Drop, drop — in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God.

ATTRIBUTION: AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon. The above lines are from Edith Hamilton, trans., Three Greek Plays, p. 170 (1937).



Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

– Sheenagh Pugh


Tend the Garden

At no small risk of committing politics-out-of-place, I thought I might post this — The Senator-elect from Arkansas wrote this piece a few years back. I am certain that Bloom is wrong about love. It does not ‘take care of itself.‘ Love is a garden that requires vigilant care both in and out of season. For as long as it is given proper care it will continue to produce fruits. Ignored, it will be overrun by the weeds of entropy.

“love suggests something wonderful, exciting, positive, and firmly seated in the passions. A relationship is gray, amorphous, suggestive of a project, without a given content and tentative. You work at a relationship, whereas love takes care of itself.” ~Allan Bloom



A poem by Denise Levertov


We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.


This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly


Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert William Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee,
where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam
’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold
seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way
that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way
over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold
it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze
till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one
to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight
in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead
were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he,
“I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you
won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no;
then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold
till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead — it’s my awful dread
of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair,
you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed,
so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn;
but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all
that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death,
and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid,
because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
“You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you
to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,
and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb,
in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight,
while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows —
O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay
seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent
and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing,
and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
it was called the “Alice May”.
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry,
“is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor,
and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around,
and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared —
such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal,
and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like
to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow
I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about
ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said:
“I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; . . .
then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear
you’ll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Crucial, Meanderings

Gerasenes Observations

There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance. ~Socrates

Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life? Why do you ask me about the good? There is only one who is good. ~Matthew 19:17

The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist. ~Charles Baudelaire

I heard someone say once that he can understand disbelief in God, but he was utterly perplexed that anyone could doubt the existence of the devil. If we use commonly understood contemporary meanings of the words in the first above quote, Socrates gets it about one third right. One must cling feverishly to an abstraction to believe that ignorance is the only evil. And, I would speculate that, one must nurture deep faith in gnosticism to believe that knowledge is the only good. Or, even that knowledge is always good. To know, for instance, how it feels to commit cold blooded murder is surely knowledge of a sort. Such knowledge, just as surely, is not good.

Abstraction is a very valuable tool. But it is rarely a substitute for experience. So, I would like to share an experience that goes deeper than the brief generalizations I’ve scribbled above.

What follows is my testimony of the events I witnessed on a Monday. I began composing these recollections on the following Saturday. I regret that I allowed as much time to pass as I did, since the clarity of event details fade so quickly with time. With the Lord’s grace, I recount here parts of the what I saw and heard, that He allowed me to recall.

On Sunday night I traveled with two companions for three hours, to the Eisenhower Holiday Inn in Alexandria, Virginia. About two weeks prior I had recruited a woman, I’ll refer to as Angela, for a mission of mercy. We would both accompany another woman, I’ll refer to as Priscilla, to Alexandria. There, Mrs. Stella Davis would intercede in a deliverance that Priscilla very much needed. Priscilla had committed to travel alone to Alexandria by train after Mrs. Davis extended the invitation to her, in the first week of October. I did not think Priscilla would make it on her own, but it was vital that she was committed to getting there. Once I saw that commitment, I felt I had a green light to offer assistance. I was nearly certain that with Angela’s help I could get her to Alexandria and back safely. My companions names have been changed in this account because they both prefer to remain anonymous.

None of us slept very well Sunday night. We met with Mrs. Davis after morning Mass at St. Louis Church. It was the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. After Mass, I waved to Stella and she waved us out of the church to meet Lynn, her companion, Lynn’s husband, who’s name I cannot recall. Angela, Priscilla and I accompanied Stella and Lynn to the adoration chapel across the parking lot from the church. As Priscilla entered the chapel she weakened, approached the monstrance, and fell to her knees in sighs as tears fell from her eyes. I watched closely. If ever I witnessed a humbled and contrite heart it was in that moment. After a few minutes Priscilla got up from her knees and sat herself down in one of the chairs in the front row of the Adoration chapel. Then, after I had time for a little less than one rosary, Stella directed us out of the chapel. Stella led the way in her car. We followed Stella, in my car. Lynn followed us, in her car, so we would not get lost. We arrived at Stella’s house. Angela and I followed Stella and Priscilla inside as Stella held Priscilla’s hand. Priscilla showed signs of great trepidation.

Angela and myself were directed to the back of the house through the kitchen where there was a chapel with about fifty folding chairs. I don’t believe that the Blessed Sacrament was present in the chapel, but there was an altar with about a nine inch tall crucifix standing on top of the altar. Sacramentals, statues and sacred images were all around the chapel. As we watched Stella guide Priscilla into the chapel she directed Priscilla to stand in front of a full length tapestry of a Divine Mercy image on the left side wall of the chapel. “Stand right there,” She said this quietly and firmly. Angela and I stood opposite, close to the right side of the chapel toward the back about ten to fifteen feet behind Priscilla.

