Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Lenten Progress Report

I was distracted from my prayer again this morning, not an unusual event to be sure. Sometimes I wonder why it is even called “our life”, when it seems that others butt in so often that we never have any peace.

That choir practicing and laughing before mass while I try to pray; the children bickering and joking at the dinner table --- that time for “quiet” family sharing; the loud television blaring commercials as I stop at the 7-11 for coffee; and noisy phone conversations in the aisle next to me in the supermarket, or in the cubicle next to me at work --- these are all distractions of our times of quiet, peace, and concentration. They are all distractions to that time we need with or thoughts, and perhaps with our God?

The sudden screaming of the ambulance siren, and I look up from my reverie to see it close behind -- is this another one of my thoughts being disturbed? No, that one is easy to see and understand: Which is more important, my peace or the life of the person who may be dying, delayed by my inattention? With that one, I was reminded that there is a proper priority of things. My instinctive irritation, however, demonstrated that I generally think myself more important than others; my peace is more important than anyone else’s concerns. That’s my priority. This type of instinctive reaction is something which I, which we, need to overcome. In my praying of the Litany of Humility each day this Lent, I am reminded of this.

The litany prayer asks not only that I become less, less desired, less consulted, and less wronged, but also that I desire and do not fear these things happening --- and therefore that I not become irritated when they do. These things, these affronts to my instinctive image of myself as being more important than others, I am praying for that instinctive image to change. That commandment about loving your neighbor means, as hundreds of saints have tried to explain to us, that we put our neighbor first, and when we can do THAT instinctively, then we will truly be loving our neighbor.

It’s a hard thing to do, a difficult habit to form, to make it an instinctive reaction to believe that others, in all the disturbing things they do, should be reacted to with concern and love, not irritation.

Fortunately, after breezing through my prayers this morning (but not really feeling what I was reading, being too distracted with my concerns about me), I picked up my little companion book this Lent, My Other Self. My bookmark sat on the chapter titled: Humility --- my, my, what a coincidence. (That’s very funny, God, very funny.)

Humility does not consist in outward acts; humility is within. It is an interior disposition to know the truth about yourself.
“One has to be content,” said John, “with what has been assigned him by heaven.”
They arrested me, imprisoned me, beat me, mocked me, and spat upon me. How would you respond to such outrages from creatures of yours, whose lives you held in the palm of your hand?

I am your Model.

Pray for humility and I will take you at your word. You will begin to find yourself being misunderstood, passed over, rebuked, perhaps ridiculed. When this happens try to remember to thank me for giving you these precious opportunities to practice meekness, to choke back harsh and indignant words, to refrain from expressing unnecessarily your own opinions or to challenge the opinions others advance.
To be humble will be difficult as you try to control the temptation to be sharp or cross with others.

And suddenly, the pressure will ease. You will find that it has become rather simple to speak little of yourself, to avoid curiosity, to accept correction, not to parade your talents. You will even begin to accept the blame calmly for mishaps of which you are innocent, to take slights smilingly, to be serene in the midst of your clumsiness and blunders. You may be glad when you are ridiculed, rejoicing in your lowliness.
Once you do this, it will be as though a riddle had suddenly solved itself. You will see clearly that humility does not consist in liking humiliations, but only in willing them, in choosing them, perhaps in seeking them, but not at all in liking them. No, my other self, you need not, and you will not, like humiliations. But the more intense your dislike of them, the greater your opportunity to serve me and redeem souls by willing them.

Do not, then, think as you have in the past, “I will be a fool for no one.” Rather say: “Gladly will I be a fool for Christ.”

My praying the Litany of Humility each day during Lent is a good thing, a good reminder, but growth in virtue for any of us cannot be just a scheduled time during the day, but must be a thing lived throughout the day; it needs to become a habit. Our virtues always affect other men, and by ordering our relations with them, we better order our relations with ourselves. And by placing a priority on helping others get to heaven, we help ourselves. It really won’t work the other way, focusing on helping ourselves first --- no matter how much we might wish it so.

(On another matter of Lenten progress, no, I haven't taken down my Christmas tree yet, although my cleaning lady must have spent hours putting away some of my decorations. I guess that's a hint.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

But sometimes I don’t know what to say to God, and I remain silent.

