Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Children Are on the Road to Hell

I have two adult children.

My son lives on the other side of the country from me, so contact with him has been sporadic at best over the last 20 years or so anyway. In recent times, the distance between us has become more than physical, as I finally had to admit to myself that he is entrenched in his own world view and has not even the faintest interest in mine.  In fact, he told me, he “prays” that I will give up my misguided faith in the Catholic Church and see the light of…what?? I don’t know who or what he “prays” to, nor what light he would like me to see. I wonder if he knows himself.

You can see that he is quite a distance down that road to hell.

My daughter lives very close to me, and we are also close emotionally and psychologically. She has been Catholic since birth, essentially. She has been raised in a Catholic family. The problem I see is that my own Catholic faith didn’t emerge until she was 7 years old – I was received into the Church in 2002, and received my first Holy Communion a few months before she did. Since that time, my knowledge and love of the teachings of Christ’s Church has expanded in a huge way, but my knowledge and faith weren’t solidified enough to teach her the faith as I would do if I had it to do all over again.  So I look back and see where I failed her.

Today, I saw even more clearly how I had failed her: she seems not to grasp the reality of hell. She knows, intellectually, that missing Mass for no good reason is a mortal sin, and she knows that she did that recently. She knows she needs to go to confession. And so, when I asked her if she wanted to go, she said yes, and we agreed we’d have breakfast after. But when we arrived, there was a line, and she didn’t want to wait. Well…she’s an adult. Things have changed. I reminded her that she had committed a mortal sin and that it was enough to send her to hell, and that she really needed to get it taken care of. Yeah, yeah, she knows, and she will.

But what the whole experience showed me was something I’ve just been trying to hide from myself: she doesn’t get it. Not really. In part, I blame myself; in part, I blame my husband; and in part, I blame the religious ed teachers, priests, and bishops we’ve experienced. We’ve failed her – and many others, I fear.

I’m not giving up, though. St. Monica has been a role model for me for a long time. My son is a pre-conversion Augustine. My daughter isn’t taking that sinful road, but she is drifting off the path of holiness nonetheless.

So I pray to St. Monica. I pray for her intercession, and I pray for the gift of tears she had with regard to her son. I ask her to help me pray for my son and daughter as she prayed for her son – with the same fervency and intensity and desire for their salvation.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, October 23, 2015

More Busy-ness

My life seems to have three compartments. There's my prayer life, which is most important to me, of course. Then there's the part of my life that centers around my family and those children who have recently come into my life. And then there's the business compartment, which is definitely keeping me busy recently.

I have been working on an antependium for a high altar. Perhaps surprisingly, I haven't done one of these before! All of the antependia I have created were for stand-alone altars. I visited the church for which I'm making the current one, and I am going back next week to deliver the antependium and see if it actually fits!

Here is the altar:

 Underneath the black marble overhang, there are hooks, which were clearly meant to support a rod that supports the antependium. You can barely see one of the hooks in this photo...well, maybe you can't, but if I enlarge the photo enough, I can see it!

Because of the black overhang and the matching black base, the antependium, which will only cover the white marble, is only 31" tall. So it was decided to go with a more simple design. I think it will look nice.

I have made a matching tabernacle veil, too.

Meanwhile, this weekend is a "kid" weekend, when the two children I've mentioned before will be visiting their father. We seem to have fallen into a routine of having them out to our house for dinner on Saturday. I do enjoy the children! 

But the center of it all is prayer. I am thankful that I have developed the habit of praying the Divine Office. It is a stabilizing factor in my life, as I negotiate my way through the different compartments these days. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Synod

Many of my thoughts on the Synod are not charitable at all to the priests, bishops, and cardinals participating in some way or another in that dubious effort.

Some of these men are putting on display, for all the world to see, their heretical notions, their poor understanding of the sacraments, and their lack of supernatural faith. One wonders how it is that these men can voice the opinions they do and not cower in fear of the retribution of God.

My first reaction is anger. How dare they! What do they think they are doing!?

My second reaction should probably be my first: it is to cower in fear for them, since they seem unable to do so themselves. When I think about their eternal souls, and what will happen to them if they don’t repent…well, it is really so horrible that I don’t like to even try to imagine it. And that is what prompts me to pray for them.

