Thursday, February 28, 2008
thank you, Fr. Philip Neri O.P.
Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional
I. Starting point:
1. Sin. [Well, what are you waiting for? Click here to read the rest!]
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tom at Disputations has a post Three syllables, sounds like... where he ends with the statement:
To answer such a question is to endorse division in the Church, to claim not only the mantle of True Catholic, but the right to judge whether others are under that same mantle.the question under question is "Is he sound?" and Tom does a good job disecting it in his usual fashion (apparently the post was a response to something Mark Shea posted about Fr. Timothy Radcliff O.P.).
In reading Tom's post, what stands out to me is that it has focused on the individual (in terms of calumny and detraction), to the exclusion of the necessary charity of protecting the unwary from the wolves and hired hands which dilute and poison the faith of the easily missled. Now by that statement I am not impugning Fr. Radcliff, but there is something I wanted to say in a more general sense.
Tom apparently is saying that it is not up to us to determine what is and is not within the domain of the "one true faith," and then oddly enough, boldly states a conclusion as though that conclusion were consonant with the "one true faith." Tom, I hope you appreciate my seeing this as somewhat of an irony. I would argue not against that, for VERITAS, being the motto of the Order, inclines the Dominican to do just that. That is why there are two quotes about judgement at the top of this blog; judge not the man (is he sound? Nolite iudicare [Luke 6:37]) but judge his message (is his message sound? Nolite iudicare secundum faciem, sed iustum iudicium iudicate [John 7:24]). The first is forbidden, the second called for.
The one thing which seems so often lacking is the search for the truth which is outside ourselves, residing in the deposit of the faith, rather than our own opinions and understanding. Unfortunately, that seach is compromised by our fallen nature and clouded reason, which tends to turn in, where it is dark, instead of to the light.
Case in Point: An example of what I would consider a charitable article (charity directed at the uninformed first, and the dissident) would be Carl Olsen's article at Ignatius Insight, Luke Timothy Johnson "sometimes questions church authority"?
hat tip to Wikipedia for the pictures
Now, for the cutting edge:
click any of the last three images for the video broadcast. thanks, Doc!
This comparison is an example of what John has emphasised; that becoming "contemporary" (con-temporary = with-temporary) is to become hopelessly mired in a moment of the ephemeral past, for it is to try and make what is "temporary" permanent. That is why so much of the "renewal" in the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" is so hideously ugly now; it reflects the taste of it's period, not beauty everlasting, ever true.
I am not unaware that there are those who would argue that the age-topheavy congregations, some already dissapeared, others in danger of disappearing, is what Vatican II called for (in spite of the actual documents of Vatican II and instruction from the Church to the contrary); and I have certainly read many a self-congratulatory justification of such destruction. For those who have invested as much as 40 years in institutionalizing dissent and disobedience, it is understandable that renouncing it would be rather a difficult exercise in humility.
#115 TO BE HIDDEN FROM MYSELF
In order to avoid turning one's thoughts inward, the soul must focus its aspirations elsewhere; hence the negative exercise of not thinking of itself must accompany the positive exercise of fixing its center in Christ, of "burying in Christ" every thought, every preoccupation with self, even in the spiritual order. No one can succeed in turning away from himself unless he concentrates all his attention on the object of his love.
This is a reminder of the loves which have captivated the heart in life; a ladder, so to speak, of broken rungs leading to the only rung that won't break, Divine Love. I suspect it also is the key to overcoming depression.
To thee have I lifted up my eyes, who dwellest in heaven. Behold as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters, As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress: so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us. (Ps 122:1-2)
Friday, February 22, 2008
Resurrection makes all the difference in a world of dust
By Bishop Robert Vasa
BEND — The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom a light has shown. This is a theme which is much more reminiscent of Christmas than it is of Lent and yet for us who believe in the Resurrection we must acknowledge that we live in the Light of Christ. I do not think that we recognize sufficiently just how important this Light of Christ is in our lives.
