31 July marks the feast day of Saint Ignatius Loyola (b.1491), the founder of the Society of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits). In a breviary, I was interested to read a passage from the Acts of Saint Ignatius taken down by Luis Gonzalez, which describes the reading habits of the young saint:

(more…)

“A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”

— Primo Levi, If This Is a Man

Reading Butler’s Lives of the Saints, I come across a passage on St Pambo, an Egyptian monk (c.390) thought to be a disciple of St Antony. I was struck by the following passage:

“His life was typical of the desert monks: hard manual labour, long fasts and physical penance, and sustained periods of prayer. Pambo was especially noted for his silence and a reluctance to speak any more than was necessary, seeing in control of the tongue a basic first step towards a deeper spirituality; he is said to have meditated on this verse from the Psalms for six months: ‘I will watch how I behave, and not let my tongue lead me into sin’ (Ps. 39:1). On the other hand, he had a broader outlook than many of his colleagues in the desert and did not believe their way of life was necessarily the best; he settled an argument between to monks as to which was more perfect, becoming a monk or staying in the world and doing works of mercy, by saying: ‘Before God both are perfect. There are other roads to perfection besides being a monk.'” (18 July, Butler’s Lives of the Saints)

“You can take everything from me except the freedom to look up at the sky occasionally.”

— Halldór Laxness, World Light (trans. Magnus Magnusson).

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“What should the diet of your reading be? Read the best writers from all different periods; keep your reading of contemporaries in proportion—you do not want a steady diet of contemporary literature. You already belong to your time.”

— Lydia Davis, Essays One

“The first lesson a disaster teaches is that everything is connected. In fact, disasters, I found while living through a medium-sized one (the 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area) and later writing about major ones (including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan), are crash courses in those connections. At moments of immense change, we see with new clarity the systems – political, economic, social, ecological – in which we are immersed as they change around us. We see what’s strong, what’s weak, what’s corrupt, what matters and what doesn’t.”

Rebecca Solnit, ‘The impossible has already happened’, in The Guardian, 7 April 2020.


“I’m always looking for something new. I don’t like to repeat myself. I want always to find something which is fresh.”

Krzysztof Penderecki
Polish composer and conductor
1933-2020