Ancora Imparo; 2 Thoughts

Ancora Imparo (I am still learning.)
– Michelangelo

It strikes me that the journey of faith is similar to that of an artist’s growth. Both the spiritual seeker and the artist travel the interior road, and since the road is infinite, they are -no matter how long they study and seek and work- still at the beginning. We are all still learning.

This is what Archbishop Anthony Bloom wrote in his excellent book, Beginning to Pray, which I posted on here. In his opening paragraph, he writes:

As I am a beginner myself, I will assume that you are also beginners, and we will try to begin together.

Isn’t that wonderful, lovely and incredibly instructive in so many ways? And it is not false modesty, or condescension. It is simply truth.

Since my retreat, I am so drawn away from news, and yet (since I make my meager living by perusing and commenting on it) I must read it and think on it. But increasingly, I know I am not supposed to be attached to it, my passions are not to be enthralled by it, and that is currently an area of huge struggle. As regular readers know, I go all Irish on news and news by-products; news is my pub and I too often tip my cup too broadly there, and then begin to brawl.

I must learn not to. Ancora Imparo; I am still learning.

And since this prompting to grow-up and disenthrall myself is a very new development, I expect the learning will go of for a long time.

In this I am a little encouraged by our friend Joseph Marshall who, though also still learning, is farther along the path of contemplation than I am and still manages, once in a while, to toss the cup, roll up his sleeves and join in (or cause) a ruckus! It shows that the struggle is ongoing, so I must not lose hope.

So, now, I am reading a book of wise words from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, these are the early Christians who went into the desert to seek Christ through intense prayer and contemplation. They would spend many decades there, always “still at the beginning.” The book is a terrific compilation of brief daily instruction, and I share them here;

The first struck me as pertinent to many issues we’re discussing today, including the debate about Roman Polanski and how far we may judge, in humility, before we condemn ourselves (it’s not far, at all) and how, in our judgments -be they of a public figure, one of our own priests or bishops or, really, anyone- we may miss something of God:

God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean
Acts 10:28

A church elder would visit a hermit and consecrate the Eucharist for him. Someone reported bad things about that elder to the hermit. The next time he came, the hermit refused to let him in. Then the hermit heard a voice saying, “Men have usurped the judgment of God.” In a vision he saw a leper lifting a golden bucket on a golden rope from a golden well. The water was abundant and the hermit was thirsty, but he would not accept any water because of the leper. The voice spoke again, “Why won’t you drink this water? Does it matter who draws it? All he is doing is pouring it out for you.” The hermit understood the significance of the vision and he hasked the elder to return.

Call no one unclean.

The second story spoke to me very personally. Perhaps it will speak to someone else, too:

Amma Sarah said, “If I prayed that everyone should approve of my behavior, I would remain forever penitent in front of everyone’s door. I do not pray for this. Instead, I ask God for a heart that is pure toward everyone.

My lectio for the day. And my prayer, for a heart that is pure toward everyone.

Meanwhile, as the story rages on, a few links:
Ed Morrissey is flabbergasted by Anne Applebaum; I confess, I am surprised, too. I’ve always found her to be pretty sensible, but her defense is not making sense to me, today.
The Rhetorician: Some are more equal than others
Get Religion: Roman Polanksi and Roman Catholics (H/T Julie)
Big Hollywood: Even NY Times Knows Hollywood is on the wrong side of this issue.
Patterico: Left and Right should be able to agree on this Widgets

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • newguy40


    I have enjoyed your book reviews for some time now. But, I am intrigued. Are you receiving these books as part of an agreement to review them or are you paying for them out of pocket? I don’t intend to offend or pry. I would like to be able to afford to buy these books. But, the expense for me is too high. So.. I suppose I will have to enjoy them thru yur reviews.



    [Beginning to Pray has been in my bookshelf for a while, and the Desert book I bought used. I have not "reviewed" either book, merely discussed them as part of my own musings. But for the record, I have never been paid to review a book on this blog. On occasion (not often) a publisher will send me a copy of a book -usually an advance copy that I can mark up- for formal review, but the book (whether it's good or bad) is all I get out of it. I can't afford all my books, either! :-) -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    As for Applebaum, sadly, she’s probably just backing her husband, who’se been working for Polanski’s release.

  • shanasfo

    I think I needed to read Amma Sarah’s words today. They hurt, so there must be a wound of sin in me that they need to begin healing.

    Thank you for posting them!

  • Alexandrag

    You have quoted my absolute favorite part of Beginning to Pray. The book, small in stature and page length, is chockablock full of nuggets to ponder. It is a wonderful book, and its worth far exceeds its cost.

  • Amma

    For some of Amma Sarah’s rarer sayings, not found in the standard sayings of the Desert Fathers, and a prayer that she wrote, try: this site

  • cminor

    I really liked Bloom. Used paperbacks of his book can probably be had inexpensively.

  • JuliB

    Let’s not forget ! (hardcover, audio, etc)

  • SjB

    Thank you for sharing. I too struggle with the news at times (as you may well know from some of my comments). May God richly bless you in the days ahead, and I will remember to pray for you. :)