As I talked to the young people at Hood River this weekend I realized just how much we take the Light of Christ, the Light of the Resurrection, for granted. We acknowledge that 79 percent to 80 percent of the people living in Oregon are unchurched. This means that they have no direct affiliation with any church group, Christian or otherwise. Since the Resurrection of the Lord and hence our own future resurrection is part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian, I would suspect that those who are not Christian have no belief in the Lord’s Resurrection and have no reason to anticipate their own. While I may not be fully conscious of the Lord’s Resurrection at all times I do know that hope in His Resurrection and thus hope in my own future resurrection is literally the reason why I get up each day, the reason why I go to work, the reason I strive to do that which is right and true and good. The Lord’s Resurrection needs to mean something very significant for each of us.
I cannot even begin to imagine the bleakness and the darkness of a world in which Christ has no place and produces no effect. A world without Christ is a dark, gloomy and hopeless world indeed. Yet, there are millions of souls who have no idea of a proper Lord of the universe. Who or what fills this void, this emptiness, this darkness? The Holy Father would suggest that attempts are made to fill this vacuum with a lot of lesser, incomplete and passing hopes. On Ash Wednesday we are rightly reminded: Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return. This is a very distressing thought. If I am only dust and if I am to return to only dust, then nothing that I think, do or say in the relatively brief course of my existence has any real significance whatsoever. As I told the young people, if everything that we see and touch is ultimately turning back to dust, and it is, then the only difference between a rich man and a poor man is the size of the remaining pile of dirt. So often we forget that most of the things on which we set our hearts and strive so ardently to achieve are nothing more than a future pile of dirt.
Fortunately the Resurrection changes all of that. Now, as a result and as a direct consequence of the Lord’s Resurrection we have an assurance that there is something truly worth living for and even worth dying for. Christ is our Light and more than our Light; a huge beacon showing us the way to live here and now with our minds and hearts set on the things of eternity. This makes, or at least ought to make, all the difference in the world.
Certainly we need to have concerns about the needs and duties associated with this life. These we must never neglect but in light of the Resurrection our attitude toward all that we do and possess and work for must necessarily be different. Now we must have as if not having. Now we must still work and yet not be anxious about the outcome. Now we must stand as peacefully and patiently in the face of trial as we do in the face of honors. We must remember that neither trials nor honors alter the fact of the Lord’s Resurrection. Neither trials nor honors have the power to void the Lord’s Resurrection. In fact, for most of us, trials bring us closer to the Lord and His Resurrection than honors and so, as people of Light, we should actually prefer the trials to the honors. I can assure you that we are not yet at this state of spiritual development, but I hope that we can at least imagine the possibility.
The prophecy of Isaiah is that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. We are to be the people who have seen a great Light. We are to be the people who remember the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. We are to be the people who waited with the Apostles for that coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are to be the people who live out the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection in the smallest details of our daily lives. We are to be people of hope who recognize that we are dust and returning to dust but who also know that we are beloved of God and destined, by the grace of God, for glory with the Lord. When we become more fully that kind of people then not only will Christ be the Light of our lives but we in turn will be a light shining on a lamp stand, a city set on a hill beckoning to others to come to the Light.
The trip to Hood River on a gloriously sunny day made it easy to see how one could get “stuck” in the attractiveness and appealingly beautiful material world. Mount Hood alone, magnificently cloaked with abundant blankets of snow, shown dazzlingly white. Mount Adams was impossible to miss and its grandeur impossible to escape. We, as much as those who do not believe in the Resurrection, cannot fail to be attracted and enticed by this alluring beauty. It is good that we are able to rejoice in and enjoy these natural beauties but we can never forget that their true beauty lies in the fact that they hint at something beyond themselves. They hint at someone infinitely more beautiful and infinitely more enduring. Instead of making us feel at home and “contented” these beauties should foster within us a hunger and an ache for that which only God can give. These beautiful experiences should foster in our hearts a longing for Him who is the ultimate and true Light, the ultimate and true beauty, the ultimate and final destiny. They need to remind us of Him for whom we long.
