I thought I would share with you one of my favorite poems of all times. It is by John Donne (1572-1631), and is his Holy Sonnet #74:
Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Mathias, a seminarian for Lansing, MI, and a friend of mine, sent me this text, a portion of a catechesis given by His Excellency Luis Antonio Tagle, Bishop of Imus, in the Philippines. Beneath it, I have included my friends response (in dark red) and then my own thoughts (in dark blue).
“Jesus' sacrifice uncovered the link between the worship of false gods and insensitivity to the needy.An idolater easily loses compassion for the weak. Though he was judged, Jesus was the one actually judging the untrue worship that kept people blind and deaf to the true God and the poor. The Church that lives the life of Christ and offers his living sacrifice cannot run away from its mission to unearth the false gods worshipped by the world. How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests.
To keep these false gods, their worshippers sacrifice other people's lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of "progress"? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?
The Church however must also constantly examine its fidelity to Jesus' sacrifice of obedience to God and compassion for the poor. Like those who opposed Jesus in the name of authentic religion, we could be blind to God and neighbors because of selfrighteousness, spiritual pride and rigidity of mind.”
Mathias: In other words, the more we worship the true God, the more we are drawn to service and love of the weak and the poor. This is a sort of litmus of true worship of the Eucharist. The bishop’s words, therefore, are a gut-check for all of us, a call for us to examine whether or not our self interests have become idols that render us blind to the needs of the weak and vulnerable. Worshiping God in the Eucharist, therefore, does not just concern the proper worship of Holy Mass or Eucharistic Adoration (which is indeed important), but it also necessarily encompasses a loving compassion toward the weak. You can’t have one without the other.
Ryan: The word used in Genesis 1 for image, as in "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Gn 1:27) is the same word used in Exodus for the sorts of things we are not supposed to carve out of stone to worship (Ex 20:4). If we want an image with which to reverence God, He has already provided us with one: our neighbor. We are not to worship images of false gods because the gods are false and their images will distract us from the reverence we are to show one another. We cannot honor God rightly without honoring rightly those He loves, those He cast in his own likeness. The Eucharist, the very name of which means "thanksgiving," is the right worship of God because it is a thanksgiving composed of Christ's self-sacrifice, of Christ's self-gift - to which we are to unite our own. Rather than worshipping false gods to attain our own purposes, we Christians worship the True and Living God to attain His purposes. In worshipping the Eucharist we learn to be like Him: humble, obedient, chaste, grateful, self-giving. Not only to we learn to aspire to His kind of love, but by consuming Him, the Perfect Sacrifice, we are filled with the ability actually to attain His kind of love. Not only are love of God, godly love, and selfless love of neighbor intrinsically connected, they are bound together by the Eucharist. Even those who do not know the Eucharist for what it is - Christ Himself in eternal self-sacrifice and thanksgiving - are still nonetheless nurtured in godly love by it.
This excerpt is taken from a little devotional book that I found at the Maine, NY house of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. It is called A Month with Mary.
The Passions and the Flesh
"Mary [says]: The demon penetrates into you by means of the passions and, if you do not deny yourself, your battle against the demon is vain and fruitless. A passion is a disordered movement of your physical being or of your soul which makes you forget the high supernatural end to which you tend and reduces you within yourself. It is the keel desire for relief, for comfort that you look for in the mire because mire is all you see around you when you lose sight of your ultimate end.
It is a reaction to the law of God when you don't see its beauty and harmony; it is a rebellion against God when you seek pleasure, peace and happiness outside of him. Sometimes deluding poetry dazzles you and you dream of reaching high peaks of glory and pleasure when in reality you are falling into the abyss. Sometimes you see nothing but this present life and fail to recognize that all is passing... then you concentrate on everything on this earth, on your material well-being and go about seeking the deceptive love of creatures, riches, comfort, applause, pleasures, amusements. The demon is waiting for you at the pass in these dark narrow straits along your way; he presents objects which attract you; he upsets you with images which get you stirred up and thus he catches you in your own snares in order to drag you into his abyss. Don't deceive yourself; combat your passions as soon as they manifest themselves and fly the occasions which make them take on giant proportions!
If you live in the world and flit around like an inexperienced butterfly around flames, you will get burnt. Close your eyes to the distorted visions of your lower nature, your ears to the vain words of men, your heart to the vain affections of the senses. Nourish your soul on truth, nourish it on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is in the eternal Truth and eternal Love that the passions drown and die. The more you know God, the more you live by faith, the more you lift your gaze above, the more you immerse your heart in Jesus, the less you feel the weight of your flesh and the delusions of the false mirages of the passions. Converse with God because in him you will experience the beauty of your final end and the miserable attractions which you feel in yourself will vanish into nothingness.
