“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Wisdom from the greatest spiritual writers of the two-thousand-year Catholic tradition
The Grandeur of God collects classic readings that give readers a sense of the depth, beauty, and richness of Catholic spiritual writing. These selections resonate with the truth expressed famously by the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God." They resonate with the sacramental, Catholic vision that sees God in all things. While not comprehensive or exhaustive, the book does offer readers a starting point on their journey into the vast storehouse of Catholic writing.
The Grandeur of God is organized chronologically, beginning with St. Paul and ending with writings from Pope John Paul II, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and Henri Nouwen. Also included are selections from Thomas Aquinas, Dorothy Day, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Oscar Romero, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Mother Teresa, and Thérèse of Lisieux.
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About the Author
Joseph Durepos has served as the editor on three books: No Greater Love, Go in Peace, and John Paul II's Lessons for Living. He is the author of A Still More Excellent Way: How St. Paul Points Us to Jesus. He is the executive editor of acquisitions at Loyola Press.
Read an Excerpt
A Note to the Reader
I put some strict editorial constraints on myself when preparing this book. My task was to select readings that would give you a sense of the depth, beauty, and richness of Catholic spiritual writing. I decided to limit myself to one hundred readings, and I also tried to keep the readings relatively brief. Obviously, this meant that I had to leave out more great writing than could possibly be included. It also limited what this book can accomplish. It is a humble invitation. I hope it will be your starting point on a journey into the great splendor of Catholic writing.
But these constraints also had their advantages. Since I didn’t have to be comprehensive, I could be highly selective. From the vast library of two thousand years of Catholic writing, I was able to pick some of the most succinct and memorable passages. I preferred those that I thought spoke most directly to modern readers and those that address matters that we need to hear about now. The rules also permitted me to pick some readings simply because I like them.
The readings begin with St. Paul and proceed chronologically to Pope John Paul II and other writers of the present. My choices are weighted toward more recent centuries (though all eras of the church are represented), and a discerning eye will detect a liking for Jesuits and others inspired by Ignatian spirituality. All these readings have been tested by time. They are classics. They speak from the heart of the church. They all resonate with the truth expressed famously by the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” This sacramental, Catholic vision sees God in all things. I hope you will find God in these pages.
The Grandeur of God
Jesus Christ Is Lord
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
St. Paul (ca. 10–ca. 67)
Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God
For I am convinced that neither death,
nor things present,
nor things to come,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
St. Paul (ca. 10–ca. 67)
The halcyon is a seabird that nests by the shore, laying its eggs in the sand, and bringing forth its young in the middle of winter when the sea beats against the land in violent and frequent storms. But during the seven days while the halcyon broods—for it takes but seven days to hatch its young—all winds sink to rest, and the sea grows calm. And as it then is in need of food for its young ones, the most bountiful God grants this little creature another seven days of calm: that it may feed its young. Since all sailors know of this, they give this time the name of the halcyon days.
These things are ordered by the Providence of God for the creatures that are without reason, that you may be led to seek of God the things you need for your salvation. And when for this small bird he holds back the great and fearful sea, and bids it be calm in winter, what will he not do for you made in his own image? And if he should so tenderly cherish the halcyon, how much more will he not give you, when you call upon him with all your heart?
St. Basil the Great (ca. 330–79)
Honor Christ with Golden Hearts
Would you honor the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honor him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that he who said, “This is my body,” and made good his words, also said, “You saw me hungry and gave me no food,” and, “in so far as you did it not to one of these, you did it not to me.” In the first sense the body of Christ does not need clothing but worship from a pure heart. In the second sense it does need clothing and all the care we can give it.
We must learn to be discerning Christians and to honor Christ in the way in which he wants to be honored. It is only right that honor given to anyone should take the form most acceptable to the recipient, not to the giver. Peter thought he was honoring the Lord when he tried to stop him washing his feet, but this was far from being genuine homage. So give God the honor he asks for, that is, give your money generously to the poor. God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts.
