God Is Not a Vending Machine

April 3, 3014

Prayer Before Meal, before 1740, Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon, Musee du Louvre, Paris

Prayer Before Meal, before 1740, Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon, Musee du Louvre, Paris

From the time many of us raised in Christian homes were small, we were taught to pray. Pray for others, pray for what we want/need, pray in thanksgiving and adoration. Often, when we reach adulthood, the prayers of petition become our main reason for praying if our faith has not matured.

I remember as a child that my Mother would say in frustration, “You kids have a terrible case of the ‘gimmes’”. What we wanted was either not in the budget or it was something our parents deemed bad for us. As kids we weren’t aware of how much we were doing this, or that we were looking at our parents as some kind of vending machine that would drop out whatever we asked for.

Fast-forwarding to today, I can say that it was a hard learning for me to not view God as a vending machine. Perhaps it was because in all my years outside the Church I forgot how to really pray. Time apart from God will do that. When I look back on all the frivolous things I prayed for, I hang my head in shame.  Even in praying for things that were not frivolous I lacked the one thing necessary that we were all taught as children in our family – a spirit of submission to the will of God.

The God-As-Vending-Machine mentality is a result of what psychologists call “magical thinking”. We, unknowingly, think that if we make this or that novena, say x number of rosaries, give money to the poor, fast, etc. that we are automatically going to get what we want. Just put the money in, press the right button, and out pops the answer to our prayers. When we think this way we are assuming we have some kind of power over God that can force Him to give us what we want if we only jump through all the hoops out there. After all, it worked for Saint So-and-so, so why not us?

If we’re approaching God in this way we are doomed to disappointment. We are not considering what Jesus told us in Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” To rightly know what to ask for, we first must do a thorough housecleaning on our desires. In Mark 7: 20-23 Jesus talks about that clean heart:

What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of a man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.

Saint So-and-so received answers to his prayers because he had a clean heart and asked for what he wanted in that spirit. Does it not follow, then, that if we are asking God for this, that, and the other material thing and at the same time we are doing nothing to curb our greed, our tongue, our lust, we are not in a disposition to receive what we’re asking for? God will never give us anything that will hurt us, no matter how many rosaries we pray. He will always, though, give us what we need. Sometimes that gift is the withholding of something we’re asking for chiefly because we are not ready to receive it, or in receiving it we would veer from the path He desires for us.

I am reminded of a married couple who were in deep trouble with their relationship. The man thought that if he gave thousands of dollars to this and that charity, if he made this and that novena and prayed the rosary with his family, that everything would magically get better because he was doing all the right things. Except that he wasn’t. He did not want to admit his drinking problem and he did not want to view his wife as anything other than a servant rather than as a partner whose views deserved due consideration. He did not view his great income as “family money” for the support and sustenance of his wife and children but rather as his to spend however he wanted on himself. Finally, because he refused to submit to God creating a clean heart in him, he lost his family.

One time I got very angry with God because He wasn’t giving me what I wanted. “Why aren’t you helping me?” I yelled. It took a few years before I got the understanding. It was, “Because you’re not doing what I want you to do.” Obvious now but not then. I was consumed with getting what I wanted and it most definitely wouldn’t have been good for me nor for the people God had in mind for me to help one day.

The Germans have a saying, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” In our prayer life our disposition must always be, “Thy will be done.” It is never a problem to ask for something as long as we are not so attached to getting what we want that we get angry with God for not giving it to us. Moreover, as we seek, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to clean our hearts from all the attitudes Jesus condemned, we become more sensitive to what we should ask for, both on our behalf and our neighbor’s behalf. When the self-centeredness clears out, the peace of Christ moves in and we learn to recognize all the gifts God is giving us without our even asking for them. We become “smart” in what to ask for, and are able to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit regardless of our circumstances. With the psalmist we can say,

A clean heart create in me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. (Ps. 51:10)

We can save ourselves a lot of grief if we learn what we need to know early and don’t become “too late smart.”

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags:

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 prayers, spirituality 8 Comments

The Silence of Christ

March 26, 2013

Crown of Thorns, 1520-25, Lucas, Cranach the Elder (b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar), Oil and tempera on limewood, Private collection

Crown of Thorns, 1520-25, Lucas, Cranach the Elder (b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar), Oil and tempera on limewood, Private collection

Bossuet, in his Meditations for Lent, wrote:

Few people like to suffer, and to suffer in silence in the sight of God alone. And if it is rare to find those who like to suffer, it is still rarer to find those who suffer without trying to tell the world of it.

This comment isn’t just for Lent, but for all the times of our lives. I don’t think Bossuet was trying to be funny here, but really, the second half of the second sentence really is funny because it so perfectly describes our human nature. There is a reason for that marvelous Yiddish word, “kvetch”.

Who among us can truthfully say that we have never whined or complained to anyone who will listen about things that pain us most deeply? It is at those times we are trapped inside our own little world, maybe throwing tantrums over the injustices or ill fortunes of life, and wanting somebody to take pity on us and rescue us. While grieving over certain losses is normal and it is healthy to let someone care for us until we get back on our psychological feet, when we let our suffering control our lives to the point that it consumes our outlook and relationships with others, we are in trouble. Why? Because we are looking everywhere but to Jesus for the answer.

Jesus endured a thousand injuries, insults, and indignities from all manner of persons. He was falsely accused by his cruel enemies, the scribes and the Pharisees. They said He was a blasphemer, a rebel, a breaker of the law, and a disturber of the peace, that He had contempt for the Roman taxes, and finally, that He was misleading the people with His new doctrine.

And we get bent out of shape when somebody makes the slightest false accusation against us! But Jesus made no attempt to defend Himself. He bore the blows of the Jews and their accusations in His illegal midnight trial, the scourging and crowning with thorns all without a word. While the sadistic Roman soldiers spit on Him and struck Him viciously, He was silent. And when the hedonistic Herod, a slippery piece of work, tried to get Jesus to speak, He remained silent. He didn’t try to get out of fulfilling the purpose the Father sent Him here to accomplish.

We, too, have a purpose in our suffering: to share in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of souls. Our suffering with this purpose keeps us focused not on ourselves but on eternal life which we will spend with God and our whole, huge, joyful and loving family of saints and angels.

