Monday, October 23, 2017

Halloween --- All Hallowed's Eve

Amidst all the candy, ghouls and, of course, zombies, we often forget the source of the word Halloween, and what it is meant to celebrate --- those great people who walked before us; it’s a time meant to celebrate and remember them.
I was reminded of that three times recently (there’s that magic number again).  First, the lady at the 7-11 store told me of how her daughter greatly enjoyed a cemetery tour in her home town.  My eyes rolled at the thoughts of a scary tour, but she described how the tour led to tombstones where people described who was buried there, and how they made a difference in their city, their church, and their families.  They described people worth remembering, and imitating.  I was impressed!
Later that week, I attended the retirement dinner of a man who started a charity which counseled troubled youths, and who was celebrated by the courts for turning around young lives.  There, at the dinner, were many adults (and their children) who gave praise to the retiring man: “You saved my life.”  And I was impressed!
And finally, I heard the priest on Friday lament how there were four funerals in the parish this week.  “They were all wonderful people, and their families and this church family will miss them greatly.”  And I was again impressed!
And so, I called my local historical society, which I had just joined this past summer, and described the three events (at some length) and then suggested: “I think you/we should start such tours of our local cemeteries, celebrating and remembering the great people of our community.”  The historical society director listened to my long explanation and request before responding: “It IS a great idea --- we do it twice a year, including October, and it is sold out each time within 24 hours.  Thanks for your suggesting new ideas; please don’t stop.  We’re happy to have you as a member of the society.”
And I was humbled.
In recent years God has shown me many miracles and, I think, has put before me things He would have me do.  But it’s easy to get a big head.  Just because the boss hands you some key problems to solve, it’s easy to think we’re his righthand man.  I think the word to describe such thinking is pride.  I know I’ve described how I pray the Prayer for Humility each night, yet still, sometimes it seems God must bop me on the head to actually make me feel humility.  And, you know, it feels kinda good.  I guess I’ll take His attention any way I can get it. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur

This book, the secret diary of Elisabeth, is a beautiful love story.  None of her friends, or even her husband, knew how deeply she loved, until her husband read (and published) this diary --- upon her death.  And as a result of her words, (and her prayers,) he later became a priest.  This story reminds one of how St. Monica must have prayed for St. Augustine, but she lived to see his conversion.  And it reminds us to NEVER give up; prayer can move mountains --- surely it can change a heart.
Elisabeth, although very well-to-do, did not live boisterously.  She wrote how she felt it “my duty to my dear husband … above all, to be extremely reserved concerning matters of faith, which are still veiled to him.  Let him see the fruit but not the sap … only on those lines, I think, must I hope for the conversion and sanctity of my dear companion of my life, my beloved Felix.”  What humility!
She loved the goodness of her friends, and prayed for their spiritual and physical well-being, yet over and over thanked God for them, as they are.  She trusted.  Here are some of her thoughts:
·                  My God and my Savior, I consecrate to Thee my future, my words, my actions, and all the good works I can ever do, begging that I may be used in Thy service to make Thee known and loved.       March 10, 1905
·                 This is the resolve of this meditation:  silence in regard to my trials, silence about my interior life and what God has done unceasingly for me.  I believe it is my duty in waiting the divine hour to preach Jesus Christ only through my prayers, my sufferings, and my example.
·         If I can fruitfully show him a little of what is in my heart, that must at least be a rare event, done with careful thought, performed in all gentleness. 
·         I must be all things to all men, occupied only with others’ griefs, not saddening or troubling anyone around me with mine.
·         And now, O Lord, with all my soul I say the sorrowful words: “I thirst.”  I thirst for the peace Thou alone canst give…. I thirst for light, to know, to see, to possess, as we shall see and possess in eternity.  I thirst for life, the only Life, full and eternal.  O my God, I thirst for Thee!
·         What good is confiding one’s pains, miseries, and regrets to those to whom one cannot say at the end: “Pray for me”?
·         Prayer to Ask of God the Virtue of Hope:   My God, who hast allowed us human hopes, but who alone bestowest Christian and supernatural hope, grant, I beseech Thee, by Thy grace, this virtue to my soul, to the souls of all I love, and to all Christian souls.  Let it enlighten and transform our lives, our suffering, and even our death, and let it uphold in us, through the disappointment and sadness of each day, an inner strength and unalterable serenity.

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After reading the above book, I read a somewhat similar one next (God seems to arrange these things in an order so I can fully appreciate the depths of the matter).  In A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken writes of his love story, and of his dear Davy.  Atheists, in love, they “raised The Shining Barrier against creeping separateness … against a world of indecencies and decaying standards, the mockers of love, and above all, we would be us-centered, not self-centered.”  They vowed nothing would come between their love.  They vowed to not have children, and to not let careers come between them.  And they made many other vows and goals, like sailing around the world on their own Grey Goose --- which they did. 
And Christianity?  “Could there be more to it?  Maybe I ought to have another look at it.  Some day.  Just to be --- well, intellectually honest.”  But, “Of course, Christianity wasn’t true.  And Davy was amused and a bit mocking, when I told her about it.  We laughed together.”   But later they went to Oxford to teach, together, and were much surprised to find most of their friends Christian, their intelligent friends --- but “that didn’t make sense.”  And they made friends with C. S. Lewis, and exchanged many letters, on their love, on God, and the logical and sensible choice to believe, with Sheldon in particular coming to believe that it really was a choice, to believe (or not) in God.  And, in part to let nothing tear down their Shining Barrier uniting them against the world, he chose to believe, as his beloved Davy had come to do.
And that belief supported him strongly, as Davy sickened and died. 
I read A Severe Mercy as I was participating in the Alpha Program at my local church.  I believe the first 100 pages of this book are a great example of how people alien to religion can logically come to choose Christianity, and believe it true.  And, as with Elisabeth, I saw how God can work, slowly and deliberately, with little help from us, if we just trust and, like St. Monica, persevere.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Someone to Watch Over Me

Morning mass was over, and I was driving back home, Eastward, looking into the morning sunrise.  The sky was brilliant with reds and oranges covering the clouds, and how could anyone not pause in their thoughts to give praise.  I praised God for the beauty of His creation, the love He has shown me, and for the many wonderful friends He has put into my life.
And then I had another thought.  Today is the feast day of the Guardian Angels, celebrating the personal one assigned to each of us.  But I didn’t get to think further on my mind’s meanderings, for the song on the CD changed, and I heard Linda Ronstadt’s beautiful voice singing these words:

There's a somebody I'm longin' to see
I hope that he, turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me

I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could, always be good
To one who'll watch over me

Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key

Won't you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me

Someone to watch over me