Christian Life/Personal Holiness: October 2003 Archives

from St Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

Ironically, in rejecting an external infallible authority we are encouraged to embrace the most fickle and fallible of all authorities--our own judgment. We then cling to our opinions like a shipwrecked man clings to a splinter of wood, and before long, our opinions are unassailable. In the end we don't have one objective, infallible authority but millions of subjective "infallible" authorities, and in this absurdity, we rejoice.

While one could read this to referto non-Christians, I find the indictment as pointed, and perhaps more so for Christians--because we ought to know better. I often act as if I am in ignorance of this critical aspect of Christian Life. Sometimes, I think my lack of obedience is due more to my thickheadedness, not understanding what is being said to me. But sometimes I wonder if I simply ignore the all-too-obvious messages that get reiterated time and again because it is convenient to me to do so. To wit--should I stop blogging. I blog because I love it, and yet the calamities of recent days, my reading, "incidental" and "accidental" posts, and any number of bits of circumstantial evidence conspire to suggest that perhaps the suggestion is something stronger than a suggestion. What then does obedience demand?

First, it would seem that obedience demands clarity. To act of suppositions, whims, distortions, and feelings is hardly a substantial basis for obedience. On the other hand, how does one properly discern the proper way to go. I honestly don't really know. I must assume that prayer will put me in the right place and short of that nothing can resolve the dilemma.

So, too, it would seem with all situations calling for obedience--discernment is often difficult, so I ask you all to pray. For several weeks, evidence has been mounting that suggests that perhaps I should remove myself from the blogging world--there is nothing here that cannot be found elsewhere in perhaps more charitable climes. Please pray as I try to figure out what these events are saying. Are they gentle nudges saying,"Clean up your act" or a forceful shove that says "Get off the stage." Obviously you can't answer that question, only God can, please pray that I hear what He is saying and can find the strength of will to act upon it.

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St. Bernard on Creation

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux

God creates minds to share in himself, gives them life, so that they may experience him, causes them to desire him, enlarges them to grasp him, justifies them so that they may deserve him, stirs them to zeal, ripens them to fruitiion, directs them to equity, forms them in benevolence, moderates them to make them wise, strengthens them to virtue, visits them to console, enlightens them with knowlege, sustain them to immortality, fills them with happiness, surrounds them with safety.

Blessed be the name of the Lord who makes so great a creature and who sustains it undeservedly to life within Himself.

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A reminder about our daily, hourly, minutely, secondly, duty, privilege, responsibility, and reward. Keep praying. Pray constantly. Pray without ceasing. Pray with trust and courage knowing that God will use your fervent prayer for the good of all as He sees it.

from Treatise on Prayer

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others.

But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.
In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleadses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

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Life as Pregnancy

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As part of another study group, I'm reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. I understand its enormous popularity among protestants--Warren claims to have discovered what the Catholic Church has known for centuries--the purpose of life (to wit--prayer and loving God). So for the most part the book has gone without hitch. Yesterday I ran into a bit of protestant theology of the fundamentalist variety--"to become part of God's family, you must be born again." This was followed with such absurdities as "baptism is a necessary sign of this rebirth and everyone should be baptised." It often appears that our protestant brethren have lost the sense of grace.

But the encounter led me to another line of thought. I can legitimately claim to be a "born again" Christian. I had the experience, was baptised into the Baptist church and underwent some instruction there. But, I wonder--is this really what being "born again" is about.

It occurred to me that all of life is a vast pregnancy in the body of God. That is to say, we are born again only when we are born into the Kingdom, as it were. And what occurs here on Earth determines the outcome of that gestation--whether we are born to life or still-born. Not to go too far with this because it may be very far off track and I haven't yet considered it in the fullness of possible meanings--however, being born again is a life-time process that culminates only when we leave this life to emerge in the life beyond. and everything is directed toward that end. So if we fail and fumble in this life, we are as very small children--children in the womb even. And it is expected of so young that they might not progress much.

Thinking a little further in the metaphor, perhaps our saints are those who have been born into the Kingdom while still here on Earth. And what a stunning thing it is to think of them as infants and toddlers in the faith; however, it is how they always refer to themselves. Consider then what it will be like to be in heaven where we to some extent mature in Christ.

