Monday, December 31, 2012

The Thing with Feathers

I’m really not much of a poetry fan…I don’t have anything against poetry, but I guess I generally feel like I’m missing something.

Still, every now and then, I stumble across something that touches me. This morning I found that someone had posted this Emily Dickinson poem. I like it, so here it is:

“Hope” is the Thing with Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickinson

Friday, December 28, 2012

Some "Sayings"

I love reading the “Sayings of the Desert Fathers”, but sometimes I am left scratching my head. For instance, there’s this one about Mark, Disciple of Abba Silvanus:
On another occasion Mark decided to leave Scetis and go to Mount Sinai and live there. His mother sent his abba a message, begging him with tears to send her son out to see her. So the old man made him go. But as he was putting on his sheepskin to go and preparing to take leave of the old man, he suddenly burst into tears and did not go out after all.


But this one, about Abba Matoes, hits the mark for me:

A brother questioned Abba Matoes saying, “What am I to do? My tongue makes me suffer, and every time I go among men, I cannot control it, but I condemn them in all the good they are doing and reproach them with it. What am I to do?”

The old man replied, “If you cannot contain yourself, flee into solitude. For this is a sickness. He who dwells with brethren must not be square, but round, so as to turn himself towards all.”

He went on, “It is not through virtue that I live in solitude, but through weakness; those who live in the midst of men are the strong ones.”

Just preceding that one was this:

A brother questioned Abba Matoes saying, “Give me a word.”

He said to him, “Go, and pray God to put compunction in your heart, and give you humility; be aware of your faults; do not judge others but put yourself below everyone; do not be friendly with a boy nor with an heretical friend; put freedom of speech from from you; control your tongue and your belly; drink only a small quantity of wine, and if someone speaks about some topic, do not argue with him but if he is right, say, “yes”; if he is wrong, say, “you know what you are saying,” and do not argue with him about what he has said. That is humility.”

I have argued for some time that I should live in solitude because of my inability to do exactly what the Abba is saying in these last two passages.

Of course, I suppose one does not develop the virtues unless there is opportunity to practice them. Still…  

Anyway, at this point, I avoid “social” situations as best I can. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in My Chapel

Sadly, the local "Midnight Mass" for Christmas was to take place at 8pm! I decided not to attend. Instead, I stayed home, and at 10:15pm, I prayed Vigils, spiritually joining my prayers to those of others who I knew were praying at the same time, but  hundreds of miles away. And then, knowing that at that far-off location Mass would be said immediately following Vigils, I read through the entire Mass, singing the propers and the ordinary. 

It was the best I could do. Mass at 8am the next morning at the local parish was well-intentioned. And it was Mass.

I think my altar looks pretty nice, even if I do have artificial flowers. It is a comfort to me as I try to avoid looking at the poorly decorated altars in the parish churches in this area.

Monday, December 24, 2012

He's Coming!

 Sometimes the responsories at Vigils really “speak” to me. I liked last night’s, for the Vigil of the Nativity.

First Responsory:

R. Sanctify yourselves today, and be ready for on the morrow ye shall see
* The majesty of God upon you.
V. This day ye shall know that the Lord cometh, and in the morning, then ye shall see
R. The majesty of God upon you.

R. Sanctificamini hodie et estote parati: quia die crastina videbitis
* Maiestatem Dei in vobis.
V. Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et mane videbitis.
R. Maiestatem Dei in vobis.

Second Responsory:

R. Stand still, and ye shall see the help of the Lord with you O Judah and Jerusalem, fear not.
* Tomorrow ye shall go out, and the Lord will be with you.
V. Sanctify yourselves, O ye children of Israel, and be ready.
R. Tomorrow ye shall go out, and the Lord will be with you.

R. Constantes estote, videbitis auxilium Domini super vos: Iudaea et Ierusalem, nolite timere:
* Cras egrediemini, et Dominus erit vobiscum.
V. Sanctificamini filii Israel, et estote parati.
R. Cras egrediemini, et Dominus erit vobiscum.

