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 29, 2013

Kindness

I mentioned to one of my friends at dinner last night that there is a distinct difference between being "nice" and being "kind." It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently, mostly because I can see the difference in myself. "Niceness" is a somewhat self-centered attitude, where people's perception of you is the most important. If you are nice, you'll look good and attractive to people, right? But "niceness" is a very shallow thing whereas "kindness" is not. Kindness is directed to another person. It is true attentiveness to the needs, wants, and situations of others. We can spend time with another person, but it takes a kind person to seek out that person and give them your time. See the difference? One is seen as "spending" time, a cold, businesslike word, and the other is "giving" time, a personal word.

Kindness is so much more important than being nice. You can act pleasant all you want, but it isn't enough to truly be a friend. Everyone has interior struggles that are not addressed through exterior postures. Everyone! Even the person who is the most confident, the most put together, the most happy person! There is an attitude at the University of Notre Dame that in order to be successful, you need to appear happy, put together, busy, self sufficient....the list goes on, but it does not allow for vulnerability which is the opening to Love.

This vacuum of vulnerability means that all sorts of harmful vulnerabilities rush in to fill it. We allow ourselves to be used and use others. We succumb to alcohol, the party scene, the loose sexual morals which all make us vulnerable, but in all the worst ways. Vulnerability results in pain and the shattering of our innocence when it is not accompanied by genuine love.

But when we are kind, we are making ourselves vulnerable and allowing vulnerability in others to come through and the sharing of healthy vulnerability in a safe, sober situation is the gateway to love. Selfless gift of time and attention, even if that means leaving someone alone is true love. Even this vulnerability can result in pain, but as we know, the greatest act of love was an act of suffering, with a resurrection afterwards.

No bad can come from true kindness, only from the false vulnerability so rampant on college campuses which can trick us into thinking it is love. What is really is is a loud cry for love that we can answer if we will give to each other the time and the love of true kindness.



Friday, October 25, 2013

The Sign of the Cross

I was watching a television show called Fringe the other day which is a pretty good show, though not nearly as good as Person of Interest. One scene from a climactic episode of the third season of Fringe was of a man in a somewhat nondescript liturgically inaccurate Christian chapel of some sort. He was, as is often the case in these situations, asking God for a sign, even though he didn't believe in him. (Another example of this might be George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, though he did believe in God and it wasn't in a chapel. It was, in short a much better scene.)

The man in Fringe wanted a sign from God so that his son might live. I thought about this for a minute, and because there was a great shining cross in the scene, it reminded me of how a Father once allowed his son to die for the sake of the world (which, incidentally, this son was also going to be doing..they really can't get away from Christian imagery, can they. Peter Bishop? Come on. That's as bad as Christian Shepherd from Lost, incidentally created by the same person as Fringe.) Anyway, this man was asking that his son might be saved and that God might give him a sign to show him that this would happen, and I thought "Doi, you're looking at the cross, the greatest sign God ever gave and it was a sign of suffering and of sacrifice."

We sometimes forget that when we ask for a sign, God will oblige us, but often the sign includes a loss, a sacrifice, a death either of our desires or our goals. Ultimately, the end of the Cross Saga was a resurrection, and so God too will bring life out of the death of our desires. However, his greatest sign was the cross, and we can't forget that that's how he works.

So let us sign ourselves with the Cross, and continue to ask God to work in our lives and bring us to the resurrection through the purification of his sacrifice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Something a little light-hearted

Today, in class, we talked about light and how different colours interact. I could go on a long-winded theology of light, but today is not that day. I will just point out that the word in English for the opposite of heavy is also the word for the opposite of dark, and that God takes away burdens and illumines our lives.

And who couldn't use a little more ljoss-ness? (ljoss adj. bright [Old Norse])

So, first, yesterday was a Good Day. It involved a lot of sudden inspirations, lack of sleep, and friendship.

First off, if you haven't gone to adoration recently, hie thee hence to the nearest adoration chapel and get thee on thy knees. I don't mean to be demanding, but boy is it a source of grace, especially when your friend texts you and says "I need you to cover 15 minutes of adoration stat." (this isn't a true quote, but he he said something like this, only using the word "stat" isn't his style.) (stat, btw, comes from the Latin "statim" meaning immediately.)

My studio had a pretty good midterm review, and although Stairs Must Be Moved, etc., I am feeling pretty good about this.

I am still struggling with the question of whether I should go carve stone in England, get a nice cushy internship in the US, apprentice myself to the stone mason on this project, be a traveling musician based in Nashville, attend classes at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts, or go to grad school. So many options, and so man reasons to do none of them. Oh well.

Finalmente, I had a nice glass of vino (or goblet or mug) with a friend who is an artist, and if we didn't solve all the problems of art and the cultural renewal of the Church, we sure talked about it and agreed a lot more than we disagreed. One bein of contention was the value of the Middle Ages and specifically medieval art. This is one of my favourite subjects.

I haven't yet written my paper for my class that's due today, although I've started it, but all that seems rather mundane in the face of the encounter with grace that was yesterday.