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Learning from Ms. Shaivo

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There is much to be learned from this case--much of it heart rending--and judging from public reaction, very little of it given anything more than a knee-jerk reaction. But God does allow things to happen and to come to our attention for a reason--and I don't think that the fullness of that reason resides in alerting everyone to the necessity of advance-care directives (an exceedingly dubious prospect, if the persons acting on them act as they do in Ms. Schaivo's case.)

Part of what I need to learn from this is to trust God. One way or another, His will be done. I can't fathom the deep meaning of this case. I don't understand all the particulars of the law. But I do have a deeper and fresher understanding of the arrogance of both legalism (not the law, but the strict letter of it) and the medical profession. Statements are made with no substantiation and no means of substantiation--"There's nothing there." "She died thirteen years ago," "She's not coming back." The last of these may be true, but God willing, it need not be.

The point here is that prayer is the key. Trusting God with everything and that means EVERYTHING is what we are called to. We do need to work and to support what we think is right. We do need to exert ourselves to the extent possible to fight the evil that has crept into our very bones. But we also must trust that God knows what He is doing and that His perfect will is accomplished in this and in all things.

Only in praying for the will of God and working for what we understand the fullness of that will to be do we find the peace that is at the center of every event ordained by Him. From great tragedy comes great learning and we are called to give all our strength and will to God's fatherly hands, trusting that the ends that are already in process will redound to the salvation of all peoples.

Please continue to pray for Ms. Schaivo--the forces of the world at large are marshalled against her, and in her marshalled against all of us when we stand at a juncture where we cannot speak for ourselves. Or even when we can speak for ourselves, but only from the ignorant darkness of the world. May God forgive and bring to right mind all of those who feel they know so well what is best for Ms. Schaivo and may all right minded people be brought closer to the heavenly throne through this time of suffering-by-proxy. May our pain ease that of those immediately surrounding Ms. Schaivo and give them strength to continue to do what is right.

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Marvelous Prayer Advice and Guidance


To be found in The Golden Grove of Jeremy Taylor.

3. Never let any one think it an excuse to lie in bed, because he hath nothing to do when he is up: for whoever hath a Soul, and hopes to save that Soul, hath work enough to do to make his calling and election sure, to serve God, and to pray, to reade, and to meditate, to repent and to amend, to do good to others, and to keep evil from themselves. And if thou hast little to do, thou ought'st to imploy the more time in laying up for a greater Crown of Glory.

4. At your opening your eyes, enter upon the day with some act of piety.

1. Of thanksgiving for the preservation of you the night past.

2. Of the glorification of God for the works of the Creation, or any thing for the honour of God.

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From the Orthodox Church

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Story Attributed to Bishop Ignatius Byranchaninov

A brother once sorrowfully asked Sisoes the Great: "Father, what can I do? I have fallen into sin." The Staretz answered him: "Rise again." The brother said: "I rose up and fell." The Staretz answered: "Rise again." The brother answered:"How often mt I fall and rise up?" The Staretz said: "Until your death."

We often give much thought to our failures. We are desolated by them--torn apart, destroyed. But falling is part of the human condition. The Great Saints fell, though compared to us their falling is like a misstep over irregular pavement. The fact of the matter is that this will be our experience. If we think into the future it can lead to despair. But all we need to attend to is this moment--right now. The future does not exist and so it is time to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and move forward to stumble again--knowing that each time Jesus will be there to help us. Rather than a source of despair, each stumble becomes a chance to learn and to love Christ more for His infinite patience. When we look upon that patient and loving face, becoming more and more in love with Him, we are looking upon the face of the Father who loves us. So, let's all get up and move forward knowing that stumbling will occur--we are but infants--but we must not be discouraged by the feebleness of our efforts, but encouraged by the love of God the Father who cherishes each of us as though we were His only child.

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Our Choices Matter

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Following from yesterday's note that there is purpose to everything, a corollary is that our choices matter. Most orthodox Christians seem to understand this intuitively in the big issues--to sin or refrain from occasion of sin, to support life or to oppose it.

However, where we seem to let it go is in the smaller choices that matter every bit as much. For example, in our choice of entertainment. There is nothing wrong with leisure time, however, it seems that if everything has a purpose, then our choices should also be purposeful. If we choose to entertain ourselves with things that are not worthy of us, we are not doing ourselves any favors. There is nothing wrong with reading the occasional Grisham or Wodehouse as a sort of intellectual palate-cleansing; however, a complete diet of either must be detrimental because we are filling time otherwise better occupied in more edifying pursuits.

