet reverie filled with inexpressible magic.[2]

Perhaps the calming of the soul is due to God’s working on us through His creation. St. Thomas in the Summa contra Gentiles describes how we can come to God through His creation. “Now, God brought things into being by His wisdom; wherefore the Psalm (103:24) declares: ‘Thou hast made all things in wisdom.’ Hence, from reflection upon God’s works we are able to infer His wisdom, since, by a certain communication of His likeness, it is spread abroad in the things He has made.”[3] Thus the flowers of the garden and the trees in the woods, by their creation and existence, proclaim the greatness of God.

So, the next time you get caught up in the small things and get distracted from God, find the nearest garden or wooded walk and remember the words of St. Basil, “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you clear remembrance of the Creator.”[4] After a bit, you too will find yourself soothed, less anxious, and refocused on the one thing that matters: God.

[1] St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 1.3. [2] Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America and Two Essays on America (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 922. [3] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles II, ch. 2. [4] St. Basil, The Hexaemeron, 5.2.

Are You Baptized in the Holy Ghost?

Are you baptized in the Holy Ghost? This is a question that you’ll often get if you ever hang around Charismatic Christians—whether Protestant or Catholic. What they usually mean is, “Have you experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way?” Often they think a sign of this “baptism” is the outward manifestation of certain spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues.

But for Catholics, the language of “being baptized in the Holy Spirit” need not be reduced to a subjective experience that we may have of Him or the ability to speak in strange tongues. It arguably refers to a sacrament: namely, the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus instructs the apostles not to leave Jerusalem until they receive the promise of the Father to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” which, according to Peter in Acts 11:15-16, is a reference to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Now, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 1288 that the Sacrament of Confirmation “in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.” This is confirmed in Acts 8 when Peter and John lay hands on the newly baptized Christians in Samaria and give them a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit similar to that of the Christians in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.

If Pentecost was the event where the early Christians received their “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and the laying on of hands in Confirmation perpetuates the graces of Pentecost, then it follows that to be confirmed is to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” insofar as by means of the sacrament we receive the same outpouring of the Spirit that allows us courageously to spread and defend the faith in word and deed.

And just because some confirmed Christians might not have the gift of tongues, doesn’t mean they haven’t been “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” since, according to Paul in 1 Cor. 12:30, not all members of Christ’s Body have this gift.

So, to the question, “Have you been baptized in the Holy Ghost?” Christians who’ve been validly confirmed can say with some charismatic flair, “Amen, brotha!”

Life and Death in Christ

The last couple of years have forced us to confront the realities of suffering and death. I speak of coercion because we rarely enjoy thinking about suffering and death. They make us uncomfortable, at the very least, and at times perhaps even paranoid and fearful. In a certain respect, these reactions are understandable. Suffering and death are not desirable in themselves, involving as they do the weakening or destruction of the human body. But they are unavoidable, at least in this fallen world.

We often avoid talking about suffering and death in the spiritual life as well. We neglect to consider all the suffering that sin can bring us and those whom we love. We fail to reflect on the reality of spiritual death and the possibility of the second death of hell. And here too the neglect is somewhat understandable. Our own wickedness, or that of our loved ones, is a difficult thing to come to terms with, in part because our wickedness signifies to us that we need to convert to God, that we need to do the challenging work of changing our lives. Vices are bad habits, and habits are stable and deeply ingrained and thus hard to uproot. But again, such suffering is practically unavoidable in this vale of tears, and with the grace of God we are called to overcome sin and spiritual death. Indeed, that is why Christ came.

Because we neglect or misunderstand suffering and death, we likewise neglect or misunderstand the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which exists for the sake of strengthening those who are seriously ill or aged and in danger of death. We forget this sacrament at our peril.

God in the Old Testament is the healer of His people, a physician for all who call upon His name. Jesus Christ continues this healing ministry in the New Testament, using His sacred humanity as the instrument of His divinity. Jesus restores sight to the blind, cleanses the leper, raises the dead, but the more vital healing is always spiritual. The bodily healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, for example, is a sign of the interior healing of his sin-wounded soul. Jesus’s earthly ministry, consummated on the bloody Cross, accomplishes most proximately not freedom of the people of Israel from Roman occupation, but the liberty of all men from the slavery and dominion of sin.