Bossuet writes:

…[O]ur souls are tested and marvelously improved when, by a truly Christian generosity, we are able to rise up above all that troubles and opposes us, and, like Jesus, we keep a profound silence, even when there is something to speak about, whether for our justification against an unjust accusation, or amid a raging tempest of trouble. A truly generous soul must defend itself with silence, which will be its calm and peace amid the storm. Jesus will send an interior sweetness into the depths of the hearts of those who, by a little courage, reject and abandon the help of creatures for the sake of His love.

In our sufferings and contradictions, let us not look to secondary causes. We must not pander to our self-love by a vain search for someone to blame for our sufferings. We must instead lift our sights to heaven to see that it is God Himself who has allowed these things to happen to us, and that they will be for the sake of our salvation if we know how to profit from them.

Suffering in this life is not optional, but our interior attitude towards it is. Let us imitate the silence of Jesus as a way to strengthen our character, build virtue, and enjoy an ever closer relationship with Christ.

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: ,

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 Spiritual reading, spirituality, suffering 3 Comments

Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

March 9, 2014

blooming vinca_detailed watercolor on  tan paper

Here we are in Lent again, and many Catholic bloggers have thoughts on the season you may want to read over at This That and the Other Thing. Do join us all.

This week I published Victor’s Lent Meme and invite all readers with blogs to take his challenge.

Misery Is a Choice and Mortification, Penance, Suffering Seen Through the Holy Spirit may help those who are trying to figure out what to do for the season, although both topics apply to our lives year round.

RAnn’s question of the week is, “What’s Your Favorite Movie?” Shucks, I’m having a hard time with that. I’ve always thought “The Song of Bernadette” was great and I still do. However, with my Asian preferences I must say that Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood”, “Seven Samurai”, “Kagamusha”, and “Ran” are all splendid for scripts, story, acting, and production values. Then there’s Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers”, “To Live”, and “Raise the Red Lantern”. All of these I’ve watched multiple times and never get tired of them. And if you’ve never seen the 1929 silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, you’ve missed something really special. The Criterion Collection married Dreyer’s film with Richard Einhorn’s Oratorio, “Voices of Light” for a magnificent work of art.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share
Saturday, March 8th, 2014 Sunday Snippets 7 Comments

Mortification, Penance, Suffering Seen through the Holy Spirit

March 8, 2014

Flower Sellers of London, Gustave Dore, Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Flower Sellers of London, Gustave Dore, Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Comprehending the value of the Cross, of suffering, of willful mortification and penance is impossible with the human eye alone. We need the light of the Holy Spirit to live through that which is visited upon us just as Jesus was seized and killed by worldly powers. In the eyes of the world he was just a man, one certainly with extraordinary power to heal both hearts and bodies, but in the end, just someone who could be killed to be gotten out of the way.

To the world, suffering makes no sense. It is a mystery. Mortification and penance make no sense. The world cannot conceive the hidden meaning and value of suffering and so it vainly seeks to end it by purely earthly means – this program and that, but oddly enough only creating more suffering. When by the grace of the Holy Spirit and with a generous heart charity seizes us, we can not only accept that which is beyond our control, but also choose to take advantage of all the many instances we find daily to deny ourselves and follow in the footsteps of the Lord.

In Meditation #97 of Divine Intimacy Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene writes:

The spirit of mortification has more than a purely physical aspect of mortification; it also includes renunciation of the ego, the will, and the understanding.

Is not the renunciation of understanding one of the most difficult challenges we face? We all want immediate certainty about our earthly endeavors. We want to know why things go wrong and we want to know why certain things are happening to us.  Really bad things may be going on and we want to create an alternate reality to dodge the emotional pain because we don’t understand. We can’t bear not to “get it” when we are apparently in the dark. We are impatient with God. We become afraid. Sometimes we actually run away through drugs, booze, affairs, and fantasies because we don’t want to have to deal with realities we don’t understand or know how to deal with. With our ego life is all about us; with our will life is all about getting what we want, with our understanding life is all about getting rid of uncertainty and taking control.  

The spirit of mortification is really complete when, above all, we seek to mortify self-love in all its many manifestations…. There is little value in imposing corporal mortifications on ourselves if we then refuse to yield our opinion in order to accommodate ourselves to others, if we cannot be reconciled with our enemies, or bear an injury and a cutting word with calmness, or hold back a sharp answer…. As long as mortification does not strike at our pride it remains at the halfway mark and never reaches its goal.

I will add to the specifics above, without understanding the need to mortify self-love and doing it, we cause immense pain to others, especially those close to us. This is how abuse of all kinds is passed down in families, how some people decide to kill themselves rather than to take the hand God is extending to them, how generations end up poisoned with hateful behavior patterns.

Without the spirit of mortification, we gain nothing and give no spiritual goods to others because we just go through the motions on the outside but have not rent our hearts on the inside (Joel 2: 13). We are fakes.

The true spirit of mortification embraces, in the first place, all the occasions for physical or moral suffering permitted by Divine Providence. The sufferings attendant on illness or fatigue; the efforts required by the performance of our duties or by a life of intense labor; the privations imposed by the state of poverty – all are excellent physical penances. If we sincerely desire to be guided by Divine Providence in everything, we will not try to avoid them, or even to lighten them, but will accept wholeheartedly whatever God offers us. It would be absurd to refuse a single one of those providential opportunities for suffering and to look for voluntary mortifications of our own choice….

It is exactly the same in the moral order. Do we not sometimes try to avoid a person whom we do not like, but with whom the Lord has brought us into contact? Do we look for every means of avoiding a humiliation or an act of obedience which is painful to nature? If we do, we are running away from the best opportunities for sacrificing ourselves and for mortifying our self-love; even if we substitute other mortifications, they will not be as effective as those which God Himself has prepared for us. In the mortification offered to us by Divine Providence, there is nothing of our own will or liking; they strike us just where we need it the most, and where, by voluntary mortification, we could never reach.

So much suffering in this world is going to waste because too many people do not see the supernatural  value of suffering, of renunciation of the ego, self-will, and understanding. Too many people are not willing to “let go and let God” as the various Anonymous organizations teach. Too many people are in misery because they do not know God and no one is drawing them to Him.