Moreover, and this is where it gets sticky, we need to make choices that reduce recreation time. Recreation is supposed to be a break, not the majority of time that we are not at work. Many parents have no problem with this--modern schedules of carting kids to activities, maintaining house and home, participating even minimally in various parish activities--all tend to fill up our time. And yet the average family finds times for 4-6 hours of television a day. There is something wrong with this.

We need to choose as often as possible things that will help us lead Christian lives. So our entertainment, our recreation, and our leisure hours should be spent training ourselves to be better Christians. The things we choose to take in during these hours should strengthen our resolve as well as our minds and bodies.

Everything has a purpose, every choice matters. Every choice has consequences that echo perpetually. So, it would seem, Dostoievski might be preferable to say Agatha Christie, even if I happen to prefer the latter most times. Chesterton might be better than Grisham, and so forth. We simply need to learn to pray before and about everything and let the Holy Spirit be our guide in all the ways we will go.

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Nothing happens accidentally. Everything you experience is a gift given by God. Often I know that I wish there were an exchange counter. There are gifts I'd rather not be given--presents I wish I could return.

Another wish I have is that the gifts came with intelligible instruction manuals. What am I to do with this thing you have given me? We can pray about it, but not being subject to locutions, I rarely have a clear revelation about meaning or purpose.

And that all leads to the core of the matter--trust. We must trust that everything has a purpose. We must trust that God knows what He is doing, because we sure don't. And we must trust that if we truly love God and seek to follow His will, we will find the path He has laid out for us.

To every small incident of every single day, every overheard conversation, every stranger encountered, every trifling annoyance, there is a purpose. We may not be able to discern it--but the purpose is there. Each day, each episode, each moment is a gift to us. For our love of Him, let's open the gifts with joy and sit at His feet to learn how best to employ them for our good and the good of the entire world.

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Beach Thoughts on Detachment

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I am not a fan of Fort Lauderdale. Sitting in a restaurant on Saturday overlooking one of the many canals that provide access to the city for those with boats, I thought how little that life appealed to me. Walking on the beaches built up with hotels, I thought how little it appealed to me.

Now I am back in my landlocked home and I think, how wonderful it would be to be back there. Without question Fort Lauderdale beach is built up, and I've always disliked beaches that were so commercial. But walking there on Saturday, I realized that there is a good side for those of us who love the sun but don't particularly like being IN it. These buildings provide a wonderful later-afternoon shade that makes swimming in the ocean so much more comfortable.

All of those points aside. I began to consider this whole trip for one reason and purpose--the question of attachment. Recording some of my thoughts after a beach-walk on Saturday, I thought about the question of desire:

But I had a series of questions. Is it wrong of me to want to live near the ocean ? The answer, I think, is no. Would it be wrong to work toward this goal? The answer, I think, is yes--because it would redirect attentions that should be lavished on God. This brings us back to the first question and the answer now seems to be that even the desire must be wrong. I don't really know the answer, but I do know the desire is real. . .

Is it wrong to want something? I believe we are made to want things, that our emptiness longs to be filled with God. Is it wrong to want to live somewhere else or to want to do something else as a means of employment? I don't think so--but the question becomes how much is it permissable to seek these things.

Looking at the lives of the great Saints, we don't see them wanting to live near the ocean or pining because they'd really rather have been carpenters rather than writers or clergy. Because they loved God sufficiently, all other things paled into obscurity. Ordinary life became extraordinary.

So perhaps it is not so much "wrong" to desire these things as it is symptomatic of the need for improvement. When we love God sufficiently everything else is subsumed in this love. When God is the focus of our attention, we no longer think about longer and longer vacations, and spending our time near the ocean or near the mountains, or near anything other than God himself.

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From St. Teresa of the Andes


A lesser-known twentieth century Carmelite saint who, along with Thérèse and Elizabeth of the Trinity died very young.

There are three things we will be judged on: Your blessings to us, our sins and our deeds, accord to what our intention was. Oh, my God, I am not a saint even though You filled me with blessings! Pardon me so I may be a saint from now on. My Mother, make me become a saint!

As to the accuracy of the beginning of the statement, I cannot attest. I am certain that at least those three things will be considered in judgment, and perhaps others of which I am relatively unaware. But it is the later part of the statement that I find most interesting and compelling. "I am not a saint. . ." with the implied "yet." Evidently, recognizing how far one has to go is no barrier to sanctity, holiness, and Sainthood. We all sigh and say, "We aren't saints." And we are all right to the extent that we do no more than sigh or pine. St. Teresa of the Andes shows us the next step. We ask to become His Saints. And when we ask we are prepared to act upon what He offers us in the way of becoming a saint.