I also think about what it will mean for the Church, and for good, orthodox, faithful priests, if the Synod results in a quasi-approval of “some” divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion. What pain, what terror, would beset a poor priest who is essentially ordered by his bishop to give Communion to a person or a couple whom he knows is living in adultery? A priest who truly understands who he is, himself, in his priesthood, and who truly believes in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, could not possibly do such a thing. Could he? Should he?

I think that a faithful priest should refuse to do give Holy Communion to someone he knows to be in mortal sin. That is the charitable and merciful thing to do, because those sinners will bring more damage and hellfire to themselves by receiving unworthily. But I also know something of the power of bishops, and of the bullying tendencies some have, and of their willingness to punish faithful priests for simply being true to the faith. And so, these faithful priest would have a lot to lose, in this world, if they disobeyed the bishop. Yet, how much more would they gain in Heaven!

There’s much more that could be said, and I’m sure you are saying it yourselves. But the Synod is only a synod. It remains to be seen what Pope Francis will do. Even so, much damage is being done currently, even though the Synod basically has no power to enact any kind of Church law or doctrine. It’s a time for trembling, I think. It is a turning point for the Church…though either way we know the Church will be protected from error in the end.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit prevents even a hint of “approval” or “acceptance” of mortal sin simply because society accepts it as normal.  

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Saint Bruno

Today is the Feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian order.

I keep the music sheet tucked away
in my Liber Hymnarius.
I know two hermits who have taken the name “Bruno”. One was once a Carthusian monk, but discerning that that was not his vocation, he moved on to become a hermit, and subsequently took a different religious name.  He is now my spiritual director, and some vestiges of his Carthusian journey remain in his current Rule of Life. I think of that when I sing the Te Decet after the Gospel every Sunday at Vigils, in part because the little music sheet I have (which he printed up, and which, actually, I know longer need to look at when I sing the antiphon), notes in the upper right hand corner that it is more Cartusiano – in the manner of the Carthusians.  (I don’t know of any other version of the Te Decet; this is the one I have always sung.)

The other Bruno I know is a hermit in Canada, whose second anniversary of his eremitic vows is today. He has a blog which you can visit here.

The latter hermit sent an email to his friends today which included the following commentary on solitude. I thought it worth sharing here.


Address to Novices at St. Hugh’s Charterhouse, October 6th, 1997
Solitude is one of the ultimate questions for every human being. Finally, we are alone, coming into and leaving life, unknowing and unknown, unloving and unloved? This question is linked to that of purpose: Is there a sense to our existence, a purpose and value?  

Solitude, as an important dimension of a lifestyle such as ours, expresses paradoxically the will to go beyond solitude as aloneness and absence of meaning.

It is striking how preoccupied modern culture is with solitude. The more information is communicated, the bigger and quicker the access to what is happening all over the world, the more are people crushed beneath the perception of themselves as insignificant and alone. The universe is unfolded before us in all its splendor. Instead of adoration, this can cause despair.

In the Middle Ages   people reached out beyond themselves into the world of more or less apocalyptic religious speculation-and a second millennium is upon us- or into the cultural world of imaginative art such as that of Dante. Nowadays, the same need to reach out beyond is expressed more visually in the somewhat crude but innovative efforts of books and films to portray a world beyond our own, beings form other planets and even the reality of cosmic good and evil. Are we alone? Do we matter?

The solitary must first inhabit his solitude. It is there he can enter into his deeper self and find such answers as he may find. He will soon experience the extreme difficulty of seizing the unseizable, of knowing the inexpressible, of reaching out beyond the parameters of scientific knowledge,  hopefully, partially, to another level of being, to a reality beyond all shapes and forms, the real what and finally who that is being in and through itself.

Whatever experience he has will always be subject to another interpretation: illusion, hallucination, subconscious imaginary projection of fear and desire, incapacity to live in the stack of the world of absurdity.

Whatever explanation he gives, whatever words he proffers will never prove anything to those who do not share this experience. He will never have absolute proof of the rightness of his experience either for himself or for others. This does not excludes certitude.