Padre Pio’s assurance: “In the ways of the Lord, stop in your room, like the courtesans (servants), and pay him homage. He who will see this will be pleased with your patience, will favor your silence. …”

“How many courtesans come and go a hundred times in the King’s presence, not to speak or listen to him, but simply in order to be seen by him, and to let themselves be seen as his true servants? This manner of staying in the presence of God … is most holy and excellent, most pure and extremely perfect. He will speak to you, will take a thousand walks in your company along the paths of the garden of prayer, and if this never happens, which would be impossible … be content just the same because it is our obligation to follow him …

“Therefore, when you find yourself close to God in prayer, speak to him if you can, and if you are unable to do so, stay this way: Let yourself be seen, and do not disturb yourself further.”

Lord, thank you for accepting my times of silent, as well as vocal, prayer. Thank you for the peace and joy of resting in your presence. Amen.
Padre Pio’s Words of Hope -- Meditation 124: Silence

How often have I prayed to God --- and heard nothing in return. Very often I could feel His presence, almost feel the touch of His breath, but heard nothing. Was He really there? Did He hear my prayers; did He care? Why did I not hear an answer?

But sometimes there are no Godly answers to our prayers, at least not ones we would ever understand. Then why do we even bother to speak them, if He will not answer? A good question indeed, since we need not speak them, yet He understands all the same. His knowledge, His concern, His love, that is what makes Him God. And so what then are we to do in His presence? Padre Pio created an appropriate analogy, that of the servant in front of the king. Like the servant, we know it is our obligation to follow the King, and we know that the King wishes us well. Say? There is nothing which must be said. The silence of being in each other’s presence is enough, ours to show Him that we care and seek to serve Him, and His to show us that He is aware. Nothing else needs to be said. Silence in each other’s presence is enough, like two friends sitting on a swing, wordlessly confident in each other’s caring.

Does love require more?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Growth in Holiness: Then Gain

A few weeks back I wrote about the Purgative Way, as described in Robert Hugh Benson’s book, The Friendship of Christ. Mr. Benson described how growth in holiness must start with a purging of what is wrong in how we see things, earthly things, spiritual things, and finally ourselves. This Purgative Way of growing in holiness sets the stage for a closer relationship with Christ, classically called The Illuminative Way of spiritual growth.

Benson notes that the Purgative Way is the soul’s way of putting off the “old man”, but now the “new man” must be put on; the soul must be illuminated in Christ. In (the first step of) the Purgative Way the soul learns that external things, in themselves, are worth nothing. In the Illuminative Way she learns how to use them rightly – that they are worth a great deal. During the Purgative Way, the soul saw many people and things as irritants, as occasions of sin; in the Illuminative stage, she sees the value in each person. The first step of the Illuminative Way, then, consists, not merely in experiencing these things, but in perceiving their value, intellectually and interiorly. Understanding their value, she bends all her will to accept them and use them as God wills. Therefore, exactly at this stage, the soul ceases to be bewildered by the problem of pain.

The second step of the Illuminative Way – corresponding to that of the Purgative – consists in light being gained from God as to the reality of interior things – for instance, the truths of religion. A soul in the elementary stage of faith adheres to an enormous number of dogmas, but she (does) not intellectually understand. Before this stage, faith is accepted without understanding, wholly on faith. Many can fall away from this, if compelling arguments come against their understanding. But when “Illumination” comes, an extraordinary change takes place. Point after point in those jewels of truth which up to now have been opaque and colorless, she can “explain”, to comprehend. By grace and perseverance, she may experience by God’s favor those clear-sighted intuitions which so marked a characteristic in the saints. It is a wonderful thing when you really “know” the truths of your faith. Perhaps you can’t explain them all as a theologian, but you know in your heart they are true. This is a major growth in holiness, not having to understand everything, but believing with all your heart regardless.

