Collect


Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church, and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Adoration of the Image of God


Words fail me.
Hair like brown twisted wild reeds
That grow in pure wide lonely places
To shimmer in the summer sun, the heart's heat.
Your bones, your skin are white rock --
Marble, alabaster, pearl, such small names
For an archetype incarnate.
Teach sculptors, painters, doctors, architects,
To know proportion, balance, and perfection.
I can feel, I would feel
The warmth of your chin on the back of my hand,
The faintest abrasion against the skin on the tips of my fingers
As I brush by your lip, lingering;
I can smell your scent, your salt, the heat of your hair,
I taste your eyelids (turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me);
Words fail me.

Grey sapphires look back at me, and I am a brown twisted wild reed.

The shape of your shoulder, the pulse of your chest,
Ideal and actual, beauty (these signs are what they signify).
The gentle skin where the lips shut sucking
At an image of life, twining sighs of life that moves with the passion of dying,
Bronze belly, lips and hands traverse muscle, muscle, muscle
Obediently; rejoice (again I say rejoice);
Hips sliding on their stone unbreakable frame, words fail me,
Smooth hairs and sinews, strong, beautiful;
Your strength is here
Your strength that is weakness, the strength that sums us up
In a concrete passionate act, heat to heat,
Exposing our innermost desires, the wand that lifts the veil of our mystery.
Your sex erect, yearning, daring,
Wishing and fearing to be known
For to be known in nakedness is to be loved or hated
And to be wounded in this fleshly head is to be wounded in the heart of the spirit.

Grey sapphires look back at me, and you are a brown twisted wild reed.

I would pour out my love, my adoration of the image of God, but
Words fail me;
I bury my head in you, bury your head in me,
Your strength is worthy, your beauty is holy,
I would say with every touch taste smell and look.
I receive your weakness into me because you are strong,
I take your strength into me because you are need.

Nothing suffices. I see no other way
Worthily to worship your beauty, I cannot refrain
From wishing to possess feel sleep beside you within you around you
Masculine maculate immaculate glory,
Archetype incarnate.

Jesus Christ.
What have we done? What have I done?
He looks just like You.

They all do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Holy Hooker


Today is the Memorial of St Mary Magdalene, a centuries-old feast of the Church. Though it was eliminated in later revisions, the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 (the first version of the BCP) still had a specialized collect in memory of her:
Merciful Father, give us grace,
that we never presume to sin through the example of any creature,
but if it shall chance us at any time to offend thy divine majesty:
that then we may truly repent, and lament the same,
after the example of Mary Magdalene,
and by lively faith obtain remission of all our sins:
through the only merits of thy Son our Savior Christ. Amen.
We're all vaguely familiar with the traditional story of the Magdalene: the down-and-out prostitute who met Jesus, repented of her way of life, anointed His feet with perfume and her own tears and wiped His feet with her hair, became an eminent disciple, and was finally the very first person on record to actually see Jesus after He came back from the dead. Many of us, too, are familiar with the ongoing to debate over which Mary is which in the Bible -- the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Mary the mother of James and John, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany ... The traditional picture* of Mary Magdalene identifies her as the (in the text, anonymous) "sinful woman" of Luke 7, probably a euphemistic reference to a career as a hooker,** as well as with Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This conflation of figures has been challenged, and even labelled by some people as a smear campaign -- an attempt to discredit the importance of St Mary Magdalene on the part of the Church. Some Christians, too, have seemed to take it in that spirit, insisting that she was, on the contrary, a great saint, and not a former prostitute.

It's that little on the contrary that makes this so problematic. I remember the first time I came across the tradition of identifying the Magdalene being called a smear campaign; I believe I laughed out loud. Didn't the people who took it this way understand, um, Christianity? -- the religion that teaches that forgiveness wipes away all guilt; that forgiven evils can be occasions of joy, because they reveal the divine glory in displaying forgiveness and love, in the midst of evil and in defiance of it? The religion in which Peter and Paul, an apostate and a religious terrorist, are viewed as the height of sanctity and authority in the primitive Church and as authors of holy Scripture? Nor, having read the actual texts in which authors like St Gregory the Great assert the identity of the Magdalene with the "sinful woman," is there any great discrediting in evidence. Quite the reverse: she is hailed as an example of authentic repentance, holiness, and love for Jesus, and even as a model of mystical contemplation.

