Commonplace Book: December 2002 Archives

Spinning a Metaphor--Potential Energy


T.S. O'Rama in a most excellent post on his site, gives me an opportunity to spin a metaphor than may or may not work. We'll see.

A Baptist pastor continually preaches the following thing on the radio (I don't have a specifically Catholic radio station in tuning distance so I listen to the local Christian one):

"Christians have to spend more time remembering their position in Christ, not their condition."

In other words, focus on who you are - God's - and not your condition, which is often disconcertingly poor. It is interesting to this cradle Catholic that even Protestants have problems with legalism and "position vs. condition".

Now I want to show how incorrect the Baptist Pastor is in this saying. An object has energy by virtue either of movement of the body (kinetic energy), movement of its constiuent particles (thermal energy) or by its position and/or condition potential energy. It is this last that I want to use as a metaphor for the Christian life.

Too often we have great stored energy in Christian life. We make no harsh commitments, we don't drive ourselves too hard, and we don't really challenge ourselves in the things that matter. As Dubay and others have pointed out, the harsh reality is that We are not saints because we have not yet chosen to be. By that, all the writers mean that we have not made up our minds to let God's will be our will and to live our lives in that reality.

That is where potential is. We are all potential Saints. Thus we must move from potential to actual. And our potential is precisely in both our position in Christ and our condition in obeying God's word and will. If we are remiss in the latter, our position in Christ imparts some energy toward our sainthood--but we are like a loosely bound spring sitting on the ground. When we spring up, our motion is done, feeble and not enough to move us very far. However, if we change our condition, we may also change our position in Christ. Right now we wait on the ground near his feet. But as we obey we become like springs more tightly wound and compressed, and God lifts us up. From a height, when the tightly bound spring is released, the energy is much greater, the potential becomes powerful kinetic energy and we are suddenly transformed in Christ and become signs for all people. We are Saints.

Sainthood is possible for each one of us. Not only is it possible, it is necessary. Too often we excuse ourselves saying, we are not like St Therese, or St Teresa. But the reality is, God already made a St. Therese, he doesn't need another. He already has a St. Teresa, a St. John of the Cross, a St. Philip Neri, a St. Swithun--He has no need of more. But what He does need and what He wants is a Saint Steven Riddle, a Saint _______________ (put your name in the blank). We have no excuses for not responding to God's need. We are simply lazy people. We think that Heaven will come to us if we wait long enough.

Now, please bear in mind, though this was spawned by some thoughts at Mr. O'Rama's site, this is in no way a particular indictment of him. It is an indictment of every one of us (myself included) who has not yet made up their minds to be Saints and to tread whatever path God has laid out for us in that direction. I long for Sainthood, but I want it to be easy. It's time to change my position or my condition, because I'll need all the extra energy I can get from that stored potential to overcome the inertia that I allow to keep me in my deadly, ungodly path.

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On Spiritual Reading


On Spiritual Reading

Thomas Dubay, a writer I much admire and am much in awe of, wrote a book some time ago that it has taken me a while to get hold of. While at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I stumbled across it and knew that among the many treasure there, this was one that I had to have for my collection. The book, published in 1993 is Seeking Spiritual Direction and it is filled with the usually profound, subtle insights that mark all of Fr. Dubay's work.

I rarely read a nonfiction book completely linearly, and spiritual books are such that I find myself dipping in at intervals even as I read straight through. Last night I looked up a subject of particular interest to me--Spiritual Reading. After a great deal of very interesting, helpful discussion Fr. Dubay gets to the "short list" of what he calls A-1 reading. His point throughout is not to waste your time on "mediocre" spiritual reading--the stuff of much of the marketplace now--but to confine spiritual reading to the A-1 tried and true proven classics. He implies that the longer the list of spiritual reading, the more likely that less worthy works are somewhere on it. Father Dubay's Short list follows:

from Seeking Spiritual Direction--"Can I Direct Myself?"
Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

Input on contemplative prayer is essential. Ordinarily, one begins with one or two sound introductory works and proceeds on to the masters. At the head of a short list of masters would be Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, probably in that order. somewhere early in one's serious pursuit of God should be read Imitation of Christ and the major classics written by other saints: for example, Augustine's Confessions, Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, Thérèse of Lisieux's The Story of a Soul, Newman's Sermons, and French spiritual writer Dom Chautard's Soul of the Apostolate Periodically one should intersperse among didactic works the lives of the saint for all the reasons we shall now consider. (pp. 145-146).

This list certainly seems a worthy starting point for great spiritual reading, and everything on it certainly seems required reading for those actively seeking closer union with God. (One note: the Bible is, of course central on this list, but it is treated much more fully elsewhere in the book). But I am certain that it is not the complete list of helpful reading. What I would like to solicit is discussion on what might constitute a fuller reading list. I still want only the A-1, best of the best, top of the line classics. If you would be so kind as to leave a list of two or three books that have profoundly moved you and helped you toward a closer walk with God and a brief description of the contents thereof, I would like to compile these into a longer list.

Additionally, please help with any insights as to where to start with writers for whom Fr. Dubay has indicated an Opus, but not identified a "starting work." For example, those better acquainted with Newman could help all of us with suggestions as to which group of sermons to start with. I will be happy to provide some insight into which works of Teresa and John I would recommend, as well as which editions might best aid the reader.

Later I will add to Fr. Dubay's list works from the protestant tradition that everyone of solid Catholic Background could easily profit; however, for the time being, let us consider only mainline Catholic works and their influence on you. Thank you so much for any contribution to a project that I think would benefit the entire community of St. Blog's.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Commonplace Book category from December 2002.

Commonplace Book: November 2002 is the previous archive.

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