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, October 25, 2011

Where was I?

What is a pencil for?
Shall we write wrongs for all the world to see?
Shall we draw conclusions from smudges?
Are we led on by pointless arguments?

Small words for a small world
it, like, was, no, lol, what? she was like, he
This night of thought might have held grudges
Against convictions, against testaments.

Are we deafened by or
Are we blinded by the hypocrisy?
Our own? Theirs? Both? All of the above?
We hear the cock crow in our potter's field.

What is a pencil for?
Write softly spill no more red ink on me
We are dulled, soft, 4B, can't take love
Why then is love the only needful thing?

I can see you see me
But our eyes don't meet, unspoken decree
Our words freeze and freeze our lives. What lives?
Alone, alone, together but alone!

If we are still alone
Why not remove the occasion of pain?
Why stay with her until he arrives?
So leave, your cries an unheard dial tone.

What is a pencil for?
To find yourself? To lose yourself? Insane!
Snapping wood and broken lead destroyed
First ink, now lead, a mess, so clean your hands.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A couple thoughts

Today I went to the Messa Vespertina at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It is a Dominican parish with the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. It also happens to be a Gothic church, a rare commodity here in Rome. The Mass was the Mass was the Mass, but the Dominican friars who say Mass there are very short. They are not quite dwarves, but if someone were to tell me that in the Middle Ages, men were 5 feet tall barely taller, I would say "Yes, in fact I have seen some." They look straight out of an earlier era. It reminds one of something...something about universality, timelessness etc. The Church, maybe.

The congregation is mostly old women. In fact, that is the case everywhere here in Rome. The funny thing is, every Mass I've been to (daily and Sunday) has been decently attended considering each is one Mass of about fifty a day in the surrounding neighborhood. They seem to be very devout and quite unconsciously showy about it. It's all a very nebulous affair. Maybe they'll come in late maybe they'll pray three rosaries beforehand but whatever the case, the complete their set of devotions however they can. They wander over to a statue of Mary near the altar after Communion and light a candle. You know, devoted and somewhat wandery. It's very pleasant to watch people who actually connect with something supernatural in such a holy way.

However, there are young people. They generally are employed and so often don't have the same wandering sensibility that the older generations do. They come and are quite devout (I doubt they would be there if they didn't want to be). They are well dressed and they leave right after Mass, but not before the Priest leaves. Although the Mass attendance may be less for the young people, the ones that come seem to understand it. Also, Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, my pastor from back home, said that they are quite sincere and well formed from his experience in confessionals. They understand the supernatural in a way that the more puritanical anglos tend to.

I don't know what it's like everywhere else in Europe, but the creative minority is a pretty visible one here in Italy. Yes, they may live in a culture of passion where temptation is rampant and they may often give into it, but did Jesus ever say he would not forgive these sins?

He did not.

Every saint was a sinner. Heros always have flaws. Alongside the best virtue is often a grave fault. This is humanity. Let us not then despair of our brothers in sin who seem to fall to great depths. They may be devoutly seeking Christ. Let us never forget, like the Italians, that God is there for sinners.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pleasure Seekers

I have written a lot about sin and hypocrisy recently.

Right now though, I want to look at sin, pleasure and the nature of evil.

To the utilitarian, the basis for moral choices is the relative amounts of pleasure and pain that the action will cause. I'm not here to refute that, in fact it might be argued that I am here to support it. Let me tell you, I am not. I am however going to talk a lot about pleasure and pain.

Utilitarianism has shaped a lot of the choices made in the current culture for better or for worse. For instance, free love in the 60s was looked on as good because it was very pleasurable and there was no pain involved (at least they were able to convince themselves that there wasn't). However, rape is considered (rightfully) wrong because the pain that it inflicts is given much more weight than any pleasure experienced by the rapist. This theme of pleasure and pain is constantly on our minds. But why? Should we be so focused on this?

I don't know if we should be as intensely aware as we are, but the awareness itself is a good thing. God created us with an innate understanding of pleasure. We gain pleasure through good things (food, beautiful vista, good music, sex) and experience pain through evil (illness, assault, ugliness). There are some things however that people choose to do that are condemned by others. One of these things is Rock Music. It is said that rock is too loud (causing physical pain), inherently violent (causing pain in others) and inherently corrupt (causing pain in the soul). All these things may be true, but why then do people choose to listen to this music? Is it because they like pain? Are we a culture of masochists? I'm not going to deny that it sometimes seems like it. But what is masochism? It is the derivation of pleasure from pain. In other words, the reason masochists do what they do is for the pleasure, not for the pain. If rock music is for masochists, it is based on the pleasure received and not on the pain. However, I think it goes deeper than masochism, though related. I think that there is some beauty in rock music. Beauty causes pleasure in the beholder and so the listener of rock music (or the player of rock music) does what he does because of that beauty and pleasure despite any pain it may cause.

