Archive of articles from the September 1999 issue of Restoration.
Signs and Symbols - Part 1
THE SIGN THAT CONQUERS DEATH
by Archbishop Joseph Raya
The unity and Trinity of God is a subject so sublime, so essential to Christian faith, that the Church spares no endeavor to express it in sign and symbol, thus elucidating its meaning and scope. In perfect union, she harmonizes theology, liturgy, and the arts to bring out this uniqueness and glory.
Since the unity and Trinity of God is rooted in a personal relationship with God’s goodness and infinite love, the Church celebrates it with all the richness of artistic, poetic, and intellectual expression.
Christians are engaged—body and soul—in the celebration of their God. They are borne up by a constant movement of this exciting reality. They sway and sigh, sing and move to become always more aware of this reality, and consequently more conscious of their own divine worth and dignity.
What Christians cannot express in mere words, they sing. What they cannot sing, they dance in solemn processions. Gestures, movement, poetry, and music are carefully practiced with elegance and beauty.
The most frequent gestures, signs, and symbols of faith in our Triune God are these: the sign of the cross, the metany (bow or prostration), the lighting of candles, the burning of incense, and the recitation of a prayer known as the Thrice-Holy Hymn (‘Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us’).
Tertullian (160-225), the North African father of Latin theology, is the first writer to testify that Christians honor the Lord’s cross in their daily life. Throughout the day, they remember it—following the recommendation of St. Paul who urged them to run in the vocation which is open to them, with their eyes fixed on Jesus … who endured the suffering of the Cross (Hebrews 12:1).
Tertullian wrote: "We Christians sign our forehead at every moment of our life, and at every step we take: when we mention the name of God, take a bath, lace our shoes, sit at table, light our lamps, lie down to sleep. In short, whenever life has movement, we sign our forehead with the sign of the Lord’s cross."
The homilies of the Church Fathers represent a kind of poetic litany extolling the Cross as a sign of victory and salvation. They repeatedly express wonder that what was a symbol of shame became with Christ a symbol of honor and glory for crowned kings and simple people.
Speaking of this, St. John Chrysostom, (344-407) said: "The sign of the cross, at the sight of which all persons formerly shuddered, is now jealously sought after by everyone and is to be found everywhere, among rulers and subjects, men and women, married and unmarried, slaves and freedmen. All continually make it on the noblest portion of the human body and daily bear it about, engraved on their foreheads as on a pillar. Behold it at the holy table, at the ordination of priests, radiant along with the Body of Christ at the mystical meal."
Chrysostom repeatedly comes back to the theme of the cross being the salvation of the world because Christ gave his life as ransom for others, allowing himself to be defeated.
"Not only was he defeated, but torn to pieces. The nails of the cross cleft him and made him powerless."
As the devil conquered Adam through the wood of the tree of life, so Christ overcame hell through the wood of the Cross, leading men who are captive there to freedom.
St. Augustine underlines the importance of this: "It is with the sign of the cross that the body of the Lord is consecrated, that baptismal fonts are sanctified, that priests and clerics are initiated."
During the first three centuries, Christians made the sign of the cross on the forehead, with their thumb alone. In the fourth century, they extended it to the lips and chest, thus consecrating their words and hearts to the Lord.
The forehead is for the Father who is the origin and source of the Godhead, and of everything that is. The lips are for the Son, the Logos (Word of God), who speaks the mind of the Father and gives meaning to everything. The chest or heart is for the Holy Spirit, who is the source of life and love. For this reason, the Western Church has faithfully practiced this three-fold gesture at the proclamation of the Gospel.
Historians claim that the use of three fingers in making the sign of the cross did not come into daily practice in the East until the seventh century, and to the West only in the thirteenth. (The use of all five fingers in the West did not come til much later.)
Due to the emergence of the Muslim religion in the seventh century, Christians of the East had to witness to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, both of which Muslims vehemently rejected.
Christian monophysites also denied Christ’s true humanity, teaching it was ‘swallowed’ by his divinity. For them, therefore, Christ was not a complete human being.
To the Muslims, Christians proclaimed the oneness of God in his Trinity by uniting the first three fingers of the hand into one unit, signifying that God is one and unique, yet in three distinct persons.
To both Muslims and monophysites, they testified to the Incarnation by uniting in the palm of the same hand the remaining two fingers of the hand; this signified that God the Son came down on earth and became truly man while remaining truly God.
With the hand in this position, they made the sign of the cross, thus proclaiming faith in the Triune oneness of God, and in the Incarnation of God as a human being, a part of the matter of the universe.
As man, Christ suffered and was crucified for the salvation of every human being and for the transformation of the entire cosmos. As real God, and real human being, he is one with the whole universe and one with our human flesh which is made of the dust of the universe. He is, thus, the Savior of the Universe.
And this faith is proclaimed whenever we make the sign of the cross.
to be continued…
On August 15, feast of the Our Lady’s Assumption, David Francis Linder was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
It was a day of great joy, crowning many years of longing and preparation. It was enthusiastically shared by a swelled throng of our MH family, David’s family, and guests from far and near.
David joined MH in 1986, and served in a number of our mission houses—including England and Ghana—before going to St. Joseph’s seminary in Edmonton in 1995.
Earlier this summer, he returned to Combermere to make final preparations for his ordination.
The day before, David’s parents, his four sisters and their families arrived. Staff from some of our field houses also came, among them Tom Egan, who had woven David’s priestly stole.
Preparations had been ongoing for weeks. The house and chapel were adorned with flowers which had been carefully tended all summer by our gardeners. Food for the reception and evening meal was made ahead of time—bread baked, meat sliced, etc.
The schola practiced special music for weeks ahead, and many worked to wash and wax floors, trim lawns and shrubs and in general make everything as beautiful as possible.
Fr. Thomas Rowland, who is soon to celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination, led spiritual reading on August 14. He instructed us in the format and meaning of the ordination rite, so that our minds and hearts would be ready.
On the morning of the 15th, Denis Lemieux led a group of men in making corsages, giving one to each woman as she came to the chapel.