Third Responsory:

R. Sanctify yourselves, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord for on the morrow the Lord will come down.
* And will take away from you all sickness.
V. On the morrow the sins of the earth shall be washed away, and the Saviour of the world will be our King.
R. And will take away from you all sickness.
Glory be
R. And will take away from you all sickness.

R. Sanctificamini, filii Israel, dicit Dominus: die enim crastina descendet Dominus,
* Et auferet a vobis omnem languorem.
V. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terrae, et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi.
R. Et auferet a vobis omnem languorem.
R. Et auferet a vobis omnem languorem.

I’ve been reveling in the antiphons for Laudes, too. Here are today’s:

1st Ant. O Judah and Jerusalem, * fear not: to-morrow ye shall go out, and the Lord will be with you.
Ant. Iudaea et Ierusalem * nolite timere: cras egrediemini, et Dominus erit vobiscum, alleluia.

 2nd Ant. This day ye shall know * that the Lord cometh and in the morning, then ye shall see His glory.
Ant. Hodie scietis * quia veniet Dominus: et mane videbitis gloriam eius.

3rd Ant. On the morrow * the sins of the earth shall be washed away, and the Saviour of the world will be our King.
Ant. Crastina die * delebitur iniquitas terrae: et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi.

4th Ant. The Lord cometh! * Go ye out to meet Him, and say How great is His dominion, and of His kingdom there shall be no end He is the Mighty God, the Ruler, the Prince of Peace, Alleluia!
Ant. Dominus veniet, * occurrite illi, dicentes: Magnum principium, et regni eius non erit finis: Deus, Fortis, Dominator, Princeps pacis, alleluia.

5th Ant. On the morrow * ye shall be saved, saith the Lord God of hosts.
Ant. Crastina erit * vobis salus, dicit Dominus Deus exercituum.

He’s coming!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

If I Had a Hammer

…And I do have a hammer!

Every aspiring demon-vanquisher should have one!

A while back, I became enamored of the story of St. Marina the Great Martyr and  Vanquisher of Demons, an Orthodox saint who lived in the 3rd century. Her feast day is July 17.

Marina was born into a pagan family, but converted to Christianity at an early age through the influence of her Christian nanny. As she grew into a young woman, her beauty inspired the local Christian-persecuting governor to see to marry her.

Marina refused of course, and stood firm for her virginity and her commitment to Jesus Christ despite horrific torments inflicted upon her by the spurned governor. Twice she was visited by St. Michael the Archangel who strengthened her with his words and healed her wounds.

The young girl was then thrown into prison, and there she entered into combat with a demon. According to the story:

Taking on a dark and dragon-like guise, a demon appeared to Marina in the prison to frighten her. Fearlessly, Christ’s athlete seized him by the hair and, finding a hammer, beat him to the ground, completely humbling him. A great light appeared and illuminated the entire prison. All of Marina’s wounds were completely healed and not even a trace of scarring remained on her body. It is for this reason that Saint Marina often holds a hammer and is sometimes depicted beating on a demon in her icons.

I like the hammer imagery! It seems to me that I am often doing battle with little demons – I know they are little, because I am so weak that God would not allow a larger one to come and overtake me. I think He allows the little ones to come so that I can practice on them. At any rate, the hammer seemed to me to be a great symbol of demon-vanquishing – along with prayers to Our Lord and Our Lady,  the help of St. Michael and all the saints, and of course making the sign of the cross.

So I bought a hammer, which will not be used for mundane, ordinary hammering tasks, but will be blessed and remain at the ready in order to fight those demons.

Here is my night stand with all the critical elements for passing the night: holy water, a few prayers, an alarm clock, a good book, tissue, an electric blanket control (not very ascetic, I know!), and a demon-vanquishing hammer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Father

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. He died on December 18, 1973. I celebrated my 20th birthday a couple of weeks later.