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Working Assumptions

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I am not supposing that these assumptions are guidelines for all; however, one must start somewhere:

I will work on the assumption that

(1) those who disagree with me have legitimate reasons even if they are unable to articulate them.

(2) those who disagree with me hold their opinions in good will until further evidence indicates otherwise.

(3) that unless the Church teaches otherwise the Bible means precisely what it says interpreted in accord with the guidance of the Church.

(4) I am not always right.

(5) I have a narrow viewpoint that is not shared by all.

(6) I am not in any position to judge why anyone holds the opinions they do.

(7) the truth is more important than my personal viewpoint or comfort level.

(8) when I am made angry by something, I need to first look within for the source not outside.

(9) I am not the center of the Universe and things are not here for my convenience.

(10) with rights come concomittant responsibilities.

(11) the responsibilities are at least as weighty as the rights.

(12) what I personally dislike need not be made improper, illegal, or unavailable for everyone.

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For the Feast Day of La Madre


From The Autobiography (XXV: 22)

O my Lord, how true a friend art Thou! how powerful! Thou showest Thy power when Thou wilt; and Thou dost will it always, if only we will it also. Let the whole creation praise Thee, O Thou Lord of the world! Oh, that a voice might go forth over all the earth, proclaiming Thy faithfulness to those who love Thee! All things fail; but Thou, Lord of all, never failest! They who love Thee, oh, how little they have to suffer! oh, how gently, how tenderly, how sweetly Thou, O my Lord, dealest with them! Oh, that no one had ever been occupied with any other love than Thine! It seems as if Thou didst subject those who love Thee to a severe trial: but it is in order that they may learn, in the depths of that trial, the depths of Thy love. O my God, oh, that I had understanding and learning, and a new language, in order to magnify Thy works, according to the knowledge of them which my soul possesses! Everything fails me, O my Lord; but if Thou wilt not abandon me, I will never fail Thee. Let all the learned rise up against me,--let the whole creation persecute me,--let the evil spirits torment me,--but do Thou, O Lord, fail me not; for I know by experience now the blessedness of that deliverance which Thou dost effect for those who trust only in Thee. In this distress,--for then I had never had a single vision,--these Thy words alone were enough to remove it, and give me perfect peace: "Be not afraid, my daughter: it is I; and I will not abandon thee. Fear not."

And in a sense, this may be another response to Mr. O'Rama (see below)--that perhaps the ennui that sets in is a trial of sorts--bear up under it, offer it as a small sacrifice to God and make progress in the Little Way. All of our choices have echoes in eternity.

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Seeing All Things New

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I didn't want to leave so important a discussion in the comments box below, so I pull it out:

Comment from T.S. O'Rama
I'll have to think about it some more. I certainly am not implying a minimalist or Puritan philosophy! Not in the least. I guess my issue is how to live on a Wednesday afternoon - as Walker Percy put it so beautifully. Living in Central Ohio - mecca of civilization that it is - tends to make life a little dry sometimes. I know you won't believe it, but it's not exactly Florence, Italy. There's a part of me that believes/wants to believe that life is gloriously interesting in Central Ohio if I'd only see the spiritual war more clearly. But perhaps this comment is what I should've said on my blog (I can fix that)...

And my response

I understand what you're saying. I lived there for 10 years. And yet. . . there are places where things are even less exciting. I live in the entertainment capital of much of the East Coast and a Hub for most of the world, but after you've tasted of that spring the water begins to run a bit flat. Not to say that it isn't a wonderful place to be or that there is anything wrong with the wonders that surround me--but, believe it or not, there are aspects of life in Central Ohio that I do miss--to wit--

(1) The summer film series at the downtown theatre
(2) The Shekinah Glory festival with quilt auction out in Plain City
(3) The Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival, The Waynesville Sauerkraut festival, and the Circleville pumpkin festival.
(4) Ready accessibility of the Mounds at Newark, the Chilicothe Mounds and Governor's House, the not too distant Serpent Mound, and the place down near the Golden Lion -- ?Fort Ancient?
(5) The libraries and the booksales for various libaries

So there are delights in Central Ohio or Nearby. (Polka Barns up near Cleveland, for example). It isn't a hopping place--but on the other hand it is no worse than a great many. And life is exciting if one views it daily with the gratitude for the gift that it is.