This Lent, let us consider our mortifications to be not only for our own spiritual development and formation in Christ, but offer them up for those who do not know God, that He will manifest Himself to them in love through us and others.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: ,

Saturday, March 8th, 2014 spirituality, suffering Comments Off

Misery Is a Choice

March 6, 2014

Potter Working Thrower, Wikimedia

Potter Working Thrower, Wikimedia

Do you know people who are truly miserable? I am not speaking here of that great percentage of the world who live in poverty and disease, in war-torn countries, victims of natural disasters that destroy lives completely, or where people face a choice of convert to this or that religion or die. I am also not speaking of sexually and physically abused children nor of those who have been trafficked for financial gain of others, nor of the many other evils in the world. That temporal misery is forced upon persons by outside powers for evil and selfish purposes. I am speaking of misery of heart and soul – an invisible misery that manifests itself outwardly most particularly by sins of the tongue, angry outbursts, rash judgment, destruction of property and/or relationships. The kind of internal churning misery that repels others and perpetuates itself both in oneself and in others in our lives with whom we interact.

We all know the constant complainer, the super-critic who is pleased about nothing, the selfish controller of others who continually resorts to manipulation to get what he or she wants. We all know our share of Chicken Littles for whom the sky is falling almost every day. Their lives are full of constant drama, singularly joyless. And who has not known active alcoholics and others addicts of all types? They live in a continual torment and spinning of fears, often using addiction as a way not to face the demons inside themselves. Maybe, just maybe, we can apply these descriptions to ourselves at one time or another in our lives.

Now that we are beginning Lent, a time when we put extra effort into growing closer to God and giving deep consideration to the passion and death of Christ as the great act of our redemption, perhaps we can look at our internal misery index. Perhaps we can face the fact that we may be stuck in the past, chained to events that still affect our choices today, and resolve with the help of Jesus to step out in trust and change something about ourselves that makes us miserable. The fact that we can change the way we look at things, the way we perceive others, means that misery is a choice.

In every case, if we challenge ourselves, we will see that the root of our misery is some form of selfishness. Others have failed us. Others have betrayed us. Others have truly wished us dead, or at least gone or living like a toothless tiger. We have been slighted, disrespected, ridiculed, bullied and even hated for no good reason. When we get down to it, each of us can own up to the fact regarding ourselves that it is all about me and how I see myself. Who am I really? Who defines who I am? The answer to that is…well, later.

A recently convicted and sentenced prison lifer told his adult daughter that he could understand if the Christians he knew didn’t want to have anything to do with him. After all, Christians don’t associate with criminals. When she told me that I said, “We are all criminals in the eyes of God because we are all sinners. Every Confession line is full of repeat offenders. Christians of all people ought to understand criminals.” And, in fact, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for having dinner with tax collectors and sinners, to which He replied, “They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill.  Go then and learn what this means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Matt. 9: 11-12). If we mean to imitate Jesus, we will not shrink from a criminal who seeks healing relationships.

I bring up this example because although we are all criminals, we are much more. Grasping this one point and considering it over time can help us overcome misery we create for ourselves. That point is:

We were each created by God out of love. We are His children, broken by the effects of Original Sin, but loved so greatly that Jesus died for us. No generalities here. Each one of us is loved by God individually. Our sins hurt us and hurt others, but Jesus in His mercy heals us if we turn to Him. By turning away from ourselves and seeking a relationship with Him, we gain a perspective that allows us to make choices that lead us to joy and not misery. As the best Father, God wants us to be happy with Him forever. We find out who we really are only in relationship with God.

 Of course, having a relationship with God means getting to know Him. Getting to know someone takes time, peace and quiet, listening, studying his actions. What better place to start than with the New Testament where we have the words and actions of Christ to light the way? But that gets us into knowing about Jesus. We can’t stop there. We need to spend time with Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament or at least in quiet prayer thinking about what He taught us and asking to know Him better. The amount of time we give to these two things is relative to our internal misery index. More time with Jesus means less misery because we are focusing on Him and not stuck in our own self-centeredness. We will reduce the number of criminal actions (sins) against God and our neighbor by doing this, and instead bring the healing love of Christ to others. We reduce misery in our hearts by conversion.

We also need to get to know Mother Mary better. She always points the way to Jesus and can help us to reflect Him to others. Once we begin to experience more joy in these relationships with God and the Blessed Mother, we cannot keep it to ourselves. Joy is one of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit and the more selfishness we get out of the way, the easier it is for the joy in us to come out naturally and brighten other people’s lives as well as our own.

As we consider the season of Lent, let’s look at our misery index. What permanent changes do we want to make to become more like Jesus? What choices do we need to make to let more joy into our lives? Who is God placing in our lives to help us? Are we making the best use of Confession?

St. Benedict tells us, “Prefer nothing to Christ. In all things glorify God.” St. Paul wrote: “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17).

We are all a work in progress, the Great Potter shaping us in love. Let us surrender to Him, let go of the past, live in the present moment, and look to the future of everlasting life and joy.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 joy, spirituality 8 Comments

Lent Meme

March 2, 2014

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross, c. 1565, Titian (Tiziano) (b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia), Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross, c. 1565, Titian (Tiziano) (b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia), Oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Victor over at Time for Reflections devised this simple meme for Lent which I am passing on to all my readers. Just read and follow the instructions.

RULES

1. Copy paste this post on your Blog.

2. Contact as many other Bloggers as you like and leave them this comment: “You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog”.

3. And now the difficult bit: Do someone a good deed. Anyone. Relative, friend or stranger. Any good deed. Saying a prayer for someone in need. Helping an old person with shopping, transport, gardening. Visiting a sick person. Giving some money to charity. Just use your imagination and do any good deed. If you are greedy you can do more than one good deed. To more than one person. You can do a good deed every day of Lent if you wish. The minimum is just one good deed.

4. That’s it. I can’t think of any other rules.

5. Thanx. God bless.

If you’ve never visited Victor’s blog you’re missing out on a talented and devoted Catholic’s ability to tell enjoyable stories. Why not take a peek now?

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags:

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 Catholic Church 1 Comment

Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

March 2, 2014

blooming vinca_detailed watercolor on  tan paper

Welcome to Sunday Snippets, a meme hosted by RAnn at This That and the Other Thing. Be sure to check out posts by other Catholic writers there.

RAnn’s question of the week is, “What are your plans for Lent?” Ever since I had hip replacement surgery in 2008 – that’s just a way of marking time – the Lord has upended every plan I made for Lent. It’s taken five years to get His point: don’t make any plans. I’m going to tell you what I want you to do and when. That said, because I need to get my sugar addiction under control and lose weight, a few weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers for the first time. Learning and applying that system while weaving days of abstinence into the plan will be discipline and denial done for the love of God. As my body improves I will be able to be present more fully to the people He keeps sending me who need my help. This plan will continue to be part of my life from now on.

