Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Two Realities

I like this “saying” of Evagrius from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.  

Abba Evagrius said, “Sit in your cell, collecting your thoughts. Remember the day of your death. See then what the death of your body will be; let your spirit be heavy, take pains, condemn the vanity of the world, so as to be able to live always in the peace you have in view without weakening. Remember also what happens in hell and think about the state of the souls down there, their painful silence, their most bitter groanings, their fear, their strife, their waiting. Think of their grief without end and the tears their souls shed eternally. But keep the day of resurrection and of presentation to God in remembrance also. Imagine the fearful and terrible judgment. Consider the fate kept for sinners, their shame before the face of God and the angels and archangels and all men, that is to say, the punishments, the eternal fire, worms that rest not, the darkness, gnashing of teeth, fear and supplications.”

At first glance, of course, that can seem a little depressing. Of course, it is good to remember death and to consider the possibility of going to Hell. It is certainly one way – if not the best way – to remind oneself to strive to practice the virtues and to avoid sin.

But Evagrius goes on:

“Consider also the good things in store for the righteous: confidence in the face of God the Father and His Son, the angels and archangels and all the people of the saints, the kingdom of heaven, and the gifts of that realm, joy and beatitude.”

Yes, that is the other side of the coin, isn’t it? Evagrius concludes:

“Keep in mind the remembrance of these two realities. Weep for the judgment of sinners, afflict yourself for fear lest you too feel those pains. But rejoice and be glad at the lot of the righteous. Strive to obtain those joys but be a stranger to those pains. Whether you be inside or outside your cell, be careful that the remembrance of these things never leaves you, so that, thanks to their remembrance, you may at least flee wrong and harmful thoughts.”

It’s about balancing the two realities, then. And those two opposing outlooks are reality, aren’t they? The bottom line is: what matters more than keeping these two realities in mind? Our focus must be on our eternal salvation.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Have We Earned the Divine Wrath?

Here is the 4th lesson from vigils for Septuagesima Sunday (today):

From the Book upon Noah’s Ark by St Ambrose, bishop Chap, iv.

We read that the Lord was angry. It is in the thoughts, that is to say, in the knowledge of God, that man being put on earth and weighted with the body cannot be without sin, for earth is the home of temptations, and the flesh is a bait for corruption. Yet man had a reasonable soul, and his soul had power to control his body; and, being so made, he made no struggle to keep himself from falling into that from whence he would not return. God’s thoughts are not as man’s thoughts; in Him there is no such thing as change of mind, no such thing as to be angry and then cool down again. These things are written that we may know the bitterness of our sins, whereby we have earned the Divine wrath. To such a degree had iniquity grown that God, Who by His nature cannot be moved by anger, or hatred, or any passion whatsoever, is represented as provoked to anger.

This struck me as such an in-a-nutshell summation of what is going on in our society today. It’s as if this observation has been carried out to the extreme in the modern world. Though man has a “reasonable soul” as St. Ambrose tells us, reason seems to have bowed completely to the bait of the flesh. How much more can we see today that “we have earned the Divine wrath”?

The fifth lesson continues with the reading from St. Ambrose:

And God threatened that He would destroy man. He said I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air. What harm had the animals done? For man’s use had they been created, and, when man was wiped away, they were of use no longer. And there is an higher reason. Man is a living soul, capable of reason, who may be described as a living animal, subject to death, and endowed with reason. When then the highest animal is gone, why should the lower branches remain? Why should anything be saved alive, when righteousness, the basis of salvation, is to be no more?

I had never thought of it this way! The ancients were certainly not as enamored of animals as modern man, were they?! At least, I doubt there were “animal rights” groups insisting on treating animals as if they had exactly the same importance as humans. I’ll bet no one berated Ambrose for saying that if humans are wiped off the face of the earth, there is no need for animals! Here we see a proper subjection of animals to man, since God created animals for man’s use. What a concept.

The sixth reading continues:

But more effectually to condemn the rest of men, and to manifest the goodness of God, it is written that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Here we learn also that the sin of his neighbour casteth no shadow on the righteous, when he is kept as a stock from whence the whole race are to spring. He is praised, not because he was of a noble race, but because he was a just man and perfect. The stock of a just man yieldeth men of just souls; for virtues, like blood, are hereditary. Among men are some families illustrious for honourable pedigrees, and so there are also races of souls whose comeliness is the lustre of virtues.

So Noah, even though he was in the world, was not of the world. He shows us that it is possible to be “a just man and perfect”.  And I am particularly interested in the Saint’s contention that “the stock of a just man yieldeth men of just souls; for virtues, like blood, are hereditary.” I have seen evidence of this many times; generational curses do exist, I think – though not in a vacuum. If parents are not living a Godly life, and do not practice the virtues, then how will their children ever learn?