Twenty-seven priests attended, as well as Archbishop Raya, Bishop Brendan O’Brien of Pembroke, and Bishop Noel Delaquis, who was delegated by Archbishop Collins of Edmonton to preside at the ordination. Bishop Delaquis had been David’s spiritual director at the seminary, and is an associate member of MH.
Fr. Jean Papen, rector of St. Joseph’s seminary, presented David as a candidate for ordination. He spoke of David as a man of faith, commitment, and service, saying: "I testify that he has been found worthy of Holy Orders."
This was greeted by loud, prolonged applause that turned into a cheering standing ovation! Fr. Pelton, next to David, whispered to him, "This is as near as you’re going to get to being canonized for a long time!"
After the laying-on of hands, Fr. Pelton invested David with the stole and chasuble, and Bishop Delaquis anointed his hands.
As the gifts were offered, he gave them to David, saying: "Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate. Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross." Fr. David Linder took his place at the altar!
During the afternoon reception, many came to the chapel where Fr. David gave to each his first priestly blessing. In the evening, after a festive supper, a song from the Cameroons was sung with dance and procession around the room. It called us to praise the Lord, and brought to mind Fr. David’s love for the people of Africa, especially Ghana where he spent three years.
The next day Fr. David celebrated his First Mass. After another rousing processional hymn of African origin, he looked at us with beaming face and said, "Is there anywhere else you’d rather be?"
Indeed, we were all very glad to be there, grateful to God for all his gifts, especially for his presence to us in Fr. David’s priesthood.
The ordination came at the end of an already full summer. Our six-week Cana family retreat program was a blessing upon those who came and for all of us here. For the first time, one of the weeks was given entirely in French. Fr. Louis Labrecque, Gérard Lesage and Diane Lefebvre helped coordinate it, and said that it was a great success.
An outstanding feature of the season was a ‘summer program’ masterminded by Theresa Davis. Years ago, MH used to have a summer school for guests. This year, the tradition was revived in a new way to pass on the spirit of our life to all who came.
Theresa, who is director of our house in Raleigh, North Carolina, arrived here in early June and began preparing the program. She called on all the staff to share the wealth of what God has taught them.
During the five weeks of the program, our normal schedule was enlivened by 50 different staff giving a teaching or personal testimony.
Three mornings a week, a short talk was given at the end of breakfast on such topics as: how to discern your vocation; sex, sexuality, and life in a mixed community; forgiveness—every moment is a moment of beginning again; ecology and care of the earth. These strong, beautiful presentations gave food for thought and conversation throughout the day.
Twice a week, in place of the usual post-lunch spiritual reading, various staff shared their personal journey with God. The stories were a balm to our hearts.
The MH priests complemented these lay teachings and sharings with evening lectures on The Encounter With Christ. They spoke of meeting Christ in the Church, the sacraments, the Word of God, the priesthood, and on the cross.
To round out and animate all the above, Sunday evenings were set aside for various entertainments. One week we had a music night, sharing beloved songs and instrumental pieces. Another Sunday had a drama on Christ the Light, a series of short vignettes that showed the reality of God’s action in our lives.
Another evening, we had a dramatic reading from The Tribute. This play, written by Cynthia Donnelly, is set in Reformation England. St. Philip Howard and St. Edmund Campion are featured as its principals.
While these special events of summer program and ordination were occurring, most of us went about the business of daily life. Over 4100 bales of hay were brought in. The gift shop and museum welcomed thousands of customers.
The laundry, directed by Reyna Smith at the main house and by Mary McGoff at St. Mary’s, kept our clothes and linens clean.
Countless guests were greeted, given tours, perhaps offered a cup of tea or a meal. In a word, we worked to live the Gospel of Christ, the call to love, which is our life and our joy. As Catherine told us:
"Love is not abstract; it is a fire. It must spend itself in service. What you and I have to be is a flame, a lamp to our neighbor’s feet, a place where he can warm himself, where he can see the face of God."
Love One Another - Part 10
WHEN LOVE MEETS LOVE
Catherine and Fr. Cal were very strong on obedience; to do the will of God was everything to them. Fr. Cal used to say to his spiritual directees, when he first became their director, "Now you are to love, trust, accept, and obey."
He was right. The proper relationship to a spiritual director: to love, trust, accept, and obey him, because he represents God. That’s the whole purpose of spiritual direction.
You have a director because you realize you don’t always interpret the Word of God correctly, because you’re unsure of yourself. So you check things out with somebody else. You check out your life with another person so you know for sure what God wants. A spiritual director helps you find that out.
Living in this obedience strengthens you and helps you grow. It lets you enter more and more into the Trinity, and be divinized.
In his agony, Jesus said, Father if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me, yet not as I will but as you will (Matt 26:11). In our agony we can say, "O Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, not as I will, but as you will."
We go through little agonies. Every day there is something or other that requires a prayer, a cry to God, to remind us of our littleness, our weakness, our ineptness, our incapacity.
Something happened to me a while ago. I was put under obedience by my director to do something that was possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face in my life. I screamed and kicked. I didn’t like it at all.
Finally I realized that I was being called to blind obedience, so I gave in and surrendered my will to God.
The next day, as I said Mass, after the consecration the word peace ‘wrote itself’ in my mind. I understood: when you surrender, you have peace, even though it makes no sense to you.
The following day, after the consecration at Mass, the word joy wrote itself and the following day, at the same point of the Mass, love wrote itself. I finally understood that this agony, this surrender to obedience, was the way to peace, joy, and love.
Jesus’ surrender on the cross is the source of salvation and glory for the whole human race, and that’s what obedience is all about. It’s not nasty. It’s hard at times, and crucifying, but it leads to glory.
When our arrogance is crucified, what a victory that is! If we were not crucified, we’d simply continue to grow in arrogance. Do we realize this? Were it not for the sufferings we undergo, we’d grow more selfish, more arrogant. So obedience is salvation.
To be in the state of loving submission to the will of God is to be in reality. It is to be embraced, to live in glory, no matter what we are undergoing. We should pray that each member of Christ’s body will, from now on, be in a state of loving submission to God’s will, which is his love.