The third stage of Illumination deals with those relations between Christ and the soul that are involved in the divine friendship. The soul is not focused on self-reliance, but has a confidence in the abiding presence of Christ, a divine friendship. It is henceforth not only enjoyed, but in a certain degree consciously perceived and understood. This is nothing else than “Ordinary Contemplation”. It consists in a consciousness of God so effective and so continuous that God is never wholly absent from the thoughts; the soul has initiated into the friendship of Christ. Benson goes on to state that this is the highest state of holiness man can hope for in this life, but with the heights reached here, there is much risk of falling. Spiritual pride can take hold of a person who gets so close to Christ. In fact, every heresy and every sect that has ever rent the unity of the Body of Christ has taken its rise primarily in the illuminated soul of this or that chosen friend of Christ. What Benson is saying here is what many have said in so many ways: It takes a very wise man to do something very stupid; and it takes a very holy man to commit a great sin. What is absolutely needed, then, is an increase of devotion and submission to the exterior voice with which God speaks in his Church: for, notoriously, nothing is so difficult to discern as the difference between the inspirations of the Holy Ghost and the aspirations or imaginations of self.

Benson in a couple of short chapters in his book describes in a very understandable way, the way that most people progress, or do not progress, in holiness. There is an initial attraction to faith or things of religion, and an enthusiasm for things of God. Life is good, the things of faith – mass, devotions, and prayers – reinforce the initial feelings, and the overall feeling of self-worth is enhanced. God is good; the world is good; I am good. Everything is good. But if that’s as far as we grow in faith, we are set up for a downfall. Life will not always be good; into every life pain must fall, and with it may fall a weak faith. God will not always appear to be good; we will find many things about this world which seem wrong --- why would God do that? With a weak faith, we are set for a fall, for a challenge to God: If you were God, you wouldn’t allow this! And perhaps even a deeper fall is possible, when I realize that I am not perfectly good by myself. No matter how rich, how smart, how blessed with family and friends, by myself I can feel very alone --- no one understands, not even God. These falls in what started out as a lively faith can and do happen, to all of us. But these falls don’t have to make us lose our faith, they can just be the “housecleaning” necessary, the Purgation needed, to clean out our “dreams” of faith, and set them up to be replaced with a wonderful reality of true faith.

To me, the Illumination found in growing in faith starts when a person realizes that life, his life, is not only about him. Love of God, friends, happiness, money, things, all these bring some happiness into his life, but those things are not the reason for his life. We are put here to grow in holiness, and that means work. It means learning the real value of all those things which seem good to us --- for they always won’t seem so good. We wrote a little while back about how some things are intrinsically good, and some are good in that they are useful tools. The things above that appear good for us are tools, which we can use for even better things. Money and things are of no real value to us unless we use them for things beyond us --- that commandment about love of God and neighbor. When we see Sunday mass or prayers as not a thing which gives us a time out, but a thing we understand in the total universe of things, the total plan of God of which we are just some small part --- but we want to do that part well, then we are really seeing the value of those religious things; the dogmas become absolute universal truths in our hearts, truths we want to live out and share with others. And when we know and want all these things, we will want to talk them over at most any time of the day, with our friend, Jesus. This is growing in holiness. This is what we are living for.

I’m not sure any man knows where he is at in his faith walk. Even now I have obvious needs of purgation, when I suddenly realize I was placing too much importance on this earthly convenience, or when that Church teaching or churchman irritates me, or when I realize most deeply what a sinner I am. But then there are times I see the increasing joys with illumination, how to use my time, money, and talents to help others – and, praise God, see the results. Oh, those are great blessings. And there are many hours when I sit alone, in the chapel or even in my room, and know beyond a doubt that I am not alone. Those hours give me great peace and a desire for them to never end; knowing there is no worry worth worrying about, and knowing there is a Love which will fix everything, everything.

No, we can’t know where we are at in our faith journey, my friends, but a journey it is. We can’t choose not to take this journey, not pack our bags; for this life will end some day, and we’d be wise to be as ready as we can for that day. Life is an adventure, work and pain, yes, but also great happiness and joy. The path for spiritual growth means taking the time and effort to learn, for you can’t grow closer to Christ, to find Him as a friend, until you take the time to know Him. Lent is a good time to start. Scripture, books by saints and holy men, and just time in His presence, all these will help you to get to know Him. And asking Him: Would you tell me about yourself, and what you expect of me? Asking His help is a good way to start also.

He does answer, you know.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Must Become As Little Children ...

Orig: 3/07/09

We usually hear those words and think of the innocence of children, and reflect on our need to trust, as they do. And certainly trust in God – and growth in humility – are part of the intended message. I think perhaps, however, that there is another, important message which can be read into that command.