Now that Jesus has ascended to the Father, has His healing ministry ceased? By no means! Jesus continues to touch us through the sacramental mysteries. While all the sacraments in their own manner serve to heal and elevate human nature, there are two sacraments specially ordered to healing: Penance and Holy Anointing. If the former is primarily concerned with restoring supernatural life to the spiritually dead, the latter is concerned with strengthening the spiritually alive but sick. Because we are wounded by sin, inordinately attached to creatures even after being forgiven, we are often susceptible to doubt, anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness, and other vices when we are seriously ill or dying. Just reflect on how physical weakness, lack of sleep, and emotional distress can impact you. The first grace of Anointing of the Sick addresses precisely this reality. Here is how the Catechism puts it: “The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This gift is a grace of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death” (1520). Notice that the primary grace of the sacrament is not one of physical healing. Yes, sometimes physical healing does result, but this is not principally why the sacrament was instituted. Even were a person to be miraculously saved from physical death, it would not be delayed forever. Instead, the sacrament is meant to save one from eternal death and prepare the soul to be with God in heaven forever.

Christ instituted the sacraments for a reason, including Extreme Unction (our “last anointing”) or Anointing of the Sick. Though we may be reluctant to contemplate for too long a sacrament bound up with the human conditions of suffering and dying, perhaps our sentiments will change when we remember what a merciful gift it is. It is a unique conformation to the passion and death of Christ, and thus a special sharing also in His victory in the Resurrection. Let this, then, be a call to rediscover the beauty and power of Holy Anointing.

The Custom of Reading Out Loud

Over the summer the Alcuin Institute hosted its first Catholic Imagination Fellowship. As part of this fellowship three college-aged scholars participated in two accredited, two-week intensive Great Books courses covering the ancient and medieval writers, as well as a two-week internship working with the staff of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic. It was a great joy to get to work through so many texts with the students and my fellow tutors in the Institute. One of the texts we read was Euthyphro by Plato. It is a fairly short text and one that can be read in about an hour. One afternoon after class, we decided to read the entire text out loud so that the text would not only be read, but also heard. Euthyphro can be a tough text, and sometimes in hearing the dialogue read out loud our ears catch things that our eyes don’t. Not only was it beneficial, but the Fellows thoroughly enjoyed having the text read to them. Every teacher at one time or another will find themselves reading to their students. As a parent, I read to my son all the time, until he was able to read the books himself. Once my son could read, it was rare that I would read out loud unless I was teaching a class. All of my friends are readers, but unless it is a poem on all too rare occasions, we do not come together to read texts out loud to each other. Outside of classes or reading to our kids, why don’t we read to each other more often? Perhaps we should! The occasion that made me ponder reading out loud was a book I read recently called The Haunted Bookshop, written shortly after the end of World War I. One of the main characters of the story is Roger Mifflin, a charismatic pipe-smoker and owner of a used bookshop. Mr. Mifflin takes on a new employee and lodger named Titania whom he is introducing to the world of books. On the first night Titania stays with the Mifflins, and after dinner, Roger Mifflin makes the following suggestion for the evening’s entertainment. “Well my dear,” said Roger after supper that evening, “I think perhaps we had better introduce Miss Titania to our custom of reading aloud.”[1] Titania is of course delighted at the idea of being read to. This then made me think of the Inklings. Several years after the time depicted in The Haunted Bookshop, A group of scholars and Oxford dons, including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams, would come together in the rooms of C.S. Lewis or meet at the Eagle and Child pub to read texts to each other. Some read their own texts, and many are now considered classics in their own right. These 20th century examples made me ponder reading out loud in the Church. My first thoughts went to another book which was read by the scholars of the Catholic Imagination Fellowship, The Rule of Benedict. Rule thirty-eight concerns the weekly reader. “The brothers’ meals should always be accompanied by reading, not by a person at random who just picks up the book, but by someone who will read for the whole week starting on Sunday. After Mass and Communion, the one who is starting his period of duty should ask all the brothers to pray for him, so that God may preserve him from a spirit of pride, and then everyone in the oratory should repeat this verse after him three times, ‘O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will show forth your praise’ (Ps. 51:15). Then he will receive a blessing and start reading.”[2] They hear the Word of God while they are eating. They ingest the Word of God with their ears, just as they ingest the food on their plates with their mouths. We do the same, when at every Mass we hear the priest or deacon read the Gospel in the Liturgy of the Word. St. Paul tells us, “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Being read to has always been a part of the Tradition of the Church. Unfortunately, we live in a time that is very noisy. It is hard to escape the television, the radio, and the internet. If you think about it, in a way, these modern technologies are just a modern way of reading out loud to us. Perhaps it would be better to turn them off. A better alternative would be to get together with your family or a few friends, pick up a good book or Sacred Scripture, and as Roger Mifflin would say, re-introduce “the custom of reading aloud.” [1] Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Philadelphia: J B Lippincott Company, 1955), 74. [2] The Rule of Benedict, trans. Carolinne White (New York: Penguin, 2008), 38.

