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, September 20, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The Third Odyssey

I've been a little remiss in posting these Odysseys over the last couple days. This is partly laziness and partly a funk, and partly my own odyssey I'm on. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.

I think I'll move on to the odyssey from anger to understanding and forgiveness. Many of us humans are sinners, and it is only right that we should respond to the sins of others in anger. I certainly do. But often we get stuck on this anger, holding grudges, resenting, even hating another person for the harm that person has done to us. Hurt is very real, and we can't say that another's sins are good. However, if we hold on to that, we are still in Troy. We have not yet reached Home--Ithaca.

Anger can also be directed toward someone for an imagined slight. So and so didn't treat me how I wanted to be treated. She won't be my friend, he didn't help me when I needed it. We hold grudges, keep count, and resent those closest to us.

And anger, in the "Trojan" sense, will very frequently turn into violence. Our loss of control when confronted with the failures of others is counteracted with a grasping after power. Any violence we do is really just a show of power. I won't let you treat me like that. I am the one really in control. If you do that, I can still do this. I will stay n control.

And this anger, this violence tuns into a war, and is thus probably the closest to a real Troy.

But where can we find our Home? Where is Ithaca? How can we forgive and understand while still not accepting evil?

Well, let me tell you, it's not always effective to reason yourself into forgiveness. "Oh, I should forgive her. She didn't really hurt me, and she's sorry." That's a good start, perhaps, but often we experience a deep emotional pain as well, which can not be healed by forcing rationality down our throats. When we want to forgive, often the devil throws another obstacle in the way. Another monster to overcome, another sea to cross.

And we don't need another sea to cross, we need to see the Cross. It is the image of true forgiveness. God died and rose, he acted to forgive, and we must act as well. But most of all, we must depend on him. If we are to love each other, forgive and avoid anger, violence and resentment, we must embrace the cross and never let go. We must love each other as He loved us, sacrificing our pain for the good of the other.

Oh, Lord, help us live the life of the Cross!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The Second Odyssey

This week, I'm discussing the Seven Odysseys which are our journeys from vice to virtue, our conversion from darkness to light, our road from doubt to promise. The second Odyssey is the journey from lust to love.

All of us struggle with all the seven deadly sins, but it always seems like lust steals the stage. I think it's because we're most afraid of lust in other people, as well as ourselves. If someone is a glutton, we might be disgusted, but we're rarely afraid. Anger can cause fear, but only if it becomes violent. Pride, the root of all vices, causes resentment and contempt, but not fear. No, lust has a special place in our hearts and we're deathly afraid of it.

Lust hurts us, I suspect, so thoroughly because it distorts not only the way the human race continues to exist, thus is a distortion of God's creative plan, but also distorts what is the image of God's love for his creation. A man who lusts is like a God who uses us, which is to say no true God at all. If we as Christians are called to love as Christ loved the Church, we'd better not put lust in its place.

But sadly we do. And lust destroys our relationships with each other and our relationships with God. We spit on his creative plan and his love for humanity when we distort them. And we treat each other not like the creations of God, but toys we fashioned for ourselves.

What an adventure, what chaos, what monstrous violence! And there seems to be no escape from Circe's cave. No escape from the storms of Poseidon.

AND YET!

There is an escape, and it is exactly that which lust grievously defiles: The Cross. Odysseus ordered his men to tie him to the mast of his ship when the sirens sang, and we must let ourselves be tied to the Cross. We are not strong enough to fight concupiscence and lust, but God has won the battle.

The Cross is true love, and in order to travel from the Troy of lust to the Ithaca of love, we must embrace it. We must give of ourselves in sacrifice, even when we fall prey to temptation. We must forgive each other when we fall, and so live by the standard of the Cross.

And most of all when lust hurts us in other people, or we hurt another person with lust, we must fall at the foot of the Cross and beg for the mercy and grace of God to heal us all.

The worst response would be to accept that we are at sea and that we may never come home, but God is calling us, and His Son is looking for us, searching the seas for His wayward wanderers. We must let him find us and take us into His arms onto the cross so that we might love more deeply, truly, and faithfully.

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on us, sinners!