Our season of Lent is that time when we call to mind ever so vividly the depth of the Lord’s love manifested in His suffering for us and that time when we rejoice anew in the remembering of His, and our, Resurrection.
© 2002-2008, Catholic Sentinel
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"Liturgical Dance is never a performance."
Here we see the Doublethink of "1984" at work; Since when does saying what is not true, make it to be true? Thus, direct disobedience is justified in the mind of the one who chaffs under the gentle yoke of obedience.
If you do not believe you must obey higher authority, then why, pray tell, do you expect anyone to obey you? And if one of your dancers decides to do something completely different than what you have practiced and planned, will you not be upset and either call them to obedience, or remove them?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Today, the Pope is renewing the call for it...
Pope Urges Orders to Rediscover Original Charism
Offers Key to Overcoming Vocation Crisis
The Pope underlined that today many young men and women "experience a strong religious and spiritual attraction, but are only willing to listen to and follow those who give coherent witness to their adherence to Christ."
hat tip to Zenit
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Why is Kenya Bleeding?
Bert Ebben, OP (St. Martin)
Coordinator, Community Development Projects in Africa
After months of drought the parched land of Kenya thirsts for life-giving water. After years of oppression and exploitation the weary people of Kenya long for justice and peace. After four decades of independence the nation bleeds from a nearly mortal wound, while it reverberates with threatening accusations of tribalism, ethnic cleansing and genocide. This very morning yet another school and orphanage were torched in Mathare, Africa’s largest slum just a few kilometers from the Kware slums of Ongata-Rongai where I continue to facilitate various programs at VICODEC, a center dedicated to the promotion of human development.
Prompted by my Dominican Brothers in Raleigh I am writing this reflection, an attempt to respond to repeated questions from around the world. Why have 600+ Kenyans been so brutally massacred? Why have 250,000 people been driven from their homes and villages? Why are thousands more fleeing across the borders into Uganda and Tanzania? Why, this very day, are masses of Kenyans threatening to demonstrate in thirty cities and towns across the country? Because of an election, alleged by the opposition (Raila Odinga and his ODM Party) to have been fraudulent yet subsequently declared to have been free and fair by the Kenyan Electoral Commission, thus giving the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki of the PNU Party another five years in office? I don’t think so!
However controversial this decision is itself, it does not radically explain how the normally tolerant, long-suffering and peace-loving citizens of Kenya were driven to perpetrate such horrific death and destruction upon their beautiful country, once thought to be the most united and democratic nation in sub-Saharan Africa. While the failed electoral process is, without doubt, the catalyst that continues to spark such devastating reactions, fear and violence, it cannot account for the ensuing explosive situation. The root cause can be found only in the poverty, inequality and injustice that have plagued this country since independence and that have been systematically incorporated into the structures of its society, ever widening the great divide separating the powerfully rich minority from the masses who languish in poverty and hopelessness. Bridging that divide seems to be so far beyond the reach of ordinary poor Kenyans that they regrettably resort to anger, bitterness, acrimony and despair.
In such an anti-gospel milieu, it appears almost impossible for the everyday Kenyan to accept that God’s reign does not reach down from the presidential State House, nor from the Parliament, nor from the heights of power and wealth, but that the God of peace only breaks through in real acts of compassion, healing and justice, only in the nonviolent liberation of the poor and oppressed.
Sharing the pain and anguish of my Kenyan brothers and sisters, I am pushed and pulled into the confrontation and indignation of their experience. But even more I am emboldened to pursue God’s promise of peace on earth. I am compelled to continue to confront my own country’s “wars on earth”. I am driven to resist the present U.S. administration’s militaristic and arrogant imperialistic ambitions around the world. I am persuaded to oppose handguns, the death penalty, abortion, racism, sexism, poverty, corporate greed and the environmental devastation of our spectacular planet Earth.