Now, you could certainly argue that considering the woman of Luke 7 and the Magdalene to be the same person goes far beyond the available evidence of the New Testament, and is therefore bad literary criticism, whether slanderous or not.*** But why the reaction -- not just from those outside the faith, who could perhaps be expected not to get how Christians feel (or ought to feel) about forgiven sins, but even from those within the fold -- that seems to accept that, had they been the same person, it would be a blot on the memory of St Mary Magdalene?

Irrespective of the Magdalene herself, I think this attitude is symptomatic of a larger, subtler problem in contemporary, American Christianity; the doubtfulness over the saint's cause of Dorothy Day, on the ground that she had an abortion before she converted to Catholicism, is another instance of the same thing. It's a kind of Pelagianism, or of Pharisaism, that is willing to know evil only as evil, and never as an occasion of supernatural good; that sees only horror and anguish in the Crucifixion, and not victorious, self-giving love. And so in sins it can see only the sin, or worse, only the embarrassment of being associated with it.

Of course, no professing Christian would actually say that they're embarrassed to be associated with sinners. Instead they say things like You have to be careful of scandal, or If they won't at least keep quiet about it in front of the children, or The people you make friends with say something about your character. Somehow, the fact that these are precisely the accusations flung at Jesus, and that He brazenly disregarded, rarely occurs to them.


How'd this get here?

This too may be why the warm-hearted or disreputable sins, like promiscuity and drunkenness, are so famously unacceptable among Christians in this country, while the cold-hearted, respectable sins, like pride and greed, are not. It has, also, a great deal to do with class: the fact that Christianity and social respectability were ever conflated, as they certainly were in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries in this country, was spiritually disastrous, as it gave a veneer not only of good taste but of good character to the vices preferred by the wealthy.

What's to be done? Well, beyond reading The Power and the Glory, Brideshead Revisited, and The Violent Bear It Away, I don't have a lot of practical suggestions. So, if at all possible, read those books. But remember, the desired outcome is to recognize God in the sinner; to realize that sinfulness, mysteriously, does not prevent the development of holiness -- or rather, perhaps it is not so mysterious, when we consider the simple fact that good is stronger than evil, as God is stronger than nothing; to remember and really believe that God, in His earthly life, deliberately sought ought the company of drunks, homeless guys, corrupt government flunkies, and hookers. If we can't worship that kind of God, we can't worship the God of the New Testament.


"Free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply."
-- Flannery O'Connor


*Traditional, at least, in the West. The Christian East has a slightly different outlook on the Magdalene.

**I think hooker or whore are better words than prostitute for this purpose. Because Christianity has been (alas!) socially respectable in this country for many hundreds of years, while at the same time unable to entirely divorce itself from the Scriptures, it's become easy for people to say that Jesus went and spent time with prostitutes and showed them love and forgiveness; easy, too, to say that God loves prostitutes, or even that we love prostitutes, and believe it. It's harder to say "God loves hookers" and believe it, unless you do. It might not be a bad thing, if only as a devotional experiment, to mentally substitute the word hooker for prostitute when reading the Gospels; translators can be rather squeamish.

***My own opinion, though it's purely speculative, is that they were in fact the same person. However, nothing really hinges on it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Silence in Heaven


I learned with sorrow yesterday that Julie Rodgers, a chaplain at Wheaton College in Illinois and contributor to Spiritual Friendship, has changed her views. An alumna of Exodus, she has been a wise and kindly voice for the traditional Christian view of sexual ethics hitherto; now, however, she has changed her mind, and believes (as I understand from the post she wrote) that God blesses same-sex sexual relationships on the same basis as heterosexual ones. She has also, in a move that I think worthy of particular respect (as so many church officials fail to do this), both explained her change of mind publicly and resigned her post at Wheaton on account of the difference between their beliefs and hers.