That then is my thesis. Whatever pain we cause ourselves through bad choices is, in our minds, a side-effect and secondary to the pleasure that is inherent in the good things of this world. There is nothing created that has only evil because to say that something is evil is to say that it lacks something. There is not one created thing that is total lack. Total lack means non-existence. Therefore, everything that exists has the potential to produce pleasure to some extent or another. We are all pleasure-seekers and we know where to find it.

Broken Stones

Is your heart a cobbled ancient road?
Who can fill in the cracks that catch our toes
That catch our loves, our broken loves.

We are walking can’t seem to find the stop
Our life is a fermata that seems to sing
We want to find the sign, start from the top
But we seem to have forgotten everything.

Is your soul a free bird with license?
Who is singing the song of your life?
It is sparrows, no mourning doves.

Is your mind a broken architrave?
Who then is left to lift the beams of life?
Who’s strong enough to reform it?

As dust swirls around our tired heads
We need an open window, mercy, light
To catch the dust to transform it.

Sanctioning, Sanitizing, Sanctifying

Over at Virtuouspla.net, I wrote an article on different ways to engage the culture. A clue, rejecting it is not the answer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does Mortal Sin exist?

Once upon a time, there were two people who ate an apple. At least that's how the story goes. The result was that the whole human race was cursed to die and burn in Hell. It may sound extreme, but that's the story. Anyway, a Man came along and said that He was God and that He would save the world from the power of that curse. He was killed. I don't know why people would kill someone would save them from burning in Hell, but people do strange things. It may have been the curse. Unfortunately for them (or fortunately, depending on your reading of the story), the Man's followers claimed he was Back and had conquered death. An exciting end to an exciting tale.

Whether it's true or not, and I believe it is, one part of the story seems strange: Eating an apple got the whole human race damned. I don't know about you, but I eat apples all the time and it's under the assumption that I will not damn the human race to Hell. So what is it about this apple that makes it so serious?

The answer is the reason for eating the apple. Admit to yourself that you would be more offended if someone said "If I eat an apple, I will be intending to insult you" and then eats it than if they just left that first part out. The reason the two people ate the apple was that they got it into their minds that God didn't know what the heck he was talking about (he had mentioned offhand that they would die if they ate it). They thought they would become like gods. Well, the jury's out on that one, eh?

Why do I bring this up? Because some people doubt that mortal sin exists. After all, no one would willfully choose to do something that would cause them damnation (this is what mortal sin that is not forgiven can do). This is not talking into consideration the weakness of the human will.

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the apple. God was who they knew who they trusted, who had made them for goodness sake. Yet they decided to listen to the devil. Why? Because the fruit looked good to eat. It wasn't a matter of practicality. Eve wasn't hungry because there was a garden full of food surrounding her. She and her husband ate the fruit because they wanted to be like gods and because it was attractive fruit. In other words, they wanted to set themselves against God and using the beauty of creation to do it.

This is of course what mortal sin does. It either sets us against God or our neighbor in a serious way. Let us take some examples:

a) Contraception. A whole blog could be dedicated to this topic (and probably has been). However, the reasons it is a mortal sin are pretty simple: Because of the creative function of sex, by contracepting, we are "playing god" by deciding not to create through a process of creation. It's kind of like what the devil tried to do: "No, I know you say you love these things, these humans, but creating them is a mistake and will only cause harm for them later on in life. They will grow up in a hard environment and will suffer greatly. Don't make them." He was jealous, in fact. There are ways to not bring children into a world of suffering, but cutting creation short is not the way to do it. Simply put, we can not be God and we should not try to be. This is a sin of pride and it is a mortal one: trying to be God.

Of course, it is also pretty nasty to your partner cause you're saying "I don't trust you" or "I don't want your complete self donation." I don't think such a spit in the face is something to take lightly.

b) Abortion. Killing. Trying to control life. God's job. 'nuff said.

c) Premarital sex. Once again, it says something to the partner. it says "I don't trust you to wait for me" and "I don't trust myself". You may not trust yourself or the other, but if that's the case, it's not very charitable to stay nearby. If I was a maniac who like to slice things with knives, I would not want to be near anyone just in case. This is a pretty big sin against charity (and all sins against charity are sins against God who is Charity Himself) and so it's kind of a big deal.

Those are three examples. To find more, look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now, here are three examples of mortal sins, but do people really do them knowingly? Do people seriously know that contracepting can take them outside God's Grace and into the circle of Hell? Probably not a lot of them. But there are some who have been told quite openly how wrong it is and the reasons and claim to still be Catholic and yet they contracept. The same goes for the other two and a whole score of others. I know from experience that sinning is not something that you just kind of do. Yeah, there are external forces at play (and internal) that can reduce your culpability for the sin, but the sin is committed.

What to do? Go to confession. If you aren't culpable for your sin, then everything is ok. But it is impossible to know what your exact culpability is and so to be safe, go to confession. If nothing else, it will expose you to regular graces that God intended for his silly little creatures to experience.

We can't make up for the eating of the apple, it's true. Only God can do that, and he did. But we can, before eating an apple, say "God, this is for you." If we can say this before all our actions, then we have come a long way.