Our Lady and Sheen

Sheen and Tolkien

As St. Augustine said, “Whatever we are, we are not what we ought to be.” The origin of this conflict has been told by medieval and modern theologians through the analogy of music. Picture an orchestra on a stage with a celebrated conductor directing the beautiful symphony he himself composed. Each member of the orchestra is free to follow the conductor and thus to produce harmony. But each member is also free to disobey the conductor. Suppose one of the musicians deliberately plays a false note and then induces a violinist alongside of him to do the same. Having heard the discord, the conductor could do one of two things. He could either strike his baton and order the measure replayed, or he could ignore the discord. It would make no difference which he did, for the discord has already gone out into space at a certain temperature at the rate of about 1100 feet a second. On and on it goes, affecting even the most distant shore, so this discord affects even the stars. As long as time endures, somewhere in God’s Universe there is a disharmony, introduced by the free will of man. (Go To Heaven, Fulton Sheen, p. 28-29)

I am so glad that I read Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” before I read this book. The first chapter of Tolkien’s work speaks greatly to the beauty of God’s creation, and more importantly “why God gives us free will.” It is almost as though Sheen and Tolkien were responding to the same deep call of Music to help explain the universe.

From Wiki:

The first section of The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë (“The Music of the Ainur”[6]), takes the form of a primary creation narrative. Eru (“The One”[7]), also called Ilúvatar (“Father of All”), first created the Ainur, a group of eternal spirits or demiurges, called “the offspring of his thought”. Ilúvatar brought the Ainur together and showed them a theme, from which he bade them make a great music. Melkor — whom Ilúvatar had given the “greatest power and knowledge” of all the Ainur — broke from the harmony of the music to develop his own song. Some Ainur joined him, while others continued to follow Ilúvatar, causing discord in the music. This happened thrice, with Eru Ilúvatar successfully overpowering his rebellious subordinate with a new theme each time. Ilúvatar then stopped the music and showed them a vision of Arda and its peoples. The vision disappeared after a while, and Ilúvatar offered the Ainur a chance to enter into Arda and govern over the new world.

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February 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Letters on a wall in Africa

Two nights ago I went to dinner with an old high school friend and her husband.  It was a great time, and was really helpful.  I found myself writing letters to her once a week (mostly) when I started my last job.  She was in Africa doing very important (and fulfilling) Peace Corps work, and I was new to my small Louisiana town, and hadn’t really met anyone.  I only got a few letters from her, but I enjoyed them, I knew she was busy, and probably just humoring me.  At dinner she mentioned that she enjoyed receiving them (the first time she’d referenced them in 4 years), and that she especially liked the ones with pictures, and that she had posted some on her wall.  It felt really, really good to be appreciated enough that my letters made it to her wall!  Oh the poor Facebook generation… they won’t get it.

So, after I got done with the, “How could my life have been different? Have I wasted my life?  If I’m lucky, I’m only 1/3 of the way through life,” thoughts, I got to thinking.  Isn’t that kind of how we are with God?  We pray and pray and pray, and sometimes, maybe, we get an answer.  Perhaps God is like my friend.  Perhaps God enjoys putting my prayers up on his wall, and knowing how much I love and appreciate him.  Maybe he basks in the glory of my well-crafted prayers?  Maybe that’s all and I should feel really good about it, that, you know, He’s busy with so many other things in the entire universe, but also likes that I thought about Him?  Yeah… I don’t know about that one…

Or… maybe, just maybe, we’re my friend.  Maybe God is writing us letters ever moment of every day, and sometimes we remember to write back?  Will God, in his great and endless power, look at us who occasionally tack some mementos up on the wall and think that we’re great?  Maybe.  He knows we’re Human.  But how much more would He like us to write him more, to show our love more, and to go on writing?  Probably a lot.  How much greater of a relationship is there when people give all they can.  God has given us all He can… can we say the same?

Our Lady, Conceived without sin, Pray for Us.

July 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Knit in the womb

God knit us in the womb, says the Psalmist (Psalm 139). Indeed, that is a startling image. I thought it had something to do with my meditation today, until I wrote it down just now.

My prayer today, and a conversation with a coworker about tailoring, led me to see my relationship with God in a different light. I know of us being knitted in the womb, or formed from the clay, but I was able to think of God not only as a potter, but as a tailor.

