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

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Interior Guide

In a couple days, we are going to celebrate in a very important way the Incarnation of Christ. God came to us in the flesh that we might be able to look on the Face of God and hear his Word in preparation for our final union with Him. Obviously the Incarnation is an amazing thing, but we know that ultimately, God's time here on earth in human form came to an end. It seems a strange thing that God would show us His Face only to leave us with bread, wine and the Spirit...hidden realities. One might want to think of this as a cruel joke, but I doubt that was God's intention. Instead, as usual, He has a more benign joke or paradox up His sleeve (if He has a right arm, He's bound to have a sleeve, no?) I was reading Newman last night (one of my favorite past times) and in one of his reflections, he mentioned that Christ left us so that we did not merely have a superficial relationship with God but also an interior one. The Joke is that God has to leave in order for him to come--we have to lose Him to gain Him. And the best part of it is that we gain so much more than we had. If Christ had stayed on earth, his apostles and the rest of us may have taken his physical presence for granted. They may have thought they had Him all figured out. They might have said "I know this guy. I hang out with him every day." But we know from the Gospels that even after three years of spending all their time with him, they were no closer to understanding His mission or theirs either. It took the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Interior Relationship for them to understand more fully what was expected of them.

The same could be said for the Eucharist. Christ did not stay with us in "human" form because then our union with him could not be both physical and spiritual whereas with the Eucharist we are able to have a physical outward communion and a spiritual interior communion and they are one and the same.

Thinking about marriage (cause when aren't I?), this is sort of the ideal. We can easily take for granted the physical communion in marriage (in different language, we can get "bored.") We need to be able to develop the spiritual communion necessary for marriage as well as the physical one. Does this mean we have to leave our beloved? Perhaps it is indeed healthy to part with your betrothed, your fiance, your girl/boyfriend for a time even while intending to remain in the relationship. Not to "take time apart" in the traditional sense, but to take the time apart together to grow in spiritual communion. Of course, I can't speak to within the marriage itself, but it seems to me that if marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Christ then the same principles might apply.

In the end, it is about an interior connection. God is able to guide us from inside more easily if we do not have something exterior to cling to. This interior guidance, since it is not based on creation can not be as easily affected by the loss of created goods and is therefore more permanent. Hopefully the same can be said for marriage and perhaps we will see less divorces and broken families in the future.

Happy Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the World, not of it.

Last night, I recalled the reasons why my personal patrons are St. Louis and St. Thomas More. They were both men in the world. St. Louis was a married third order Franciscan and a King. St. Thomas was a lawyer and the Chancellor of England. St. Louis was killed by the fever while on a Crusade. St. Thomas was executed for refusing to disobey his well formed Conscience. They were in the world but not of it.

It's almost a shame (and I think I recall the words of some early martyrs) that we in America (or in my case Italy) can not suffer death for our Faith in the same way. We don't really understand what it's like to be put to that kind of test. True, it is good that we live in a civilized and dare I say Christianized society, but because of this, we need to find some other way of showing the uncivilized and dare I say secularized society that there is more to life than nothing.

The life of a Christian is not easy, as the brilliant Mr. Wright remarks in this essay:

When I first became a Christian, I had been warned by sundry writers, CS Lewis and GK Chesterton, that being a Christian was difficult. I often in jest lamented that I had not been visited in my hour of distress by Thor. Dying in battle during some act of brigandage against treasonous relatives, then to be carried aloft by singing fierce-eyed Valkyrie to endless feasting until foredoomed Ragnarok, to fall as loyal as his wolves at the feet of dark-hooded Odin was much more in accord with my natural inclination. Given my druthers, I’d much rather be a pagan. Unfortunately, and despite what your modern teachers tell you, reality is what it is, and you don’t get a vote.

It was not until long after that I encountered those who scoffed that following Christ was the lazy or the easy path. Even if the teachings of Christ are a false and pernicious as a Dawkins or a Hitchens scoffs, they cannot honestly call the disciplines false. (Not that honesty is their strong point.)

The point is that we don't always live an heroic, death-filled life (if that makes sense) and often have to live the hum-drum. Who knows, we may be called to give our lives in the end as St. Thomas and St. Louis did, but until then we have to do our duties, the everyday. In the essay, Wright goes through the list of disciplines that a Christian is called to and they are very well applicable to our daily lives. Prayer is not something that we find time for, it is what everything we do should be...an offering to God. When we do charitable acts, or sacramental disciplines or grow in virtue, it all has the same goal: to give glory to God.

I wanted to write today because of something Wright wrote at the end:

The pagans of ancient times were converted not by words only, but by the silent example of Christians living in their midst: in their midst but not like them. How can the modern men, less even than the pagans of old in dignity and intellect and uprightness of stature, be led by our example if we live as they do?

What? You cannot find any poor who need food, clothing, shelter? Are there no prisoners in jail to visit, no sick in the hospital, no aged in the Old Folk’s Home waiting in loneliness to die?

Have you truly no enemy to forgive? Is there truly no one in your life who has cursed you or reviled you or said all manner of evil against you falsely?

If not, you might be doing something wrong, O ye faithful: if you are true servant of Christ, you well know that the world will not treat the servant better than it treated the master.

Let us abide by what we have been commanded to do, if not for a whole month, then at least for Advent.

Or a week. Or a day. Or an hour.


Our actions are what converts the pagans, the secularists, the atheists and the militant religionists.

Just because it's barely relevant, I'll digress to mention the Tebow phenomenon. I appreciate Aaron Rodgers' approach as the sort of silent guide to his peers. Tebow is a Christian rock-star in many ways and that could be dangerous. Not saying anything against what he's doing, because it's good, but remember that those whom we revere can fall the hardest. Or maybe it's just because I'm a Packer fan... Anyway, both these men are showing the Christian message through their actions. And yet, who sees our small actions? Who sees us go to confession but Catholics? Is it worth thinking about these things as evangelization? Can we really only evangelize through martyrdom, public displays of piety and social justice?

I would say no, although I don't want to diminish the impact (and the inspiration) of these acts. I wish I could do something that people would notice and make people think, but I'm not necessarily called to that. Often we are only called to touch those in our immediate circle. I have had discussions that were thought-provoking and evangelization in a way. I wasn't martyred, just disagreed with. This is often what we are called to do and in this way, we can evangelize the world through Truth and Beauty one friend at a time.

However, I am thinking of something else as well. We do not always know what effect our actions have on people. For on thing, there may be a natural chain reaction that prompts actions in others. More importantly to my point, there is always a supernatural chain reaction and a constant pouring out of Grace through the channels of our works and prayers. Even if we never speak an explicit word of evangelization, our duties done at home can be performed for the glory of God and therefore can become occasions of Grace. Any Grace that touches the world can convert souls to the Love and the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We only need to believe that we, like the saints and martyrs, can be channels of Grace, if only the size of a drinking straw.