Friday, December 30, 2011

Make room at the table...

As the year winds down, we are mixing things up at the family breakfast table.  In fact, we have invited a rather large and rotund guest to spend the next few days with us - whose mind is even more expansive than his physique: Mr. G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

As I mentioned a little over a month ago, our morning coffee and meditation ritual has grown to become a lecture series as well.  And it is one of the greatest things that we have instituted here at the Hollywood Mansion.

A few days ago, we wrapped up our breakfasts with Dr. Peter Kreeft (1937- ) and M. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) - and I am sorry to see them have to go!  Christianity for Modern Pagans (a collaboration by Pascal and Kreeft) is one of those books that needs to be read again and again.  I can't thank Rev. David Petersen enough for sending me the book as a gift, and I am grateful to Dr. Kreeft for reintroducing Pascal to modern readers.  Pascal is utterly unique, prescient, brilliant, and yet easy to read - especially with Kreeft's cut-to-the-chase explanations and elucidations.  In short "Read this book!"  Buy it now.  In just a few minutes a day, we had it done over coffee in not much more than a month of readings.  If I can put together some time, I will blog a recap/review/reflection or some such.  As I said, the book has already become an old friend.

So here is where we are right now, and where we are going for the coming year...

  • We continue with the ESV One Year Bible as read by the narrator.  Mrs. H. follows along in her paperback copy and attends to the computer narration while I prepare the cappuccino during the Old Testament reading.  And by the way, our ancient Krups espresso-maker is still carrying out its matinal and quotidian duties as if yet in its prime.
  • After the Old Testament reading, I bring my offering to the table just in time to join in the New Testament reading.  I skim along in Greek as the narrator reads from the ESV (I like using my my sleek leatherbound Reader's Edition - thank you to Rev. Daniel Johnson for introducing me to it).
  • For the Psalm, I follow along in Latin using my Gaba bilingual Psalter.  
  • For the short Proverbs reading, I just listen.
  • After the Bible reading, we embark on our lecture (see below) 
  • We conclude with a brief closing meditation and prayer - this past year from St. Augustine.  Beginning January 1, we will broaden these meditations to other saints (unfortunately, the latter volume, unlike the former includes prayers to the saints, which we will simply modify as prayer to God).

So, regarding the lecture portion, having said "goodbye" to our good friends Kreeft and Pascal, we decided to invite C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) to the breakfast table, but in looking at schedules, we found that it fit in better with everyone's plans to first invite Mr. Chesterton for a reading of his brilliant Orthodoxy.  I've read it twice before myself (with nearly every other sentence highlighted), but this time, we are reading it together thanks to a narrator from LibriVox.  (And thanks to Rev. Philip Miller who told me about Librivox - a source of free audio books for works in the public domain).  We both follow along with the text in our Nook readers.  As of today, we are about a third of the way through Chesterton's witty and rollicking 1908 work defending the traditional Christian faith against both heresies of atheistic materialism (on one side) and pantheistic postmodernism (on the other) - though the word "postmodernism" would not be coined for another 40 years after the publication of Orthodoxy.  If you have not read Orthodoxy, it is a must read!  It is also free in many formats being out of copyright.

Indeed, we have had to shift around the furniture to make room for Mr. Chesterton.

He is a big man, with a big brain, a big personality, and big ideas!  He also has a big heart and a big humility, and we are delighted to have him join us!  We are also greatly looking forward to a lengthy visit from Dr. Lewis when we must say goodbye to Chesterton.  Our kitchen is simply not big enough to entertain all of our friends at once.  We expect to have bigger accommodations in eternity.

Once we complete Orthodoxy, we plan on reading through the works of Lewis as contained in The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics, namely Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man (some, and possibly all, of these are available in audio format).  When we get to Screwtape, we will have to scramble to find an extra chair for Mr. John Cleese of Monty Python, whose reading of the letters is beyond perfect.  Interestingly, a couple parishioners just gave us another collection of Lewis works for Christmas: The Beloved Works of C.S. Lewis, containing Surprised By Joy, Reflections on the Pslams, The Four Loves, and The Business of Heaven - if we can get Dr. Lewis to commit for a longer stay, maybe we can work through those as well.

Anyway, we are pleased with the depth and direction of our morning routine.  It is a good way to get the mind and soul moving in the morning along with the body.  We encourage anyone and everyone to turn the breakfast table into a monastery and university.  It is the highlight of our day.


Misfit. said...

I love your morning ritual, that is just wonderful! I am currently preparing for the ministry, and I would love to do something like this in my own family.

rogue evolent said...

I concur with Misfit! What an utterly splendid and delightful way to do devotions with ones family! Kudos Fr. H!
Oh, have you read GCK's novel "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" yet? I think it's one of the best works of fiction that he (or anyone) ever penned. It's available on-line from, but I think Dover books has a cheap pb version; highly recommended for southrons and manly-Christian libertarians.

Past Elder said...

My favourite of Chesterton is his little book on Aquinas -- that's the one to read if you know little about Aquinas, and the one to read after you've a bunch of stuff on Aquinas. Luther doesn't come off very well in it, but the book isn't about Luther.

I'm sticking with God Grant It and Portals of Prayer for devotional reading. I don't have to modify jack when reading them!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Misfit: I can't recommend this highly enough. Life for a pastor's family is quite often insane - I mean Alice-in-Wonderland-mad-as-a-hatter crazy!

Now is the time to create a strong sense of family ritual, of feeding the mind and spirit with greatness that will help you rise above the things you will experience and the crosses your family will bear by virtue of your vocation.

Read, pray, talk, think, meditate, and stay grounded in God's Word.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Rogue:

I have not read that one. I have erad some Father Brown stories and essays and such. I will look for an e-copy for the Nook. They are generally free.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

Thanks for the tip!

I have not read God Grant It!, but I like the excepts and quotes I have seen. Unless Walther starts talking Church and Ministry, you should be fine. As a mere mortal, I'm afraid he got caught up in the Zeitgeist of the salad days of liberal democracy (vox populi, vox Dei...). Portals can be a wonderful resource as well, but it depends on who is the author for that month/quarter whatever. I'm still smarting from the issue a couple years ago in which a guy that had never set foot in New Orleans was pontificating about how evil Mardi Gras is. When I called him on it, he refused to back down, claiming he "saw it on TV."

Chesterton would never have retorted that way!

The nice thing about going outside LCMS sources is that one can actually interact with a broader range of minds and friends - those prior to 1847, and people other than German-Americans. As Lutherans, we tend to "play safe" and focus only on materials that are not only doctrinally pure, but Lutheranly correct. Although Chesterton was not a Lutheran, his brilliance and wit shine along with his deeply-held Christian confession.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to have thinkers and writers of that caliber. I'm reminded of the remark a Pennsylvania lady made when Robert E. Lee rode by with the Confederate Army: "How I wish he were one of ours." But then again we do confess in the Creed "*unam* sanctam." In that sweeping catholic sense, Chesterton is indeed "one of ours."

Thanks for checking in!

Terry Maher said...

Well I dunno FH, a Knight Commander With Star of the Order of St Gregory the Great I would say is pretty clearly one of theirs.

OTOH, the other two "study Bibles" I use besides TLSB are the Hertz Chumash and the Jerusalem Bible (the original one, 1966), I often refer to Nietzsche as the only philosopher worth reading, and don't say it much but consider Teilhard the only theologian worth reading.

Ain't a Lutheran in the bunch. Well, Nietzsche started off to be a Lutheran pastor, but dropped out of sem after one semester.

I suppose that road trip to Baton Rouge is definitely off now.

Great blogging Judas, I'm logged in as me. It's Past Elder.