I remember my mom calling me on the phone to tell me he had died. It was quite unexpected. When I answered the phone, my mom said, “This is your mother.” That was unusual, and I laughed, saying, “Yeah, I know that.” But she said it, I guess, to make sure that I knew it was her, since she had such bad news to share. I didn’t take it well.

I don’t think about him all that much, really…sad to say. On this same date next year, I’ll be just about to turn 60, and that will mean that my dad has been dead for two-thirds of my life.

So much “life” has happened since he died. He died young: 45 years old. Heart attack. He saw two of his daughters marry, but he didn’t live to see the divorces that followed, and then the re-marriages… He died before any grandchildren had made their appearance.  Sometimes I think it’s good he missed some of my shenanigans…

I used to think that he must be spending a long time in purgatory because he was the one who led us away from our church. He was disgruntled with church administration, and vowed never to go back, saying it was a “business”, and he didn’t want any part of it. I was about 7 years old at the time.

Nowadays, I don’t think about that as much as the fact that he wasn’t Catholic. The church he led us out of was the Episcopal Church. So maybe that wasn’t so bad. But he wasn’t Catholic…

Apart from that, I don’t know much about his spiritual life. Check that…I don’t know anything about his spiritual life. We never talked about “religion”; I don’t recall him ever saying anything about trusting God, or having faith, or anything like that. There must have been something there for him, though. He cared enough to leave a church that he saw as mercenary rather than spiritual.

He wasn’t a very relaxed kind of dad…but I do have some fond memories of going fishing with him. And when I left home to go to college, he wrote me some letters that revealed more of him than I’d ever seen before, and I was starting to develop a new, adult relationship with him. I wish I still had the letters…

Well, as I said, I don’t think of him often or much, really. But I think of him on this day every year, and I just wanted to acknowledge him. He was a good dad who worked hard and took life just a little too seriously.
May he rest in peace.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Death is a Part of Life

I continue to plod along slowly through Holy Abandonment by Dom Vitalis Lehodey. It’s not that I’m a slow reader or the book is boring…it’s just that there is so much to digest. I have gone back and re-read paragraphs here and there already, trying to assimilate them.

Lehodey differentiates between God’s signified will and God’s will of good-pleasure.

Quoting St. Francis de Sales, Lehodey describes God’s signified will:

 "God proposes to us clearly and in advance the truths He would have us believe, the rewards He would have us hope for, the penalties He would have us fear, the good He would have us love, the commandments He would have us observe, the counsels He would have us follow. This is called the signified will, because by it God indicates and makes known to us what He has ordained and intends should be the objects of our faith, of our hope, or our fear, of our love, and of our practice...The signified will comprises a fourfold object: the commandments of God and of His Church, the evangelical counsels, divine inspirations, our particular rules and constitutions..."

In describing God's will of good-pleasure, Lehodey again quotes St. Francis de Sales:

"...there is also His will of good-pleasure which we must look for in all events. I mean to say, in everything that befalls us: in sickness, in death, in affliction, in consolation, in adversity and prosperity; briefly, in all unforeseen occurrences."

Ah, yes. Unforeseen occurrences, affliction, adversity…like, for instance, your child being killed in a school shooting… O Lord, I cannot fathom the pain of those parents.

Lehodey adds:

"…[I]t is in tribulations especially we must recognize the will of God; not that He loves these for their own sake, but He employs them as an effective means of vindicating right order, of remedying our failings, of healing and sanctifying our souls."