My greatest anecdote about life in Central Ohio comes from a fieldtrip a friend of mine led when a graduate student there. They had a group of kids from inner city New York in a big bus--they're about twenty or thirty miles WEST of Columbus--you know how that gets, when suddenly there's a huge commotion from the back of the bus and the driver is told to "Stop the Bus, Stop the Bus!" Fearing the worst, he did so, and from the back three kids pile out of the bus. My friend got out with the other counselor to break up whatever is going on and they see the three kids with cameras taking pictures of one of those vast fields between Columbus and Dayton. One of the kids says, 'What's that?" pointing to the crop growing at the side of the road, and my friend answers "Corn." And they said, "Ain't no way that's corn--corn comes in a can." My friend says, "That's what it looks like before it goes in the can."

The point is merely to say that one of Thérèse's chief teachings is that we must become like little children to whom all things are new again. We need to teach ourselves to see that corn as though we had never seen it before--to marvel at its growth , and yes, its beauty. We need to accept what comes to us and rejoice in the great generosity with which it is given. THAT is what gives life savor and interest and THAT is what comes of loving Jesus as a little child--nothing can every be ordinary again.

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Poetry and Life

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Mr. O'Rama asks a question that I will probably need to think more about:

Do some, for whatever reason, have a higher “minimum daily requirement” of art? Of plays, music, books, theatre, film, paintings, architecture, poems?

I think of the Little Way of St. Therese and wonder: If we could see life as it truly is, as spiritual warfare in which our most insignificant actions have rippling effects -then would not our lives be infused with meaning and art be, extraneous? What need has the soldier on the field of battle for novels when his own life is the stuff of legend?

I do not know the answer, but I do know how I feel. Art is one of the great battlegrounds for hearts and minds. Poetry, literature, music, art, cinema, all vie for attention both as entertainment and as edification. I don't know that walking through the National Gallery of Art actually qualifies for "entertainment" or even really "diversion." I think experiencing art is another way of experiencing a portion of God's creative capacity as doled out in His creation.

I suppose we must take very seriously the question of whether some need Art or whether Art makes life more "real" or more "lived" as I must believe it does. I seriously doubt that the Holy Father would have wasted the time in writing a Letter specifically to Artists if he did not consider the matter vitally important.

Yes, if we visualize all life as a spiritual battleground much of this is true. But if we look at life that way, are we not also missing part of the message? Is life MERELY a spiritual battleground. Isn't it also the time during which we come to awareness of the glory and the grandeur of God. And isn't Art one of the ways in which we can do that? I have seen a great many moving sunsets and sat beside lakes, streams, waterfulls, and rills. I have paddled among rias and aits and even kayaked up the Potomac to Great Falls to take measurements near Difficult Run. I have walked the paths of Hocking Hills and had the great Serpent Mound all to myself for days on end and all of these things are great and glorious. And I have read a poem by Hopkins and been a thousand times more moved and transported than many of these other things have done. I can recite from memory hundreds of poems, thousands of fragments, but only one natural impression has remained so indelibly impressed upon me. Not that all those things I mentioned before are not beautiful, but that beauty in its different forms speaks to different people. "My Father's House has many mansions." I cannot imagine life without art. I am uncertain whether I would have come to know God as well as I hope I do without Caravaggio and Monet, Palestrina and Debussy, Dante and Joyce.

So I think the answer is, yes. For some art is a necessity--it is the lifeline through which God communicates some portion of His grace and presence. Some seem to get it from fishing, others through sports, still others from gardening and simple daily tasks. For some of us it is in the words we use every day. And that does seem apropos as we are told, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . ."

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Made for God's Pleasure

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I read something earlier this evening that I've always known, but which hasn't really meant much of anything to me. We are, in the words of Psalm 149:4, "made for God's pleasure."

Why is this so remarkable? What is so astounding about this revelation? God delights in us--in each one of us. Parents--think about the delight you experience when one of your young ones does anything at all cute. We are God's young ones. When we were born, He was there, grinning like a donkey eating briars. He takes real pleasure in us. Yes, we can be aggravating. It is possible for us to be downright infuriating. But He nevertheless delights in each one of us.

