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

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

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