ASPIRATION: O Mary, give me the grace to seek God and to delve deeply into the beauty of eternal truth.
LITTLE WORK: Deprive yourself for the love of God of some amusement that seems harmless to you. Often an amusement is like the spark that ignites the fire of the passions in the heart."
In the testing/debugging shop of my division, there is this massive clock. Seriously, it is like 4 feet by 3 feet, and it says in big, friendly letters,
That stinks. Also, my computer is having a problem, and the process to fix it is fairly monotonous. Hmm... it just occured to me that I might at least pray a rosary, or maybe copy my running schedule into my calendar.
It also occurs to me that an idle mind is the devil's workshop, and idle hands his tools. Yes, I'll copy my schedule and pray a bit while I wait.
Ok, so last night I watched "A Man for All Seasons," in honor of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher Day. Just this morning, getting ready to post something about one of my favorite saints, I remembered that I had already written something about him. Here it is.
As it turns out, that was the very first post of my blog - posted one year ago yesterday. So, in addition to the anniversary to being the anniversary of the martyrdom of St. John Fisher, recusant bishop of Rochester, it is also the anniversary of my blog - I know, a truly momentous occasion.
I reread my post on St. Thomas and St. John, and can't really think of much else to add. Last night I also decided to start reading a modern critical history making use of newly available sources of St. Thomas's life, times, and writings that seems very good, from Ignatius Press: The King's Good Servant, But God's First. The author promises to draw out St. Thomas More's deep spiritual life in a way that previous biographies have neglected.
It's been quite a week at work and also socially for me, and I've found prayer time scarce. It occurs to me that time isn't ever any more or less scarce, but only that for some reason I let important things: God, sleep, balancing the checkbook, etc., slide to lower places of priority. St. Thomas More, in the movie at least, seems to have been expert at keeping first things first, which is the skill at the heart of the virtue of prudence - the habit of knowing the most important thing, and how best to get it. Maybe if I ask enough, St. Thomas will lend me a bit more. Lol.
St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, pray for us.
"...And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself," (Jn 12:32).
We must no longer be ashamed of Jesus Christ. How many years have we Christians been afraid to mention His name except as a curse word? It is as if a hidden apostasy, a secret departure from God has happened in the quiet depths of our heart. For how many decades have our churches been full but our hearts empty? Now at last the Holy Spirit is showing us how brittle and effeminate our faith have become: our forebears proclaimed Christ into lions' dens, but we are afraid to mention him in polite company.
Over the long decades of the twentieth century, how many households stowed their statues in attics? How many gradually let go of the confessional so as to cling to sin? How many abandoned any of the filial devotion due to Jesus' Mother and to ours, because such things seemed so... ethnic? Slinking away from our Lord, we have also left the greatest gifts he gave us.
The world NEEDS Jesus Christ - it is reeling without Him. Let us put our house in order, reform our lives, and begin again to proclaim our faith: Jesus Christ is Lord!
Through the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ came to the world. How can it be else, than that the world will come to Jesus Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Those who think they know all about Jesus Christ because they use His Holy Name as a curse word may yet be wooed to Him by the beguiling and gentle affection of His mother. We should not fear that proclaiming her will thwart efforts to proclaim Him; Elizabeth did not when she was visited by the Great Mother of God. So we can hope that all men and women of good will, but perhaps of hard heart, will find their heart melted by her loving embrace.
The life of every single human being who has ever lived is precious and valuable, a unique and unrepeatable adventure, a mystery in which the finite and the Infinite meet. Nothing can detract from or add to the importance of that life. A life cannot be made more meaningful; its meaning can be made more glorious or debased.
The 1st Mass reading proper to today's season (Wed after the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time) was suppressed in favor of the Feast of St. Barnabas. The suppressed reading (1 Kngs 18:20-39) is one of my favorites, so I am going to post it below, with a few words to follow.
So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel. Elijah appealed to all the people and said, "How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him." The people, however, did not answer him. So Elijah said to the people, "I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD, and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Give us two young bulls. Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood, but start no fire. I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood, but shall start no fire. You shall call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The God who answers with fire is God."
All the people answered, "Agreed!"
Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one young bull and prepare it first, for there are more of you. Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire."
Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, "Answer us, Baal!" But there was no sound, and no one answering. And they hopped around the altar they had prepared.