To live in obedience is perhaps the greatest thing that can happen to us upon earth. So that our love will grow and our selfishness will decrease. So that when we come to die, we can look at God our Father and he can look at us, and both be drawn to each other because we too have become love.
He is love and we have become love. That’s what death should be. The meeting of love with love. Let us pray that this happens.
From day to day, from moment to moment, let us really ask God: "Help me to desire to do your will and become myself a loving submission to your will, as it is expressed in Scriptures, in the Church, in the demands and duties of my state of life, to become a loving submission to God’s will."
We fight obedience a lot, mostly because of our arrogance, or because we haven’t really thought it out. If we meditate on the Lord Jesus and on the lives of the saints, we’d see what an extraordinary thing obedience is.
The saints didn’t complain very much; they weren’t critical of others. They were more concerned about their own sinfulness. Even the great Teresa of Avila said, "I saw my place in hell," and she’s one of the greatest saints of all.
They were quite aware of their own selfishness, arrogance, weakness and prayed to God constantly, and obeyed, submissive to the will of God, as Jesus was.
May we look at Jesus and, whenever obedience becomes hard, turn right away to him.
May we look at the Trinity, at the love which exists between them, which is being shaped in our own flesh. That’s why obedience hurts. It’s love that is being shaped and sculpted in our own flesh. God the Holy Spirit is at work in us. It hurts, but the end is glory.
A SAINT FOR DIFFICULT TIMES
St. Gregory the Great is the patron of the poustinia where I now live. Each MH building is given a saint’s name, so that there’s someone to watch over, guide, be a protector and intercessor of those in a particular dwelling or work place.
Since I moved into this cabin when it was newly built, I had the privilege of naming it. As I prayed about what to call it, St. Gregory kept presenting himself to me.
I found him a saint eminently suited for our times, a man of prayer and action, a contemplative in the marketplace. He struck me as someone of great help in the work of the poustinik, that of intercession.
I first encountered him in the Office of Readings for his feastday, September 3. His candor and humanity moved me. Here was a man who daily struggled with the very things we deal with in trying to live a spiritual life: temptations, distractions, failures.
That he was born into a noble family and groomed for high places did not particularly awe me, nor did the fact that he was a monk who became a pope.
What did move me, however, was his desire to be true to his call to inner prayer, to stand in the presence of the Lord in his own heart, in the midst of great activity and many cares.
Catherine Doherty called it the ‘poustinia of the heart’, eastern writers call it ‘monasticism interiorized’. Brother Lawrence wrote of the ‘practice of the presence of God’, and today we hear of ‘walking with the Lord’.
Whatever you call it, it is the work of coming to that place within us where dwells the Triune God and where we find our peace and place of rest in the busy-ness of our lives.
As I read more of St. Gregory, I found my new friend’s life most impressive. What kept striking me, however, was his humility, and his practical common sense.
He lived in a most difficult time: 540-604; the end of the barbarian invasions and the beginning of the period we now call the Dark Ages.
At age 35, he sold his fortune to establish a number of monasteries, and lived as a monk for several years—a time that he described as the happiest of his life.
Before becoming a monk, he had been the top civil administrator for the city of Rome. Not surprisingly, he was asked by the Pope to leave his monastery and put at the service of the Church his years of experience in public life.
After six years as a diplomat at the Byzantine court, he returned to become one of the Pope’s assistants. Then in 590, he himself became Pope—by popular acclaim.
The Roman Empire was crumbling. Infrastructures were disrupted. The city of Rome was a shambles and invaders were at the door, ransacking. To add to the misery, plague kept breaking out. Hunger and terror were everywhere.
Pope Gregory’s organizational skills went to work, rallying the clergy and people, putting into place services for the sick and hungry which the state could no longer provide.
His homilies gave heart to the people. He was a great orator with a simple message: Christians, however besieged, can be happy for they are the children of God.
His diplomatic skills were engaged in trying to pacify the invaders so that peace could return. Little by little, order prevailed.
He organized the Church by encouraging monastic life, reforming the liturgy, fostering missionary expansion. He wrote prodigiously, calling his bishops to a profound sense of pastoral care. In the midst of all this activity, his health was frail.
Without him, the Church as we know it could not have survived. The 14 years of his pontificate were crucial in the history of the West.
He had not set out to salvage Western civilization—he was simply responding to God’s call. He is rightly called ‘the Great’ as well as one of the Fathers of the Western Church.
St. Gregory, intercede for our Church today. We pray to you for our Holy Father. Sustain him, you who know the cost.
Pray for us who live in different times, but times which nonetheless can also be called ‘dark’. Guide us, please, as we enter the Third Millennium. And please protect us on our journey to the Father.
My Dear Family
HE HAS CHOSEN YOU
As MH recently celebrated the ordination of David Linder to the priesthood, it seems timely to present Catherine’s thoughts on the subject, as adapted from a talk she gave to our MH associate clergy.
Most of you I know personally or have met before, and as men are my friends. Yet when I see you together like this, I have a tremendous sense of Christ’s priesthood. Because there is only one priesthood: his. Suddenly, in this room, there is a presence of Christ with an overwhelming power, because all of you are in that priesthood.
I wonder if you give this part of your life much thought: the tremendous powers that you have are not for yourself. He gave them to you for us, for all men, for other priests, but especially for us, your flock.
You walk in such a blinding light that it is almost impossible, even in faith, to look at it. God loves you truly with an everlasting love, and he has chosen you, ordinary men, to bring us God and show us his love.
Jesus desired with a passionate desire to remain with his flock. So he multiplied himself in others, in his priesthood, because he could not leave us; and the great miracle of his staying with us is the Eucharist, which we could not have without you, his priests.
Only a lover who is God could give us a gift like this. He is the fantastic Lover who spills his love over the whole of history.
I look at you, and I see in faith a beautiful sight. I see Christ taking me in his arms and consoling me while I weep at his feet in the confessional. I see Christ feeding me with his Body. It is his lips and hands which pronounce the words of consecration.
I can touch his hands in yours; I kiss his hands when I kiss yours. And when I am sick, and darkness closes in on me, and fear enters my heart, who comes? Christ! You come, but it is really Christ who comes to me.