Surprised by Grace

Once in a while, God acts in your life. Actually, that happens pretty often. The first fall day at Notre Dame? That's God. (NB: I'm pretty sure that Autumn is God's favourite season.) The sounds of a cello playing a piece by Bach? That's God too. Sometimes we forget about these things, take them for granted. So many little things are made possible by the grace of God. In fact, everything exists because of the grace of God.

We often think that God's grace is only present in the amazing and astounding things of life. Say you get a new job, a job you really wanted. Or perhaps the "queen of all [your] dreams" walks into your life. Or maybe you managed to get home in a blizzard without wrecking your car or dying. All those things are God's grace on our lives.

Or maybe he's present in the great pains we have. Perhaps you lost a lot of money, or hurt someone you love, or missed a great work opportunity. Maybe you have a chronic illness that may result in your death. God's grace can be and is present in these situations, and we can recognize that. 

Also, the Sacraments are God's grace in our lives in a very unique way. We receive God Himself in the Eucharist. We receive His forgiveness in the confessional. We receive the gifts of the Spirit in Confirmation. Our slavery to sin is purged in the waters of Baptism. And the awful thing is, we can take these for granted too.

How much more, then, do we take for granted the little things? The ripple of water, the look of seasoned wood furniture, the voice of the woman you love, your desires, your hopes, your tastes, your knowledge, your emotions, your thoughts, your routine. All these things are moments of grace and God is trying to work through them for the betterment of your soul.

But we often miss that point and ruin it royally.

God, however, forgives. That's the sign of God. If a person forgives, that's a sign of God working through them. We must forgive, and beg forgiveness so that God can work through us and in us. And all throughout this forgiveness, God's grace is still doing its thing. It's still finding its way to you in the little things. It will, in fact, never stop.

The call, then, is to be continually surprised by grace. To turn to a life of gratitude and wonder. If we let that go, we have forgotten about God.

Let's not forget about God. Let's not forget the little things, the Moments of Beauty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Seven Odysseys: The First Odyssey

An odyssey, properly understood, is not so much an epic adventure of daring, but an often distracted voyage from a place of war to a place of peace. From Troy to Ithaca, with rather a few detours in between.

Or perhaps this is an epic adventure of daring. At least it can be. It can also be a dull and muddy slog through a marsh. It occurred to me that to develop virtue and thus open yourself more fully to the grace of God, you must leave the "Troy" of your vice, that action which tears your soul and and drags you around in the dirt, and come to the "Ithaca" of virtue; you must come home.

We Catholics name seven deadly sins, which are, for all intents and purposes, our seven Troys. Each day this week, I will take one of the sins and think about our odyssey to virtue. The First, in no particular order, is envy.

Envy is the vice where we recognize a good in another and resent that good and that person because we ourselves do not have that good. It drives us humans apart. Envy is something like a false idea of Justice. If my friend has a car and he's no better than I am, why shouldn't I have a car? Don't I deserve it just as much? Why does she get that award when I've done just as much work and am a better person besides? Why is he so happy when he's clearly living in sin and I'm trying to live virtuously and am supremely unhappy?

The problem with envy is that it is selfish, impatient and attached. We think we know the state of our soul and that as long as we are trying, we ought to get something in return. And it ought to come now. And in the way that we want. This is an extremely dangerous Troy. It is a Troy of resentment, anger, and hatred.

But how hard it is to travel over the seas to Ithaca! Oftentimes, God's wind, His providence seems slack and uninterested. Sometimes it seems like the only way you can make it home is by going from island of hope to island of hope only to realize that the very land which seemed to be a place of rest housed a giant monster waiting to eat you, or a seductive demi-goddess trying to distract you.

But our goal, our virtue which we hope to attain, our Ithaca is true Justice, gratefulness and generosity. We are finally home when we look at the goods that others possess and think with happiness how happy they are. It is when we wish for more good to come their way, even if they don't deserve it.

And this Home, this Ithaca is when we realize that we don't deserve the good that we have and yet are thankful for it and do not go grasping after other goods which we neither deserve nor may ever be given.

The sea is rough. No wonder the ancient Hebrews were so afraid of it and made it the symbol of chaos. Ithaca seems so far away. But Odysseus made it back to Penelope and we too can make it from Envy to Justice, generosity and thanksgiving.

With the help of God.