We were made for God's pleasure, at His pleasure, in His pleasure, by His pleasure. We were made to be pleasing and God is pleased with us. We focus on how much we get wrong, but by His grace we do get some things right.

Every day start the day by remembering that God made us for His pleasure, and start the day living to give God cause to rejoice.

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The Right Mirror

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I have a very dear friend who said to me, "It hard to believe that the Glory of God resides in me when I look in the mirror." There are a great many Christians who have trouble believing that God loves them as they are right now. We have been trained through years of rejection and humiliation to believe that love comes with a price tag--that acceptance costs something.

In fact, love does come with a price tag--one paid by Jesus, and it does come at cost, the life of the Son of God. Our problem facing these issues is that we are using the wrong mirror. We look into a mirror of glass, but the mirror we should be using is that recommended by the great Madre herself--"Mira que tu mira"--
"Look at the One who looks at you." The proper mirror to judge yourself by is the mirror of the eyes of one who loves you--that comes closest to the way God looks at you. When you look into the eyes of one who really loves you, you see yourself--and when those eyes belong to God, you really and truly see yourself for what you are--a child of God.

We are who we are--with all the drawbacks and payoffs that includes--fat, thin, balding, short--God made us uniquely ourselves and loves us regardless of outer accouterments. He won't love us any more or any less if we gain or lose a few pounds. He won't love us better if our skin clears up, or hate us if we eat onions in our omelette for breakfast. God's mind is not as human minds, God's heart is not as human hearts. God is not fickle nor is He capricious. He is a Jealous God and as such, when all else fails, His love endures.

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Ms. Knapp is really on a roll, but then I haven't known her to stop except for a brief, unavoidable spell away from the computer.

She reports this interview with father Thomas Dubay from one of the CIN Listservs. Well worth your time, as always.

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A Blogging Examen


Ms. Knapp very graciously gave me permission to reprint her examen question in toto I found them profound and profoundly helpful.

Karen Marie Knapp  
Queries for a Bloggers' Examen II: the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Blogging

In church-bureaucrat-speak, blogs are called "a medium of social communication", and paragraphs 2493-2499 are about us. So, from reading then, what questions do rise up?
2493 is definitions.
2394: Do I consider the common good when I post and publish, or only my own ego-shine? Do I tell the truth? Have I ever omitted or manipulated some of the facts to make them say what I wanted them to say? Do I keep in mind that the people I blog about have rights and human dignity?
2495: Do I truly seek to know and respect others? Do I respectfully challenge ideas, or do I attack people? Do I shout down without a hearing those whose ideas differ from my own?
2496: Do I neglect my duties in real life in order to read sites? Do I keep in mind that not everything I read in the blogosphere may be factual, and that all that may be factual may not be true? Do I discipline myself to avoid those sites that are, for whatever reason, near occasions of sin for me?
2497: Have I ever lied in my blog? Do I acknowledge and respect the distinction between reporting facts and judging individuals? Have I ever defamed anybody by my blogs? If so, have I made amends, insofar as possible?
2498, which is mostly about civil authorities: Have I ever used my blog, or anywhere else on the Net, for illegal activity (e.g., libel, slander, warez, inciting civil disorder)? Or for unethical or immoral activities, even if legal (e.g., porn, spam)?
2499, about totalitarian regimes: Am I thankful for my freedom to write and publish? Do I respect this freedom, and rightly use it, never abusing it?

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On What To do About Your Websurfing


Whether intentionally or otherwise, I cannot copy material from M'Lynn's site, so I send you there to read the last paragraph of so of this entry. What is written there is wise and good advice to us all. Not only should we purge all that plunges us near despair, but everything that provides near occasion of sin. Thanks M'Lynn.

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Lip Service

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The young man in the gospel today was downcast when the Lord told him that he must go and sell all that he had to follow Jesus as a true disciple. Some of us recognize the difficulty of what Jesus was saying in this particular instance. But let's assume for a moment you are one of those who could say easily, "Oh yes, Lord, I'll do it." Perhaps Jesus has a harder question for you--for example, are you willing to "let the dead bury the dead?" or "to set hand to plow and never look back?" or "to leave mother, father, sister, and brothers" and find them in the Christian communion?

Many of us pay lip service to these ideals, or perhaps conveniently shove them out of the way of the mind's eye. But spend a few moments today and think about the things Jesus could ask of you that would make you as downcast as the young man in the gospels. Then, when you've identified the problem areas, you have the beginnings of understanding, you can move more toward God in all these issues.