If you are expecting to read a vilification, or even an argument against, Miss Rodgers' decision, I'm afraid you have come to the wrong place. I disagree, obviously; although I have confidence in the sincerity of her convictions, and the sincerity of her change of convictions, I am a Catholic precisely because my own confidence reposes wholly in the Holy Ghost as the teacher of the Catholic Church, and what Rome teaches with her full authority I therefore unconditionally accept -- the same could scarcely be expected of Miss Rodgers as an evangelical. (Which isn't to say I wouldn't like her to become a Catholic, either, but I would like everybody to become a Catholic.) But this piece is not fundamentally about the basis, or the details, of my disagreement with Julie Rodgers.

This is about the paltry response from traditional Christians. I don't mean that they have not said enough in quantity. I mean that the support, respect, and compassion that we need to live as LGBT believers have been crucified on the cross of a culture war. Morality is not the casualty of the culture war, brothers and sisters; we are -- lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, intersex people, every kind of person whose sexual attractions or gender identity don't fit the normal (and admittedly beautiful) mold -- Christians, and non-Christians, and ex-Christians. He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

The thing that has saddened and appalled me has been the knee-jerk response of blatant disbelief, when it comes to the homophobia she talks about as a stock element of traditionalist Christian culture. I'm saddened by Julie Rodgers' change of mind, yes; partly because I believe she's mistaken about matter of theological fact, and partly because it's a very lonely experience to see a former co-worker, as it were, depart. But that is as nothing to my fellow traditional Christians, whose unbridled hatred, scorn, identity politicking, language policing, reduction of me and my queer sisters and brother to the status of perverts and sexual maniacs, co-option of our witness, accusations of covert doctrinal subversion, and charges of deceit and self-deceit, so exhaust us all as to make every one of us question on a daily basis whether we do want to continue being a part of the church -- not least of the Catholic Church.


Nah, I think this cross is good here. See ya, I'm going to Orange Julius.

If you have a hard time believing me, consider the following list:

Chad Allen, actor
Jamie Bakker, author and pastor
Vicky Beeching, Christian musician
John Boswell, author
Michael Bussee, founding member of Exodus
Tony Campolo, author and pastor
Gary Cooper, founding member of Exodus
Eliel Cruz, author
Rachel Held Evans, author
Robert Gant, actor
Jennifer Knapp, former Christian musician
Justin Lee, author and founding member of the Gay Christian Network
Stephen Long, author
John Paulk, former administrator with Exodus
Julie Rodgers, author, former chaplain at Wheaton College, and former Exodus member
Dan Savage, author and former Catholic seminarian
Steve Slagg, author and Christian musician
John Smid, author and former administrator with Love In Action
Peterson Toscano, author, actor, and former Love In Action member
Matthew Vines, author and founding member of the Reformation Project
Jim Wallis, author

Every one of those people once espoused the traditional view of homosexuality, and every one of them changed their minds -- often after years of attempting orientation change and/or celibacy (of those I've listed, only Bakker, Campolo, Evans, and Wallis are straight, though many are ex-ex-gay). All of them spoke, in many cases before they made any public noises about reconsidering their beliefs, of the coldness, bigotry, cruelty, neglect, and willful stupidity of many fellow believers as one of the major trials they had to deal with, often a far weightier one than the actual cross of being attracted to the same sex.

Equally, among those of us who retain the traditional view -- espousing what the Catholic Church has taught about sex for millennia -- I don't know of any one of us who hasn't also spoken about Christian homophobia, regardless of the tradition we hail from: Ron Belgau, Melinda Selmys, Lindsey and Sarah (who blog without last names partly, I gather, due to the years of homophobic harrassment they've had to deal with), Seth Crocker, Matt Moore, Aaron Harburg, Joshua Gonnerman, Eve Tushnet, Wesley Hill, Joseph Prever, Matt Jones, Aaron Taylor, Jeremy Erickson, Chris Damian, and indeed, some heterosexual and cisgender believers like Mark Shea, P. E. Gobry, Warren Throckmorton, Elizabeth Scalia, Lazar Puhalo, and Mark Yarhouse.

And so many have been lost to us. Dan Savage apostatized; Daniel Pierce was beaten by his own family and thrown out of his home; Matthew Shepard was tortured to death; Gwen Araujo was strangled; Tyler Clementi killed himself out of humiliation; Leelah Alcorn killed herself to make a desperate point.


