Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Think Small

This past weekend I was in Steubenville, Ohio for Franciscan University’s Defending The Faith Conference, three days of speakers, workshops, and of course mass and adoration.  It is always an enlightening time but this year, and I think the 1,500 in attendance would agree, was special.
Saturday morning, instead of the usual speakers was a debate, the topic:  Same-Sex Marriage; How to Engage Moral Relativism.  Polls say a majority of this country, and perhaps even the majority of Catholics, accept the arguments for gay marriage.  The debate fairly presented both sides of the issue, although I believe the Catholic viewpoint as presented could have been strengthened by including some strong facts contained in the book Making Gay Okay (which I previously reviewed).  Still, I think many people, especially the young and poorly catechized, would see the logic and truth of the Catholic position as presented, and understand more than they ever did before.  AND, I think they would see the importance of the discussion.  I shall get copies of this debate and make it available to friends, family, and local pastors.  It is not only worth watching, I think it is IMPORTANT that it be watched.
The weekend also had one or two other talks which interested or excited me; that seems to be the norm for this conference.  Like that one good golf swing every 18 holes, it keeps me coming back.  The Franciscan University campus is beautiful, as is its small, quiet adoration chapel.  I think God was with us this weekend, perhaps most visibly evidenced by the torrential rains which poured down (the noise almost drowning out some of the speakers voices), but which stopped whenever the talks were over, as people went outside for lunch or dinner, or to change classrooms.  It was a small, but noticed blessing.
And so I came home from the conference Sunday night in good spirits.
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Then I turned on my computer.
Among the emails was a note from a man I sometimes find hard to tolerate (like? Get along with? Accept?).  He serves on a committee I lead, in an organization I am relatively new to, and where he has served for over 30 years.  He is the voice of experience, and I am the voice of change.  This day his email to me voiced criticism of some of my ideas, and .cc’d other organizational board members beyond the committee, seeking their support for his criticisms, and ending the discussions I wished to have.
And I lost it.  The emails went flying from me, followed by phone calls.  A little wine helped, but could not calm me down.  This from me, Mr. Do-Not-Be-Anxious, who reads the Prayer For Humility nightly.  And so I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising that when I went to the chapel Monday night I again read that humility prayer, and that my eyes settled on this line of the prayer:
From resenting that my opinion is not followed, Lord Jesus, free me!
But God had more to say to me, as I further read the daily meditations from the book, Divine Intimacy.  The day’s topic was titled:  Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens.  The meditations opened with this prayer:  Give me, O Lord, attentive charity for the needs of others.
It quotes Romans 12:15 and notes:  “Thus the Apostle teaches us to share the joys and sorrows, the cares and anxieties of others as if they were our own.”  Reading those words, I realized that while I was focused on my anxieties, this man, my co-worker, had written to me of HIS anxieties --- and I couldn’t in humility empathize with him.  And so I read further.  “Bearing one another’s burdens also means enduring the fault of others calmly and kindly.  Faults are the inevitable consequence of human limitations.”  Hmmmm.  Did you hear that arrow striking my heart?  I did.
St. Therese is quoted:  “I ought to seek the companionship of those sisters for whom I feel a natural aversion, and try to be their Good Samaritan.”  And the author of Divine Intimacy concludes: “Charity seeks out those who are suffering through natural and moral imperfections, and busies itself with them so lovingly that they never guess how painful the effort is, nor how troublesome their defects are to others.  Charity endures all things, endures all things with a smiling, serene face, never showing itself annoyed or crushed by the burden it bears.
The topic continued in today’s Divine Intimacy meditations.  “(Charity) is not offended when it meets with a lack of refinement. … At the same time, however, charity is not insensible to ingratitude and offenses; on the contrary, the more a heart is refined in love, the more sensitive it is to everything which is opposed to love.  But it does not make use of its sensitiveness to defend its own rights, to protest against the ingratitude of others, or to demand some degree of justice; it sacrifices all these to God for the benefit of those who have caused its suffering.  It overcomes evil by good (Rom 12:21).  … Anyone who would yield to these feelings and act accordingly, under the pretext of justice or of teaching a lesson, would soon become very exacting to the great detriment of charity.  And in the concluding prayer I read:  Teach me, O Lord, to love my neighbor even when not loved by him, to love him with no concern for my own benefit, but solely because You love me, solely to repay Your gratuitous love.  Then I shall fulfill the commandment of the law: to love You above all things, and my neighbor as myself.”
Yesterday in my email and phone responses everyone knew the burden I felt.  “Oh, woe is me,” I cried.  And they tried to have empathy and charity towards me ---- as I didn’t towards him.
That Prayer For Humility is hard to pray.  And living it, if it is answered, is even harder.
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Coming back home from breakfast this morning, I heard Glenn Beck on the radio say:  “Think small.”  He talked about our feeling let down by the government, by our institutions and by our neighbors.  Our culture has changed, and will be this way for a long while, he said.  We need to get over our anxieties.  “We need,” he said, “to think small.”  We need to focus on the bad things around us we can change, and the good things we can support.  Without saying the words, he was saying we need to trust God, and love our neighbors, and live humbly. (His words echoed Kolbe’s.)
Perhaps that’s what went on the past couple of days.  I’ve been anxious about our country, and what I should do.  I’ve been anxious about the non-profit organization I work with, and the people it cares for.  But maybe, instead, I need to think small.  One man sent me an email voicing his anxieties.  Perhaps that was God telling me to be less anxious of the big things and focus on the small --- this one man.
It seems a good thought.  It is a humbling thought.  I shall pray for him and seek ways to lessen his anxieties --- and perhaps reward his long dedication to serving those in need?
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While I have been praying about what I should do for the woes of our country, I see that others have similar thoughts.  This afternoon I received an email from Fr. John Riccardo’s mega-parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel.  Fr. John is asking all his parishioners to begin fasting for the healing of our nation and the world each Wednesday for the rest of this year, taking only liquids during the day.  (Fr John seems to perceive, as do I, that we are in dire straights.)  And each Wednesday night there will be a 6PM rosary followed by mass at his parish, at which time the reception of communion would end the parish’s fast.  
His ideas, not surprisingly, are much better than mine (so far).  I hope to read of other such ideas from around the country. 

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