What we wish from you so passionately, what we hunger for with such a tremendous hunger, is that you give us God—not yourself! We have thousands of people who can counsel us, who can give us psychiatric help. We can have many friends if we wish, but only a priest can give us God, and we are hungry for God, whether we know it or not, with a hunger that transcends all hungers.
Give us God, because he has created you and called you to be himself, to act like he did, to do what he did. Sit on the grass with us; teach us the beatitudes; go with us into our homes, poor, rich or whatever they may be. Do not try to bring us to yourself; bring us to God through yourself.
There are many new theologies. The laity are taking courses in theology, and there is much discussion about it all. But do you know how love is taught? What theology really is? They tell me that theos is God and that theology is the ‘science of God.’
I don’t like that word ‘science’, because there is no science about God. God is too infinite to be approached by any kind of scientific method.
The only way to approach God is by love. There is no other way, because God isn’t a subject of the intellect. You can use your intellect, of course; you have to use it. But don’t stop there, because you will never know God that way.
And so it seems to me that a priest is, above all, a lover, but a very strange lover. How we need love that is taught to us by example, not by words; words are a babble of tongues around our ears today.
Every priest seems to have another idea about what this Christianity of ours is; but those are his words. They don’t echo Christ’s words. They don’t do for our souls what they should be doing.
A priest is truly another Christ. What does it mean to be another Christ? It means to do as he did. I don’t think he had any techniques. But he was able to talk to slaves, to the Jews, to the Gentiles, to the big-shots and the little-shots, to all people, in the language they needed to hear.
Something about Christ in the priest is strength-giving to my journey to Christ, if he himself tries to ‘be Christ’ as much as he can at the moment, with a cry to heaven for grace to be more so every day. Love speaks more clearly than techniques.
We need priestly concern about ourselves. We are small, the laity, even in this time of the lay apostolate. We are like children in a desert, today especially.
Too many voices attack us, too many ideas are pushed into us. We are lost somewhere and we need the clear, simple voice of Christ to say:
"Only one thing matters. What would it profit to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?"
Tell us about the one thing necessary, but especially show it to us. We are bewildered, many of us; filled with hostility to authority, and all it entails. (You often are, too. You may be hostile to your bishops or to other priests.) Many people today are hostile to priests, to the Church.
Many youth are hostile because of various painful influences in their lives. They are tired of authority which is wielded in wrong ways. (Maybe you feel that way about the pastor, curate, or someone.)
All of us have to go to the essence of things, however. And what is this essence? It is that Christ was obedient to the will of the Father. Do we or do we not believe that we have to live by faith, and do the very same thing?
To live by faith is to live in a mystery, often a strange, dark mystery—where the terrors of the night get hold of you until you can’t stand it any more; where the bitter waters of rivers seem to engulf you; where the fire, far from merely touching you, sears you.
These are times of crisis, times of chaos, times of Babel towers—which are invisible but higher than the one they built in the Old Testament.
We have to have a point of beginning again. We laity have to hold onto something. We are the flock. You must be for us that something to hold onto! You are in the fullness of Christ’s priesthood with which he covers you.
Above all, we want to see in you another Christ because his face is becoming dimmer to us. There is so much noise, and so many pictures flashing all over!
Have I a great idea of the priesthood? Oh no, I have the idea of my faith. I believe with an unshakable faith in who you are, in what you are, and in your powers. Nobody can move me from that, Deo gratias, not even yourselves who may not believe in yourselves.
I know who you are, and I beg you to look at yourself in the mirror of Christ’s eyes. Then you will see who you really are. But in order to do so, you will have to be very close to him.
When you love God, you look at him with eyes of faith; and he reveals himself as ever more beautiful, ever more understandable, ever more tender, ever more strong.
Now he begins to draw you. You enter into him. You begin to know who you are in a way that no book can tell you. You know who you are, who he is, and what love is.
Now you are free with the freedom of the children of God. But the only place that you are going to find that is at his feet—no other place. There is no other place.
This is your essence. This is the need we have of you. Don’t try to give us what others can give us. Give us what nobody else can—give us God. For this you are ordained, and for nothing else!
When you give us God, you give us love, a love that this world doesn’t know because it is God’s love. Fall passionately in love with Christ, and we will follow you, and we will hear your voice, and you will lead us to God.
Then you will know joy the likes of which men have never dreamed of, and you will be loved beyond the wildest dreams of your imagination.
Adapted from Dear Father, pages 95-102, available from MH Publications.
Q and A
Question: How are we to understand the expression, "God punishes sins to the third and fourth generation"?
Answer: This expression is found in Exodus 20:5-6 and 34:6-7. The phrase is used in the Hebrew scriptures to convey the idea that God justly punishes us for our sins or rightly allows us to experience the full effect of our sin, no matter how far this may extend. If sins are not completely atoned for in one generation, then the next one and/or the one after that must do so.
God forgives the sin but rarely does he miraculously put everything back in order as if it hadn’t happened. For example, a man’s family suffers his loss should he have to go to jail for committing a crime; they are just as much victims of his crime as are the people he originally injured.
At the same time, as those same passages from Exodus clearly say, God rewards our virtue to a much greater degree (down to the thousandth generation) than when we do wrong.
Question: Can we receive the Sacrament of the Sick more than once when we are older or infirm?
Answer: "This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes seriously ill or if, in the same illness, the danger becomes more serious" (Code of Canon Law #1004-2).
So, yes. you can receive the sacrament more than once if the original illness has worsened from the time when you were last anointed for it, or if it gets better and then recurs.
Question: What does it mean for a book to be banned by the Vatican? How can we find out which books are banned?
Answer: The type of book banned by the Vatican is one that "constitutes a general danger to the faith or morals of Catholics," (New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1967, Index of Forbidden Books).
It is usually a book written by a Catholic theologian and claims (at least implicitly) to be in harmony with authentic Catholic ideals and teaching.
Until 1966, the Church regularly published and updated a list of such books under the title Index of Forbidden Books or just simply The Index.
In more recent times, the Church makes periodic pronouncements against the individual works of specific authors. One such statement was made on July 13, 1979, concerning a book entitled Human Sexuality, edited by the Rev. Anthony Kosnik.
