Lenten Gameplan, 2019

posted by Mike on March 6th, 2019

Fasting: At last, Facebook has become a miserable enough experience that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to give it up. So the likely candidates this year are the old classics: giving up (some) sugar, giving up caffeine, and so on. There are so many fasting fads these days, I might play around with a few, more out of curiosity than spiritual discipline.

Prayer: This year, for the first time in a long time, I’m already doing plenty of praying by myself and with my various communities. My plan is to maintain these, in Lenten form, but not add much extra work.

Reading List: Kugel’s How to Read the Bible (because why not provoke a crisis of faith during Lent?), Hart’s weird New Testament translation (at least the Gospel of John, more if it seems helpful), the Catechism (spread out at around 20 pages per Lenten day, stopping at the nearest chapter/article/section break), and Dorothy Day’s diaries (stopping each day when I’m as inspired or discouraged as I need to be). Lent is 6½ weeks, so that feels like plenty of reading to me. (Looking at the stack, I notice that a bonus Lenten sacrifice may end up being “carrying heavy books.”) In the unlikely event I need to fill more time with reading, I have ebooks of St. Thérèse, Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Spitzer’s How to Find True Happiness, and Pilgrim’s Progress at hand. This might be the perfect Lent to include some books or films on clergy sex abuse, but I am already reading tons on that, believe me.

Scent List: Zoologist’s perfume “Bat,” which Luca Turin observes is built around geosmin, the chemical odor of wet dirt and beets. Maybe the closest thing you’re going to get to ashes, but not incense-y, but not bad. Really only something I’m using on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent is not a self-help guide, but about entering Paschal Mystery:

The purpose of Lent, therefore, is a microcosm of the life and worldview of the Christian believer. Knowing themselves to be the sons and daughters of the Resurrection, everything they think, feel, and do is placed in the light and hope of eternity. This gives the disciple of Jesus Christ the strength to forgive an enemy, control their sexual passions, suffer patiently, and selflessly serve others. When the Resurrection is lived and heaven is seen as a real possibility for the righteous, then everything is worth it and everything becomes ordered to it.

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy’s Catholic Worker murder mystery: Murder on Mott Street

posted by Mike on June 3rd, 2018

Longtime Worcester Catholic Worker Scott Schaeffer-Duffy has written a historical-fiction mystery in which “teen detective” Tamar Batterham (aka Dorothy Day’s daughter) teams up with Catholic Worker co-founder Peter Maurin to solve a murder in the New York City of 1941.

Today the book launched at an event at Holy Cross.

I’ve only had time to read the first two chapters of Murder on Mott Street. My review so far: chapter one is a totally legit first chapter to a murder mystery. And I love how Scott closes it with a cliffhanger before devoting the 7 pages of the next chapter to a capsule history of the early Catholic Worker movement.

A late Lent bibliography

posted by Mike on March 28th, 2010

I’m just now getting into the spiritual and intellectual work I associate with Lent. Barring some quick epiphanies, this work will stretch into the Easter season.

Here are some of the things I’m planning to read and watch. No real curriculum here, just what’s on one man’s shelf.

If anything else comes in handy I’ll add comments or maybe a second post. Probably 2001 (my favorite movie) and Breaking the Waves (my favorite religious film, though not for everybody–I freaked out a friend yesterday just explaining the plot) will find their way onto my screen.

posted by Mike in Books, Lent | on March 28th, 2010 | Permanent Link to “A late Lent bibliography” | 4 Comments »

508 #68: WPI and PILOT

posted by Mike on May 15th, 2009

508 is a show about Worcester.

This week, I talk to Brendan Melican. Topics include inaccurate predictions, the Telegram & Gazette’s website troubles, and WPI making non-tax payments to the city.

If you’d like to leave a comment for next week’s show, the number is 508-471-3897.


Audio: mp3 link, other formats, feed

Video: other formats, feed

To get an e-mail each week alerting you of the new episode of 508, join the e-mail list:


We won’t share this list with others.

Different kinds of non-resistance

posted by Adin Ballou on September 2nd, 2008

From the first chapter of Christian Non-Resistance by Adin Ballou (1846).

What is Christian Non-Resistance? It is that original peculiar kind of non-resistance, which was enjoined and exemplified by Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures of the New Testament. Are there other kinds of non-resistance? Yes.

  1. Philosophical non-resistance of various hue, which sets at nought divine revelation, disregards the authority of Jesus Christ as a divine teacher, excludes all strictly religious considerations, and deduces its conclusions from the light of nature, the supposed fitness of things and the expediency of consequences.
  2. Sentimental non-resistance, also of various hue; which is held to be the spontaneous dictate of man’s higher sentiments in the advanced stages of their development, transcending all special divine revelations, positive instructions, ratiocination and considerations of expediency.
  3. Necessitous non-resistance, commonly expressed in the phrase “passive obedience and non-resistance,” imperiously preached by despots to their subjects, as their indispensable duty and highest virtue; also recommended by worldly prudence to the victims of oppression when unable to offer successful resistance to their injurers.