Even as I conclude this reflection, the skies suddenly break open to release a soft, gentle rain. I am reminded of Isaiah’s “Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum”(45:8) in which the prophet expresses the world’s longing for the coming of the just one. I pray that the refreshing rain, now at last gently falling on the parched earth of Kenya, is a prophetic sign of the coming of God’s “Just One”, showing all of us the way to that New World without war, without poverty, without injustice – peace in Kenya, peace in the world, peace at last!
Bert Ebben, OP
16 January 2008-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Here is my response:
Dear Fr. Bert Ebben OP:
Thanks for the political commentary.
There is much to be said about expanding political and economic freedom, as well as market economic solutions to helping the poor come out of poverty and sustain their own middle class advantage. This is no less true in Kenya as it is in any American or European country.
However, Fr. Ebben's commentary about Kenya is certainly personal and tragic to each noble citizen of that country, yet he hardly offers a solution based upon Christian prinicples.
These are hardly solutions that should be offered by a member of the Order of Preachers!
Your spiritual response should be a call those who riot and commit mayhem to a moral standard; and call the government to establish order and right conduct by protecting persons against riots and crime, and establishing the law so that the rights of life, liberty, and property of each person are protected at law not on the streets, and to act forthrightly with reason and morality. Simply put, preach the Gospel!
Yes, we all look forward to the return of Christ and His peace, a peace not of this world or of those who would construct peace with their progromes and committees, but the peace of Christ. This will not come from political solutions, committees, UN, NGOs, more foreign aid, or the like, but by preaching Christ. As a Friar Preacher, our dear friar has this power of the Word and Truth.
Kenya is a beautiful country with incredible people with a Christian heritage.
That is why you are called a Preacher. It is time to preach His Word, not the politics of destruction.
John Keenan, J.D., O.P.L.
As most recently noted, the dynamics of conflict in Kenya is a matter of tribal conflict not the classic marxist model of class conflict as Fr. Ebben would have us believe.
update Feb 18, 2008 - we have extended the bandwidth and the site is open. thank you for your patience.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Let us for a moment consider the atheist who is a man of general good will, except that he denies that there is a God. Yet, even this man will choose a code of conduct by which he will live; he will cobble this code together from things that appeal to his own judgment, and consider that he possesses and lives by a code which is good. This is his moral code.
Now consider the man who says he believes in God, yet lives his life as though there were none; like the atheist, he builds his own code to live by, assembling the bits and pieces which appeal to his own judgment. He believes that he possesses and lives by a code that is good. This is his moral code.
The first man, having no grounds whereby to claim that his system is better than another atheist’s system, to be consistent should have no problems with the rest of the world living by another system; but because it is the nature of man to be drawn to the good, he will believe and almost invariably act to convince others to live by his system which he considers good; but in the end there is only force which can be brought to bear on those who disagree; he will seek to legislate his personal morality. He may even insist that the second man and others have no right to enforce their moral code upon him, just as he is forcing the other to live by his moral code.
The second man differs from the first in that he recognizes and pays lip service to the moral tradition which he is building from, but in the end, both are seeking the good and the true, but are both driven by their own will, and thus effectively indistinguishable, except that the second is more likely to fill church pews than the first.
Now let us consider a third man. This man not only believes in God like the second man above, but he actually believes God. Remember that the previous man acknowledged God but lived as though He did not exist; our new man not only believes in God's existence but goes to the next logical step of believing what God has to say; although he places himself as the final and highest judge of just what God's word means. Thus, just like the first and second men above, this man builds his own code to live by, assembling the bits and pieces which appeal to his own judgment. He believes that he possesses and lives by a code that is good. This is his moral code.