We are beaten. We are bleeding. Stop saying you're doing this because you love us. Your brand of love has resulted in twisted psyches, broken families, suicides. Stop saying that it is our own sins coming back to haunt us; that is an evasion, and what is more, an invitation of divine judgment -- for it is clearly written that with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Do you wish your own sins to visit you, rattling their chains in the night? Our anguish is not coming out of nowhere; it is the anguish of those who, at best, wonder whether they are loved at all by our fellow believers, and often believe that Christians are incapable of loving us -- never having seen it.

Those who have eyes only for the (in my opinion, legitimate) threats to religious liberty in this country, and have perhaps never knowingly dealt with a gay person in their own lives -- even, maybe, wouldn't be homophobic if they did, except by accident -- seem to have a difficult time believing that these stories of homophobic harshness, rejection, and even violence are credible, save perhaps in far-off pars of the world like Russia or Nigeria or India. Nonetheless, every single one of the names I've mentioned above -- including every victim of murder and those driven to suicide -- hails from the good old US of A. We are not immune; there are those who would say we are not safe.

Stop talking about us, fellow Christian, and talk to us. We were never meant to bear this cross alone, any more than you were meant to bear yours alone; Jesus Himself did not bear His Cross alone, accepting help from Simon and Veronica. Our anguish is not a guarded secret. There has been no need to break seven seals on the scroll of our pain and call for silence in heaven for half an hour to read it; we have read it from the housetops -- and, too often, been met with the order to seal up what the seven thunders have said, because you saw no reason you should care. You were not, after all, your brother's keeper. Put your fingers in our hands and your hand into our sides, and do not be doubting, but believe: we are suffering. We need you.


Am I proposing a change in the Church's teaching? I have repeated until I am blue in the face that I'm not, and there are still people who won't believe me. But a call for holy compassion should not sound to anybody like a call for a change in belief. When you can't distinguish mercy from doctrinal laxity, there is something deeply wrong with you, spiritually. When your doctrine does not include the obligation to show compassion, it is you, not we, who are the heretics.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Reading Program



I'm going to be spending a week hiking in the Adirondacks, and I'm not sure how quickly I'll be getting back into things afterwards; the massive technicolor net-vomit (from every viewpoint) that succeeded the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage has me rather tuckered out, emotionally and intellectually.

However, lest you all be left adrift without my illustrious opinion factory to guide you, I'd suggest the following few things to place your eyeballs directly onto.

First, my friend Bill Hoard, who typically hosts the writers' group Pints & Prose of which I'm a part, is working to release his first independent book, The Dagger and the Rose. It's a fairy tale which he spent over a year perfecting, and is currently having illustrated by Leah Morrison; he's set up a Kickstarter for it, which you can view and/or donate to here. I specify that this is his first independent book, because he and my friend Ben Y. Faroe have already begun releasing a series, partially an homage to Fawlty Towers, titled Hubris Towers. Ben, too, has independent work out, also a fairy tale, called The Stone and the Song. Bill and Ben are outstanding writers, and I feel privileged to create in their company.

Speaking of excellent authors, Melinda Selmys, authoress of Sexual Authenticity (book and blog) and Slave of Two Masters, has been picked up by Patheos. You can find her at her new blog, Catholic Authenticity, though I understand she'll continue updating her previous blog on occasion. Melinda has also written for Spiritual Friendship, and was among the first Christians I ever read who was capable of doing imaginative justice to both sides of the Christendom-glistendom divide.

Thirdly, read Pope Francis' encyclical! Lots of people have hailed or decried it without showing any sign of having opened it, on account of its being pro-green and all. I haven't finished it myself, but I am enjoying it; one of its great strengths thus far (which has, to be blunt, been a failure of the modern environmentalist movement in many cases) is that of setting care for the earth and care for humanity in a proper relation to each other.

If you are desperate to get more of my writing, and haven't hitherto found the selections from my own upcoming dark-fantasy-Victorian-gaslamp-vampire-gothica-Catholic-bildungsroman novel, Death's Dream Kingdom, you might take a peak at these two posts, which feature passages from it.

And finally, with special thanks to my brother-in-law and sister, if you're not familiar with Rick and Morty, well, God still loves you, probably. But fix that.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Five Quick Takes

I.