His eyes are the eyes of faith: faith in a Reality that has taken the initiative to communicate with us. We are not alone. Our lives are not without purpose. We are willed to be by an intelligent love called by name to be persons, known and knowing, loved and loving, whose deepest reality will never disappear.  The trace of his presence draw us towards him (for personal he is, and must be, if we are persons). We cannot be but drawn, if we but open our eyes and listen to our hearts.

He speaks to us with the words of our human experience. He assumes in Christ a human face, in order to introduce us into his being and life. Nevertheless we modeled of clay. It is so hard for us, not for an hour, or a month, or a year, but for the whole lifetime with its tasks seasons, to hold ourselves in his serenity. The flesh, the affectivity, the mind often clamor for a food more congenial to them. Our fragile sense of self needs to be bolstered and expressed in activity, affirmation and achievement. We may try to escape too much beauty by deliberately disrupting the harmony. We deform reality by our neurotic needs or flee it altogether in psychotic denial. Sometimes we sin I order to keep God at a safe distance.

But there is nowhere to hide. Christ has walked all our paths, even that of death. He comes to us in his innocence, even in our sin. He can cure our will not to be cured. His love will not be denied. Ultimately, we are not alone. We know it, whatever our words say. Hopefully, in the end, we will yield to the light of truth, accept to be loved and to love totally. Our silence will be the peace of fulfillment and the joy of adoration.

I think that is what St. Bruno meant by his oft-expressed ‘O Bonitas.’   

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!   

Friday, October 2, 2015

Guardian Angels

I found readings 4, 5, and 6 from the Office of Vigils (Matins) for the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels particularly meaningful last night.

I realized how much I worry about some important people in my life. I pray for them, yes, of course. I try to abandon myself (and them) to Divine Providence. But I worry nonetheless.The readings from Vigils helped me to see my own fault in that worry – not that I shouldn’t care about these individuals, and hope and pray for the best for them, but that I should do something a little more constructive than worry. God wants us to trust in Him, and He has provided us with very powerful guardian angels; therefore, we should trust that these powerful protectors will indeed do their job!

 Sometimes guardian angels are portrayed as soft and fluffy and cute, or even bumbling and clownish. But their true character is more akin to mighty warriors! I will make a concerted effort to redouble my prayers to the guardian angels of all those whose particular needs and circumstances make me worry.

Here are the readings:

From the Sermons of St Bernard, Abbot

He hath given His Angels charge over thee. A wonderful graciousness, and a wonderful outpouring of love. For who hath given charge? And what charge? Unto whom? And over whom? Let us carefully consider, my brethren, let us carefully hold in mind this great charge. For who hath given this charge? To Whom belong the Angels? Whose commandments do they obey, and Whose will do they do? He hath given His Angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways, and that not carelessly, for they shall bear thee up in their hands. The Highest Majesty, therefore, hath given charge unto Angels, even His Angels. Unto these beings so excellently exalted, so blessed, so near to Himself, even as His own household, unto these hath He given charge over thee. Who art thou? What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Even as though man were not rottenness, and the son of man, a worm. (Job. xxv. 6.) But what charge hath He given them over thee? To keep thee in all thy ways.

What respect, what thankfulness, what trust, ought this word to work in thee! Respect for their presence, thankfulness for their kindness, trust in their safe keeping. Walk carefully, as one with whom are Angels, as hath been laid in charge upon them, in all thy ways. In every lodging, in every nook, have reverence for thine Angel. Dare not to do in his presence what thou wouldst not dare to do in mine. Or dost thou doubt whether he be indeed present, because thou seest him not? What if thou heardest him? What if thou touchedst him? What if thou smelledst him? Behold, not by sight alone is the presence of things made manifest.

Let us also, brethren, dearly love His Angels, as them with whom we are one day to be co-heirs, and who in the meanwhile are leaders and guardians set over us by the Father. With such guardians, whereof shall we be afraid? They that keep us in all our ways, can neither be conquered nor corrupted, far less can they corrupt. They are trusty, they are wary, they are mighty. Whereof shall we be afraid? Only let us follow them, only let us cleave unto them, and we shall abide under the shadow of the God of heaven. As often then as the gloom of temptation threateneth thee, or the sharpness of tribulation hangeth over thee, call upon Him That keepeth thee, thy Shepherd, thy Refuge in times of trouble, call upon Him, and say, “Lord, save us; we perish.”

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!