The third man differs from the second by acknowledging the sources of his code, but retains judgment over which parts he is willing to submit himself to. His quest for the good and the true will draw more from God’s own word, but the result will still be in accord with his own personal will, and thus will be a personal moral code which he believes to have the added authority of God. This man is very vexing to the first two men, and more likely to be found in the pews than the second man; he vexes nearly all because he preaches another gospel (Gal 1:9), for which he was not sent (Rm 10:15)
The fourth man differs from the others by not only believing in God and believing God, but he willingly submits himself to the lawful authority established by God. This man has no desire for a personal moral code, he is grateful to accept the moral code which God has provided for his life; he may in fact once have been the third, the second, the first man, or all of them, and knows from bitter experience that the personal moral code is a personal road to hell. This man’s heart has said, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” This man is most vexing to the third man, and is vexing to the first and second who can’t distinguish him from the third. [He is always in the pews, and always under temptation to take the step back to the place of the third man, because his zeal for his Father’s house leads him to desire to perform housekeeping that he is not called to do, but rather his calling is to be conformed to the image of the Son, and be led like a lamb to the slaughter?]
This last man’s moral code is not a personal moral code, it is a universal moral code; it is Catholic. Because it is universal, with it’s foundations in the very fabric of creation (ie: natural law) and revelation, it is suitable for all men at all times. Yet the other men outlined all and of a kind share a universal distaste for it and reject it out of hand, preferring the works of their own tradition to the very word of God. That is why about these others who profess a belief in God but do not shoulder the gentle load He has authorized, St. Bede reminds us of the words of St. James; Believe, and you do well, but even the demons believe, and tremble.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
St. Vincent Ferrer - Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent –
The Temptation in the Desert – Mt 4:1-11
The devil, seeing that Christ excused himself, so he would not incur vainglory, wished to tempt him again, and said to Christ, "Let us go to the desert, to a mountain high enough where we will be alone and can pray" And when they were on the mountain the devil showed Christ every corner of the earth, saying that all was his and he was able to give it to whomever he wished – but he lied – and he said " All this will I give you, if falling down you will adore me." (v. 9). Christ, who in the other temptations patiently excused himself, in this temptation became indignant and shouted out saying, "Be gone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord your God shall you adore, and him only shall you serve,"(v. 10; Deut 6:13). But why?
Chrysostom says that some temptations touched on humility, but this touched on adoring the divinity, and on the crown of God, etc. St. Jerome says that Christ here gives us an example that we should tolerate injuries to our person, but those which touch upon God we should rebuke indignantly. Chrysostom: In all personal injuries it is praiseworthy to be patient; injuries to God, however it is not wrong to rebuke to the utmost. Note the story about St. Louis the king of France who was used to brand the tongues of those who blasphemed God. A proof from the prophets: Isaiah 52 " They who rule over them treat them unjustly, says the Lord, and my name is continually blasphemed all the day long."(Isa 52:5).
Thanks to Fr. Albert Judy O.P. for the translations in progress of St. Vincent Ferrer's sermons, which are here. Hat tip to Tom at Disputations for the link!
Monday, February 11, 2008
Oh it is hard to work for God,
To rise and take His part.
On the battlefield of earth,
And not sometimes loose heart!
He hides himself so wondrously,
As though there were on God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad
Or He deserts us at the hour
The fight is all but lost;
And seems to leave us to ourselves
Just when we need him most.
Yes, there is less to try our faith,
In our mysterious creed,
Than in the godless look of earth,
In these our hour of need.
Ill master good; good seems to change
To ill with greatest ease;
And, worst of all, the good with good
Is at cross purposes.
It is not so, but so it looks;
And we lose courage then;
And doubts will come if God hath kept
His promises to men.
Ah! God is other than we think;
His ways are far above,
Far beyond reason’s height, and reached
Only by childlike love.
The look, the fashion of God’s ways
Love’s lifelong study are;
She can be bold, and guess, and act,
Where reason would not dare.
She has a prudence of her own;
Her step is firm and free;
Yet there is cautious science too
In her simplicity.
Workmen of God! Oh lose not heart,
But learn what God is like;
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shall know where to strike.
Thrice blest is he to whom is given
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field when He
Is most invisible.
Blest too is he who can divine
Where real right doth lie,
And dares to take the side that seems
Wrong to man’s blindfold eye.
Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world though shame,
And beckons thee his road.