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The Ordered Cosmos

Humans are peculiar creatures, and deep down we all know this to be so. We are bound by time but tend in a certain manner toward eternity; we are bodily and yet possess an immaterial or spiritual principle; we are formed from the dust of the earth but are nevertheless made to the image of God. Sub-human animals do not attend to the time of day, nor do they, except by a kind of ineluctable inclination or instinct, concern themselves with seasons. At the other end of the hierarchy, angels are not worried about corruption or dissolution; they need not devote time to study or the arduous cultivation of virtue.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, the Old Testament reading for today’s Holy Mass, reflects on the rhythm of God’s material creation. There is a time and place for all things, seasons of birth and growth and maturity and decay. But for the human person in a special way there are times to be at work and at leisure, to fast and to feast, to speak and to keep silent, to weep and to laugh, and all the rest. That human life ebbs and flows is inevitable, for we are, again, beings bound by time and space. And this is precisely as God wills it to be, even if we are meant ultimately (without ceasing to be creatures) to be caught up into His own eternity and immutable perfection.

What does Ecclesiastes have to teach us? After all, we all know existence to be constituted by moments both good and bad, lovely and tragic, life-giving and death-dealing. The sacred author wants us to see that all things are ordered by God’s wisdom. The rest of creation participates in its own manner in God’s ordering wisdom, but human beings in a far higher and more perfect way. We can, in short, because we are intellectual creatures, order as God orders and guide as God guides. We can perceive the ordered pattern of creation and act in accord with it. This is nothing trivial or unremarkable, but rather something wonderful for which to thank God.

The Church’s liturgical calendar provides a much-needed structure to the Christian life. The Church is a good Mother, and just as our parents teach us how to live and act in the world in an ordered way, in accord with the times and seasons, so too does the Church. In her case, though, she is using the times and seasons, sanctified by her divine Spouse and Head, to lead us to eternal life.

As we focus this year on the sacraments, the highest expressions of the Church’s liturgical life, let us see them as wise and good gifts of God, remedies for sin appropriate for the peculiar creatures we are. As the sacred author of Ecclesiastes knew so profoundly, the God who transcends every imperfection and change orders all things well, whether in nature or in grace.

All the Trees of the Wood Sing for Joy Before the Lord

When life gets busy, as it so often does, with all the distractions it can be easy to lose sight of the most important things while trying to juggle all of the small stuff. Not that all of the small stuff doesn’t have its own place and importance, but things become problematic when the small stuff becomes a distraction for, or even takes the place of, more important things. St. Augustine tells us that things are either used or enjoyed. Things enjoyed bring us happiness, and the only thing which can bring us true happiness is God. God is the only thing we should enjoy. Everything else should be used in order to lead us to God. “Those things which are objects of use assist, and (so to speak) support us in our efforts after happiness, so that we can attain the things that make us happy and rest in them.”[1] All of the small stuff should be ordered so as to bring us closer to God and not become distractions or ends in their own right.

This can be easier said than done in a world with a lot of anxiety and constant busyness. When life gets busy and focused on the wrong things, I find myself drawn to taking a walk in the woods or sitting alone in a beautiful garden. This always helps to redirect my thoughts to God. There is something about nature which has a calming effect on the soul.

The French aristocrat and commentator on early American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, in an essay titled “Two Weeks in the Wilderness,” expressed what he experienced when stepping away from the cities and entering the American wilderness.

In that spot, the wilderness was probably just as it appeared six thousand years before to our ancestors’ eyes—a delightful and scented solitude festooned with flowers; a magnificent dwelling, a living palace constructed for man but into which the master had not yet made his way. The rowing boat slipped along effortlessly and silently. All around us reigned total serenity and peace. It was not long before we ourselves became, as it were, soothed at the sight of such a scene. Our conversation began to become more and more intermittent. Soon we were only whispering our thoughts. At length we fell silent altogether and, both putting up our oars, we descended into a quiet reverie filled with inexpressible magic.[2]

Perhaps the calming of the soul is due to God’s working on us through His creation. St. Thomas in the Summa contra Gentiles describes how we can come to God through His creation. “Now, God brought things into being by His wisdom; wherefore the Psalm (103:24) declares: ‘Thou hast made all things in wisdom.’ Hence, from reflection upon God’s works we are able to infer His wisdom, since, by a certain communication of His likeness, it is spread abroad in the things He has made.”[3] Thus the flowers of the garden and the trees in the woods, by their creation and existence, proclaim the greatness of God.