Additional plans include continuing my on line Bible Study and my regular prayer practices. Between the two, physical and spiritual, I will be able to stand at the ready for His call and stay in the proper shape for the daily battles with the principalities and powers.

In the past two weeks I’ve posted twice: The Cockle in Our Lives and Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share
Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 Sunday Snippets 7 Comments

Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands

February 24, 2014

A few weeks ago I began a search for an icon of the face of Christ that would speak compellingly to people in great distress since I am meeting so many of them in my life right now. I thought that if they had an image of Jesus that they could look at, perhaps their hearts would calm and they could begin to find peace. I also wanted a prayer to put on the back. After a few days devoted to this task and rejecting image after image, I found the following icon at a Russian site. It is late 19th century, held in a private collection and the writer unknown. The icon type is “Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands”, a most intriguing title.

Image of Christ Not Made by Hands

Image of the Savior Not Made by Hands

 

Legend

This is one of the oldest image types of the Eastern Church and has been written many times over the centuries. Via Wikipedia and research from other sources:

According to the legend, the fame of Jesus’s miracles had spread throughout the region and into Syria as related by Matt. 4:24.  King Abgar of Edessa, though not having seen Jesus but believing in him, desired to be cured of leprosy, according to some accounts. He could not travel into Roman territory because of a treaty with Caesar, so he sent his court painter, Ananias, to find Jesus, give him the letter, and paint His portrait. Ananias was unable to get near enough to Jesus to render an image because of the crowds, but Jesus called Him over and gave him a letter for Abgar declining his invitation but praising his faith and promising to send one of His disciples to him. Along with the letter went a likeness of Jesus said to have been formed by Our Lord wiping his face with a towel. Upon beholding it, Abgar was healed. This legend was first recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa. The apostle “Thaddaeus“, known as “Addai” in Syriac, went to Edessa after Pentecost, was welcomed by Abgar, preached the Gospel and healed many.

Wiki: The first record of the existence of a physical image in the ancient city of Edessa (now Urfa) was in Evagrius Scholasticus, writing about 600, who reports a portrait of Christ of divine origin which effected the miraculous aid in the defense of Edessa against the Persians in 544. The image was moved to Constantinople in the 10th century. The cloth disappeared from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade [Sack of Constantinople] in 1204.

Many versions of this legend exist with some variation, but one thing is sure. This icon type is of very early origin and is still venerated today.

Why this particular icon?

When I saw this image for the first time I was spellbound by the eyes. In many renditions, the writer has Christ looking to the side. In this work, He gazes directly at the viewer with eyes full of love, mercy, gentleness and compassion. Although the icon portrays the risen Christ, the shadows of His passion and death are somehow communicated as well. The message from Matt. 11:28, “Come to me all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” reaches out to the viewer. I thought this icon would draw people to Him and that He would then be able to work His miracles of peace in their hearts.

Prayer on the back

The great folks at Catholic Prayer Cards had a beautiful prayer, “Jesus Help Me”, but it needed a few additions for my purposes. I found many versions of this prayer at both Catholic and Protestant sites, and with the help of a few readers, created this version for the back of the card.

Jesus Help Me, Thou Who Died for Me

In every need let me come to Thee with humble trust saying, Jesus help me.

In all my confusion, doubts, and temptations, Jesus help me.

In the hours of loneliness, abandonment, weariness and trials, Jesus help me.

In the failure of my plans and hopes, Jesus help me.

In disappointments, troubles and sorrows, Jesus help me.

When others fail me, betray me, and when I am in devastating pain, Thy grace alone can assist me. Jesus help me.

When I throw myself on Thy tender love and mercy as Savior, Jesus help me.

When I feel impatient, hopeless, and my cross is overwhelming, Jesus help me.

When I struggle to forgive, Jesus help me.

When I am ill, and my head and hands cannot do their work, Jesus help me.

In the good Thou wouldst have me do; in the pleasures I seek, Jesus help me.

In the care I have for loved ones and friends, Jesus help me.

O Agonizing Jesus, strip me of all intemperance in the use of life’s comforts and pleasures.

Always, always, in joys or sorrows, in falls and shortcomings, Jesus help me, and never forsake me.  Amen.

A couple of other bloggers shared this project with me. If you want to have some printed to give away, please contact me through the contact form at this blog and I will give you the information you need.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags:

Monday, February 24th, 2014 Catholic Church, prayers 6 Comments

The Cockle in Our Lives

February 10, 2014

Kiss of Judas, Fecamp Psalter, French Miniaturist, c. 1180, The Hague

Kiss of Judas, Fecamp Psalter, French Miniaturist, c. 1180, The Hague

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany in the Extraordinary Form is the parable of the man who sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came in at night and sowed cockle seed over it. Now what kind of person would do such a thing? The farmer’s crop not only provided his living, others needed it for survival too, and future crops depended on the seed. The malicious act of a hateful heart would hurt many.

This is exactly what Satan is about. Create as much pain and suffering as possible in ways that have far reaching effects. Discourage all kindness. Choke the light of Christ out from the midst of God’s children. Seize their water and make them shrivel and die, all the while masquerading as one of the authentic stalks of grain until the very last minute when the reality of being a fake naturally emerges.

Cockle and wheat look alike when growing until the heads mature. At harvest the cockle is uprooted, bound and burned. The wheat is harvested and stored in the barn, protected from the elements, safe. We can see the obvious spiritual reference to the Last Judgment here, but let’s back up a bit and consider the time of the two growing along side each other. If we identify ourselves with the wheat, what is God showing us here of how we are to live in this very imperfect world? Why not just rip up the cockle wherever it appears so that it can’t hurt any of the wheat?

We see here the permissive will of God in action. He isn’t allowing the cockle to grow alongside the wheat because it is good, but to save the wheat. Does this not seem contradictory, allowing something evil to exist along side the good to save what is good? Yet this situation is little different from Judas staying close to Christ and the other Apostles, who knew Judas was a thief and must have scratched their heads wondering why Jesus didn’t kick him out of the group. Not until the traitorous kiss in the Garden of Olives, did Judas appear to all exactly what he was, and to the bitter end threw away the chance for mercy.