It goes without saying that we are to avoid any book of a religious or secular nature which constitutes a threat to our faith or morals—whether or not the Vatican makes an explicit declaration about it.
Since we no longer have an Index, our best chance for security lies in knowing the fundamentals of our faith and thus being able to spot error in whatever we read.
Question: What is the Catholic teaching on capital punishment?
Answer: The Church’s teaching on capital punishment can be found in the Catechism, #2267. In the revised edition, the article reads as follows:
"Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
So then, the state’s taking of a felon’s life would be morally justifiable if all the conditions mentioned in this article were present.
Send your questions to: Restoration Editor, Madonna House, Combermere ON, Canada K0J 1L0, or e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pope’s Corner
A LETTER TO ARTISTS
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen 1:31). No one can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands.
A glimmer of this feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colors and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.
This is why it seems to me that there are no better words than the text of Genesis with which to begin my letter to you, to whom I feel closely linked by experiences reaching far back in time and which have indelibly marked my life.
In writing this, I intend to follow the path of fruitful dialogue between the Church and artists which has gone on unbroken through 2000 years of history, and which still, at the threshold of the third millennium, offers rich promise for the future.
This dialogue is not dictated merely by historical accident or practical need, but is rooted in the very essence of both religious experience and artistic creativity. The opening pages of the Bible present God as an exemplar for everyone who produces a work: the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator.
This relationship is particularly clear in the Polish language because of the lexical link between the word for creator (stwórca) and the word for craftsman (twórca). What is the difference between creator and craftsman?
There is one who creates, bestows being itself, brings something out of nothing. In the strict sense, this is a mode of operation that belongs to the Almighty alone.
The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning. This is the mode of operation peculiar to human beings, who are made in the image of God.
After saying that God created man and woman in his image (Gen 1:27), the Bible adds that he entrusted to them the task of dominating the earth. This was the last day of creation.
On the previous days, marking as it were the rhythm of the birth of the cosmos, God created the universe. Finally he created human beings, the noblest fruit of his design, to whom he subjected the visible world as a vast field in which human inventiveness might assert itself.
God, therefore, called us into existence, committing to us the craftsman’s task. Through his ‘artistic creativity’ we appear more than ever as the ‘image of God’! And we accomplish this task above all in shaping the wondrous material of our own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds us.
With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to human artists a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling them to share in his creative power. Obviously, this is a sharing which leaves intact the infinite distance between the Creator and the creature, as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa made clear: "Creative art, which it is the soul’s good fortune to entertain, is not to be identified with the essential art which is God himself, but is only a communication of it and a share in it."
This is why artists—the more conscious they are of their gift—are led to see themselves and all creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation, and their mission.
Not all are called to be ‘artists’ in the specific sense of this term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life! In a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece. It is important to recognize the distinction (and connection) between these two aspects of human activity.
The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own moral acts, with responsibility for their moral value. It is another to be an artist—able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art’s specific dictates.
This is what makes artists capable of producing works, but it says nothing as yet of their moral character. We are speaking not of molding oneself, of forming one’s personality, but simply of actualizing one’s productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.
The distinction between the moral and artistic aspects is fundamental, but no less important is the connection between them. Each ‘conditions’ the other in a profound way.
In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work is a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. There are endless examples of this in human history.
In shaping a masterpiece, artists not only summon their work into being, but also in some way reveal their personality by means of it. Art offers them both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for their spiritual growth. Through their works, such artists speak to others and communicate with them.
The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Such works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.
Word Made Flesh
LIKE DROSS FROM GOLD
This month we look at the readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Sept. 19): Isaiah 55:6-9, Phil 1:20-24, and Matt 20: 1-16 (the parable of the hiring of the laborers).
I’ve never been accused of being a ‘theologian’, so this faith-fantasy should not shock you: it’s not ‘theology’ but my own meditation on the readings from this Sunday.
I have a fantasy that, as each of us dies, we will see for the first time the revelation of God in all its truth.
When this happens, part of how God judges us will depend on whether we freely and fully embrace that divine revelation, no matter what the cost to us personally.
Theoretically, this could mean our damnation but that’s another story. (Oops, I guess there is bit of ‘theologian’ in me after all.)
For example, the moment after our death—when you or I finally see what the commandment to love one another as Christ loved us really was all about—we’ll have to face our failure to embrace this commandment in our lives: all the ways we failed our neighbors, ourselves and all humanity—politically, socially, economically.
I think this is going to be a shocking purgation for all of us. (Maybe this is why it’s called purgatory?) How long will the purgation go on? In my fantasy, it will go on as long as we are unwilling to embrace fully who God has revealed himself to be, as opposed to our own ideas of who we think he should be—period! No excuses, no denominational arguments, no biblical theology, no relevant historical issues. Nothing to protect us from the full truth: the Triune God and each of us as we really are!
In my fantasy, we will be aware of others around us in this place of purgation. As we see them, remember them, and recognize them, some will be people whom we do not deem worthy of heaven. According to today’s parable, that judgement could lock us in this purgation for a very long time.
"You mean that, after all the things he did to me and my family, he is destined for heaven? After all she’s done, she’s going there too? But, Lord, he/she ruined my life! He/she is responsible for the demise of thousands of innocent people!"
And suppose the Lord says: Take what is yours and go. Am I not free to do what I want with what is mine? Then what will we do? What will we say? In my fantasy, I see some of us taking years to be purged of our own narrow, self-righteous ideas of God. We may spend years in this place because we will not ‘let go’ of our judgment, anger, hatred, or self-righteousness. These are attitudes that we took with us at our death, and that now have to be burned out of us like dross from gold.
I see great evangelists who refuse to accept what God has revealed about the Mother of Jesus. They will stand with their Bibles and preach for years, as if to convince God that it cannot be so. Some may argue for a long time, even though they now have seen her with their own eyes.
I see simple folk who will not allow a spouse, child, or neighbor the possibility of entering heaven "after all they have done to me!" And when they see these others in this place of purgation, they will spend ‘years’ of eternity telling God why such people do not deserve to go to heaven.