Using the example of those innocent children being shot, we can see just how difficult it is to submit oneself to Divine Providence. So many voices are crying out, “Why, Lord?” No one really wants to accept it. And yet, we have no choice. As Lehodey says, it is always within our power to conform to the signified will, simply by obedience. But as the will of good-pleasure unfolds,

"He disposes of us as our Sovereign Master. Without consulting us, often even against our wishes, He puts us in the position He has chosen, and under the obligation of discharging the duties thereof. It remains in our power indeed to satisfy this obligation or not, to conform ourselves to the divine good-pleasure or to revolt against it; but whether we like it or not, we have no choice save to submit to the sequence of events, the course of which can be arrested by no earthly power...Thus...He reminds us of our dependence, and endeavors to recall us to the paths of duty as often as we wander out of them and lose our way.”

God alone knows the lessons He wants to impart to the parents whose children were killed, or the families of the adults who died protecting those children as best they could. He has lessons for all of us who are touched in some way by the tragedy.

And for some of us, what stands out so glaringly is the fact that the nation mourns the loss of innocent lives, 6-and 7-year-old children with shining faces and beautiful smiles, but at the same time that same nation ignores the horrific deaths of 4000 unborn babies every day who are murdered in their mothers’ wombs, by poison or by being torn apart into bits that are suctioned out of what should be the safest place in the world.

We light a virtual candle for the ones with names and faces on the news. We turn our backs on the ones who are hidden in wombs, waiting for their turn to come into the world. That people cannot see the “disconnect” here is what burdens my soul. I have wept more for the anonymous, unknown, murdered little pre-borns than I have for the poor children of Sandy Hook Elementary School – though that is not because I care less for the born than the unborn; indeed, the photos of that one blond-haired blue-eyed little girl just tear into my gut.

And yet, death is a part of life. Eighteen children died in a tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14; but how many other children died on that day? How many died of cancer? In a car accident? How many drowning victims? How many died of starvation or malnutrition in other parts of the world? How many were killed at the hands of their mothers’ boyfriends? Tragedy occurs all the time. We just are not aware of it.

God made us all very much aware of Sandy Hook Elementary. He has His reasons. The Divine Will has been at work. And many are having a lesson in just how difficult it can be to submit to that will…even if we know that God has our best interests in mind.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Hope

On a long drive last week, I listened to a couple of homilies on CD. One was in two parts, and concerned the story of Hermann Cohen. It’s an amazing story: young Jewish boy shows musical talent as a pianist; mom takes him to Paris; he studies under Franz Liszt and is led into a life of dissolution; he is converted when, while playing the organ for a Benediction service, the priest raised the monstrance to bless the faithful. He became a Carmelite and a priest in very short order.

There was much more – about his father who disowned him, his mother who threw fits outside the monastery to try to convince Hermann to return to her, the conversion of several of Hermann’s brothers and sisters, and so on. Hermann took the religious name Augustine Marie of the Blessed Sacrament.

Many years later, Fr. Augustine was visiting with his friend Fr. John Vianney, and told him of his mother, who had still had not converted and held deep resentment about her son’s conversion at her death. The future saint told him that one year, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Augustine would receive a letter that would give him great consolation.

And so it happened, six years later. I don’t have the time or energy to relate the whole story as the priest did in his homily, but here’s the heartening conclusion of it: the woman who wrote the letter told of a sort of vision she had in which the Lord gave her to know what happened at the moment of Fr. Augustine’s mother’s death.

Our Lady prostrated herself before her Son, and said of Fr. Augustine’s mother: “This one is mine. Her son has consecrated her to me a thousand times. I want this one.”

Immediately, the mother’s soul was flooded with grace, she professed faith in God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, she acknowledged and felt contrition for all her sins, and she desired baptism with all her heart.

And no one knew. This was all between earth and heaven in a moment barely preceding the woman’s death. The Lord gave the letter-writer to know that he was telling her this to show His Mother’s power over His own.

This had such a profound effect on me that I began to weep as I was driving. It gave me such hope! Of course! All things are possible with God!

And as the priest giving the homily pointed out, the story shows us how important it is that we cultivate a devotion to Mary, that we entrust the salvation of our loved ones to her, that we pray to her for others.