God is wonderful. Find time for him.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Triumph of the Cross: Accepting the Five Wounds

It's almost said too much that it's strange that the Cross is the symbol of Christianity. For some reason, we celebrate the torture and death of the founder of our religion. We, in fact, have a feast day dedicated to God's triumph through the Cross of Christ. What is perhaps stranger is that though Christ died on the cross for our sins, we still suffer. Wasn't the crucifixion, death and resurrection supposed to be Christ suffering in our place?

But this, of course, is thinking of it all upside down. The Triumph of the Cross is that death and sin and suffering were defeated, but the grace from this victory is continually working in our lives so that when our time comes, we my rise in greater glory. Glorious indeed would it be for God to bring us automatically to himself, but how much more glorious when we have accepted his grace through a life of hardship and allowed him to enter our lives freely?

And so just as St. Francis did on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, we too must accept the five wounds of Christ. No, most likely these wounds will not appear in our flesh as they did for St. Francis, but spiritual suffering is just as much suffering and we all experience it.

Let me be Scholastic for a bit. The Five Wounds of Christ correspond to five spiritual sufferings which we undergo. The first wound is memory of sin and pain. At the Crucifixion, Christ was able to experience all the pain from the memory of the whole human race about the sin committed by us. For us, we remember our sin, how we have hurt others, how we have hurt ourselves as pain. This is often mislabeled guilt. It is in fact more like remorse, and it hurts like hell. At the end of Harry Potter, the hero of the story asks the villain of the story to be a man and try for some remorse. This is because it truly takes strength to accept that you have sinned and done wrong to others. It takes strength because it hurts. God takes all this pain from remorse and it becomes one of the wounds of His Son on the Cross. Our remorse is pain, and it should be there, but if we accept it as a manifestation of the wound of Christ, we can let Him have it and cause grace to flow through the remorse.

The Second Wound is a loss of spiritual motivation. We may not always experience this as pain in the same way as remorse, but when we realize that we are slowly slipping into a spiritual darkness, our souls are not happy and it can lead to despair. Once again, if we look to Christ, we can find a place from which grace can flow. While he was on the Cross, he called out "I thirst!" He was experiencing the parched feeling in his body as we feel it in our souls when we can not find the enthusiasm for God's plan. He channeled this pain into the sacrifice which God demanded of Him, so must we not also do the same if we wish to live a life of Christ? The grace will grow in us if we accept this second wound and allow Him to transform it to be a part of his redemptive act.

The Third Wound is separation from those we love, our families, our friends. This can come in the form of physical separation, but is all the more painful when it is a spiritual or emotional separation. This wound Christ experienced first when his apostles abandoned him at his capture, but he brought all this suffering into fulfillment in the act of accepting the wounds of the Cross. If we are to accept separation from those we love, we can only do so in the context of the Cross and accepting that our redemption and eternal happiness depends on whether we accept the wounds and thus the grace that accompanies them.

The Fourth Wound is the suffering of injustice, false accusations, slander, judgmental thoughts and rejection from a community. We certainly do not deserve the community we are given, and we do not deserve love, for we do not give love perfectly. However, God created us for one another, and it is a great suffering to be rejected, even by people we do not know! This is an experience of those with homosexual tendencies, those who struggle with sin, those who don't have it "all together." But the greatest injustice of all was the one which Christ himself experienced, for he did love perfectly and was still treated with contempt and ridicule by his own people. This fourth wound is another opportunity, if we unite our own rejections with those of Christ, for grace to grow in our lives. Oftentimes, we do deserve rejection for our actions, but of course that connects the fourth and the first wounds, remorse for sin, and pain from rejection. All of these pains can be accepted as an extension of Christ's sacrifice and thus can not only work for the redemption of your soul, through the grace of God, but also can be an opportunity of Grace for those you have hurt through your sin and those who judge and reject you falsely.

The Fifth Wound is perhaps the worst, and it is related to the Second Wound. If I were a true Scholastic and not a tired blogger who should be working on a project or reading a saga, I would have ordered them differently. But I am tired, and I hope you can forgive me.

The Fifth Wound is separation, or apparent separation from God. Perhaps Christ was just reciting the 22nd Psalm when he cried out "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" However, he may have actually experienced the feeling of abandonment from God. We certainly do. We feel often as if He doesn't care. We have pain, and it doesn't matter to him. We need something and he will not listen. He will not show us a sign. He will not speak to us. We are very sad. The funny thing is, it is very often not because he is not there for us that we feel this way, but because we have not abandoned ourselves to his mercy and joined our Five Wounds to Christ's.

If the Cross is truly to triumph in our lives, we must accept, as St. Francis did, the Stigmata. But our Stigmata will not show, it will not bleed. Our unity with Christ will be less visible. But it will only truly be a stigmata if we accept the wounds of Christ and allow them to be for us a source of grace, healing, and salvation. Our suffering is no longer ours, and thus no longer superfluous because we will have made our suffering into His and offered it on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Second Desolation

The normal way of the spiritual life is like a sine curve; equal amplitudes in both the positive and negative direction on a pretty frequent and regular basis. Now, this isn't always the case, for often the negatives outweigh the positive and sometimes it is the other way around. But whatever the case, there are times of desolation in the spiritual life, where it doesn't seem possible that God cares or that your life doesn't seem quite blessed, but also times of consolation where it seems (and it is) that God has a plan and wishes to create some great good out of our lives.