I don’t mean that this has to be an overt teaching where the parent verbally articulates and teaches appropriate behavior and morals; no, it is a “lived” teaching. No matter how much we try to hide our sins, they are made manifest especially to our children, it seems to me. Without our even talking about our spiritual shortcomings, we see our children adopt the same issues! And the same is true of virtuous behavior. Parents who live according to God’s laws, who have a firm grasp of their Catholic identity, and who truly know right from wrong pass this way of existing along to their children. Sometimes, such parents are even rewarded by seeing their children act virtuously even though they haven’t been “taught” to do so.

At least, that's how I see it...

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blame It on the Weather

My retreat was “practically perfect in every way” – just like Mary Poppins. So of course I should have expected some angry demons when I arrived home. They were there, all right. I managed to deal with them eventually.

Now, though, there is the ongoing issue of my motivation. I have been finding it difficult to get moving, even though a hundred and one chores and projects are clamoring for attention. Part of the problem likely has to do with some drama in my daughter’s life – both in the social and work arenas; I keep hoping that I’ll become more and more able to limit my involvement and investment as time passes and she has been out of the house longer, and as I begin to trust her to deal effectively with her issues.

That’s not the whole story, though, I’m pretty sure. I decided today that I will blame much of my lack of motivation on the weather.

I'm tired of this!
It seems like we have had more than our fair share of gray skies and fog this winter. I don’t mind the snow so much when the storm clears and the sky is bright blue and the sun is glinting off the freshly whitened roads and pastures.  But this year, we have had snow and ice, and temperatures well below freezing for extended stretches of time…and very little blue sky to offset the grayness of mood that accompanies the grayness of the skies.
Looking forward to this!
Today the sun peaked out a bit, and I could see patches of blue. There was an immediate improvement in my mood! It didn’t last long, though – as soon as the blue was swallowed up by gray, I slumped again. But I’m trying to forge ahead, regardless of the weather.

It’s an uphill battle.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, February 10, 2014


I'll be away for a few days...

Here are some recent photos from around our place. My daughter took the one of the deer. My camera phone took the other two. I'm not sure why my camera puts such a blue tint on some of the photos I take with it, but I can't say I object!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Suicide

Yesterday, I learned that a man in our community had committed suicide the night before. His wife came home to find him slumped in a chair, having shot himself in the chest.

Although the man was not a close friend of mine, I did know him. He was received into the Catholic Church a number of years ago, and at that time my husband and I were in charge of the RCIA program. He struck me as a devout man with a sincere desire to become Catholic. His wife was a cradle Catholic, I believe, and they had raised their two children in the Church.

I saw him now and then around town, and we always greeted each other warmly. I didn’t know him well enough to know that there were problems that would lead him to suicide.

I will pray a novena for the repose of the soul. I will pray that Our Lady had a few words with him in the moments before he died, and that he realized what a mistake he had made and repented of it. What a horrible scene to imagine: standing before the God Who gave you life, only to have to admit that had just denied that gift by an overt action – an action that clearly denounced God as the Author of life itself; an action that said “My will, not Yours be done”; an action that, in a sense, makes a God of oneself.

Not that I think this man actually considered that he was throwing God’s gift back in His face, and that he was feeling all-powerful for taking his own life. No, I am sure that satan was whispering evil in his ear, and deceiving him into thinking there was no hope, no sense in living any longer. I have enough experience with minor depression to understand that there comes a moment when a depressed person sees no way out of the pain and hopelessness other than ending his life.

It’s such a lie, though. Satan is so very clever in preventing the poor sinner from seeing beyond the action of killing himself. Satan doesn’t want us to think about hell and purgatory. He doesn’t want us to know that the depression and anxiety and trials and tribulations we might experience in our earthly life are nothing compared to an eternity in hell.

So I pray for this man’s poor soul. Will you say a prayer too? God knows his name, and will recognize for whom you are praying, I’m sure.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Demon Shift Work

Most days, around 3pm, I experience something of a slump. I don’t know why, really, but it just seems to be a time I start to feel depressed. That is of course the time for the Divine Mercy chaplet. Sometimes it seems such an effort just to pray that little chaplet! I imagine the demons don’t like me praying for the people I remember at that time.

Another thought occurred to me today as I was noting my depressed mood: maybe 3pm is shift-change time for the demons! Perhaps a couple of fresh demons take over for the ones who have been poking at me all day long. Maybe demons don’t really need to rest, but surely a new team might bring in new ideas for tormenting me! I’ll bet it’s the depression specialty team that comes on at 3pm, and they get right to work planting depressive thoughts in my mind.

The answer, then, I imagine, is to have my own shift change of guardian angels! Let the depression-fighting angels make it a point to come to work at 3pm…or maybe a little bit earlier, to get a jump on those depression demons.

Of course, we have to watch out for changes in their tactics, too. Now that I’m on to their shift change time, they will probably reschedule things. I’ll let my primary guardian angel be on guard for that!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.