And when we find people who embraced God only at their last breath, or a very short time before, then today’s parable will no longer be just a parable. For some of us will say: "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have born the burden of the day and the scorching heat. It is not fair!"
In those first beginnings of our eternity, we will all come to understand fully what the Holy Spirit was saying through Isaiah: my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. Admittedly, Lord. But surely we can’t be that far off. Can we? As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts.
If the last (least) will be first, and the first (conscientious) will be last, shouldn’t we all just plan on having an eleventh-hour conversion? And just ‘let the chips fall where they may’ until then? No! Why not? (I’m tempted to sneak out of this dilemma, but I’ve told you that I am not a ‘theologian’.) It’s all in the heart! And nobody knows what is in anyone’s heart—except God!
We do not even know our own hearts fully. But God will reveal them to us; and we, too, will have to be ‘converted’ from whatever we are at the moment of our death to what God has planned us to be from all eternity.
All we have to do is to humbly fall on our face before this new truth, make no excuses, blame nobody else, and let God shower us with mercy.
Mercy is the wages of our labor, and pride alone will keep us from accepting it, from knowing our need for it, and embracing it gladly with everyone else, some of whom we think do not deserve it.
The truth of this purgation business is that we don’t ‘deserve’ it either. God called us; God cared for us. And now he ‘rewards’ us. How he chooses to deal with others of a different call is God’s business.
If we make this our business—in time or eternity—we will not understand (or stand under) God’s ways. And our purgation will take a long time.
What does all of this say about being faithful, about morality and sin, about conversion and repentance? Well, that’s another story. Truly.
Today’s parable is a simple reminder that, even if some things are very clear in our life of faith, there’s still a vast area in which God alone may judge—because God alone can see into the depths of the heart.
If we’re unhappy about what God sees in another person’s heart that we don’t see, it could well be that there’s something in our heart that does not make God happy.
It’s very simple! If I am not joyful, happy, excited about the worst of sinners being saved (even if only in their last hour), then there’s something wrong with my own sense of the wages of faith and why I labor in the vineyard at all.
If so, I’ve got some very important faith-homework to do—here or hereafter.
Now and then, I get envious of God’s generosity. Know what I do? I pray to Isaiah. He knows all about God’s ways now, and he wants me to know, too. He does help me! And I like his theology!
GIVE YOUR LIFE TO GOD
It was when I had to peel the same carrot four times running that I knew I’d come to the right place.
Thirteen years ago I was a brand-new guest at MH. Nineteen years old, with a head full of (mostly good) theology and not much else. I’d just spent two years in a seminary, and had been quite well-catechized in the process.
I had reached an point of impasse: I ‘knew it all’ (or at least a fair bit) about my Catholic faith, except for one small point: how to live it. How did any of it apply to daily life, to the business of getting up in the morning and proceeding with the tasks and work and relationships of the day?
I didn’t know. I had reached a point where I had to find out, or forget about being a Christian. "Christianity in action!" I said. "That’s what I need to see. What does it look like?"
"I’m sorry, Denis, but it’s still not good enough. Do it again." The staff in charge of ‘veggie prep’ was kind but firm. I was appalled, affronted. This was Christianity in action? Peeling a carrot? A vegetable? What was this—cry the Gospel with your knife?
I whined and muttered and groaned (and got the job done right, the fourth time around). Something in me knew I’d come to the right place.
Until then, living the Gospel, serving God, seemed to consist of doing things that were, for me, impossible—going to Calcutta to join Mother Theresa, or to the inner city to serve the poor, or offering counsel and direction to troubled souls. Big things, in other words. Things which this little 19-year-old could no more do than fly to the moon.
But, oh? Washing the dishes well is serving God? Sweeping a floor is living the Gospel? What a revelation! How consoling! This I could do (or learn how; my upbringing had left me a bit inept in the practical tasks of life).
I entered the MH novitiate of ‘doing little things exceedingly well for love of God." Many tasks in MH are, by human standards, pretty small stuff: housekeeping, really, whether it’s cooking, cleaning, wood-splitting, or plumbing. Nothing too impressive.
At times, we struggle with this: "When am I going to get to do something ‘big’? Surely there’s more to life than doing little things well!"
But there are no big things! When we talk of doing ‘little’ things for God, we speak from an awareness of what God has already done for us.
We have before our eyes and hearts the crucifix—Christ, our Lord and God, dying for us, giving his life for us, saving us and giving us eternal life.
This is what God has done for us. In comparison, our life, the gift of our whole being, is a tiny recompense to give in return. As Catherine loved to say, "I throw my life at your feet, Lord, and sing and sing that I can give you such a small thing."
How do we throw our life at Christ’s feet? Before I joined MH, I knew I had to give my life to God. I used to ‘hang around’ so to speak, waiting for God to call—rather like waiting for the phone to ring. I was active enough, but I somehow thought that God’s call was a future event—which I certainly planned to respond to, when it came. When God got around to showing what he wanted of me, I’d happily give my life to him.
This eventually did happen (which is a whole other story), but I’ve since realized that human beings are not made to give their lives in a once-and-for-all kind of way. We’re not ever going to just ‘give our lives to God’ and be done with it. Not in this life.
We live in time, one moment at a time; and the only life we have to give to God is the life we are living at the moment.
God’s call comes at each moment of every day, wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Every moment brings a call to love, serve, sacrifice ourselves, to put ourselves in the last place.
Giving your life to God is learning to sweep the floor so that it’s really clean, so that the house is beautiful. It’s being at a dinner table, a loving presence to those sharing the meal with you, attending to their needs for food and friendship.
It’s peeling carrots and washing lettuce; being on time for appointments, out of respect for others; serving your employer diligently, aware of the contract between you and him.
It’s a million little things. It’s everything that makes up our life. Every moment, Christ stands before us in the needs of that moment. Every moment he stands before us, saying: "Will you follow me? Will you give your life, with me? Will you serve as I do? Will you be my love poured out for your brothers and sisters?"
When this teaching is given to new arrivals at MH, you can almost hear them thinking, "Yes, yes, of course this is true. But can’t we talk about something more exciting?"