Childhood is a time of learning. For many of us, it is our ONLY time of deliberate learning; few of us have continued to seek education programs once we graduated from the formal school system. Perhaps, however, Jesus is commanding us here to become as children in this aspect also: we MUST continue to learn. As children we learn so that we can function well as adults. Why should we as adults continue to learn? … “if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven”.

There is the bible; there are many writings of the saints and holy people; there are many written and oral words inspired by God and given to us to help us grow in holiness. There are many opportunities to continue learning. We need to take advantage of those opportunities.

Our actions show the world the type of people we are – perhaps some of your friends consider you in some ways a “good” person – but it is the attitude of our heart which will get us into heaven, not the “good” we show externally. Form your heart through continuing to learn about God. It is one of the most important things you can to with the time God has given you. Learn to know and love God. It truly is a matter of life or death: “You MUST become as little children, if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Lent is a good time to start learning.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tomorrow's Change

As I reflected on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, I thought of Jesus’ suffering, and what He may have been thinking. With all who had shouted “Crucify Him”, and with all who abandoned Him, I think He must have had some thoughts such as these about His life: Was it worth it? Abandoned now, will I be remembered? All that I had said and done, all that I had tried so hard to do right, to teach right, did they learn? Will they remember Me?

And then my thoughts drifted to my own life. So many years have passed; I’ve been blessed (if that is the right word) with even more years than Jesus. Have I used them well? Will my accomplishments in marriage, in work, and in trying to care for others, will anyone remember those accomplishments; will anyone remember me? Did it make a difference for them that I had lived a part of their lives? Did my past even make a difference for me?

Ah, I think there I hit upon a question of value to consider further upon: Did my past make a difference for me? All the other things in my past, those things are now beyond my control. Were others influenced; will they remember; these are questions which are only possible concerns of theirs and of God, at this point. Whatever the answers, it matters not to me right now; and knowing the answers to those questions are just a thing of curiosity, like watching a movie on television: I can’t change the ending, whether I watch it or not.

No, what others benefited or not, or remember or not, is of no value to me. I shouldn’t be worrying about those things. God will judge them. What DOES matter to me now is how my past has influenced me. Have I learned anything? Do I remember? Am I a better man now, for what I did? Where am I at now, in my quest for holiness? What platform have I reached, from which I step off of, and into my future?

But even as I thought on those things, those relevant points (or so I thought), I realized, as Scripture might say, that even all this was vanity. For what does it benefit me to know whether I am so saintly that I am almost like God Himself, or whether I am such a sinner that when Satan looks in the mirror he sees me? None of such knowledge will change what I must do tomorrow.

There! There was the real crucial word. I just said it! Tomorrow, regardless of where I am at today, tomorrow I must change. Tomorrow is a challenge for me to grow in holiness, to offset the evil of our time, to offset my evil. Yesterday matters for nothing as I consider my path to tomorrow.

The Prodigal Son knew this, as did the lost sheep, and the laborer who only worked the last hour. Mary Magdalene knew this and followed Jesus with the crowds, and Dismas also knew this, as the three of them hung on their crosses, alone in their last moments --- no crowds present. They all knew: the past matters for naught today. Today we can change.

It is never too late to change.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Resolutions

I’ve thought about the problems of our country a lot lately. Its people are often in my prayers. But as this Lent begins, I ask myself “What prayer would you have, if you were praying for yourself?” Oh, not the same-old, same-old prayers that you say most days, prayers for Wisdom, perseverance, and to know the Father’s will --- and do it, but rather what prayer should I be saying to make me a better man, one better able to use well these other gifts I pray for, should they be given to me. What task should I put upon myself this Lent, to make me truly a better person?

I shall try to do the fasting called for in Lent, abstaining from foods I like. I’ll even give up that coffee I’m more addicted to than like. I shall also try to do the alms called for, and shall endeavor to find those people or charities most in need, and give them a special gift, including a gift of time, if that is what is needed. I wrote out a monthly donation pledge to the Lingap Center today, for a start. And of the penance called for in Lent, what shall I do there? That’s the hard one, I think.