Now, I do all those things, and I have consecrated myself to Mary by way of the DeMontfort exercises, but this made me realize that I also need to have faith in Our Lady’s great power and compassion!

I pray constantly for my pagan son in his Godlessness; I have a Mass said for him every month; I pray for his conversion of heart and the salvation of his soul several times each day. At times, I have felt that it is hopeless, but I persevere; now I have even more hope and even more reason to persevere!

It may sound silly, but “back in the day” when I used to watch the TV series “Touched By An Angel”, I used to imagine that, at the moment of death of an “unsaved” person (I was Protestant then!), the person might be given a moment in which he could make the choice for God. I figured it would be like those moments in the show, when everything around the person stopped, and it was just the person talking to the angels as time was suspended. Perhaps that idea is not so very far from the truth!

None of this, of course, makes me want to pray any less. Fr. Augustine Marie’s mother was granted a reprieve because her son prayed for her so ardently. It was his prayers, not the mother’s merits, which brought about her salvation. His prayers paved the way for her conversion.

So, you see, all of this makes me want to pray all the more! And so I will.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Become a Dead Man

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, “Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.”

So the old man said, “Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.”

The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, “Didn’t they say anything to you?”

He replied, “No.”

The old man said, “Go back tomorrow and praise them.”

So the brother went away and praised the, calling them, “Apostles, saints and righteous men.”  He returned to the old man and said to him, “I have complimented them.”

And the old man said to him, “Did they not answer you?”

The brother said no.

The old man said to him, “You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.”


This was a good story for me. I find it so easy to be affected by both the good and the bad words that are said about me!

Sometimes it’s easier to ignore the kind compliments; at least, I readily recognize my tendency to pride in this matter, and my pleasure at receiving praise. I was always an “over-achiever” in school, and it wasn’t just about getting a good grade – it was about the effect those good grades had in eliciting positive responses from parents and teachers. I liked the praise more than the grades.

But for me now, I think the insults are more of a temptation to pride. I get all puffed up about how hurtful they are, and undeserved (of course!). And I find ways to denigrate the offending party, all the while pretending that I’m just telling the truth, and if what I say reflects negatively on the other person…oh well. That kind of thinking leads me away from charity; moreover, I forget that I will be held accountable for my careless words.

And that last point is a scary thought… “because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love.”

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Goal and Purpose of My Rule

Another section of my Rule of Life:


1.1        This rule is entirely dedicated to the search for God through a life of contemplation[1] which is currently lived out within the vocation of marriage and family life.

1.1.1     Within the parameters of my married vocation, giving due attention to my responsibilities and duties to my family, with prayer and penance willingly undertaken, I seek to occupy myself with God alone, retaining as much as possible, no matter how pressing the needs of the active apostolate may be, an honorable place in the Mystical Body of Christ, whose “members do not all have the same function”[2].

1.2       The apostolate of the laity is currently, and of necessity, my primary and fundamental apostolate, with the married life as my primary vocation within that apostolate. However, the contemplative life[3] has emerged for me as a special, compenetrating vocation allowed by my circumstances.

Contemplative life as a “vocation” means a particular form of life in which, ideally at least, every detail of daily living is oriented toward recollection. By recollection we mean mindfulness, ultimately unlimited mindfulness, the inner attitude by which we find meaning. Contemplative life in this sense is a form of life designed to provide an optimum environment for a radical search for meaning.

Meaning and purpose are not identical….By grasping purpose we gain knowledge; by allowing meaning to take hold of us we gain that wisdom which is the ultimate goal of contemplative life....The openness for meaning is joined to the pursuit of purpose through leisure…. Contemplative life as a form of life molded by a radical search for meaning will necessarily be a life of leisure, ascetical leisure.[4]                                                                       
— David Steindl-Rast, OSB, PhD

1.2.1    The contemplative life – lived as much as possible within the constraints of married life – is my typical and characteristic way in God’s special design to be Church, to live in the Church, to achieve communion with the Church, and to carry out a mission in the Church.  I recognize in the Virgin Mary an exemplary model of this way of life.