Well, this is the most exciting thing in the world! And if we don’t catch this excitement, we’re missing the boat because, no matter what our vocation, life is filled with an endless variety of little things.
If we don’t find God in the endless succession of things we do each day, we won’t find him anywhere, because there’s not much else to life.
Yes, we’re little, and everything in our life is a ‘little’ thing, a little moment to give to God. While this is true, it’s not the end of the story.
At Mass, we place a host in the ciborium; a round, flat piece of unleavened bread, not terribly interesting or impressive, or even too nutritious. It’s small. This host is our life, the succession of moments, of little things we’ve lived since the previous Mass. This is the life we "throw at his feet, singing …" as this host, this bread, this life, is brought to the altar. And then what happens? God descends onto the altar, and this little piece of bread—next to nothing, really—becomes the Body of Christ.
Our gift of our lives—however imperfect, sin-ridden and halting it may be—is united with Christ’s perfect offering on the Cross. Thus, through grace, the little things, our little lives, become immense. They become a song of love and praise, a prayer of intercession for the whole world.
This is God’s business, God’s work. For us, they remain little things. The carrot, for all that, is still a carrot. We do not, and will not, see the transformation.
Our work is to attend faithfully to these little things, the duties and tasks of each moment, doing them exceedingly well for love of God and our brothers and sisters.
This is the path of discipleship, the great ascetic work every Christian is called to.
The Father’s Plan - Part 7
HOLY MEN OF GOD
Last month we saw how God’s people, observing the stability of the neighboring countries ruled by kings, decided they should have a king as well. The high priest Samuel, with great misgivings, anointed Saul as king of Israel. David was anointed to follow Saul; Solomon, David’s son, was chosen to succeed him.
Thus, for 120 years God’s people were unified under one king. God promised that the David’s line would continue to rule over Jerusalem and Judah, even though only two or three of his descendants would be completely faithful to God’s plan for his people.
The biggest problem was that the kings of Judah and Israel modeled their lives upon the neighboring kings, who saw themselves as the ultimate authority and did whatever they pleased.
In God’s plan, the kings of Israel were to be servants of God and receive their authority from him. Because the kings kept forgetting this, God kept sending prophets to remind them of this fact.
Good kings like David, Hezekiah and Josiah listened to the prophets whom God sent. Most of the others were less willing to hear the message of these men of God.
One great example of this situation was the struggle between King Ahab and the prophet Elijah. Ahab, who married a Sidonian princess named Jezebel, was led astray by her into the worship of her god, Baal. She also influenced him to commit murder and other crimes to solidify his reign and increase his personal possessions.
Elijah was in constant conflict with Ahab, trying to convince him to serve the God of Israel. Because the prophet had some effect on the thinking of Ahab, Jezebel attempted to have Elijah killed.
The name ‘prophet’ given to these men is a little bit misleading according to our present understanding of the title. Old Testament prophets served as holy men, receiving messages from God in different ways: sometimes in ecstatic prayer and visions, other times through inspirations placed in their hearts by God.
These holy and wise men would then attempt to influence the kings by passing on these messages of God to them or, by public preaching, to the chosen people of God. On occasion, God allowed miracles to be worked by these prophets as signs of his approval of their message. Sometimes the kings and the people listened; but many other times they accepted the opinions of other leaders and advisers who were influenced by worldly knowledge and concerns.
Most prophetic messages were directed to existing situations, warning the king and people of a present danger that would fall on them if they did not return to the covenant God had made with them. Thus, prophets like Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, and the first parts of the books ascribed to Isaiah and Ezekiel, warned the people about the impending punishment of the Babylonian captivity.
When King Hezekiah and his great grandson, Josiah, heeded the words of the prophets Isaiah and Micah, God turned back the armies of the Babylonians.
When the king and the priests turned against the prophet Jeremiah and ridiculed him by saying that God would never let Jerusalem be destroyed, God did permit the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying off of the people into captivity.
During the Babylonian captivity, the prophets gave the message to the people that God would restore them to their land if they repented of their sins and returned to the covenant God had made with them. Again, these prophecies were of an immediate nature, dealing with the situation at hand.
Some of the people did repent, and God influenced the Assyrian king to allow them to return to Judah.
It quickly became obvious that the repentance of God’s people was not deep-seated. They were soon conquered by the Greeks and then the Romans. The Davidic kingship was never re-established.
When the people became disillusioned over this turn of events and began living like their conquerors, God, through the later prophets and the Wisdom writers, helped them see that many prophecies made about a present situation also had a second meaning that contained references to the promised Messiah.
The Davidic kingdom was not to be continued as a human dynasty but as a spiritual one. The promised One would be of the house of David.
So it was that God, through these holy men who faithfully proclaimed his message to the people, kept alive in the hearts of a small remnant of the sons of Abraham the hope that God would fulfil the promise he had made to Adam and Eve.
All that the Father had done through Abraham, Moses, and Joshua, the judges, kings and prophets, would be fulfilled in the Messiah, the Promised One who was to come.
Next month we’ll see how this is fulfilled in the Gospels.
A HOT DAY IN SUMMER
This article was written at Catherine Doherty’s behest, in the summer of 1980.
I get up, slowly, unwilling to relinquish the half-dreams of morning. As usual, I am the last one out of bed, and will be almost late for the van to the main house. Since I was six years old, I’ve been barely on time for things. At 46, it has become an ingrained habit.
It is hard to face reality, especially on a hot sultry day. More so, since delight in the spiritual has gone out of my life. I cast a bleary eye at an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. She looks at me sorrowfully, as if to say she understands.
The ritual of shaving stirs my dormant soul; I begin to come alive. Morning prayers give it further life. Scripture has always renewed me, and now—when no spiritual spark is within me—just to touch the Bible and hold it in my hands is a source of comfort.
A quick breakfast of bland food, surround by a hundred bland faces. Nothing memorable, but it gets my body going. My mind will wake up later, perhaps in an hour or so.
The daily routine of office work begins. Wipe the table; empty the ashtrays; organize the three-man dormitory into a one-man office. Shuffle some papers from the incoming pile; decipher a scribbled note; make an unsuccessful try at finding a lost letter. A row of recalcitrant figures that refused to add up yesterday is checked; today, it agrees with the expected total.