God’s glory is a wondrous thing,
Most strange in all its ways,
And, of all things on earth, least like,
What men agree to praise,
As he can endless glory weave
From what men reckon shame,
In His own world He is content
To play a loosing game.
Muse on His justice, downcast soul!
Muse and take better heart;
Back with thine angel to the field,
And bravely do thy part.
God’s justice is a bed, where we
Our anxious hearts may lay,
And, weary with ourselves, may sleep
Our discontent away.
For right is right, since God is God;
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.
Frederick William Faber, Faber’s Hymns, Dutton, 1875
Friday, February 08, 2008
Archbishop Burke addresses Catholic identity
and here's the quote:
Catholics who seem to hold beliefs that go against the Church’s teachings often say that they are "doing the right thing," or "following their conscience." Does this come down to an issue of free speech?
Sometimes the primacy of the conscience is misunderstood. If you mean that the conscience has primacy — in the sense that whatever I feel or think becomes then the right thing to do — that’s false. The primacy of the conscience is related essentially to the primacy of the truth. In other words, your conscience has primacy in as much as it is conformed to the truth, and as much as it is properly informed.
For example, let’s say there is someone who espouses a position on procured abortion — that isn’t right. He can’t say that it is right simply because he holds it in his conscience. He has a duty to inform his conscience about the fact that here we are speaking about a human life. And, therefore, the only response we can make to that human life is to safeguard it and protect it. The primacy of the conscience is strictly correlated to the primacy of the truth.
click the tags to see "whose next"
someone else recently tagged me with another one, and I've not posted it because every time I look at it...
Lk 17:10. I think not. So you also, when you shall have done
all these things that are commanded you, say: We are
unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to
would that I did even that much.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Fr Nichols, a Dominican friar, argues that the disappearance of other Christian and non-Christian religions would not necessarily be “a Bad Thing”, since the Catholic faith contains all the elements of truth, goodness and beauty that are present in other forms of Christianity and faith traditions.
He argues that Catholicism was crucial in the formation of England and suggests that the Church is well suited to remaking a “not terribly impressive culture” dominated by “supermarkets and sport”. [Ouch.]
giant hat-tip to Fr. Z at What Does The Prayer Really Say? read on!
That particular "celebration" seems to me to be about as anti-lent as you can get.
Yet, this morning I woke up (late) feeling bad about missing the fish feed at Our Lady of the Valley this Friday; (I'm planning to be out of town). It hit me that my anticipation for the fish fry was actually not unlike the Mardi Gras; it is not a penitential desire, but quite the opposite, an indulgence in a pleasure (and a very high one on my scale) normally denied! My desire really didn't even include the Stations, but rather the food and company.
How's that for an examination of conscience? Judged by my own words.
And now, for something completely different: here's a picture of an event at a Kampala Pentecostal mega-church which my son took;
poor lad had never been exposed to Pentecostalism before and was scandalized beyond the beyond; he's still in recovery. I cropped this individual from the picture, phone call? headache? Doesn't want to be seen? who knows.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
How to Make the Greatest Evil in Our Lives Our Greatest Happiness
by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.
Suffering is the great problem of human life. We all have to suffer. Sometimes small sorrows, sometimes greater ones fall to our share. We shall now tell our readers how to avoid much of this suffering, how to lessen all suffering and how to derive great benefits from every suffering we may have to bear.
The reason why suffering appears so hard is that, first of all, we are not taught what suffering is. Secondly, we are not taught how to bear it. Thirdly, we are not taught the priceless value of suffering.
This is due to the incomprehensible neglect on the part of our teachers.
It is surprising how easily some people bear great sufferings; whereas, others get excited even at the smallest trouble.
The simple reason is that some have been taught all about suffering; others have not.
SUFFERING IS NOT THE EVIL WE THINK IT IS
read the rest here
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
I've been hearing that America's "health care system is broken" quite often from a lot of politi-lips. I'm sorry, but I still reject Orwell's 1984 redefinition of words and concepts. Our health care system isn't broken; there are doctors, clinics, hospitals everywhere in this country providing services. No, it is not broken, but it is expensive. Now we've hit the crux of the problem; we want good service, cheap to free, and now.