With this last mentioned kind Christian Non-Resistance has nothing in common. With philosophical and sentimental non-resistance it holds much in common; being, in fact the divine original of which they are human adulterations, and embracing all the good of both without the evils of either. This treatise is an illustration and defense of Christian Non-Violence, properly so designated.

posted by Adin Ballou in Books, Religion | on September 2nd, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Different kinds of non-resistance” | No Comments »

Two comments on two quotes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb

posted by Mike on July 20th, 2008

The first quote is from NNT’s book The Black Swan:

These were the days when it was extremely common for traders to break phones when they lost money. Some resorted to destroying chairs, tables, or whatever would make noise. Once, in the Chicago pits, another trader tried to strangle me and it took four security guards to drag him away. He was irate because I was standing in what he deemed his “territory.” Who would want to leave such an environment? Compare it to lunches in a drab university cafeteria with gentle-mannered professors discussing the latest departmental intrigue.

This reminds me of part of the reason I miss living in a Catholic Worker community in those times (like now) when I’m not. The world of finance gave NNT plenty of firsthand opportunities to practice his philosophy of uncertainty, just like a CW house gives someone interested in ethics/religion/politics more than enough real world confrontation with these issues in a given day. Praxis, praxis, praxis.

Also reminds me of a quote from this interview with Steve Van Evera on Iraq:

I felt the neoconservatives were the wrong crowd to be assigned a tough task like this. I think they’re almost congenitally incompetent. For reasons having to do with the way they function as a group. They’re kinda like a cult. They don’t talk much to outsiders. They have great suspicion of the rest of the foreign policy community, so they don’t rub shoulders with others. They don’t share thoughts with people they don’t agree with. And to me, if you want to be smart, you’d better talk to people you don’t agree with. Cause that’s the way you get smart.

The second quote comes from the profile “Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom.” He explains why he’s still a practicing Christian:

Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance. Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman? You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of candles. It’s an aesthetic thing.

I admire his honesty and self-awareness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nonviolence, racism, and the state

posted by Mike on July 3rd, 2008

You may recall my frustrated critique of the essay “Nonviolence as Racism.” One of many things I disliked about this essay is that it didn’t back up many of its assertions, and seemed more off-the-cuff than the subject deserves.

In trying to understand this line of argument, I stumbled across some references to Peter Gelderloos’s How Nonviolence Protects the State. I haven’t found much of the meat of this book online, but I did find this 7-part critique of the book by Parke Burgess. I plan to read this over the weekend.

I have chosen to devote considerable space to a critical review of this work not because it represents a formidable challenge to nonviolence in itself, but because it appears to collect under one title many of the grievances and frustrations of militant activists toward those who advocate nonviolent tactics.

(Everyone I talked to about “Nonviolence as Racism” disliked it, some intensely, but I have second-hand reports of people who agree with parts of it. I hope to track them down and talk about it.)

Book: Justice Seekers, Peace Makers

posted by Mike on June 23rd, 2008

Another Michael True work posted online this week: PDFs from his book Justice Seekers, Peace Makers. Don’t be surprised if some of these chapters show up as future posts on Pie and Coffee.

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929­-1968)
  2. Howard Zinn (1921-)
  3. Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (1921­-)
  4. Muriel Rukeyser (1913­-1980)
  5. Mulford Sibley (1912­-1989)
  6. Hannah Arendt (1907­-1975)
  7. George Orwell (1903­-1950)
  8. Dorothy Day (1897­-1980)
  9. Ammon Hennacy (1893­-1970)
  10. Wilfred Owen (1893­-1918)
  11. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890­-1964)
  12. Randolph Bourne (1886­-1918)
  13. Bertrand Russell (1872­-1970)
  14. Mohandas Gandhi (1869­-1948)
  15. Eugene Victor Debs (1855­-1926)
  16. Leo Tolstoy (1828­-1910)
  17. Abigail Kelley Foster (1811-1887) and Stephen Symonds Foster (1809-1881)

Theorists of Nonviolence: Ballou, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Sharp

posted by Michael True on June 18th, 2008

Adin Ballou is a truly revolutionary figure, deserving of serious public and scholarly attention. I want to focus on his achievement as a theorist of nonviolence: how his life and writings contributed to a clarification of language and thought in the long effort to find the most suitable name for the concept often called nonviolence.
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Jubilate Agno

posted by Mike on January 2nd, 2008

“For I bless the PRINCE of PEACE and pray that all the guns may be nail’d up, save such are for the rejoicing days.”
–Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno

Wow! Here’s a reading of Christopher Smart’s long, crazy, devotional poem “Jubilate Agno.” The readers are Frank Key and Germander Speedwell.

“It was written between 1758 and 1763, during which time Smart was incarcerated in Mr Potter’s private madhouse in Bethnal Green.”

mp3 link, more formats

Mr. Key’s Hooting Yard is at present my favorite podcast. If you like his reading voice but not his original writing, he’s also read a couple stories as part of the Escape Pod series, How Lonesome a Life Without Nerve Gas and Hesperia and Glory, both of them worth a listen.

posted by Mike in Books, Podcasts, Religion | on January 2nd, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Jubilate Agno” | 4 Comments »