A sound emerged from Priscilla’s mouth, “Hisshhhhh,” like a snake. A voice spoke. It had all the tonal qualities of Priscilla’s voice and the same accent. But I am certain that the words did not come from her. That is, it was a demon that began to speak. “You can’t have her she’s mine!” It was screaming, “I took her. You gave her two deformed children. I got in through yoga. She is a looser. She can’t do anything right. I’m gonna take her to hell and while she is here I’m gonna make sure she has hell on earth. You cannot take her from me. She’ s mine. You’ll never get rid of me and even if you do I’ll get back in.”

Stella calmly began using the mist spray bottle of Holy water, spraying around Priscilla and then around the room. I began praying in the spirit. As the demon continued I began, what I believe was, a reprimand of the unclean spirit. My voice got louder. I was consciously raising my voice as its voice got louder. And the demon stopped speaking briefly. Priscilla held the sides of her head with both hands sat down bending forward. I lowered my voice, continuing to pray in the spirit.

The demon began to speak again. This time it was uttering the same hate as before with increasingly profane language. “She’s a f–king loser. I took her family away from her. I took her job away from her when she was about to get it back. I put the anxiety into her so she could not go and she ran away to the chapel. She thinks she can get away at the chapel. But she has to leave. I’m in control now. She has George, but I have more. You will never make me leave. I’ll get to her through her kids.” It said a great many very poisonous things. It might be good that I can’t remember them all.

I raised my voice again, louder this time. My prayer tongues vocabulary was more varied than I remember it ever had before been. I don’t know what I said, but I know it was angry, because I was angry. Looking back, I still sometimes wonder if I was speaking evil. My anger, and words were directed strictly at the demon spirit. I prefer to think it was the kind of anger that drives money changers out of the temple (I hope I’m right about that.) I shouted the demon into silence a few more times before I realized that I would run out of voice before it would. At that point I began repetitive prayers in the spirit, sometimes singing a kind of chant, sometimes without melody.

Stella silenced the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. She never raised her voice. She spoke calmly, but firmly as if she had done this a thousand times (I suspect she has.) It quieted for a time but then began again. Stella silenced the spirit again laying her hand on Priscilla’s head. Stella then used her right index finger to push in the center of Priscilla’s forehead. Priscilla laid back on the chair row. Her feet were still on the floor. I think it was the third row from the front.

Somewhere in the process, (I forget the exact chronology,) I remember hearing what I believe was a kind of mocking cry for help and pity. At first I thought it was Priscilla emerging and calling for help. But, then something ‘off’ in the words convinced me it was not Priscilla. Another time it implied by what it said that it was getting weaker. Demons are known better for clever deception than they are for getting tired, so taking anything it said at face value would have been dangerous. A cloistered Carmelite once cautioned me “Never dialog with the devil.”

Each time the spirit began to speak, Stella would quiet it with a word. She then directed three of us onlookers to pray the Mercy Chaplet. Stella, Angela, myself, and another man, I think his name was Frank, took turns leading each decade of the Chaplet. As we prayed, Lynn walked around to each of us anointing our foreheads with oil while reciting a protection prayer to prevent the spirit from entering any of us.

After the Chaplet was complete, Stella instructed an assistant, (I think another assistant had arrived,) regarding what support must be called in. The assistant suggested a man’s name. Stella replied, “No, I don’t want him here for this.” It was a bit like she was assembling a battle group for a war campaign. Looking back, I suspect that Stella had determined that she was going to need more help than she originally expected. It was the kind of moment when a fisherman realizes that, because the size of the shark he is hunting, he will need a bigger boat. Stella then asked us to move out of the room. I wanted to stay, but I thought it wisest to obey Stella’s instructions quickly and without question. I remember smiling at her and saying, “You’re the boss.” She just looked at me very calmly and stoically and said nothing. She followed me out of the chapel into the kitchen. She said to me, “I usually do this here in the kitchen, so everyone else can pray in the chapel, but she’s (Priscilla) resting in the chapel now and I don’t want to move her.

By now there were a lot more people in the house. About ten of us crammed into the study. We prayed the Mercy Chaplet continuously for two hours taking turns at leading. Some decades we would sing, others we would not. In between decades there was often a lull of silence in the study waiting for someone to start the next decade. During that silence we could hear the screams of Priscilla’s voice coming from the chapel. We recited a fair number of Chaplet decades in two hours, We encountered a fair number of lulls, and we heard more than a few very loud screams.

Then it was over. I thought I heard Stella call for Peter. Then I was sure I heard someone else call for Peter. I got up from the foot stool I had been using as a chair, put my rosary in my pocket and I walked in to the chapel. Priscilla was there looking like she just ran a marathon, and very nervous and stuttering. Stella told me, “It’s gone.” She said, “It was legion. That means there were many of them.” Priscilla asked, “are you sure it is gone?” Stella said, “yes.” Priscilla repeated,“I feel like it is still in me.” Another woman said, “You just had surgery. You will need some time to recover.” Stella handed me an envelope with the following writing on the front and back. Someone was writing words down during the extraction process, as each individual demon is identified, to keep track of the progress(I don’t know who.)