At confession recently, part of my penance was to pray the Litany of Humility. Oh, I’ve prayed that prayer before. Oh yes, I know it well. It is a VERY hard prayer to pray sincerely. In fact, that Friday of my confession, I put that part of the penance to the back of my mind --- I’ll get to that, I thought. I did remember that on Saturday and Sunday, but made no effort to pray the prayer. On Monday morning, however, as I knelt with my eyes closed, just before getting up to join the communion line, I prayed: “Lord, what would you have me do this day?” Then as I stood to walk in the line to the altar I looked down, and there on the pew in front of me the woman had laid her small worn prayer book, which I knew immediately contained the Litany of Humility.

Watch out what you pray for; God answers promptly sometimes!

I prayed that prayer, using the woman’s prayer book, before I left the church. And as to my questions, what I should do to make myself a better person, what should I pray for? I think I’ll pray that prayer each day of Lent. Perhaps God was telling me something more than to just do my confessional penance.

And if that truly was a hint, what more bluntly is the problem? What am I doing which calls for more humility? I thought about that some; I even glanced through my thoughts written here. I looked at what has been occupying my mind of late, and I saw the political scene which is occupying many of our thoughts. And my reaction was to be critical of most politicians, people acting as if they, and they alone, knew the answers to huge problems, as if they were gods. And I strongly felt they were wrong, as were others who acted like them. But now I realized that, for as much as I was criticizing them for thinking wrongly, I was equally vehement in saying: “I’m right” --- the exact same thing they were saying. Perhaps there is something there in this need for humility.

For Lent, I shall try not to speak ill of other people or their ideas. Politicians, friends, family, the guy on the street, I’ll try to treat them all with more respect. I know it will be a difficult thing for me, and I know that my thoughts will likely fail this resolution, but if I can control my words, that will be a start. I shall try not to make other people lower by my words, but shall instead try hard to humble myself.

Perhaps somewhat along those lines, I shall make a list for things to do this Lent, all those things I have been putting off doing because I was too busy doing other things that “I knew” were more important. I’ll resolve this Lent to do those things that I was too important to do. The list is easy to start:
• I’ll write all those notes I’ve been putting off composing, to those less important people.
• I’ll edit those book chapters I’ve been putting off, letting the editors spend too much of their time, because I was not willing to spend mine.
• I’ll get up earlier, and do that exercising that is so easy to out-prioritize, before I start my day.
• I’ll write that paper for Ave Maria University that I promised, months ago.
• I’ll clean off the dining room table --- and not just put everything on the pool table downstairs. I’ll clean that off too.
• And I’ll take down my Christmas tree, and my President’s Day tree, and my St. Valentine’s Day tree, and my likely St. Patrick’s Day tree --- before it becomes an Easter tree, and all the decorations still lying around the house.

Some of these things will definitely be harder than others but, to some degree or other, all of these inconvenience someone else, while I think myself too important to do them. I shall try to be humbler.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Yes, this will be a hard prayer to pray each day, and a fitting Lenten penance.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Unwritten Commandment

I sent a letter to the local paper again; it is but a small way of speaking out, proclaiming the truth we must all proclaim. But I don’t expect it to be printed for others to see, no, our news has become a source of amusement, not truth. Their printing of the truth would be like the Coliseum charging the Romans for the entertainment. No one wants to pay for the truth, yet we all must.

“Your editorial read that more well-to-do seniors of Michigan should have their pensions taxed, but of course, the state must take special care of poorer seniors. “Of course”? When did the state become a being with moral obligations?

How soon we forget the time when people of this state lamented the high welfare rates and said: “But of course, the state must care for the poor.” Then laws were changed to require ones on welfare to seek work, and the rates came down. And the people said they were happier than when on welfare.

There is no “of course” for the state to care for anyone. Isn’t the commandment that “you” love your neighbor? So what if the poorer pensioners are taxed? If needed, then their neighbor could and should care for them – you, or your family, or your neighborhood group, or your church. You should love your neighbor. And if we did this, every one of us would be better off --- and happier. The state can’t “love” anyone. Making believe that it can is just lying to ourselves, but it’s time the truth be told.”

In the Catholic Church, today is the feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, two martyrs. They deemed it a great joy to have the opportunity to die for love of the Truth. We live in an unusual time of our lives right now, my friends. Perhaps more now than at any time in our life, it is a time of opportunity, an opportunity for us to show love; there are so many of our neighbors who need us. Would you have the state, or federal government, or anyone else take care of them, when it was you who were commanded: “Love Your Neighbor”?