First, we were created in the image and likeness of God. That means there was and is a pattern that we should be following. The Lord sees this pattern as we do not. A tailor can look at a pattern from above, while the cloth just lays there, believing that is all there is to life, because that is all it knows. The cloth (figuratively, of course) feels that something more is there, because it is being moved about, but the tailor is beyond its two-dimensional understanding. We also know that there is a God, but our understanding is only a little better than our example.

Second, the pattern requires the fabric to be molded into shape. How is this done? I am no expert, but I believe that scissors run the length of the fabric once it is attached to the pattern. Scissors are sharp. The excess material is severed from the useful material. If the cloth could feel, my guess is that the feeling would not be pleasant, mentally or physically. Those people that have lost limbs probably did not think it was the most pleasant experience, although there are plenty of saints, known and unknown, who joyfully suffered. God asks us, as merciful Father, to allow Him to remove the “excess cloth” in the for, of worldly attachments and sin. As we allow Him to form us into the garment He wishes for, we must lose more and more material, being cut smaller and shaped differently.

Finally, again with my limited knowledge of tailoring, he must put us together. We do not, in any way, shape or form “deserve” heaven on our own merits. We must do good and be holy, but not out of some “quid pro quo” arrangement with the Almighty! Rather, it is He who perfects us, in this world or purgatory to follow, both being the sewing process. The pinpoint accuracy of the needlework is again, if the cloth could feel, painful, but the result is beautiful. This stitching together is our becoming a garment that would be welcomed in the court of the Most High.

The surprising part is that when the garment is complete and perfect, we realize that we are also created anew, and wearing the garment!

This is not the best example ever, obviously, but I hope that it will bring only good, and no evil to your thoughts on God’s will for you.

I pray that God will continue cutting on my excess cloth, and form my life into one suitable for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. If you would also pray that I become perfect as the Father is perfect, it would help.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Love and working.

I have a new song that I really enjoy.  I know that I love the chorus, or part of it.  It’s by the Sidewalk Prophets, entitled “You Can Have Me.”

So often, as Catholics, we are told that we believe we have to earn our way into Heaven, instead of just accepting the Grace that saves (salvific Grace, for the Catholic term).  But I was listening to this song, and it seems that they describe the Catholic understanding of good works in conjunction with faith perfectly.

The one line from the chorus is, “When did love become unmoving? and when did love become unconsuming?”

It’s an absolutely beautiful image.  I know that when I have friends whom I am very close to, I want to do things for them.  Not because they will pay me back, but because of the relationship.  If it’s a guy, I want to really challenge them to be better men, and I want them to do that to me.  I want to know that they love me enough to want me to be the best man that I can be, and I want them to be the best men that they can be.

When it comes to girls, I tend to lean more towards the chivalrous nature.  Even within that context of friendship, I want them to know that I love them deeply, because I love them, not for the benefit of the relationship.  I go out of my way to make them smile, feel good about themselves, open doors, the whole nine yards as much as possible.

In the same way, the God of the universe created us and loves each of us infinitely and goes out of his way to open doors, or pull out chairs, or challenge us to be better, or whatever analogy you would like to know, because he desires us in heaven with Him for all eternity (see Baltimore Catechism, lesson 1, question 3 if you need more).  Why does God do all of these things for us?  Because, in the under-educated layman’s terms, the infinite love that He has inspires Him to purely, out of love.

Additionally, if God loves us to the point where He willingly does all things for us and so that we may have life to the fullest, are we to say that we love God and then sit down on our couch and never call, or see each other.  No!

What then are these works that we do, is it out of an obligation to “earn our way into heaven?”  No.  The works that we perform are inspired by the Charity (think faith, hope and love) that is given to us by God to perform for our fellow man.  James 2:14-26, a teaching that can be as hard for some as John 6, is the goal of our Love for God.  It is to reach out with all our heart to the fellow man, first to inspire him to have his soul saved, and secondly to take care of him corporally. 