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An Examen for Bloggers


Via Fructis Ventris this remarkable help--an examen for what we do as we blog-- from Ms. Karen Marie Knapp--touching precisely on thoughts I have had this day. Thank you Ms. Knapp.

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Every Action Matters

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I write this largely to convince myself that it is true. If we are bound for eternity, it would seem that every step toward or away from that goal must matter. This is what sits at the heart of Labora est ora. Every action, no matter how small, has eternal ramifications. Thus, how we keep our houses, how we drive our cars, what we choose to read or write, every action has ripples through eternity. Every action is a measure of how we employ what God has lent us for this time on Earth.

We need to remember the parable of the talents. While we may have been given only a single talent, it is better to invest it for the small interest of a savings account than to bury it entirely. Erik recently posted on the importance of cooking and meals in the Christian life (here's a continuation of the discussion). I thought the post perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but nonetheless essentially true. If one cooks well, then preparing a good meal for a family can be the most loving and Christian act one can do for one's family--it is a perfect prayer of service. So too with all of our talents small or large.

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On Confession

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Via Father Jim, this wonderful discussion of Confession at Father Rob's place. I will want to come back to this time and again as a reminder.

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When I first started my entry on the Wesley quote below, my intent was to talk about how we should relate to one another when we disagree. You know, the usual spiel you get here from time to time.

Instead it mutated to a reflection on God's Grace, providence, and gifts to us. I was surprised at what resulted.It's amazing what God can do when you just let Him get through the surface armor.

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Another excerpt from Ordinary Graces that spoke to me during reading time this morning:

from Ordinary Graces
compiled by Lorraine Kisly

Those who have realized how dangerous and evil is the life they lead, the devil succeeds in keeping in his power mainly by the following simple but all-powerful suggestion: "Later, later; tomorrow, tomorrow." And the poor sinner, deluded by the appearance of good intention accompanying this suggestion, decides, "Indeed, tomorrow; I shall finish what I have to do, and then, free of all care, will put myself in the hands of Divine grace. . . .

Nothing but negligence and blindness can explain why, when the whole of our salvation and all the glory of God are at stake, we fail to use immediately the most easy and simple and yet the most effective weapon, namely: to say to ourselves resolutely and energetically: "This moment! I shall start spiritual life at this moment and not later, I shall repent now, instead of tomorrow. Now , this moment is in my hands, tomorrow and after is in the hands of God. Even if God will grant me tomorrow and after, can I be sure that I shall have tomorrow the same good thought urging me to mend my ways? . . . Moreover how senseless it is when, for example, a sure remedy is offered for curing one's ills to say: "Wait, let me be sick a little longer."

Praise God in His saints and in His gifts to us through them. Now is the proper time, now is the expedient moment. Now is all there is--the past is gone, the future yet to come, we cannot know what is there--so now is the time for healing and for hope.

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Advice for All Christians

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from Ordinary Graces
compiled by Lorraine Kisly

Do not condemn or think hardly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some of us have thought hardly of others merely because they contradicted what we affirmed. All this tends to division; and, by every thing of this kind, we are teaching them an evil lesson against ourselves.

O, beware of touchiness, of testiness, not bearing to be spoken to; starting at the least word; and flying from those who do not implicitly receive mine or another's sayings!

Expect contradiction and opposition together with crosses of various kinds. Consider the words of Saint Paul: "To you it is given, in the behalf of Christ [for his sake, as a fruit of his deeds and intercession for you] not only to believe but also to suffer for his sake."

It is given! God gives you this opposition or reproach; it is a fresh token of his love. And will you disown the Giver; or spurn his gift, and count it a misfortune? Will you not rather say, "Father, the hour is come that thou shouldst be glorified; now thou gives thy child to suffer something for thee; do with me according to thy will?" Know that these things, far from being hindrances to the work of God, or to your soul, unless by your own fault are not only unavoidable in the course of providence, but profitable, yea; necessary for you. Therefore receive them from God--not from chance--with willingness, with thankfulness. Receive them from men with humility, meekness, yieldingness, gentleness, sweetness. Why should not even your outward appearance and manner be soft?