Jesus kept Judas near him and treated him with love. Clearly this is what Jesus expects of us. By allowing us to suffer the effects of those committed to evil, Christ shows us how to grow in charity, to learn to forgive, to return good for evil, to suffer injustice for the love of God, to show how to bear wrongs patiently. And while cockle can never be turned into wheat, those committed to evil ways can be converted to the Lord through kindness and good example if they so will.

It isn’t easy, of course, to navigate the entrenched evil about us. It’s quite exhausting to control our reactions to all the traps laid to ensnare us into the ways of Satan. We do no great thing by living in peace with people who are good, kind, and seeking God as we ought to be doing. We all prefer those who love peace just as we do. But, as Thomas à Kempis tells us in Book II, 3,2 of the Imitation of Christ,

it takes great virtue to live in peace with obstinate, perverse, intractable people whose ideas are not like our own.

The cockle in our lives challenges us to love perfectly, returning good for evil. We can live among the wicked without scorning them since they are God’s creation and Jesus died for them the same as He did for us, and without being influenced by them. If, as martyrs by blood or by full submission to the will of God, we are able to open the hearts of our persecutors who test us relentlessly, and make it possible by our actions for them to accept God’s grace, we have followed well in the footsteps of our Master. Deo gratias for the cockle in our lives and let us look forward to being carried into the barn.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: , ,

Monday, February 10th, 2014 conversion, spirituality 2 Comments

Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

February 9, 2014

blooming vinca_detailed watercolor on  tan paper
Welcome to the Sunday meme hosted by RAnn at This That and the Other Thing. How about joining us?

This week I wrote about the passage from Matthew on Jesus Cleanses the Leper. I couldn’t get the image out of my head and when something nags me that much, I just have to write about it.

Abbot Anderson of Clear Creek was supposed to say a Mass at Christendom College during the March for Life, but weather prevented him from getting there. However, his sermon for the occasion can be brought everywhere through the internet. Why Not Be a Saint? is his challenge to the young people, the saints of the future.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share
Sunday, February 9th, 2014 Sunday Snippets Comments Off

Why Not Be a Saint?

February 5, 2014

Rooster with pearls by unknown Flemish goldsmith, c.1570s

Rooster with pearls by unknown Flemish goldsmith, c.1570s

Sermon written (but, alas, never preached owing to a winter storm) for Mass at Christendom College on 
the Feast of St. Agnes, January 21st, 2014 by the Rt. Rev. Philip Anderson, Abbot of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey. In the hope that these words will reach the young adults who, during the March for Life days, missed hearing a holy challenge by the act of God, I offer Abbot Anderson’s sermon so that many more than the original intended audience may find it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field . . . It is like a merchant looking for fine pearls (Mt. 13: 44-46).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Dear students of this beautiful college having a most beautiful name,

This image of the precious pearl is quite remarkable.  The ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides described the ultimate reality, being, as something “complete on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere, equally poised from the center in every direction”.  This sounds like a metaphysical pearl.  But the reality indicated by Our Lord in the parable we have heard in the Gospel is beyond the ken of philosophy.  It has to do with a spiritual state of the human person, in which all the contradictions, misunderstandings, sins, lies, and multitudinous other ‘rough’ edges of life are molded at last into the supernatural, white harmony that is the life of Paradise in the beatific vision of the elect.

But, of course, we have to seek the precious pearl already in this life here below, even before we touch the shores of Heaven some day, by the grace of God.  You, as students, many of whom, if not all, are Catholic Christians, must know that your studies are not an end in themselves but a means of attaining to that perfection Our Lord spoke of: “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). The precious pearl you thus seek represents a certain moral and spiritual completeness that is an outstanding fulfillment of human life.  “Perfectus” in Latin is defined by the scholastic philosophers as cui nihil deest – that to which nothing is lacking.

One way of accurately describing this pearl, this perfection of human life, which lacks nothing, would be to call it a certain fullness of the theological virtue of charity, that is to say of the love of God and of our fellow human beings because of the love of God. Charity is the queen of the virtues and all the others go wherever she goes. 

St. Agnes, St. Bartholomew and St. Cecelia with an unknown Dominican, 1485-1510, artist unknown, color on wood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

St. Agnes, St. Bartholomew and St. Cecelia with an unknown Dominican, 1485-1510, artist unknown, color on wood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

For St. Agnes, whose feast we celebrate on this day, the precious pearl was about holding on to her charity and her faith, despite the gruesome reality of bloody martyrdom to which she was subjected.  She is one of the great witnesses of the Faith, who found very quickly in her life the ineffable pearl, becoming herself a beautiful pearl in the sight of God.

In the monastic tradition there is a very terse description of perfection, an adage, which goes back to the earliest centuries of the Christian faith: “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” That sums it up.  Indeed, in preferring nothing to the love of Christ, we love God, since Christ is God, a divine Person.  This perfect preference also recognizes the great mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Redemption, inseparable from the second Person of the Trinity (and where there is one Person, the other Two are always there as well).  This love of Christ includes our neighbor, as our neighbor is either already a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church in its broadest sense, or is ordered to that Body, destined, we hope, to have a place in it.

And so you must – especially those of you who are students, who hold in a way the future of the Church in your hands – you must aim at something great, high, noble and beautiful in this life, while always recognizing that any greatness that might fill our lives comes from God alone.  You must choose something like a pearl, something like a star, something worth pursuing to the end.  Why not?  You have but one life: why not live it to the utmost, why not push to the outer reaches of what is most excellent in human life?  

Why not be a saint?

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.  Amen.

Dear Readers, if you know Catholic college students, will you please send them a link to this post? Thank you and God bless you.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: ,

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 Catholic Church, spirituality 2 Comments

Jesus Cleanses the Leper

February 4, 2014

My Ignatius Study Bible and the “Gospels in a Year” adventure at Flocknote  are exciting tools to help me know the Lord all the better. If you aren’t signed up yet, try it out. I’m loving it.

Jesus Cleanses the Leper

Jesus Cleanses the Leper

Some weeks back our study for the day was Matt. 8:1-13. I wanted to write about it then but didn’t get to it. Then the same passages came up for the Gospel of the Third Sunday after Epiphany a couple of weeks ago and again, the story kept tugging at me. The image of the leper is so touching I can’t get it out of my mind, as he is the symbol of the sin-sick soul we hear about in the beautiful American Spiritual, “There is a Balm in Gilead”. This is a beautiful tale of faith.