One wisdom of St. Ignatius is that when you experience this great consolation, immediately thank the Creator for His creation in your life, then offer the next moment of desolation and doubt into his hands to nail to the cross so that you might accept the pain and confusion as a participation in the Ultimate Sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world.

The Gospel for today was about the action of the devil. All pain and evil, desolation and sin makes the devil quite excited for it means that the pain of separation from God which he experiences eternally is shared by members of God's creation. We all long for communion and a common sharing of experiences, and the devil himself does, and thus puts roadblocks in our way. The Gospel, however, speaks of the casting out of demons and the "cleaning up" that occurs. Jesus says that the demon which is cast out then "goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first." (Lk. 11:26)

We might experience a calming of our spirit, a relief from our pain, a ledge on which to rest on this Long Climb to perfect beatitude, but the devil returns in greater force when he realizes that we are advancing on the path to holiness, and the Second Deolation is "worse than the first." If we are not prepare, if we have not asked God to take the Second Desolation and the Third and the Fourth and so on, we will not be ready and we will slip back down past the ledges of grace which we have found to be such consolation.

One of the devil's strategies is to make us despair, and so when we see our consolations slipping by, we start to despair and see them as passing, as fleeting, as unimportant. But of course, they were not. They will always be in your memory and will always remind you that God grants us these moments even though we do not deserve them in our fallen state.

And if the devil wants communion in his pain of separation (which is just the fiery love of God wrongly considered for no one, not even the devil is truly separated from Him), we also desire communion in our pain, but this should never mean that we cause others pain so that they might join with our pain. Rather, we should join in the communion of the Cross, considering our pain as the greatest source of grace and together basking in that grace, that severe mercy, that soothing justice.

And if there is one defense against wrongly considering the love of God as pain, it is the defense of Our Lady's mantle. She experienced the Crucifixion and Death and as none other, but in the same way she also experienced the Resurrection and the fulfillment of the Sacrifice as no other. She understands pain and suffering and the redemptive quality it has, the source of grace that it is, and God has given her command over His grace, to dispense as she wills. If we are to prepare for the Next Desolation, we must allow her to wrap us in her mantle and hold us close to her heart which is united with the Heart of Christ, which constantly offers sacrifice to the Father and understands our suffering, that being the meaning behind the Incarnation.

Our suffering is never the final answer, and it is never done alone. Not only is Christ our mediator through suffering, but we always have the opportunity to suffer with those around us, not in a diabolical way of causing each other pain, but offering our suffering along with theirs into the hands of Christ so that his Sacrifice might be all the more present in our lives.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Intellect and Love

Oftentimes, we don't understand things. We don't understand God. We don't understand why we do things we shouldn't (cf. Romans 7) We also don't understand why Dominos makes such a great pan pizza, but all their other pizzas are terrible.

One of the main things we don't understand is love. God Himself is Love, so this sort of makes sense. Our intellects can grasp the existence of God, although in a very limited way, but we can only know God personally and love him through His Revelation of Himself, specifically the Incarnation. His love is only understandable through His actions in our lives. We can not force our brain to be clear on this subject.

And if we are to love God in return, we can not force our brains to be clear on that either. It is hard to know how to love each other, but it is especially hard to know how to love God. But knowledge comes not merely through working through a problem in your head, especially since our heads are full of thousands of conflicting messages, emotions, thoughts. Knowledge is only complete through actions, understanding is achieved through charity.

We often become confused because our brain is telling us two things at once: "I totally want that burger from Burger King." and "Wow, that is a disgusting thought." Or perhaps, "I want to reconcile with my friend who caused me great pain," and "But jeepers, he caused me such pain and I don't know if I want to be his friend anymore." It makes it harder when there is no closure to the pain, no resolution, and seemingly none on the horizon. But LOVE is not a thought. Love is not even merely a desire. If we truly wish to forgive, to love, to find clarity, we must decide to act. We mustn't let our pain dictate our decision to forgive.

But it is not we who act alone, for because of our fallen nature, we need supernatural grace to close the gap between what we ought to do and what we can do on our own. Perhaps, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, in our pre-fall state, we could have forgiven by our very nature, but we must above all ask God's grace to descend upon us and grant us the ability to forgive and love, not only those who have hurt us, but also ourselves for having hurt others.

We can not force our minds into a clear picture of love, for it is only focused by the grace of God acting in our lives. It is up to us to allow this grace in, like light which can illuminate our darkened intellect. And the grace is from a God of Love, and thus a God who acts always for our good, not merely desires it. If we are to imitate him, we can not just want to love, but through his grace we must truly love through our actions.

Love is a tough business, and it's often fraught with confusion, but if we hold on to our Queen and ask for her aid, she will dispense that grace just as she gave us the Source of Grace in the greatest act of Love in human history.