by Fr. Denis Lemieux.
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you could fly? The freedom, the exhilaration, the wind in your hair, the rush of speed and grace as you soar among the clouds, survey the earth far beneath you, swoop and glide and pirouette in a wild abandon of motile exuberant force?
Pop (and other) psychologists agree that such dreams are a positive sign of confidence, fulfillment, psychological strength, and general well-being.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t generally remember my dreams, and when I do, they are more of the standing at a podium and my lecture notes are suddenly written in Chinese kind of dream.
Or else they’re the kind where I’m searching maniacally for some item I can’t find, and then I forget what I was looking for, and then I get interrupted by something else, and then I look some more for whatever it was. (Oh wait, that last one wasn’t a dream, but last Thursday afternoon.)
Well, we all know we can’t really fly. Our bodies are not designed for it, and no matter how much we work out, how much weight training we do and protein shakes we chug down, flapping our well-muscled arms is just not going to result in lift-off.
We can sing, "I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky," but I don’t recommend testing it off the nearest sky scraper.
I’m thinking about flying because Pentecost is drawing near, and right next to it this year, MH promises day on June 8.
This is when we who are called to this crazy community commit or re-commit to the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience: temporarily or for life.
In other words, it is the day our newer members sign up for flying lessons. And the instructor for those lessons is the Holy Spirit, ably assisted by the glorious, radiantly beautiful Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Combermere.
Human beings cannot fly … unaided. We all know that airplanes and hang gliders and the like, lift us off the ground and bear us up into the wild blue yonder where no flapping of arms can take us.
Human beings cannot live the divine life, the life that is a totality of love and union, faithfulness, justice, mercy, peace, joy … unaided.
It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that is the wind that carries us aloft, and the hang glider he has given us as a baptismal gift is the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
By virtue of our humanity, God has given us a capacity for virtue, the ability to make good choices, and by those good choices to become good human beings. That’s like having good strong arms and legs and good cardio, the fruit of exercise and a good diet.
The gifts of the Spirit begin where virtue leaves off, and take us right off the human plane into the life of the Trinity.
Let’s just run through the seven gifts real quick (space and your patience, good reader, do not allow me to do a full treatment of the gifts), and see how that is so.
First, natural fear, rightly ordered, while not a virtue exactly, empowers and energizes us to avoid quickly and surely what is harmful to us.
The gift of fear of the Lord (not being afraid of God, but a fear that comes from our love of God) gives us a horror of sin and of even the slightest movement of our being that would carry us away from God.
The virtue of fortitude gives us strength to persevere in difficulties, to achieve a reasonable and desirable goal. The gift of fortitude gives us the strength of God, to persevere in obtaining an unreasonable goal, that is, holiness and eternal life in God.
The virtue of piety gives us a natural and appropriate love and gratitude towards our origins: parents, ancestors, homeland. The gift gives us the very love of the Father that Jesus the Son has and confirms us as true adopted children of the Father.
The virtue of prudence gives us the ability to surely reason our way towards good practical moral decision making, towards what is the right thing to do here and now. Counsel empowers us to listen to the Holy Spirit and do not only what our practical reason tells us, but the perfect will of God here and now.
The virtue of knowledge is simply the right use of our intellects to habitually seek and attain truth about the world in which we live. The corresponding gift of knowledge allows us to know created things as God knows them, to see their true worth and place in the divine order of things.
The virtue of faith (itself only possible by infused grace) empowers our minds to assent to the truth revealed by and about God in Jesus Christ and to retain that truth habitually in our minds.
Understanding allows the Spirit to show us the heights and depths of these truths, their interior dynamism and meaning, to know them as God knows them, as Jesus knows them in his divine humanity.
Finally, the virtue of love (also an infused grace of God) orders our wills towards unity with God in all things. Wisdom is the perfection of this union in this life, where our whole being, mind, and heart, is ordered by the knowledge of the love of God and his living presence in us.
This is "flying," and whether or not you ever dream of doing it, it is what all of us are made to do.
What does this have to do with June 8 and our Madonna House promises, and the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience that we commit to on this day?
After all, every baptized person is given the gifts of the Spirit, and every human being is invited to enter that flying school which is the life of sanctifying grace.
There is something about the promises, though, that makes it all visible in a dramatic way.
It is seeing people—especially young people who could in fact be doing a lot of other things with their lives—say, essentially, "You know, I don’t care about money, ownership, doing my own thing, or even marriage! I want to fly with God, and will give up everything else to do it."
We live in a world and an age that is increasingly earth-bound, where there is literally nothing else to do except make a success of it "on the ground."
Our promises, and the promises and vows made by all those called to consecrated life, bear witness that, while the human life of virtue and success is good in itself, we are all made for divine splendor, for supernatural charity, for totality of union with the Trinity.
We are made to fly, simply, and the renunciation of earthly goods (which all too easily can become corrupted into idols) manifests this for all the world to see. So, rejoice with us on June 8, and we’ll see you up in the air!
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