When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: "Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them. Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state until the time for offering sacrifice. But there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." When they had done so, he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been destroyed. He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the LORD had said, "Your name shall be Israel." He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two seahs of grain. When he had arranged the wood, he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood. "Fill four jars with water," he said, "and pour it over the holocaust and over the wood." "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he said, and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar, and the trench was filled with the water. At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, "LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command. Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses."
The LORD'S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"
Ok. A few thoughts:
1. Prophecy is not speaking the future, but speaking on behalf of God. The prophets of Ba'al claimed to speak on behalf of God, and in fact, they recognized Ba'al as the one and only God (kind of). But their 'god' was not the same as the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who called himself Yahweh. Yahweh means "I am," and refers to the absolute necessity and eternity of God - He is the one and only thing that necessarily, must exist, and always has and always will exist. It is the same God that revealed himself to Abraham and to Moses and in love made lavish promises to them.
2. "Ba'al" on the other hand means "master," and refers to that demons desire for us, to master and dominate us through stealth or force. If not the same being that deceived Adam and Eve in the garden, to whom unredeemed Man has ever since been in bondage, the two beings are clearly closely related.
3. Discernment is the art of distinguishing what comes from God, and what does not. In this account we are given a model from discernment. No matter how hard the false prophets shouted, hopped, and gashed themselves with knives, the darn sacrifice wouldn't burn: there was no one to hear them. Their works, prayers, etc., were all futile because they were not from God and to God.
4. The Christian life might be seen as a sort of preparing oneself, or letting the Church prepare us, to be a living sacrifice. We must carefully discern the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to conform ourselves to the will of God. Firstly me must learn to avoid sin. We must learn to fulfill the obligations of our state in life. We must allow our mixed motivations to be purged. Ultimately we must grow to let all our acts originate, be permeated by, and aim at love. As we are conformed to Christ, the Holy Spirit will descend on us like fire from on high and set us ablaze, but, like the Burning Bush that spoke to Moses, we will not be destroyed by what consumes us.
5. In the process, we will increasingly radiate God's love and show His people and the world the right way to follow the Lord.
I don't really put much faith in the accounts of most people who tell their "born again" experiences. They usually paint them in very glowing terms and relate their experiences as cathartic ones, as very powerful highs, of sorts.
They've obviously never seen a baby actually being born.
One would think that Jesus chose the image of being "born again" deliberately. If it is physically painful to be born physically, it stands to reason that part of the metaphor is of the spiritual pain of being spiritually born. Babies scream and cry when they are born, and they shiver and turn all red in the face. If they had their way, they'd probably go back in! Someone who claims to have been born again but doesn't at least shudder a little from remembering the experience probably hasn't actually had it.
May the angels lead you into Paradise;
May the martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May the choir of angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor,
May you have eternal rest. Amen.
We love you Gramma, and we'll see ya soon. But not yet.
St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (3 June)
Today is the memorial of St. Charles Lwanga, a martyr, and the companions slain with him. He was an official in the court of King Mwanga of Uganda, a renowned pederast. When his predecessor at court, also a Catholic, was killed for denouncing Mwanga's murder of Protestant missionaries and for his perverse sexual predations, Charles knew that he might be next. Charged by the king with bringing him boys to abuse, holy Charles brought the king only excuses. By the beginning of 1886, the king's patience wore thin. He began a persecution of Christians in his court.
Toward the end of May of 1886, Charles and twenty or so others were ordered to undertake a trek of 37 miles under armed guard to the place of execution. Along the way, they passed the compound of the missionary priests who had evangelized them. The priests, White Fathers, were amazed to see their little flock being herded to death, and stricken at being powerless to save them. Charles called out to the priests to encourage them, "Why are you so sad? This is nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to!"
Arriving at their destination Charles and his companions (about half of whom were Protestant) were wrapped in mats and burnt to death in a heap on 3 June 1886. They died singing hymns and praising Jesus.
In our own day there are very powerful and wealthy persons working to legitimate grossly immoral sexual activity, even the preying of grown men on adolescent boys. We Christians are called to work across denominational lines to help perserve the safety of our young people and to build a culture that appreciates authentic human sexuality. In doing so, we will certainly be challenged and humiliated, threatened, perhaps assaulted, and maybe even murdered. Recently, Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern, the wife of a Baptist minister, spoke out against the homosexualist agenda and she has since received tens of thousands of pieces of hate mail and even death threats. The Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Devine, has received like treatment for his outspoken opposition to gay marriage, adoption by gay couples, and his warnings of a well-orchestrated movement to achieve those and even more pernicious ends. We must work with all men and women of good will who understand what is at stake in this newest front in the global culture wars.
St. Charles Lwanga and companions, pray for us.