1.3.      Inspired and sustained by grace, I am called to live out more perfectly the vows made in my name at Baptism.

1.3.1    My vocation has led me to the profession of the evangelical counsels in a personal, private vow. The Church urges and teaches that all the faithful are to practice the evangelical counsels insofar as possible. Because of my circumstances, I am called to practice these counsels to a greater degree than is typical for the laity. By means of professing vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity according to the obligations of my state, I strengthen my baptismal promises to love God more than anything else and to renounce Satan and all temptation.

 “Now, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, as it ought to be, through those fruits of grace that the Spirit produces in the faithful. It is expressed in multiple ways by those individuals who, in their walk of life, strive for the perfection of charity, and thereby help others to grow.  In a particularly appropriate way this holiness shines out in the practice of the counsels customarily called ‘evangelical.’  Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the practice of these counsels is undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in some Church-approved situation or state, and produces in the world, as produce it should, a shining witness and model of holiness.”  (Lumen Gentium, 39)

1.3.2    My taking of a personal, private vow “creates a new bond between the person and the One and Triune God, in Jesus Christ. This bond develops on the foundation of the original bond that is contained in the Sacrament of Baptism. Such profession is deeply rooted in baptismal consecration and is a fuller expression of it. In this way my profession, in its constitutive content, becomes a new consecration: the consecration and giving of the human person to God, loved above all else.”[5]

1.3.3    Freely renouncing many blessings in this life, I choose to seek that pearl of great price.

[1] As used in Can. 663 & 674. “Contemplation” designates the act by which the mind simply looks upon
some object. “Contemplative prayer” may be defined as a simple and affectionate gaze on God or things
divine. It is more briefly defined by St. Thomas Aquinas as “a simple gaze on truth” (Summa theol., IIa IIæ,
q. 180, a. 1 and 2). See Adolphe Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical
Theology, 1298.
[2]Vatican II, Perfectæ Caritatis 7 (1965)
[3] In his Homily 2 on Ezekiel, St. Gregory the Great says the contemplative life is “to cling with our whole
mind to the love of God and our neighbor, and to desire nothing beside our Creator.”
[4] “Contemplative Community” in Contemplative Community: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, ed. M.
Basil Pennington, OCSO (Washington, DC: Consortium Press, 1972) Cistercian Publications 21, pp. 294-5.

[5] Pope John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum 7 (1984)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Justification of My Rule

This is an excerpt from the beginning of my Rule of Life, in which I present a justification for such an odd-sounding vocation as “lay anchorite”. Combining the married vocation with the eremitic may seem oxymoronic, but it seems to work for me. It hasn’t been easy, of course.

Justification for a “Lay-Anchoritic” Rule of Life

The Lord said in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried
about many things. There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

A cursory reading of the section of Lumen Gentium on the laity (chapter IV), combined with an awareness of the structure of American society today, might lead one to assume that the Church prescribes as the primary role of lay people an involvement in evangelizing the world around them in the context of their work situations, their social circles, and their families. While this may be true to a large extent, the document also continually underscores the fact that individuals “share diligently in the salvific work of the Church according to their ability and the needs of the times” (LG, 33, emphasis added). Given the variety in life circumstances of the laity, their role in the evangelization of the world cannot be confined to a narrow description or a simplistic definition. “If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God” (LG, 32).

A review of my life history would afford a multitude of examples of ways in which I have been called to and prepared for my current lifestyle. These are too numerous to mention and explain here, but they have all contributed to my on-going discernment of a vocation to the anchoritic life. While such a vocation would seem to be completely at odds with the vocation of wife and mother, I think my own situation shows that elements of the two can be combined, just as there are examples of married couples who have chosen celibacy within their marriage. There may be a constant tension between the two vocations as one tries to live them both at the same time, but these are tensions that would probably be present in the marriage regardless of a perceived vocation to a life of prayer and penance (e.g., one spouse preferring silence and solitude while the other prefers to always have some sort of background noise). Having a clearly defined Rule of Life could actually relieve some of the tension, as it brings into the open the differences between the partners, and may encourage a dialogue which would help them to understand each other.