Remember when He said: “As you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me”? Remember when He said that going to church and leading a good life, those things are not enough, because even if you should then call: “Lord, Lord”, He will say: “I do not know you.” It is one of the most paradoxical teachings of our faith: “If you wish to be high, you must aim to be low.” It’s the unwritten commandment of God: we do not have to love ourselves; He will love us.

In the readings today an obscure saint called Saint Dorotheus said: “The reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, is that no one finds fault with himself.” He seemed a wise man. There would be no troubles in this world today if we could stop placing ourselves first. And then we wouldn’t need that commandment, it would be instinctive for us to love our neighbor. And we would find joy in the opportunity.

That opportunity is here today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Peace

I think it started yesterday morning, when I arrived at mom’s place. The little magnet still sat on the kitchen counter, the word CLEAN bold in front of me as I began to empty the dishwasher. Until I saw all the dirty dishes and silverware from the mornings breakfast, mixed in with the clean. Perhaps the letters in the word “clean” weren’t large enough for the caregiver to notice …

I had a lot to do yesterday, papers to read, others to edit, and things to be written. But with interruptions every five minutes, I couldn’t concentrate enough to accomplish anything, and the day passed by with my helping mom with many things, and nodding again and again to her many repeated thoughts and words. But then again, that is what I was there for. I looked forward to the quiet in the chapel at midnight, but as I glanced out the window while waiting for the substitute caregiver to arrive, I noticed the “half-inch of snow” that was forecast, as it lay upon my car --- about six inches deep. The caregiver arrived late, as I expected with the weather, but still, I looked forward to the peace I’d have shortly. Until I noticed the little message indicator on my phone --- the chapel was being closed because of the weather.

Oh well, at least I didn’t make the long drive on the snowy roads, before finding it was closed.

The roads were still very slippery this morning, and the church parking lot unplowed as I arrived early, to say the prayers and meditations I had missed the night before. But I wasn’t early enough, as the choir was there practicing, laughing, and joking. I thought found a quiet place in the gym, but a parade of people trooped in and out, a number stopping in front of me and asking: “Are you finding it quieter in here?”

Back at church, as the mass began, a woman sat in the pew in front of me with her young daughter. I closed my eyes to avoid the constant commotion, but I couldn’t avoid noticing when the mother began rummaging in her purse, as the priest raised the host at Consecration. I closed my eyes again then, and pretty much kept them closed, praying the prayers with the priest, and saying the Our Father. I guess I opened them at just the right moment, before the sign of peace, as the young girl sneezed into her hands and then turned to shake mine (yes, it does happen). I hesitated a moment, and then her mother turned around with a big smile at me, to watch her wonderful daughter wish me well. A sign of peace (and I wondered what else).

I knelt and closed my eyes again and so many things wandered through my brain behind them. No, I had no peace. But then I noticed a quiet in the church, and opened my eyes to look down the aisle toward the front of the church. There stood the minister, waiting to begin the distribution of the Eucharist: Jesus there, waiting for me. My mind was troubled and I was looking for peace everywhere and not finding it. Finally, It came to me.

Outside the sun was now shining, and I noticed that the parking lot had gotten plowed, and the nice pile of snow plowed around all four sides of my car. I’m guessing the man with the plow didn’t find any peace either, when he saw my single car sitting there in the middle of his plowing job --- and he let me know. Oh well, perhaps I had my peace for the day.

I stopped for coffee on the way to mom’s. At the restaurant the waitress first stopped at the booth next to me and proceeded to have a long conversation with the woman there. Glancing at my watch, I couldn’t help notice that four minutes passed, nor could I help hearing the conversation, and – I swear – I couldn’t stop myself from counting. Forty-seven “likes” in four minutes. Is that, like, a record?

I think I’ll not try to accomplish anything this afternoon. The sun is shining, the birds are at the window feeder, and the icicles are gently dripping from the eaves, and mom has so many things to tell me --- again. I paused in my typing just now to help her onto the porta-potty, and as I lifted her up felt the wetness fall onto my foot. Yes, she has so many things to tell me, and give me. After all, isn’t that what I’m here for?