I am not saying you should not give golden altar vessels and so on, but I am insisting that nothing can take the place of almsgiving. The Lord will not refuse to accept the first kind of gift, but he prefers the second, and quite naturally, because in the first case only the donor benefits, in the second case the poor get the benefit. The gift of a chalice may be ostentatious; almsgiving is pure benevolence.
St. John Chrysostom (ca. 349–407)
Christ in the Poor
What is the use of loading Christ’s table with gold cups while he himself is starving? Feed the hungry, and then if you have any money left over, spend it on the altar table. Will you make a cup of gold and withhold a cup of water? What use is it to adorn the altar with cloth of gold hangings and deny Christ a coat for his back! What would that profit you? Tell me: if you saw someone starving and refused to give him any food but instead spent your money on adorning the altar with gold, would he thank you? Would he not rather be outraged? Or if you saw someone in rags and stiff with cold and then did not give him clothing but set up golden columns in his honor, would he not say he was being made a fool of and insulted?
Consider that Christ is that tramp who comes in need of a night’s lodging. You turn him away and then start laying rugs on the floor, draping the walls, hanging lamps on silver chains on the columns. Meanwhile the tramp is locked up in prison, and you never give him a glance. Well, again, I am not condemning munificence in these matters. Make your house beautiful by all means but also look after the poor, or rather look after the poor first. No one was ever condemned for not adorning his house, but those who neglect the poor were threatened with hellfire for all eternity and a life of torment with devils. Adorn your house if you will, but do not forget your brother in distress. He is a temple of infinitely greater value.
St. John Chrysostom (ca. 349–407)
Love Your Neighbor
You do not yet see God, but by loving your neighbor you gain the sight of God; by loving your neighbor you purify your eye for seeing God, as John says clearly: “If you do not love the brother whom you see, how will you be able to love God whom you do not see?”
You are told: love God. If you say to me: “Show me the one I am to love,” what shall I answer, except what John himself says: “No one has ever seen God”? Do not think that you are altogether unsuited to seeing God— no, for John states: “God is love, and he who dwells in love is dwelling in God.” Love your neighbor therefore, and observe the source of that love in you; there, as best you can, you will see God.
So then, begin to love your neighbor. “Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; if you see the naked, cover him, and do not despise the servants of your kinsfolk.”
If you do this, what will you obtain? “Then shall your light break forth like the morning.” Your light is your God; to you he is “morning light,” because he will come to you after the night of the world; he neither rises nor sets, because he abides always.
By loving your neighbor and being concerned about your neighbor, you make progress on your journey. Where is your journey, if not to the Lord God, to him whom we must love with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind? We have not yet reached the Lord, but we have our neighbor with us. So then, support him with whom you are traveling so that you may come to him with whom you long to dwell.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
Late Have I Loved You
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong,
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
St. Patrick’s Breastplate
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in my lying down, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my arising.
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
St. Patrick (ca. 390–ca. 461)
Two Kinds of Mercy
There are two kinds of mercy then, mercy on earth and mercy in heaven, human mercy and divine mercy. What is human mercy like? It makes you concerned for the hardship of the poor. What is divine mercy like? It forgives sinners. Whatever generosity human mercy shows during our life on earth, divine mercy repays when we reach our fatherland. In this world God is cold and hungry in all the poor, as he himself said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” God then is pleased to give from heaven, but he desires to receive on earth.
Caesarius of Arles (ca. 470–542)
Believing in the Invisible
Who then is God? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God. Seek no further concerning God, for those who wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world. For knowledge of the Trinity is properly likened to the depths of the sea, according to that saying of the Sage. And the great deep, who shall fathom it? Since, just as the depth of the sea is invisible to human sight, even so the godhead of the Trinity is found to be unknowable by human senses. And thus if, I say, a man wishes to know what he ought to believe, let him not think that he understands better by speech than by believing; because when he seeks it, knowledge of the godhead will recede farther than it was.