So, the next time you get caught up in the small things and get distracted from God, find the nearest garden or wooded walk and remember the words of St. Basil, “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you clear remembrance of the Creator.”[4] After a bit, you too will find yourself soothed, less anxious, and refocused on the one thing that matters: God.

[1] St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 1.3. [2] Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America and Two Essays on America (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 922. [3] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles II, ch. 2. [4] St. Basil, The Hexaemeron, 5.2.

Are You Baptized in the Holy Ghost?

Are you baptized in the Holy Ghost? This is a question that you’ll often get if you ever hang around Charismatic Christians—whether Protestant or Catholic. What they usually mean is, “Have you experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way?” Often they think a sign of this “baptism” is the outward manifestation of certain spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues.

But for Catholics, the language of “being baptized in the Holy Spirit” need not be reduced to a subjective experience that we may have of Him or the ability to speak in strange tongues. It arguably refers to a sacrament: namely, the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus instructs the apostles not to leave Jerusalem until they receive the promise of the Father to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” which, according to Peter in Acts 11:15-16, is a reference to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Now, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 1288 that the Sacrament of Confirmation “in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.” This is confirmed in Acts 8 when Peter and John lay hands on the newly baptized Christians in Samaria and give them a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit similar to that of the Christians in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.

If Pentecost was the event where the early Christians received their “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and the laying on of hands in Confirmation perpetuates the graces of Pentecost, then it follows that to be confirmed is to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” insofar as by means of the sacrament we receive the same outpouring of the Spirit that allows us courageously to spread and defend the faith in word and deed.

And just because some confirmed Christians might not have the gift of tongues, doesn’t mean they haven’t been “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” since, according to Paul in 1 Cor. 12:30, not all members of Christ’s Body have this gift.

So, to the question, “Have you been baptized in the Holy Ghost?” Christians who’ve been validly confirmed can say with some charismatic flair, “Amen, brotha!”

Life and Death in Christ

The last couple of years have forced us to confront the realities of suffering and death. I speak of coercion because we rarely enjoy thinking about suffering and death. They make us uncomfortable, at the very least, and at times perhaps even paranoid and fearful. In a certain respect, these reactions are understandable. Suffering and death are not desirable in themselves, involving as they do the weakening or destruction of the human body. But they are unavoidable, at least in this fallen world.

We often avoid talking about suffering and death in the spiritual life as well. We neglect to consider all the suffering that sin can bring us and those whom we love. We fail to reflect on the reality of spiritual death and the possibility of the second death of hell. And here too the neglect is somewhat understandable. Our own wickedness, or that of our loved ones, is a difficult thing to come to terms with, in part because our wickedness signifies to us that we need to convert to God, that we need to do the challenging work of changing our lives. Vices are bad habits, and habits are stable and deeply ingrained and thus hard to uproot. But again, such suffering is practically unavoidable in this vale of tears, and with the grace of God we are called to overcome sin and spiritual death. Indeed, that is why Christ came.

Because we neglect or misunderstand suffering and death, we likewise neglect or misunderstand the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which exists for the sake of strengthening those who are seriously ill or aged and in danger of death. We forget this sacrament at our peril.

God in the Old Testament is the healer of His people, a physician for all who call upon His name. Jesus Christ continues this healing ministry in the New Testament, using His sacred humanity as the instrument of His divinity. Jesus restores sight to the blind, cleanses the leper, raises the dead, but the more vital healing is always spiritual. The bodily healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, for example, is a sign of the interior healing of his sin-wounded soul. Jesus’s earthly ministry, consummated on the bloody Cross, accomplishes most proximately not freedom of the people of Israel from Roman occupation, but the liberty of all men from the slavery and dominion of sin.