The pieces of paper take on individuality. Those initials at the corner of an invoice, that teller’s number on a cheque, the code mark on a packing slip, all hint of unknown people. The personalities behind those anonymous marks interest me. They crowd into my office, peer over my shoulder, share their lives with me.
I tackle letter-writing, alert to its dangers. I have a chance to be a brother to someone. If I muff it, as I sometimes do, the chance is irrevocably lost.
I have one encounter in which to share myself with others, and they with me. Inaccurately, perhaps; incompletely, of course; but sufficiently to remind each of us that we are not alone in the universe.
For a week, I’ve held back on answering a letter from Latin America. A missionary has written for concrete advice about discernment—mentioning that he prays the Little Mandate each day. I am touched, and wonder how many hidden souls share in the MH spirit without our knowing it.
I throw away the one page I had typed, and try again. After two and a half pages, I’ve said what I should, and stop at the end of the sheet. I’m too excited and could babble on forever. It would be for my sake, not the missionary’s.
The sun gets higher and the weather more sultry. My shirt clings damply to me and to the chair. I unpeel myself and readjust my frame, as I read a boring travelogue from a so-called pilgrim, describing his outer journey in self-absorbed detail. Why does he never speak of his journey inward?
I turn him over and over in my heart, like a jeweller looking for highlights or flaws. He could be a Francis of Assisi or a Benedict Joseph Labre. But where is his greatness of soul? It doesn’t show.
I ponder his age, hazard a guess. Shall I tell him to stand still, and let his false images drop away? If a gem-cutter can strike the right cleavage line, he will expose a brilliant facet. If he hits wrong, he will shatter the jewel. How will my letter strike this man?
After puzzling it over, I toss his letter into God’s lap. I’ll write tomorrow. It’s too hot today, and this man deserves a better answer.
I glance up at a world map, the ‘fourth wall’ of my desk-bound poustinia. Billions of people, en masse. Funny, but I can’t comprehend them that way. I see them one by one, alone in their private souls.
Lunch is a mundane affair, interrupted by a request to move a piano. Four hefty men are chosen. I worry about one of them—he hasn’t returned yet, and his lunch is getting cold. Will this disappoint him? He leaves on vacation soon. Will it be satisfying for him?
I am never asked to move things, because I’m not strong and muscular. The thought saddens me momentarily. I probably won’t get asked to go haying either. (O Lord, you know we need rain, but not before the hay is in! ) A dozen minor thoughts buzz in my head like house flies.
Catherine calls me over, to say she’s been praying about me, and thinks I should write!
I remark that I have nothing to say. Besides, who’d read my stories? She says she will be my reader, that I should write for her! I’m shocked. She is so wise, so knowledgeable. What can I say to her that would be of interest?
She points out that in the 1940’s Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a daily column called My Day, on the incidents of the previous 24 hours. Catherine tells me to write A Day in the Life of Bill Ryan, and says how long the article should be.
I hold her cane and listen. My eyes wander to her right knee and focus on an ugly surgeon’s scar there. I quickly glance elsewhere, lest I embarrass her. For me, she is Catherine of the wounded knee, and of the wounded heart.
How often she has invited me to enter those wounds and walk with her in her soul. For 20 years, she has revealed herself to me. Now she challenges me to reveal myself to myself.
Other challenges crop up. A woman has driven some 1500 miles to donate clothing. Her car is packed to the roof—all loose material!—so I get cardboard boxes. She spends almost an hour lovingly folding each piece into a box, with a comment on every item. I move the boxes back and forth into our storage garage. It is maddeningly slow work.
My nose begins to itch. The dust-laden air and the change from dark garage to bright sun make my eyes water. I’ve met her before, this gentle lady with the warm brown eyes and hesitant smile.
She is nervous, unsure of herself. If I tell her how wonderful she is, she’ll begin to cry, I know. She is on the verge of it already. I settle for half-measures: an understanding look and assenting nod.
Sandra Brewer comes out to rescue me, and to talk a bit of woman-talk with her.
Later, as expected, I do not go haying. I am asked to serve Mass, in place of the man who did. I grumble inside because, without the Bible in my hands, I am afraid I’ll fall asleep during the services.
A short tiff with the sacristan about where the benches for the priest and myself are to be placed. I back down, because it’s too hot to fight, and I haven’t the energy. As I give in, I recall St. Paul’s comment that flexible people should give way to scrupulous ones.
The Epistle is read; something in it makes me turn beet-red; I can’t remember what. The Gospel tells of the mother of James and John. She wants them enthroned at the side of Jesus. Thoughts about human nature and family squabbles take up the rest of Mass.
If James and John are indeed the Sons of Thunder, what’s their father like? Mrs. Thunder seems a bit pushy! How is that John ended up being a dreamer, not a fighter?
Sweat is trickling down my back. Random thoughts careen inside me: that priest from New York reminds me of a phonecall from Vancouver; a sprinkling of rain on the roof reminds me of the hay; the French archeologist looks wonderfully serene and prayerful. Oh, I guess Mass is over.
The evening is spent listening to Catherine talk. Her voice is like cool rain after a hot day—the rain we didn’t get. She speaks of the Pope, bishops, laity, seminarians, the whole Body of Christ. Across my mind flashes the world map above my desk. I must look at South America more carefully, now that the bishops there are reading the Spanish edition of Poustinia.
My eyes cloud over and my nose starts running, It doesn’t let up for an hour, notwithstanding the nose drops, gargles, and antihistamines I force upon it. Eventually we go home, and I crawl into bed.
My body is ready to sleep, but my mind wants to think. I lie on hot sweaty sheets, remembering who entered my life today. It’s people who make my day, not things!
My nose and my mind are clearer, and I begin to suspect this problem of the spiritual is more a problem of sinuses. Why did I blush at Mass? I look up the text and find it’s about earthenware jars, always in difficulties, having problems and seeing no answer to them.
I blush again! This day was a whole string of difficulties. Was it a ‘setup’ by God, just so I’d absorb a bit of Bible teaching? I’m not sure.
But, as I turn out my light, I see that my icon has the hint of a smile.
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