In the marketing world I learned that these three (quality, cost, schedule) are always the negotiables on the table. If I'm providing a service, you can have two, I get the other one. America has given up cost and now regrets it. fine. If you take it back, you will give up either quality or timely service, it is an unavoidable and inexorable consequence of life.
So please, America, stop pretending health care is broken. speak truly, it's expensive and you want it cheap.
ok, I've said my piece and will return to the Prince of Peace...
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Today’s reading from Divine Intimacy is very good. If you are one whose eyes glaze over when long quotations are posted, skip the quote and read what follows, and then come back to it if you can.
DIVINE INTIMACY by Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
#91 PREDICTION OF THE PASSION
Lent is approaching and our thoughts turn spontaneously to the sorrows of Jesus. Today’s Gospel (Lk 18:31-43) brings us an announcement of the Passion.
To those who dream only of prosperity and earthly glory, the language of the Cross is incomprehensible. Those who have a purely material ideal of life find it very difficult to understand any spiritual significance, and especially that of suffering. St. Paul said that Christ Crucified was “unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23). Rebuking St. Peter, who at the first mention of the Passion exclaimed, “Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto thee,” Jesus had said, “Go behind me, Satan, …because thou savorest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.” (Mt 16:22-23). To human wisdom, suffering is incomprehensible; it is disconcerting; it can lead one to murmur against divine Providence and even to loose all trust in God. However, according to the wisdom of God, suffering is a means of salvation and redemption. And as it was necessary “for Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory” (cf Lk 24:26), it is also necessary for the Christian to be refined in the crucible of sorrow in order to attain to sanctity, to eternal life.
It was not until after the descent of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles fully understood the meaning of the Passion; then, instead of being scandalized, they considered it the greatest honor to follow and preach Christ Crucified.
The human eye has not sufficient light to comprehend the value of the Cross; it needs a new light, the light of the Holy Spirit. It is not by chance that in today’s Gospel, immediately after the prediction of the passion, we find the healing of the blind man of Jericho [Remember Jericho; Up to Jerusalem, Down to Jericho… Jericho symbolizes the City of man opposed to the City of God]. We are always somewhat blind when faced with the mystery of suffering; when it strikes us in what we hold most dear, it is easy to get lost and to grope our way like blind men through uncertainty and darkness. The Church invites us to repeat today the blind man’s prayer of faith: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The world is often astonished at the sufferings of the good, and instead of encouraging them in their reliance on God, seeks to turn them from Him by urging them to defiance and false fear. [Trust in God<>false fear; Reliance<>defiance – that’s a pairing I’d not really given much thought to before, it has a place alongside Assent<>dissent] Our passions themselves, our innate tendencies towards pleasure, often cry out to us and try, by a thousand pretexts, to prevent us from following Jesus Crucified. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, like the poor blind man. He was not disturbed by the crowd that tried to keep him from approaching Jesus, and he did not give up when the disciples remonstrated with him and wanted him to be quiet; he only shouted his prayer “even more loudly.”
Let us cry to the Lord from the bottom of our heats: “De profundis clamo at te, Domine; Domine audi vocem meam!” (Ps 129). Let us ask, not to be exempt from suffering, but to be enlightened as to its value. “Lord, that I may see!” as soon as the blind man recovered his sight, he immediately followed Jesus, “glorifying God!” The supernatural light which we seek from the Lord will give us the strength to follow Him and to carry our cross as He did.
Oh my Jesus, the Cross is Your standard; I should be ashamed to ask to be delivered from it. From one evil only I ardently beg You to preserve me: from any deliberate sin, however slight. O Lord, I beg You by the merits of Your sacred Passion to keep all sin far from me. But as for other evils – bodily or spiritual sufferings, physical pain or mental anguish – I beg Your light and strength: light to understand the hidden meaning which they have in the plans of Your divine Providence, light to believe firmly that every sorrow or trial, every pain or disappointment, is planned by You for my greater good; strength not to let myself be influenced by the false maxims of the world or led astray by the vain mirage of earthly happiness, strength to accept suffering of any kind with courage and love.
