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When Mercy Wouldn’t Move a Mountain

I ran across this fun story attributed to Muhammad:

When asked by sceptics to provide proof of the divine inspiration of his teachings, the Prophet responded by commanding the distant Mount Sala to come to him. But the mountain did not move. Muhammad was not preturbed: “God is merciful,” he said. If the mountain had come, we would have been crushed. Now I will go to the mountain and give thanks to Him.”

Pearl 116 – Ross, David. 2006. 1001 pearls of wisdom. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

I found that to be an uplifting story of optimism and faith. What’s your favorite short wisdom story?

Love for All

This beautiful quote came out of the December 2007 issue of the Catholic Worker from a column called “From the Book of Notes” by Ric Rhetor:

The season of the Prince of Peace is upon us; we are told that He grows up under occupation; we are told by Him that we must get beyond these categories of loving just our own, be it family, friends or country. It is a hard message to hear, because we are more comfortable around those we perceive as being about “like us.” Adding to the insolation of our heritages are those pernicious thoughts about how our country is better than any other — more just, more moral. Dorothy always said she loved her country, and love makes us want the best for the Other; Jesus teaches us that love should know no bounds, even when the Other is foreign, or even harder, when the Other is considered an enemy. When Bob Maat left us he wrote a note of thanks and tacked it on our crumbling cork bulletin board. He photocopied this beautiful globe of the world on a black background with a quotation of famed Puerto Rican cellist, Pable Casals: “The love of one’s country is a splendid thing, but why should love stop at the border?”

Indeed. Please do what you can to make your hearts larger. There should be room for more than just “our own”, no matter how defined.

Notes and Quotes: Julian, Joseph and Herod

The other day, this very relevant quote popped up as my quote of the day in the daily Bible I’m working through:

“Our Lord did not say ‘You will not be troubled, you will not be tempted, you will not be distressed.’ He said, ‘You will not be overcome.” – Julian of Norwich


Genesis 39 has one of my favorite Bible stories, that of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. She did her best to seduce him, but Joseph would rather go to prison for a crime he did not commit rather sin before God and betray the trust of his employer. And God rewards him for his faithfulness by blessing him through the prison warden who basically gives Joseph charge of the whole prison. An early version of Club Fed, I guess. But I love this chapter’s message that faith in God will enable you to persevere, much like Julian says we will.


I found Mark 6:14-29 to be a warning to all Christian believers, myself included. It tells the story of Herod, who imprisoned John the Baptist:

20 Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

21 She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
22 Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
23 He even swore (many things) to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
25 The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
26 The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.
27 So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.

Herod liked to LISTEN to John talk about God, but never repented of his behavior and continued to value the approval of friends more than that of God. How many times have we acted in the same spirit?

New Year’s Resolution: Renounce Omnipotence

Every once in a while during the second Star Wars trilogy, Anakin Skywalker says stuff to the effect of “I should be all powerful!” He wanted power over death itself and basically seemed like the world should bend to his will. I had a lot of enjoyment making fun of those quotes. It’s easy to make fun of people who think they should have the omnipotence of God.

But then I started reading Thomas Merton‘s The Silent Life and realized that I and plenty of other people need to start looking in the mirror and realize how much we claim omnipotence of a sort and how such claims are not only ridiculous, but bring misery to ourselves and others.

I know I see something of myself in what Merton says below. How about you?:

From page 14-15 of the 1957 edition of the Silent Life

We are not, of course, foolish enough to imagine that we ought to find in ourselves the absolute omnipotence of God. Yet in our desire to be “as gods” — a lasting deformity impressed in our nature by original sin– we seek what one might call a relative omnipotence: the power to have everything we desire, to demand that all our wishes be satisfied and that our will should never be frustrated or opposed. It is the need to have everyone else bow to our judgment and accept our declarations as law. It is the insatiable thirst for recognition of the excellence which we so desperatately need to find in ouselves to avoid despair. This claim to omnipotence, our deepest secret and inmost shame, is in fact the source of all our sorrows, all our unhappiness, all our mistakes and deceptions. It is a radical falsity which rots our moral life in its very roots because it makes everything we do more or less a lie. Only the thoughts and actions which are free from the contamination of this secret claim have any truth or nobility or value in them.

One big thing I resolve to do in 2008 is to reject the claims that are listed above. I’ll do my best not to frustrated when my schedule is pushed off course or get angry with people who seem willfully unpersuadable and “blind to logic.” Why not join me? The world could be a better place for it. Especially if the presidential candidates from both parties took the “no omnipotence” pledge and set a good example for the American people.

Saintly Advice: Passions: Control or be controlled

Here’s a good quote I found in my Catholic Daily Bible from Saint Dominic:

A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either command them, or be commanded by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.

Passions can be read here as “emotions.” It sounds like good advice to me. Keep in mind the next time you are tempted to express your anger in hurtful ways.

Need to fail / Not responsible to be heard

I just finished putting together the January/February 2007 issue of the Catholic Worker Digest and there were a couple of beautiful quotes in the paper that I wanted to share. I hope they will bring you encouragement.

From the article “St. Joseph House” by Mark Kalivoda:

“…I don’t believe I would fail these challenges like I know I need to every day. By failing, I acknowledge that I will never be perfect in my life or my faith, and thus, I must keep trying to live with complete humility.”

From the article “Iraqi Refugees in Amman” by Cathy Breen, comes:

“In the words of a dear poet friend of ours: “We are responsible to speak up and act up, but we are not responsible to be heard. We must speak up and then let it go. The outcome is in other hands.” More than ever, we must continue to pray. To pray without ceasing, and to pray believing.”


For someone both terrified of failure and disappointed by the lack of effect of much of what I and many others say to people, these quotes seem like great wisdom to me.

May we neither fear failure nor speaking out. Let us not worry on the effect we have on the world, but let God (Insert Higher Power Here) work in our hearts for justice and peace.

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