Matt. 8:1: When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him;

Jesus always withdrew to the high place, a mountain, to pray to His Father.  Mountains symbolize the dwelling place of God. This is where Moses and the prophets often conversed with God, and where God gave commands and instructions to them. After dealing with the crowds, Jesus went to the heights for peace and quiet and to “recharge his batteries” if you will. Our mountains are the quiet places we go when we want to pray – the Adoration chapel or church, the home altar, a chair in the back yard, on the porch, or on the balcony, a peaceful place in the woods, anywhere we can be alone with God. Before we undertake any great work, a conversation with the Father will give us strength just as it did Christ.

Although this event occurred early in Jesus’s ministry, still many people knew somebody whom Jesus had healed. He was swamped with crowds wherever he showed up. Everyone in the vicinity who was sick or maimed, possessed by a demon or otherwise hurting wanted Jesus to make them well. Today Jesus is so easily accessible we don’t have to try to find Him in the midst of crowds or worry about missing His passing. We can go to Him any time we want in the Sacrament of Penance. We can nip in to the parish churches we pass as we go about our daily activities. He is always there to give us His healing grace and still today works miracles for those whom He will. If you read the “favors granted” notebooks in the back of most Adoration chapels you will find many testimonies of miracles Jesus worked for those who came to pray when they were in hopeless situations. Some are really amazing. Maybe you personally know somebody this happened to. Jesus came to open the gates of heaven for us and to heal our wounded nature. But if we don’t turn to Him, if we don’t show up, we prevent ourselves from encountering Him. He hasn’t forgotten us or stopped loving us. We are the ones who fail to remember Him, fail to turn to Him in faith.

Matt. 8:2: and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

The poor leper was “unclean” under Mosaic law. He was forced to wear rent garments and keep his head bare, both a sign of mourning, and a covering over his mouth. Everywhere he went he had to call out “Unclean, unclean” so that people could steer clear of him. He was not permitted to live inside the camp or city, but only outside and with other lepers. Only God could cure the leper.

My heart goes out to the suffering of this poor man, but rejoices also in his great faith. Here is a person whose life was changed overnight on the day he was declared unclean by the priest. No more business. No more sharing meals with friends. No more taking care of his family. No more worshipping with the assembly. Not only the leper suffered from his leprosy, but many others did, too, just as many others suffer from all our sinful acts even if we think no one is aware of them.

I can see him full of resolution that day, making a bee line for Jesus. Nobody would stop him, no one would touch him lest they, too, be made unclean. As the crowd hurriedly parts the leper falls at the feet of Jesus. Only Jesus did not shrink back. Only Jesus was not afraid of him.

I think the “knelt before Him” was probably a bit more than just a simple kneel like we do at church. I think he probably bowed his head to the ground before straightening up and declaring by his words that Jesus was God and if He willed, He could cleanse him. This would be the posture of a man seeking a favor from a king, common in the East.

When we kneel before Jesus in the confessional we express the same faith the leper had. Jesus can make us clean if He wills, and He does will it when we are truly repentant. Nothing we have done is outside the will of God to forgive if we are truly sorry and if we have a firm determination to amend our lives. Mentally, we can bow before the Lord when asking for healing from the effects of sin, a posture of the heart.

Matt. 8:3: And He stretched out His hand and touched him saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

By touching the leper Jesus showed His divine authority. He was above the Mosaic law. Nothing could make Him unclean in his all-pure holiness. All the Jews who saw it must have been totally shocked. Probably none of them were thinking at the time of Is. 61: 1-3 that the Messiah had come and was right there in front of them. But everyone would have known what it meant to that leper to be cleansed and would have seen the testimony of his joy.

Matt. 8:4: And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”

The priest is the one who declared the miracle of cleansing from leprosy, just as the priest declares our cleansing in confession. Jesus is the one who forgives our sins, but He has appointed the priests to be His intermediaries.

The admonition to say nothing to anyone always seemed odd to me. Here is a huge crowd who just witnessed a miracle in front of their very eyes. Whether or not the leper spread the news that Jesus had cleansed him, certainly that crowd must have blabbed it far and wide. I know various commenters give several reasons for the admonition, among which is the desire of Christ to stave off the hatred of the Pharisees too early in His ministry. It could also be simply an instruction to get to the priest without stopping to declare what Jesus had done to anyone else. Under Mosaic law, only the priest could officially declare the leper clean.

When I think of what was restored to that leper…in effect he went from having barely nothing to having everything. His free association with everyone, his family, his ability to make a living and provide for them, his admittance to religious observances as a member of the community, joy in living; he went from being looked down on to walking freely with his head held up. Jesus released him from a prison without bars to a full-fledged member of society.

This is what Jesus will do for each of us. This event is parallel to us being restored to what we were created to be when we have placed ourselves at the feet of the Lord and renounced our willful slavery to sin. The leper didn’t choose to be unclean, though, while we choose it every time. He was excluded from the family of his fellow Jews by law; we exclude ourselves from the family of God by our perverted choices.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves,

  • Are we honestly seeking liberation from sin? Do we hate it as much as the leper hated his leprosy?
  • Are we willing to be honest with ourselves about our willful sinning and our bad choices that make us ever sicker spiritually?
  • What will it take for us to run to the feet of Jesus and beg Him to make us clean?

Jesus is the true “Balm in Gilead”. None other but Him. He is just waiting for us to ask Him to make us clean.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: ,

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 sacraments, spirituality 1 Comment

Sunday Snippets – A Catholic Carnival

February 2, 2014

blooming vinca_detailed watercolor on  tan paperWelcome, and don’t forget to check out the other good bloggers at RAnn’s place. You’re sure to have a good time.

The question of the week is, “What was the biggest change in your life recently?” My life is a bit upside down at the moment. I have had a few friends who have gone and are going through extremely traumatic episodes in their lives and I’m spending a great deal of time helping them both spiritually and in practical ways. I am here for them as a tree to shelter under, a safe place for them to say what they don’t feel safe  saying to others, and a comforter witnessing to Christ’s love for them. It’s something I feel called to do, but my life has become very different because of it. The big lesson coming home to me is that if we don’t live a Christ-centered life, a whole lot of really bad things are going to happen, including to people we love, and that without Christ, people are capable of doing unbelievably horrendous things to others, even to family.

This week I have two of Father Abbot Philip Anderson’s homilies, both very rich, deep, and challenging. I have so many things I want to spend more time meditating on and these have been added to the list.

Mother of the Living Gospel is the sermon from December 8. Of Mary we can never say enough, nor can we consider her enough in our meditations.

Sermon from the Second Annual Nellie Gray Mass offers some profound views on the Gospel of Life and the Gospel of the Beatitudes. A fresh angle and very inspiring.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share
Saturday, February 1st, 2014 Sunday Snippets 4 Comments

Sermon From the Second Annual Nellie Gray Mass

February 1, 2014

Icon Mary reaches for boy JesusSome people believe that the contemplative religious life is irrelevant to the conditions of the world. But here we have proof that such a viewpoint could not be more wrong. The men and women called by God to withdraw from the world are not hiding from it and the evil that abounds in it. Instead, they bring a perspective to it that shared, as in the sermon preached by the Right Reverend Philip Anderson, Abbot of Our Lady of Clear Creek, strengthens those of us who are on the front lines of the battle with the powers of darkness. We cannot do without this fruit of contemplation or we are likely to grow weary and fall. We complete one another in our witness to the Gospel. With permission of the Abbot the text follows.

St. Mary, Mother of God Church
Washington, D.C.
January 22, 2014
Feast of Saints Vincent (of Saragossa) and Anastasius (Magi, monk)

Your Excellency,
Dear members of the Paulus Institute,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially, dear Marchers for Life:

It has all been said.  The case for the protection of the unborn against the evil of elective abortion, sanctioned by laws purporting to justify this social crime, has been clearly, articulately, forcefully, and coherently set forth.  Popes, such as Blessed John Paul II, kings, like King Baudouin of Belgium, scientists, for example Professor Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the genetic cause of Down Syndrome, poets, artists, men and women of every walk of life, have proclaimed to the very ends of the earth the Gospel of Life, in all its richness and power.  It has all been said, not only by Catholics and by other Christians, but also by people of different religious convictions.  It has all been said. But the world did not listen.

Perhaps that is why, already forty years ago, Nellie Gray saw that, in addition to this proclamation of the cause of the unborn, the defenders of life needed to “vote with their feet” and come to the nation’s capital in order to seek respect for the sacred right to life, inscribed in the United States Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps the message had to be brought to the very steps of the White House and of the Supreme Court. And so it is that many of you are here, having participated in this year’s March for Life, four decades after the very first one in 1974.

Sadly, despite the millions who have made the March for Life, the law of the land continues to sanction abortion.  In describing in more recent times the dismembering of an innocent child in its mother’s womb as ‘healthcare,’ we have taken the art of the euphemism to a level never before imagined. Why is this?  What more can we do?

Sometimes in our more solemn moments we have to lift our minds and hearts above the scene of this world in order to get a perspective on what happens here below.  This is the way monks view the world.  The Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of Saint John, unveils for us something of the state of the Holy Innocents, who await the Judgment of God.

“When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Apoc. 6:9-11).

On this feast of Saint Vincent the Deacon and of Saint Anastasius the Magus turned monk, both martyrs of Christian antiquity, these perspectives are all the more poignant. They tell something about the souls of the victims of abortion.

We too must bear witness to God – perhaps as martyrs – we too must wait for God’s hour.  But, unlike the souls described in the Apocalypse, we have work to do in the Lord’s vineyard.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is suggesting we add another dimension to the Pro-Life Movement.  The reality is easy enough to verify: it is precisely in those societies where greed and arrogant ambition impel people to grasp after material goods beyond reasonable measure, where the so-called “quality of life” means quantity of possessions – especially of money, amassed to a very large degree – it is precisely in such societies that abortion becomes, as it were, something necessary for the maintaining of a high standard of living in terms of material wealth.

Thus we need to reinforce the Gospel of Life with a strong reaffirmation of the Gospel of the Beatitudes.  The poor in spirit love the family and cherish children.  The poor in spirit content themselves with the good things that God sends them, with their “daily bread.” The poor in spirit have a horror of abortion and of every sort of practice that destroys or endangers the family.

But there is more.  If the essential work of the Gospel of Life, strengthened by the Gospel of the Beatitudes – in a word, if the New Evangelization, the continuation of the very work started by the Apostles and handed down from generation to generation – is to have any effect on the world, it must spring from the same spiritual source that moved the Apostles to conquer the world for Christ.  Here is what I mean. One day Our Lord, having been left alone by His Apostles, who had business elsewhere, gave Himself to the work of preaching the Gospel, one-on-one, to a Samaritan woman He met by Jacob’s well.  He showed us, as we read the account in the Gospel according to Saint John, how the process works.  The story is familiar to you.  Once Jesus had shown this woman that He was a prophet and more than a prophet, knowing the rather troubled story of her life, He proceeded to underline a most essential thing, saying,

“Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father.  You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and truth.  For the Father also seeketh such to adore him.  God is spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4: 21-24).

The practice of abortion is based on a lie.  It kills both physical life, that of the unborn child, and spiritual life, that of the mother and of all who directly bring it about.  Satan is the father of lies, as Our Lord tells us (Jn. 8:44).  Satan is the father of abortion too and of the entire “culture of death” denounced by Blessed John Paul II.  So, this is spiritual warfare as well as a matter of political and social justice.  In seeking to correct this evil it is most important to start at the beginning, with adoration, which is the worship of the one true God in spirit and in truth. In a word: contemplation must precede action.

Let there be no doubt: we have won.  Christ’s blood poured out, more eloquent than that of Abel (cf. Heb. 12:24), has redeemed the world, consecrating for all eternity the Gospel of Life and condemning to the exterior shadows the pretensions of the culture of death.  But in order for the victory to be given its full extent there is still work to be done. We must continue to work and to walk.

There would be much more to say.  We are celebrating Holy Mass this evening in a beloved church dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of God, Mother of Life, Mother of Hope.  The Marian dimension of the Catholic faith waxes ever stronger and more vital as the centuries go on.  This dimension is essential to all our pro-life endeavors.

Finally, in order for the March for Life to have its maximum effect, the marchers must conserve that most precious legacy of the faith which is authentic Christian joy.  This is not the superficial joy of a “party culture”, but the deep-seated gladness and sense of celebration that comes from belonging to God.

So go forth, go out to proclaim with joy the truth.  Keep marching; keep walking, not only to the White House, but all the way to the new and heavenly Jerusalem, where abortion and euthanasia and the entire culture of death will be no more. It has all been said, but like Nellie Gray we have to keep saying it.  Keep loving – for God is Love, true Love. Keep walking. As Saint Paul says, “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).  Amen.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Share

Tags: , ,

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 Blessed Virgin, Catholic culture, pro-life 8 Comments

Mother of the Living Gospel

January 31, 2014

Immaculate Conception, Shiaffino, 1762, Genoa

Immaculate Conception, Schiaffino, 1762, Genoa

Occasionally at this blog I write about the Holy Rule of St. Benedict and about being a Benedictine Oblate.  Being attached to the Clear Creek Abbey, I am naturally interested in the abbot’s sermons, which always inspire and edify me. Today I bring you the December 8, 2013 sermon by Right Reverend Philip Anderson, abbot of Clear Creek, with his permission. Of Mary we can never hear or read too much, especially with the insights of a contemplative monk of some 30+ years.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

My very dear sons:

Listen to how Holy Mother Church speaks about the Blessed Virgin Mary in her Immaculate Conception.  “Thou art all fair, Mary, and the stain of original stain is not in thee” (first antiphon of Lauds).  “Thy garments are white as snow, and thy face is as the sun” (second antiphon).  This is the language of a nobler love, the expression of an admiration that stretches beyond the common human measure. We find here a model for our own prayers to Mary.

“Thou art all fair.” Not just fair, but entirely so.  This is not of earth, but of the perfection of Heaven.  This is not the passing beauty that today is and tomorrow already begins to wither.  Sin is the hidden principle of all that is ugly, for it introduces death into the world.  The Blessed Virgin passed through death in order to be more like her Son, but death had no rights over her.  Its hideous blackness was not able to tarnish in the least her perfect comeliness. Nothing evil is allowed to touch this immaculate whiteness.

“Thy garments are white as snow.”  Even those things that are not part of Mary’s own being are immaculate: her very clothes.  This could not have been the case during Our Lady’s earthly pilgrimage.  She must have washed clothes like everyone else.  But in the sight of God, now in Heaven, her garments are entirely woven of light by the Holy Ghost.  No imperfection could blemish even these exterior adornments.  Not only are the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin spotless, but her clothes, being of a fabric not of this world, possess a whiteness not of this creation: they are as white as the snow of Paradise.

“Thy face is as the sun.”  Now the human face is the mirror of the soul.  This soul is immaculate, having never been marred by sin.  If the splendor of that face had not been hidden on earth, it would have blinded the bystanders.  Mary’s face is a perfect icon, resembling very closely the Face of Christ Himself, Who had no other earthly parent but the Immaculate one. But this face is also a most humble icon that does not seek admirers, but rather redirects the gaze of onlookers toward the Creator. Our Lady’s face now radiates immaculate brightness in Heaven, even though it remains veiled to us. When will we be allowed to contemplate it?

What else does the holy liturgy sing to us about the Immaculate Virgin? Mary is the new and perfect Judith, who has slain Holofernes, that is to say the devil, not with a sword, but with her immaculate foot.  She is the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of the people of God (third antiphon).  How truly do the words of the Canticle of Canticles ring true in her: “She cometh forth as the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array” (6:9). Victory belongs to God, in His Son, Christ the King, but it pleases the Father to perfect this victory through the humility of His handmaid, who thus plays her own very real role in the battle between Heaven and hell.

“Blessed art thou, O Virgin Mary, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth” (fourth antiphon).  At the moment of the Visitation, Saint Elizabeth echoed the voice of Holy Scripture, when she recognized the unique vocation of her young cousin as being the most blessed of women.  Mary is truly the new Eve, who, as Saint Irenæus says, unties the knot that Eve tied upon us all.  Its enemies have said that the Catholic Church puts Mary on a pedestal, while humiliating all other women.  The simple fact is that in Mary, Virgin and Mother, the calling of women is ennobled as in no other religious creed or culture.  She is not jealous of her glory, but shares it with whomever would flock to her side. In Mary is most perfectly expressed what it means to be a woman.

“Draw us, O Virgin Immaculate; we will run after thee to the fragrance of thy ointments” (fifth antiphon).  In its praise of the Immaculate Virgin, the Church wants to encourage us to action.  It has us pray to Mary in such a way as to make us understand that we can really join her side of the great battle and participate somehow in her immaculate grace.  This is what transforms homes and towns and entire nations.  It is goodness, the Good, that draws us, sets us to work for the building of the Kingdom of Heaven.  God alone is good, as the Savior taught us, but if God is absolute goodness, the fountain of goodness, Mary is the first pool of goodness into which the waters of grace, issued from the fountain, are gathered, and from which they flow down upon the world.  Taking inspiration from the Immaculate Virgin, the Church will go forward with dauntless courage to effectuate this new evangelization that the Holy Father is calling for with such energy. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation he writes:

We ask the Mother of the living Gospel to intercede that this invitation to a new phase of evangelization will be accepted by the entire ecclesial community. Mary is the woman of faith, who lives and advances in faith, and “her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church”. Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith towards a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn. (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 289)

But Our Lady does not merely draw us to action here below.  Above all she draws us to a life that is beyond the horizons of this world, the one we hope for, even when we have difficulty believing and hoping.  She draws us to prayer and to a deepening relationship with God, through Christ and His Church.  And when a soul has really sensed something of the incomparable fragrance of these heavenly things, it begins not only to walk, but to run.  Our blessed father Saint Benedict says something similar, referring to the path of monastic life in the prologue to his Holy Rule:

But if anything be somewhat strictly laid down, according to the dictates of equity, for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not therefore fly in dismay from the way of salvation, whose beginning cannot but be narrow.  But as we go forward in our life and faith, we shall with hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love run in the way of God’s commandments.

May Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, teach us all, monks and laity alike, to run in her immaculate tracks this race to the Kingdom.  Amen. Alleluia.

Want to subscribe to posts by email? Visit the third box in the sidebar.

V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Share

Tags: , ,

Friday, January 31st, 2014 Blessed Virgin, spirituality 2 Comments

Search

 
This site is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. May they accompany me and all readers on our journey to God.

Want posts by email?

For Writers and Advertisers: Copy Editing and Proof-reading by Barb

Community of Catholic Bloggers

  • Community of Catholic Bloggers

Donate

I am grateful for even small donations to help keep this site going. All donors will be kept in my prayers.

Catholic Bloggers Network

Catholic Bloggers Network

Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

  • Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

Archives

Blog Disclosure Policy