Each entry on the envelope identifies a separate demon. Suicide shows up twice. I think that might mean it was one of the stronger ones because two attempts were made to cast it out. Or, maybe there were two ‘suicide’ spirits. The ones that are crossed off were cast out. The ones that were not crossed out remained. It is no surprise that Stella needed to stop. In a later email she told me that she had stopped because she was too tired to continue. Priscilla’s recollection of the process was spotty. I was not eyewitness to the worst of it. I only heard the screams. She remembered Stella’s expression of concern about how difficult a time they faced ahead of them at the beginning. Priscilla remembered saying, “If it is that bad maybe we need to get a priest.” Of course, then one of her spirit attackers, probably one masquerading as “regret” suddenly became very active (I think that implies that the demon would attack any expression seeking assistance of a priest.)

Priscilla recounted her memory of a proxy. That proxy was necessary because she was not strong enough to endure the full violence of the extraction. I’m told that the proxy acts as a conduit for the extraction like the herd of swine in chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel, except that the human proxy does not meet with the sad ending of the creatures that Saint Mark describes. Apparently, Priscilla’s proxy did a lot of vomiting. Priscilla expressed anxiety and worry about that during our lunch conversation afterward (the writing above shows that anxiety and worry were among the dark spirits remaining). Priscilla’s proxy had done this kind of thing before and will do it again. Acting as a Deliverance-Proxy requires a very special ministry calling. Priscilla mentioned, also at lunch, that she had the same urge to hiss as she entered the adoration chapel as she did in front of the Divine Mercy tapestry. The difference was the proximity of the Blessed Sacrament gave her the strength to control it.

Composition and revisions of this account have taken me some time. Priscilla is today, almost one month after the event, still shaken but able to sleep about four hours a night. That is not great, but it is an improvement. If circumstances had prevented our journey that day, I suspect that it would not have ended well for Priscilla. I asked her about a week after the deliverance if her children noticed anything different about her. She laughed. Her son pointed out that her dog comfortably rested at her feet again. It seems that before the deliverance, the dog had developed a practice of resting on the floor on the other side of the room with one eye always on Priscilla. Now the dog was comfortable sitting on the couch with her.

I emailed a something like a status report to Mrs. Davis after a week as she had requested. She replied stating that it was a “possession and nothing more.” I asked her if she meant, “oppression and nothing more.” She did not answer that question in my email. But she did answer Priscilla, “yes it was a possession.” I was at a loss to explain what she could mean by something more than possession. What would something more than possession be? One possible answer is subjugation. Another thing worse would be if an associated diabolical curse was still in place. These phenomena are described in Stella’s book, “Spiritual Warfare: Lessons on Deliverance from Spiritual Bondage to Freedom in Christ. Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s, “An Exorcist Tells His Story”, is another excellent source.

A number of things trouble me about this experience. Yoga was probably the ‘open door’ that made the possession possible. Though it was not a sufficient condition for the possession, but a necessary one. If it were a sufficient condition then every student of Yoga would be possessed (Strong evidence contradicts that possibility.) I’m at a profound loss as to how the demon-cadre was able to survive multiple exposures to the sacraments. I’m troubled also by how well the demon-cadre masqueraded as simple emotional distress to most outside observers. Only Priscilla knew how noxious the invading spirits were. Apparently, even Mrs. Davis did not immediately discern the full extant of the forces arrayed against Priscilla. This seems to have been kind of ‘stealth-possession.’ One that could easily have been confused with mental illness. It leaves me concerned that there is more of this kind of thing going on in the general population that anyone in the Church establishment realizes.

I was cautioned by my confessor in no uncertain terms against trying to deal with anything like this on my own. So, I have no intention of entering into “adventures” in this area. Any access to a Church-Instituted exorcist must be proceeded by a psychiatric evaluation. I believe that if that had happened with Priscilla, she would have been given two Prozacs and told to call back in the morning. So, if I am correct, a great many souls are in this predicament with no clear path to get out of it. The Church is concerned with legal liabilities. The violence of the extraction has been known to cause the death of the afflicted victim. When the family of the victim considers all these phenomena nothing more than superstitious hokum, the lawyer is the first recourse. The prudence of the Church in legal domains hinders help to the afflicted in the spiritual domain. Most priests will tell practicing Catholics that there is nothing wrong with yoga. But, there are many credible stories which document yoga as a pathway. What might be termed a dearth of good sense regarding pagan idolatry, has left a target rich environment for the kind of entities that once found a home in Priscilla. A primary motivation for documenting this is so that more people are informed. In spite of the likelihood that these recollections will be characterized, by many, as the ranting of a superstitious lunatic, I believe this experience should not be left undocumented.

At least since Socrates, the characterization of ignorance as the only real evil has thrived in Western Civilization. A more subtle characterization comes from Hannah Arendt, who says the only evil is hypocrisy. I have no doubt that many gifted thinkers have filled a great many books with grand arguments to support similar propositions. Great thinkers can do great things and make great contributions to how we approach life. They are hard to argue with, but they are quite frequently and quite extraordinarily, wrong. This experience has, permanently and severely, attenuated my inclinations to regard the devil only as an abstraction. I am uncertain about many things, even about some details of what I saw and heard on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. But, about the existence of evil which transcends knowledge, ignorance, and reason itself, I will not again harbor doubt any time soon.