These are the works of which we sometimes forget are required.  There are consequences to failing to perform these works, and there is Heaven or Hell for all eternity to content with:

And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.  Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. (Matt 25:31-46)

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Hope for Hard Times by Scott Hahn

I have just read one of OSV’s “30-Minute Read” series of books, Hope for Hard Times by Scott Hahn.  Dr. Hahn is one of my favorite authors after Archbishop Sheen, but I came to the book with a lot of discomfort.  First, I thought that explaining suffering in 60 small pages would be a very difficult thing to accomplish.  Second, while knowing Dr. Hahn is usually amazingly precise in explaining things in the context of the cross, (and OSV is no stranger to orthodoxy!) I was afraid that with such a small book it would be too much of a “fluff” piece.  I am very happy to report that I was wrong on both of my worries!

Dr. Hahn does an amazing job combining scripture, the writings of the saints, compassion and common sense into a motivational booklet that left me feeling much stronger about the suffering that I go through, as small as it is.  Dr. Hahn’s powerful words and use of powerful scripture was especially appealing.  The most practical section of the book deals with the difference in complaining to, and complaining about God.  Sometimes, I feel as Christians that we either do not want to complain because we feel that a good Christian doesn’t complain, or conversely we complain about everything from the donuts (or not having donuts, probably good for me), to the way the priest shakes hands with the people after the Mass.  Dr. Hahn does a wonderful job of integrating the hope of the beatific vision into the everyday lives of people suffering.

Overall, I’d say this book would be good for any person who believes in the true God, but is struggling in life.  I think the concepts of sacrifices of love are foreign to most of the world, but this would be a good introduction to those searching and open to the true Faith.

The only objection that I had, is that in my barely literate nature, it took me about 55 minutes to read!  But, to be fair, the depth that Dr. Hahn went into, I could have spent 30 minutes on each chapter!

Our Lady, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us!

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Book Review | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Declaration of Independence

As I stated in the last post, I was reading the Declaration today in honor of the Fourth of July, and there was one grievance which I had never really focused on before.  I think it is the greatest grievance of them all:

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

Sometimes, we all fall into a place where we believe that to be a Christian man, is to be very nice to everyone and not to offend anyone if it is at all possible.  We think that the “WWJD” bracelets would encourage us to say it’s ok to do this, or avoid that, or even encourage this or that, even when evil, as long as it’s not ourselves that are doing the act.  We see the light of “manliness” through the eyes of gentile acceptance of everything that happens.

The forefathers who wrote the Declaration point out quite intentionally that one of their grievances with the king’s government is that he dissolves bodies that act like men in standing against injustice.  They point out that the representative houses oppose with a “manly firmness” the wrongs done to the people of our then colonies.  How often then, do we say, oh yes, I will oppose abortion, or the degradation of the family, but I can not speak out in the public square regarding it.  Isn’t there a charity or an organization that I can give some money to, in order to assuage my conscience.  “Yes, I know that speaking out needs to be done, but I am only one MAN, so what can I do?”  You, my dear Christian man, can do more with one act of “opposing with manly firmness” than any amount of money could ever do.

One man brought the fall of mankind, when he refused to oppose with “manly firmness” the great dragon that is called Satan, while in the garden.

One man spilled blood on the earth, when he refused to oppose with “manly firmness” the sin of envy, and slaughtered his brother.

BUT!

One man opposed his own doubts with “manly firmness” and stood ready to offer his only begotten son up to God, and received not only his son back, but the promise of a progeny beyond numbers.

One man stood in opposition to Pharaoh and his court with “manly firmness,” and brought God’s people out of bondage.

One man stood in opposition to evil with “manly firmness,” and became a child, a carpenter, drove out secularism from the Temple, stood before kings and governors, had his blood spilled and was lifted high on a tree for the TRUTH, and the TRUTH has set us free.

One man may do anything, or nothing.  One man may pray diligently, or cower in luke-warmness.  One man may cry out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, or betray the master with a kiss.

I call on each of us to make our own declaration of independence, from a spirit of fear and bondage, to turn to the Living God, and say:

“LORD!  We are FREE, and in that FREEDOM, we choose SERVITUDE to You, who are above all else.  THY WILL BE DONE!”

All you Holy Saints and Angels, pray for us!

Lord God, in our failings, have mercy on us!

Lord God, in our successes, have mercy on us!

Jesus, who did not oppose the flesh of lowly man, pour out your graces on us, and bring us into life everlasting with you, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign forever and ever.

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment