Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Condition of Contradiction

In line with my last post, I would like to think about more contradictions. This one has to do with confession, sin, hypocrisy and condemnation.

We all like to judge people. In a certain sense, this is appropriate. So your friend is pounding Jack-and-Cokes like they're water? It's not like that's a good thing or anything. In fact, we may very well have a duty to tell him as much. A politician gets caught with his pants down and we're supposed to not judge? Please! That is totally on the wrong side of the line.

At the same time, remember the plank/speck line in the Bible. You may be right that your friends relationship is grossly inappropriate, but what about your own? You think your piety excuses you from the "lapses in judgement" that so often catch us off guard...or maybe not so off guard.

Switchfoot has this song called "Company Car" and it's a good one.

In it is the line "I'm the king of things I've always despised." Sometimes we find ourselves in this position. We never thought this would happen but it did. Now what to do?

We can try to justify our own failings and sins. We can compare them to others and say "Oh, it's not that bad." Well, it probably isn't, but really does that matter? This is your soul we're talking about?

So you decide to go to Confession...or at least consider it. You start to prepare and then realize something. You would have to say that you would never do it again. Or at least try, and you're not prepared to do that. You're not willing to give it all up for a relationship with God. After all, it wasn't that bad. You didn't hurt anyone. And you wouldn't mind doing it again. In fact, you want to do it again.

So you don't go to Confession because doing that would admit that you should change your behaviour. However, you realize that you are certainly not living how God wants you to...avoiding the Sacrament of Penance because of weakness of will. Because of this, you avoid the other Sacrament...the Eucharist. You know better than to defile THAT. But you can't get right with God.

So, should you go to confession and lie that you will change or just say "forget it. I don't think this is serious enough" and forget confession?

I believe this is where spiritual direction can help. We all go through this type of thing. We need advice. We can tell the priest that we are struggling with actually being sorry for our sins. We are human after all. We're not perfect and even when we know what is right, we don't want to. It's called concupiscence. It kind of sucks, but there you go.

You know, maybe that's where all those pro-choice politicians are in life...just sayin'

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Practicing and Preaching

They always say "Practice what you preach" and I say "Yes." They always say "Christians are hypocrites for not practicing what they preach" and I once again say "Yes." But is it really surprising that we often fail to practice what we preach? It destroys our credibility, yes. It can destroy friendships, yes. It can scandalize, yes, but is it really surprising?

I would say given our multi-thousand year theological tradition of Original Sin, Satan, and Concupiscence, it is the exact opposite of surprising.

What is especially hard, it seems, is for the outspoken to practice what they preach. They are constantly thinking through issues and so it is always on their mind. This recalls to mind the different "celebrity priests" that have been in the news recently.

All serious Catholics want to get to heaven and want to love God...and do what they please. The problem is that the "do what you please" often drowns out the "love God" and you get the Fall of the Orthodox Catholic. And believe me, it looks terrible from the inside and from the outside. I've experienced both. Scrupulosity is, I think, a sin and not only because it is obsessive. Scrupulosity can lead to believing you are totally depraved (certain protestant heresies which often manifests itself as nihilism in modern times), and because of this, you can lose hope in God. This loss of hope in God is exactly what leads us into a deeper fall. I've heard priests say "the Devil's trick is that once you sin, you can keep on sinning, cause you've already fallen." Well, that's just a lie and a half. The more you sin, the deeper you fall and soon enough, all hope in God is gone and you are left with emptiness. My favorite Psalm, or one of them, is 130: "Out of the depths have I cried to thee oh, Lord!"

We must not forget that every time we fall, we have recourse to God's Grace. In Batman Begins, Alfred says "Master Bruce, why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again." Of course, it's God who picks us up, but he doesn't do it "alone". He leads people into our lives and uses our strengths to pick us up. That's why we have priests in confession. God works through people and specifically through priests to help us back onto the road that is often described as straight and narrow.

So should we, Catholic sinner, continue preaching the Good News even though we consistently fall? I would say "yes", as usual (let no one call me a naysayer). It is important even when we are struggling to show others what we truly believe to be good, true and beautiful. Especially we should not start hating ourselves because that is no testimony at all. When our sin has caused us to lose sight of beauty, we can not show others. We must be healed. In this case, our first prerogative should be our own soul.

So let us continue in our work, but remember...practice what you preach, but if you fail in practice, continue preaching unless preaching becomes no preaching at all. Then go on retreat.

That is all.
Roma, 20-9-11

Thursday, September 15, 2011

l'Udienza Generale

Yes, I did.

It's actually very easy. You just have to get up in the morning, shower, eat something and head over to the Vatican. You can, if this is your first time there, symbolically touch the Bernini Colonnade for the first time. You will most likely be confused, and if you speak no Italian, all is lost. Fortunately for me, I speak a little Italian. There are numerous lines all over the place and although it's free, you have to get a ticket. Or do you? I never found out and I don't think I ever showed it to anyone. The guard that I talked to (the third one) who finally gave me a ticket was surprised that I was going alone. Well, these things must be done occasionally, right?

The Audience itself was a mixture between a prayer, a lecture, and World Youth Day. (Meaning, I suppose, that WYD with Benedict is a little like his Audiences.)

The prayer part was that Psalm 22 was read in 7 languages. Italian, French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Polish. The World Youth Day bit was when all the different groups were called on by their language representative. I was not called on. If I had been, I would have shrieked because every time anyone made any noise, the HF would point to them. I'm sure this made them happy. It even made me happy.

The Holy Father gave a reflection during each of the language sections. As far as I could tell, they were slightly different from one another, but I'm no language expert. Here is the reflection in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today we reflect on Psalm Twenty-two, a heartfelt prayer of lamentation from one who feels abandoned by God. Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out by day and by night for help, and yet God seems to remain silent. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is placed on the lips of Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead. The psalmist recalls how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother’s womb, as an infant in his mother’s arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such adverse circumstances, though, the psalmist’s faith and trust in the Lord remains. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God’s name is praised before all the nations. The shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.

* * * I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Great Britain, Scandinavia, Asia and North America. I extend a special greeting to the delegates of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and to the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

The pope certainly has a way with words. I especially like, as did the people at the Vatican News Portal, the phrase "The shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection." It reminds me of the Switchfoot song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine."

What I would like to reflect on is the point about distance and silence. God sometimes seems distant. I would like to ponder more deeply the meaning of God as "other", but that will have to be put on the back burner. Suffice it to say, I think God as "other" has a lot to do with this. Our separation from God is only possible because He loved us enough to make us distinct from Himself. Because of the Fall (which was also possible because of this distinction), the separation or "otherness" of God is greatly increased and can hurt. In fact, it often does. There are times when we separate ourselves from God through sin, but that is not what I think is going on in Psalm 22 or in a lot of peoples' "Dark Night of the Soul". God sometimes seems to be distant and silent even when we are screaming prayers to him. When I was thinking about this, I came up with an analogy that might be helpful.

When a child is screaming about something he wants, the parents have a couple options. They can argue with the child and try to convince them that what they need is different from what they want. They can pick up the child and take him up to his room (or just tell him to go there) or the parents can just wait until the child has settled down. In the first option, the child will very often scream louder and want the thing more. The whole thing will be prolonged and everyone will get emotionally compromised and then nobody is responsible for their actions. The second option is perhaps a little more helpful and sometimes when God isn't seeming to listen to us, He seems to put us into new apparently less helpful situations. However, the child will often, when picked up, squirm like crazy and both the child and his parents will be subjected to the dangers of kicking feet and gravity. If God decides to move us to a different place in life and it seems like it is restricting, maybe he just sent us to our room for a time out, right? However, I think that God often chooses the third choice. You see, He has given us His Word and so we know what's up. When we shriek for his consolation, forgiveness, help etc., we know where to go for those things. Maybe it won't feel good, but we know it's there. He gave us the Sacraments for this express purpose: to give us His life, his forgiveness...even Himself! However, we often rage against Him because somehow it just isn't Right. And so he lets us rage and says nothing because when we have the sacraments and the Church at our disposal, when we have settled down, we will realize what we have.

In short, it seems like God is a good parent.

Well, I should hope so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Christian Rebellion

"You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world..."

Recently on a blog post by the popular Marc Barnes, a commenter made two statements that I have trouble accepting: 1) Rock is fundamentally, at its deepest level, an expression of rebellion and 2) Christianity is not rebellion.

Now, I guess it's hard to argue with the fact that rock music is a symbol of rebellion for many, but I would say that fundamentally it's an expression of a desire for freedom. And sometimes, it succeeds in hitting on authentic freedom. Often it doesn't. But here's the thing. I'm not writing this to debate the merits of rock music (I believe there are some). I want to address the next statement.

Christianity is rebellion. It is a wake up call in the lethargy of a pagan or secular culture. It is a complete turn-around from the Roman world from which it sprang. It took Rome and turned it on its head. In fact, it's been doing that consistently since. Christianity is a rebellion against the chains of sin. It will not accept just getting by. Christians will not just go along for the ride. We are radical in what we believe. God exists, He loves us, He became one of us, died and rose. He will come again and bring those who love Him to His Father's house in which there are "many mansions".

This has always been my experience. Christianity watered down is not rebellion: The fullness of truth is. The commentator cited acceptance, submission and obedience as what Christianity is. Well, yes, but to obey one Person is to rebel against someone else. A friend of yours invites you to do cocaine with him. Do you do it? It would be so easy to just say yes, because you wouldn't have to refuse anyone anything. Except you shouldn't do it. You should rebel against the false friendship that is inviting you into destruction. You should, in fact, stand up and denounce cocaine-addiction for what it is, the ultimate System. If there was anything had us in bonds, it's our addictions. That is a System from which we can not escape without rebellion. There is often something enticing about this System and when we first taste it, we want to continue. But we eventually know that, no, this is pure imprisonment. This is a suffocating, oppressive system. And we need to rebel.

There are so many systems that we need freedom from. We need freedom from attachment to money, too fierce an attachment to a humanistic utopia, attachment to Hollywood, attachment to pleasure. We need to find the freedom to do what is right, and in order to do that, we must rebel. Christianity is rebellion. It is Obedience. And if we must sanctify rock music, maybe it must be by expressing this exact thing. The tension between obedience and rebellion. Freedom from, freedom for. The Paradox.

I think Chesterton would agree...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Introduce yourselves!

I've been getting quite a bit more traffic and a couple more followers recently (probably due to me joining virtuouspla.net). Most exciting is the hits from other countries, such as Germany and Belgium. I haven't yet gotten a hit from Italia...too bad. However, if you want to introduce yourself if you've decided to read this blog, be my guest. Unlike Hilary White (*wink*) I don't mind newcomers. Hopefully I will have more posts of substance up, especially after I've arrived at Rome!