Happy Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul! I'm quite fond of this feast. St Peter has long been one of my heroes: he's such a magnificent example, throughout the Gospels and even into Acts and Galatians, of someone in the process of conversion. His simplicity, in both the bad and the good sense, is something of a byword, and it's encouraging to someone like me who trips over his own feet so much.

Being raised a Presbyterian, I'd had St Paul being shoved into my mouth and both ears for as long as I could remember, and so for a little while after my conversion to Catholicism I felt sort of Pauled out. But I feel now as if I've rediscovered him a little; I don't understand all of what he says very well, but the moving language with which he speaks of Jesus is difficult to rival. Modern scholarship tends to be so concerned with him as either a hellfire-preaching misogynist and homophobe, or a modern egalitarian who wrote none of the work ascribed to him (which was in fact written by another man of the same name), that the real focus and energy of his writings is often lost. But it is from St Paul -- not even, as we might have expected, from St John -- that we get passages like the hymn to love, the hymn of Christ's kenosis, or such arresting and beautiful pieces of mysticism as: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me; or, Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

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II.

My parish had an exciting adventure this weekend: we had a long day of rain in Baltimore, and the undercroft and side stairwell flooded. Vacuuming water off the floors and out of the carpet, emptying every bucket and trash can we could find into the sidewalk drain, prying down broken and sagging ceiling tiles, and praying that it wouldn't start raining again in the night, took up well over five hours. One of the hazards, I guess, of a church building that was constructed in 1842.


Thank God it wasn't in the sanctuary. Or during Mass.

Repairing the leak, which is probably a problem with the flashing on one of the long-disused chimneys, shouldn't be problematic in itself, but our church is neither large nor wealthy. We need a new boiler, which is expected to run to $50K, among a myriad of other budget needs large and small. Please pray for us -- and if you'd like to donate to help us with the boiler too, thanks very much, and the parish address is:

Mount Calvary Church
816 North Eutaw Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-4624

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III.

The Baltimore city authorities have displayed a striking lack of conscience and compassion recently. With only a few days' notice (assuming the signs were put up when they're dated for), an area under one of the overpasses in the city where local homeless folks set up their tents has been abruptly fenced off. As far as I can tell, there is no reason for this except to kick the homeless out of it -- the sign that it is closed "for cleaning" notwithstanding, since, in my observation (I drive past it nearly every day on my way to work), it's one of the cleaner places in Baltimore, possibly because there were people living there who don't care to sleep in heaps of garbage.


Taken the day before yesterday with my phone at Franklin Street and (ha) Martin Luther King Boulevard.

It's a field under an overpass, not a shopping center or a spacious neighborhood (though personally I find it hard to sympathize with the idea that homeless people ought to be kicked out of those, either). It's one of the few place they could erect their tents in a place with a little less rain and sun than usual, and that in a summer that has been alternating between the standard cloying heat of the Chesapeake and an atypical series of chilly, turbulent, wet days and weeks. Even on a purely natural level, these people are just as much a part of Baltimore as anybody else -- it's stupid and callous to eject them from a patch of land they've been using for at least the last few years. And on a supernatural level, well, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.

I'm kind of a dunce when it comes to knowing whom to contact about this sort of thing. Can anyone advise me? -- city officials (and if so which ones), philanthropists, journalists, something?

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IV.

This will probably be my last post for a week or two; in addition to the work I'm devoting to other projects, I will be out of the world for a spell in early July. Some friends of mine make a trip up to the Adirondacks every summer, and they've invited me to go with them, three years running now. I love being up there: being away from the bustle of daily work, to say nothing of the sleepless noise of the city, out in the forested mountains, eating trail mix and bacon cooked over fires and earning blisters in the boots you never got around to breaking in before you left.


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V.


My novel, Death's Dream Kingdom, has been delayed. I'd hoped to have it out by the first of July, but a lot of other obligations have caught up with me, so it'll likely take rather longer. I'll keep you all updated. To tide you over, here is another selection from it.