We all have days in which we can find no peace. It’s just part of life, but they don’t have to make us anxious. We can choose not to be. And as for me, it’s Sunday. The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. This is a day of rest, not to worry about accomplishing anything, not even those tasks which I feel He is calling me to do. Tomorrow will be a day of much work for me. Tomorrow. But as for now, well look: Indiana Jones is on the television! I wonder how Indy will, like, handle the bad guys.

I’ll let you know in some other post.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soldiers Die For America's Sins?

The title describes the words and feelings of a small group of angry Americans. Their words might sound like those of a jihadist; they are so similar in meaning. This small group shows up at soldiers’ funerals and proclaims that because America permits homosexuality – some would say promotes – God is punishing America by killing its soldiers.

The U.S. Supreme Court has strongly ruled that the words and actions of those people are protected free speech rights. And now those words have caused even more angry people to speak out, and act.

But if we look at these all of these people, protesters and counter-protesters alike, if we look into their faces and not hear their words – and perhaps, even, look into the mirror at our own angry face – we will notice something that we know is wrong. Acting out of anger, instinctively RE-acting in anger, is almost always wrong, and we know it. So let’s stop and reason, and try to understand why our reaction is wrong, as is theirs. Let’s not look at what these people are doing, and react to it, but let’s look at ‘why’ they’re doing it and why we are reacting.

I, for one, am content with the Supreme Court’s ruling: someone protesting one thousand feet from me is not really harassing me. They’re not screaming at the funeral mass nor spitting on the coffin, although perhaps they might like to. Then again, I might like to beat them up, so the court ruling may be protecting us both. No, I’m content with the ruling because laws should be made to support virtue, but not necessarily punish every sinner, for in his own heart, many a sinner thinks he is a virtuous man.

In Canada, priests and ministers have been arrested for speaking in Church on Sunday, for reading the bible and saying homosexuality is wrong. “That’s hate speech,” some judges there have ruled: you may not proclaim the gospel. Similar “hate speech” laws are on the books or proposed in this country. Similar rulings and thoughts have resulted in those protesting in front of abortion clinics, or merely praying in front of them, to be jailed. My friend, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, spent two weeks in jail, and was horribly abused there, for praying his rosary on a sidewalk. And in the middle of a western desert, a cross put in a cemetery there more than 50 years ago has been branded a hateful symbol of religion, and a single passing motorist has sued to be protected from this “horror” so offensive to him – and many judges in this country have ruled in his favor.

If the recent Supreme Court ruling on free speech serves as a basis to protect us all from those who would seek to define what they dislike as “hate speech” or “offending me”, then I praise the justices. And I praise God.

And what then of those funeral protesters, you may ask. If the repulsive thing they do is to be protected, just what would you do, you might ask me, if it were your son’s funeral? My response? Well, my response really doesn’t matter; it’d merely be another opinion of another man, but personally I think that in asking me you would be asking the wrong person. What would I do? Shouldn’t it be WWJD?

I think that if you tried to answer that question honestly, you might answer that He’d invite those protesters to the post-funeral luncheon. Isn’t that what Jesus did with the tax collectors, ate with them? Weren’t they among the most abhorrent of people in His time? He came not to admonish sinners, but to heal them. Didn’t He see their sins as virtues gone wild, which He sought to straighten out? Jesus said tax collecting was a necessary and just thing, He paid taxes, but He saw that some tax collectors were going about it wrongly, just as eating is a good thing but gluttony is not. Look at those protesters at the funeral and why they are acting that way: they want to stop what they perceive is sin in our country --- is their motive such an evil thing? I would not seek to punish them for their actions, but I might sit down and talk to them about it. Many of us instinctively react to what we think is wrong, instinctively react to protect what we think is right (perhaps that is what ALL those angry people are doing), but not enough of us are thinking and reasoning (and perhaps praying) before we act, asking ourselves why we are inclined to react, and then thinking of ways to find the best actions, not just the instinctive ones --- before we act.

I think that’s what Jesus would do: think, reason, and pray before acting, and he might sit and eat with sinners before ranting against them. I’m content that the Supreme Court by its ruling implied that is what we should do. The U.S. Government body ruling never mentioned God, but perhaps they did something on His side --- quick, look outside, has IT frozen over? Those protesters want this country to change; perhaps in some small way they were an instrument of that change, but in His way, not theirs.

Blessed is the man who does not lose faith in me. Mt 11:6