Today’s Divine Office antiphon 3: Listen to me, all you who revere God, let me tell you what great things he has done for me, alleluia.
From Ps 66
Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
To him I cried aloud,
With high praise ready on my tongue.
As I read this, after reading the Divine Intimacy reading for Quinquagesima Sunday, I turned and I saw.
You see, the reading on suffering brought to me the last days as my dear wife Gwen prepared to shed her mortal coil; a terminal illness provides a unique opportunity to “learn the hard way” the lesson which dear Fr. Gabriel has written so eloquently in order to teach us. Gwen had read Divine Intimacy, so she had a cursory exposure to these lessons, but as it is for all of us, we struggle to change so the contents of faith become “performative” instead of “informative,” as Benedict XVI says so succinctly in Spe Salvi.
What I was thinking of as I read today’s D.I. reading, was how a terminal illness strips all false hope away, and can peal one’s soul like an onion, stripping false hopes layer by layer, until all that is left is that stark confrontation with eternity; terror for one with out faith, the ultimate joy to one whose faith is sure, hope is purified, and in whom the love of God is buoyed by that fear of God which is chaste and endures forever.
Consider that faith is the evidence of things unseen (Heb 1:11), therefore, the supernatural virtue of faith, given in baptism, differs from knowledge of the things of the world, in that rather than directly experienced knowledge, it is accepted on His word, and if we turn our will to Him fully, He grants a certainty, the evidence of things unseen, that exceeds that of that knowledge which we have obtained directly ourselves. We must trust the word of God, but to do so, we must trust the men who gave it to us, and the Church, which says it is so. Always, the intermediary of another is between us and the Lord, this is as he set it out to be; the stumbling block to Jews, foolishness to Greeks; that God would take and use flesh. Our separated Protestant brethren reject His Church for this very reason, just as their spiritual forefathers, the Pharisees, rejected Jesus.
What I didn’t know until this morning, was that as my dear wife lived through the days of my conversion, hers was of a different nature. You see, like the psalmist, in my home,
Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
To him I cried aloud,
With high praise ready on my tongue.
The many things the Lord did for me, the things He showed me, these were the things of which I spoke, and while at first an exile in my own home, today’s response is quite true:
God’s word is alive; it strikes to the heart.
-It pierces more surely than a two-edges sword.
When it pierces, it divides. One either accepts testimony, or rejects it. I understand why Sr. Lucia, after seeing the vision at Fatima, spent her life in convent; “performative.” – an encounter of such nature changes one; thus I stand changed, although my vocation demanded a change in a different manner.
It is said that St. Thomas Moore went to the executioner in support of the doctrine of the primacy of the successor of Peter over the Universal Church, a doctrine not yet enunciated, and hence he went alone, in the pure darkness of faith, trusting only in God that this was correct, but with no certainty that it was.
In heaven, faith will be replaced by knowledge, then we shall know as we are known, sight shall replace faith. This sight, the vision of God, may be had in some degree of obscurity, even in this life; this is the goal of contemplative prayer, and the reason for books like Divine Intimacy.
What I realized today is that because of the tiny glimpses of light which the Lord has given me, He has constructed an edifice of faith that is an immovable rock. The Lord gave me many gifts, because of my weakness; those gifts were the testimony Gwen needed to turn her heart and will to God, but she did so in a darkness of faith, more like St. Thomas Moore. You see, I always knew she was stronger than I, but I’d not realize that her faith was actually greater than mine, for it was made in that darkness that turns over the will to God, holding nothing back, being docile to Him, allowing Him to be her guide.
And among other things, I miss her, not just because Tuesday would have been her birthday, but because as an editor, she could take my ramblings and make sense of them. Without her assistance, God bless you for suffering with me, and may He strengthen me to suffer with you, that our sufferings may be added to that treasury which our Lord and our Lady dispense per His will.