Currently, I am in a unique situation: we live in the country, which provides some minimal isolation; I do not work outside the home; and there seems to be evidence from my personal history indicating that I have been called to a life of prayer and penance.

In sum, my current “lifestyle”, as described by my Rule of Life, seems to be the natural culmination of years of seeking God’s will.

Clearly, when God calls, we must obey; every willful resistance places even our salvation in danger. After sin, the greatest misfortune that could befall us here below would be to miss our vocation... ‘If we wish to make our sure of our salvation,’ says St. Alphonsus, ‘we are obliged to obey the divine call by choosing that state of life in which God has prepared for us those more abundant helps which are necessary to save our souls. How many souls shall we not see condemned on the day of judgment for not having obeyed God’s call!’ ” (The Carthusians: Origin, Spirit, Family Life, p. 30)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sin and Death and Redemption

The other night, it was time to pray the Office of the Dead. I do this once a month, following my spiritual director’s lead.

Since I pray this Office once a month, the readings and responsories are of course not unfamiliar to me. Still sometimes, the words of the psalms etc. just seem to leap out at one and take on a new significance one hadn’t noticed before. That’s how it was the other night when I prayed Vigils.

It was the responsories that really “spoke” to me – these in particular:

R. Lord, when You come to judge the earth, where shall I hide from Your wrathful countenance?  *For I have sinned exceedingly in my life.

V. I am appalled at the sins I have committed, and I blush before You. Do not condemn me when You come to judge.

Yes, sometimes I feel very acutely that sense of being "appalled at the sins I have committed”. I led a very sinful life in the days of my youth, and there are times when memories of past deeds come to mind, unbidden, and they make me shudder. “I blush before You” – indeed, I do! However, I know it is Satan who evokes the memories, because he wants me to despair. I’ve confessed those sins, though, and have received absolution for them.


R. Alas for me, Lord! I have sinned exceedingly in my life. Wretch that I am, what shall I do? Where shall I fly but to You, my God? * Have mercy on me when You come on the last day.

V. My soul is greatly troubled; come to its aid, O Lord.

Again, yes, I have sinned exceedingly in my life! And when those memories rise to the surface and I find myself painfully aware of my wretchedness, I know there is nothing else to do but to call upon His mercy. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Other times, even without remembering past sins, “my soul is greatly troubled”. I have learned that if I call out to the Lord and truly ask for His help, He will not disappoint me! The trouble lies in actually calling out to Him and honestly asking for help! Sometimes I want to wallow in my self-pity for a while; that’s always a mistake, but it’s one I still make. Sooner or later, though, I remember that He will help me if I will ask for and accept that help.


R. The fear of death troubles me, as I sin daily and do not repent. *Since in hell there is no redemption, have mercy on me, O God, and save me.

V. O God, by Your name save me, and by Your might deliver me.

Oh, yes, sometimes I am troubled by the fact that I “sin daily” – the same sins, repeated often. My weaknesses are ever before me that way! I do repent, though…most of the time. O God, deliver me from my unrepentance!


R. O Lord, judge me not according to my deeds, for I have done nothing worthy in Your sight; therefore I beseech You Majesty *That you, O God, may wipe out my offense.

V. Thoroughly wash me, O Lord, from my injustice, and of my sin cleanse me.

I can do nothing good outside of Him, and the best that I do is only the least of what He deserves from me!


 R. Deliver me, Lord, from the paths of hell. You have shattered the bronze doors, and visited hell, and given them light, that they might see You, *For they were suffering in darkness.

V. “You have come, our Redeemer,” they cried out.

Yes, thanks be to God! He has come – our Redeemer!