Now that Jesus has ascended to the Father, has His healing ministry ceased? By no means! Jesus continues to touch us through the sacramental mysteries. While all the sacraments in their own manner serve to heal and elevate human nature, there are two sacraments specially ordered to healing: Penance and Holy Anointing. If the former is primarily concerned with restoring supernatural life to the spiritually dead, the latter is concerned with strengthening the spiritually alive but sick. Because we are wounded by sin, inordinately attached to creatures even after being forgiven, we are often susceptible to doubt, anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness, and other vices when we are seriously ill or dying. Just reflect on how physical weakness, lack of sleep, and emotional distress can impact you. The first grace of Anointing of the Sick addresses precisely this reality. Here is how the Catechism puts it: “The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This gift is a grace of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death” (1520). Notice that the primary grace of the sacrament is not one of physical healing. Yes, sometimes physical healing does result, but this is not principally why the sacrament was instituted. Even were a person to be miraculously saved from physical death, it would not be delayed forever. Instead, the sacrament is meant to save one from eternal death and prepare the soul to be with God in heaven forever.

Christ instituted the sacraments for a reason, including Extreme Unction (our “last anointing”) or Anointing of the Sick. Though we may be reluctant to contemplate for too long a sacrament bound up with the human conditions of suffering and dying, perhaps our sentiments will change when we remember what a merciful gift it is. It is a unique conformation to the passion and death of Christ, and thus a special sharing also in His victory in the Resurrection. Let this, then, be a call to rediscover the beauty and power of Holy Anointing.

The Custom of Reading Out Loud

Over the summer the Alcuin Institute hosted its first Catholic Imagination Fellowship. As part of this fellowship three college-aged scholars participated in two accredited, two-week intensive Great Books courses covering the ancient and medieval writers, as well as a two-week internship working with the staff of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic. It was a great joy to get to work through so many texts with the students and my fellow tutors in the Institute. One of the texts we read was Euthyphro by Plato. It is a fairly short text and one that can be read in about an hour. One afternoon after class, we decided to read the entire text out loud so that the text would not only be read, but also heard. Euthyphro can be a tough text, and sometimes in hearing the dialogue read out loud our ears catch things that our eyes don’t. Not only was it beneficial, but the Fellows thoroughly enjoyed having the text read to them. Every teacher at one time or another will find themselves reading to their students. As a parent, I read to my son all the time, until he was able to read the books himself. Once my son could read, it was rare that I would read out loud unless I was teaching a class. All of my friends are readers, but unless it is a poem on all too rare occasions, we do not come together to read texts out loud to each other. Outside of classes or reading to our kids, why don’t we read to each other more often? Perhaps we should! The occasion that made me ponder reading out loud was a book I read recently called The Haunted Bookshop, written shortly after the end of World War I. One of the main characters of the story is Roger Mifflin, a charismatic pipe-smoker and owner of a used bookshop. Mr. Mifflin takes on a new employee and lodger named Titania whom he is introducing to the world of books. On the first night Titania stays with the Mifflins, and after dinner, Roger Mifflin makes the following suggestion for the evening’s entertainment. “Well my dear,” said Roger after supper that evening, “I think perhaps we had better introduce Miss Titania to our custom of reading aloud.”[1] Titania is of course delighted at the idea of being read to. This then made me think of the Inklings. Several years after the time depicted in The Haunted Bookshop, A group of scholars and Oxford dons, including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams, would come together in the rooms of C.S. Lewis or meet at the Eagle and Child pub to read texts to each other. Some read their own texts, and many are now considered classics in their own right. These 20th century examples made me ponder reading out loud in the Church. My first thoughts went to another book which was read by the scholars of the Catholic Imagination Fellowship, The Rule of Benedict. Rule thirty-eight concerns the weekly reader. “The brothers’ meals should always be accompanied by reading, not by a person at random who just picks up the book, but by someone who will read for the whole week starting on Sunday. After Mass and Communion, the one who is starting his period of duty should ask all the brothers to pray for him, so that God may preserve him from a spirit of pride, and then everyone in the oratory should repeat this verse after him three times, ‘O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will show forth your praise’ (Ps. 51:15). Then he will receive a blessing and start reading.”[2] They hear the Word of God while they are eating. They ingest the Word of God with their ears, just as they ingest the food on their plates with their mouths. We do the same, when at every Mass we hear the priest or deacon read the Gospel in the Liturgy of the Word. St. Paul tells us, “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Being read to has always been a part of the Tradition of the Church. Unfortunately, we live in a time that is very noisy. It is hard to escape the television, the radio, and the internet. If you think about it, in a way, these modern technologies are just a modern way of reading out loud to us. Perhaps it would be better to turn them off. A better alternative would be to get together with your family or a few friends, pick up a good book or Sacred Scripture, and as Roger Mifflin would say, re-introduce “the custom of reading aloud.” [1] Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Philadelphia: J B Lippincott Company, 1955), 74. [2] The Rule of Benedict, trans. Carolinne White (New York: Penguin, 2008), 38.