Therefore seek the supreme wisdom, not by verbal debate, but by the perfection of a good life, not with the tongue, but with the faith that issues from singleness of heart, not with that which is gathered from the guests of a learned irreligion. If then you seek the unutterable by discussion, he will fly farther from you than he was. If you seek by faith, Wisdom shall stand in her accustomed station at the gate, and where she dwells she shall at least in part be seen. But then is she also truly in some measure attained when the invisible is believed in a manner that passes understanding, for God must be believed invisible as he is, though he be partly seen by the pure heart.
Columbanus (ca. 543–615)
Table of Contents
A Note to the Reader xvii
1. Jesus Christ Is Lord 3
2. Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God 5
3. Halcyon Days 6
4. Honor Christ with Golden Hearts 8
5. Christ in the Poor 10
6, Love Your Neighbor 12
7. Late Have I loved You 14
8. St. Patrick's Breastplate 16
9. Two Kinds of Mercy 17
10. Believing in the Invisible 18
11.The Cross Is the Glory of Christ 20
12. If There Had Been No Cross 22
13. We Stand in Need of His Mercy 24
14. How the soul Shows Its Powers according to the Powers of the body 26
15. The Creator's Power 27
16. To the Trinity Be Praise! 28
17. Prayer of St. francis 29
18. Canticle of the Sun 31
19. How wonderful This Banquet 34
20. Friendship 36
21. God's Goodness Reflected in His Creatues 37
22 Inferno 38
23. Paradiso 40
24. A Cloud of Unknowing 42
25. The Hazelnut 44
26. The Soul's Three Powers 46
27. Look for Jesus, Not Yourself 48
28. Make Room for Christ 50
29. The Gift of Christ's Body 52
30. Not Counting the Cost 54
31. Thy Love and Thy Grace 55
32. Love into Practice 56
33. The Five Points 57
34. Be Cordial to Others 59
35. Win Others by Example 61
36. Rush to the Fathe r's Arms 63
37. When Prayer is Dry 65
38. Apply Your Mind to God Alone 67
39. True Longevity 69
40. On the Eucharist 70
41. Guardian Angels 71
42. The Simplicity of a Dove 73
43. God Will Love Us on Account of the Poor 75
44. Grace Follows after Sorrow 77
45. The Little Things 78
46. Peace of Heart That Surpasses Every Treasure 79
47. Give Yourself to the Present 81
48. Lead, Kindly Light 82
49. God Has Created Me to Do Him Some Definite Service 84
50. Learning from the Poor 86
51. As Kingfishers Catch Fire 87
52. God's Glory in Work 89
53. God's Grandeur 90
54. Pied Beauty 92
55. Prayer of Abandonment 93
56. Pray as You Can 97
57. How to Pray 97
58. Be Not Afrain to Tell Jesus 99
59. Love the One Youi Dislike 100
60. My Vocation Is to Love 102
61. A Dazzling Darkness 104
62. God in the Tip of My Pen 106
63. Losing Hold 107
64. That I May See 108
65. Trust in the Slow work of God 109
66. Pilgrim Soul 111
69. Love When We Do Not Find Love 116
70. My First Impulse toward Catholicism 118
71. The Long Loneliness 120
72. It's Hard to Love in a Two-Room Apartment 121
73. Why We Stand Before the Cross 123
74. I Have Experienced God 125
75. Love Is a Kind of Dying 126
76. The Hand of God 128
77. More than Ever 130
78. Love Will Decide Everything 131
79. The Secret of True Happiness 132
80. Keep Your Lamp Burning 134
81. Love Each Other 135
82. Something Beautiful for God
83. The Curernt Is God 137
84. Letter to Jesus 138
85. Finding Ourselves 140
86. Seeing Christ Everywhere 141
87. A Bishop Will Die 143
88 Peace 145
89. Quick to Learn, Slow to Condemn 146
90. Witnesses of Hope 147
91. What Faith Demands 148
92. The Law Written in the Heart 149
93. Forgiveness and Justice 150
94. Finding a Second Childhood 152
95. To Love Deeply 154
96. Child of God 156
97. To Wait Open-Endedly 157
98. If You Really Want to Know God 158
99. Dare to Love 159
100. Final Words 160
Index of Authors 179
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Selection from two-thousand years of Catholic Spiritual Writing.