The rosary: a medieval app

A friend recently mentioned to me that he uses a “meditation app.” It provides a Scripture reading as fodder, and it bongs a little gong to start and stop the meditation time.

My first reaction was to think this odd. Technology-driven prayer time must surely be the final flowering of modernity’s mechanistic mindset, right? Buddha and Moses have failed to bring us into God’s presence, but the GPS on my smartphone can take me straight to him. Continue reading “The rosary: a medieval app”

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The difference between fantasy and science fiction

Last Tuesday, I gave a lecture to the Wyoming Catholic College community about “the Christian dignity of story.” In the Q&A session, a young man asked my opinion about the difference between fantasy and science fiction: after all, they both make up not only plots and characters but even universes, so they seem to operate at a similar level of abstraction from reality.

At the time, I had to confess that I didn’t have an answer. But later, with some help from Joseph Susanka, I reached a point of clarity worth sharing. Continue reading “The difference between fantasy and science fiction”

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One less reason to dislike Thomas More

In his good piece on the “Escriva Option,” Austin Ruse mentions that he dislikes St. Thomas More:

I am reminded of one of the reasons I do not care for St. Thomas More (heretical, I know). More longed to have been a Carthusian, who are tougher even than the Trappists, and he imposed Carthusian practices on his family including, cruelly I think, interrupting their sleep at 1 a.m. to chant the Night Office. Such a thing is not natural for someone in the lay state.

His point is well taken, but his view of More may be mistaken.  We tend to interpret such things through the lens of our own sleep customs, forgetting that sleep worked very differently before about the year 1800. Before the advent of artificial lighting, people slept in two segments.  They would sleep for a while, get up for a while in the middle of the night to do this and that, and then sleep for a long time again.  So the middle of the night was a common time for story telling, love making, prayer, and so on and so forth.  Wikipedia lists some of the studies on this; another helpful presentation is here.

Notice that the custom of prayer in the middle of the night has almost died out even in monasteries.  The reason we lay people find it strange to get up and pray at 1:00 a.m. these days is not that we’re lay people, but that we live in these days.  St. Thomas More was not being cruel; he was not even being unusual.

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