--John Wesley

It seems that often we tend to view God as very one sided--He gives only those things that we view with human eyes as good--opposition, crisis, and difficulty come from somewhere else. But they do not--God allows everything that happens to us, He wills, either permissively or ordained, all that occurs. This includes difficulties. Every moment comes from His gracious hand and Paul tells us: "ALL things work to the good of those who love Him." All, not some, not many, not most, but ALL things work to the good of those who love Him. I cannot pretend to know the wisdom of difficulty, the regeneration that comes from crisis--but as I do believe God to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, I cannot shy away from the fact that what I view as bad as well as what I view as good comes to me from His hands. I can trust that He knows what He is doing, or I can presume to know better. In such circumstance, I prefer to believe that what I experience is for a cause, my own betterment, or the betterment of those around me. I also want to believe that it comes to me from God Himself as a gift, the problem is that some gifts are so terribly difficult to accept and to open.

And that leads us back around to St. Thérèse's little way. Perhaps I need to be like a very small child and upon opening up the gift, play with the wrapping and the package more than the clothing or other unknown and unappealing item within. Let God work His will in me and rejoice in it--a skill to learn and apply.

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Hallowe'en is Coming

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And many of us do not observe the customary celebrations. For those who do not care for the usual fare, you might look into a wonderful picture book for children. The Pumpkin Patch Parable, by Liz Curtis Higgs, a well-known protestant writer, uses the ancient custom of Jack 'O Lanterns and turns it on its head, making it a parable of God's redemption and the action of the Holy Spirit in human life. Recommended.

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Doctor of the Church


You all know by now that Thérèse is a doctor of the Church. As such the Church has declared that she has taught valuable doctrine concerning core church teachings. In particular, her "little way" is seen as a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Church.

However, the definition is that of a doctor of philosophy and the original meaning of Doctor. Thérèse is also a doctor in the modern sense. Through her deep understanding she corrects certain ailments in the church that come through exposure to the secular world.

from Spiritual Childhood: The Spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Msgr. Vernon Johnson

The word "love" is so often used for something merely emotional or sentimental that we hesitate to use it in connection with our religion. St. Thérèse rescues us from this false reserve and puts the word "love" again upon our lips in its true meaning.

In the midst of us cold and grown-up lovers, with our love hardened by the difficulty of life, dulled by its dreary routine, stilted by convention, and fettered by human respect, God has placed St. Thérèse to rescue us from all that is false in our concept of love and lead us back to that simple, direct, spontaneous love which, in the depths of our souls, we really long for.

As we enter the crypt of the basilica at Lisieux, we find ourselves beneath the great arch which spans the entrance to the nave. At the base of one side of the arch are written these words of scripture: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighour as thyself. On the other side are the words of St. Thérèse: "There is but one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus and to save souls for Him that He may be more loved." Thus does she make the words of Scripture live again, words which we have known from childhood, but whose meaning for that very reason has lost much of its significance.

It may be urged that a love of such simple directness as St. Thérèse's is possible only for special souls, gifted with extraordinary supernatural graces, and that therefore it is not within the compass of the ordinary person. But St. Thérèse's life was not distinguished by anything spectacular. Her way, as she used to say, was very ordinary, fashioned through the normal means of grace common to us all. The extraordinary thing in her life was her simple fidelity to those means of grace.

Thérèse is a gift to us from God. Through her, as through St. Bernadette, He once again showed us that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary sanctity through perfectly ordinary means. In short, He showed us that once again “His Grace is sufficient.”

Of ourselves we can do nothing but sin. But with God we are, each of us, a saint and a source of hope for the people we meet every day. Thérèse has pulled us out of a sense of love that grasps and seeks to fill a great emptiness and shown us a love that comes from a fullness and reaches out to others. More, because she was not extraordinarily gifted—she did not have the mind of a St. Thomas Aquinas, or the high teaching of St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus, or St. John of the Cross—she is accessible to us. Moreover, she promised to make herself accessible. Her heaven would be spent doing good on Earth. The good she does begins with our choice to follow the little way and to show to all around us the loved she showed while on Earth. We will each do this in our own way; however, our best tribute to her today would be one small action, one little sacrifice that takes us away from ourselves and puts us squarely with God and with our neighbor. Thus we can spend our Earth building the Kingdom of Heaven through God’s grace.

St. Thérèse, Doctor and Daughter of the Most Holy Catholic Church, pray for us that we all burn with the fire that you had for God and for the salvation of souls.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Christian Life/Personal Holiness category from October 2003.

Christian Life/Personal Holiness: September 2003 is the previous archive.

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