After Marie had fled up the stairs, Augustus remained below, pacing the library for more than an hour. He hesitated over this volume or that at times, unable to drum up real interest in any. When some time had gone by, he murmured aloud, though no living soul could hear him:
Quand la pierre, opprimant ta poitrine peureuse
Et tes flancs qu’assouplit un charmant nonchaloir,
EmpĂȘchera ton coeur de battre et de vouloir,
Et tes pieds de courir leur course aventureuse,
Le tombeau, confident de mon rĂȘve infini.”*
He rubbed his fingers together, as if to warm them. At last, he turned his steps out of the library and went to a door beneath the servants’ stair. He reached into the collar of his shirt, and pulled a cord up over his head, from which there hung a heavy key; he opened the door with it and went inside, shutting the door behind him, and from the outside the noise of the lock being re-secured could be heard.


Marie passed the day in a trance-like languor. Except for her brief outburst of tears, she sat still on her bed, staring out of the curtains that she had never bothered to shut properly, and making no reply to Hyacinth’s knocks. Slowly, the column of sunlight let in by the window, which she could see would never cross the bed itself, crept over the floor, the inverse of the shadow on a sundial.
At a quarter past four, there was a soft knock on her door. “Bonsoir,” came Augustus’ voice through the wood. “May I come in?”
“Yes,” she answered indifferently.
He did, and gave a sharp cry of alarm. “Hell, child! Are you mad, leaving the drapes open like that? You could have been burned alive!”
“Not really,” she said.
Throwing Marie an invidious look, her sire went to the window, cautiously skirting the deadly light of the fading sunset, and pulled the cord that drew the curtains shut. He then went over to the wall lamp and turned it up, filling the room with a pink-tinged light.
“How are you this evening?” he asked.
She said nothing. All of her emotions and reactions seemed to have been drained from her by the strains and shocks of the previous night. Everything, even looking from one object to another, seemed to require a Sisyphean effort.
“Come and have something for breakfast.”
“I am not hungry.”
“Go on,” he coaxed, “it will make you feel better. Something out of a glass again.”
“I am not hungry.”
Marie looked up at Augustus. He appeared – well, no, he appeared as unassailably suave as ever to the eye. But something about him felt different: anxious, or something.
She turned to face the Holy Communion of Saint Teresa on her wall. “Did you paint that?”
He walked over to it, touching the frame lightly. “Yes. I spent a whole summer on it, back in 1745 – the days get so long, and there is little enough to do. I copied a number of paintings in the eighteenth century; most of the pictures you see about the house are my own work; quite flawless, if I do say so, though I owe that more to my undead eyes and hands than to native talent. There is a Bacchus in the library – Caravaggio’s – and Fuseli’s Lady MacBeth is in my private study. And of course you have seen Titian’s Venus With a Mirror in the tower, among others.”
“How did you do it?”
“Do what?”
“Copy a sacred subject?” she asked. “We are vulnerable to sacred things, aren’t we?”
“Yes, ma fleurette, but this is only a picture.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The sanctity does not come from the subject matter, but from the essential function of the artwork,” Augustus said. “In order for this to injure me or you, it would need to have been painted in order to serve as an icon, in a church or a chapel, and blessed accordingly. Without that, there is no sacramental power in the mere painted shapes, and it is simply” (he laid his hand over the saint’s face) “a picture. You’ll find in the same way that you can, for instance, quote from the Bible or the texts of the Mass when your intention is purely literary, but that you are quite unable to pray.”
“Why is it that we are vulnerable to these things?”
“My dear, if I knew that I should have blown up Saint George’s Cathedral. The traditional explanation is that we have no souls; though personally, I do not feel that I have seen any great evidence of souls in humans, either, so that the explanation does not explain. Be that as it may, a fact is a fact, and for practical purposes that is enough.”
Marie smiled, a little incredulous. “You are an immortal creature who can read thoughts and must fear the words and gestures of a priest, and yet you are skeptical about the existence of the soul?”
He smiled back, not nicely, and replied, “And do you feel any differently than you did before?”
Her stomach twisted around itself. She stared back at him, mute. Smug as a cat, Lord Ravenhurst put out his arm for her, and she angrily took it and went down with him to the dining room.

*"When the stone, oppressing your frightened breast

And your flanks, now supple with charming nonchalance,
Will keep your heart from beating and from wishing
And your feet from running their adventurous course,
The grave, confidante of my limitless dreams ..."
From Remords Posthume ('Remorse after Death') by Charles Baudelaire.