Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Tasty Morsel From Sirach 34:14-20

Living is the spirit of those who fear the Lord, for their hope is in their Savior. 
Those who fear the Lord are afraid of nothing and are never discouraged, 
for He is their hope. Happy the soul that fears the Lord! 
In Whom does he trust, and Who is his support?

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love Him; 
He is their mighty shield and strong support,
A shelter from the heat, 
a shade from the noonday sun, 
a guard against stumbling, 
a help against falling.

He lifts up spirits, 
brings a sparkle to the eyes, 
gives health and life and blessing.

Sunday Morning Moment

Before
This weekend, I'm out of town. There are only 3 churches here over a 20 mile radius (compared to my 50+ choices in the metro area). I can only make 1 within 15 minutes & its my last chance to meet my "Sunday obligation". On days like this, it honestly just seems like a pain in the butt. I want to sleep in, hang out till noon in my pajamas & have my morning coffee. How could taking a break from Sunday Mass possibly send me to hell? My priest at home preaches grace & encourages me to get to Mass sometime during the week if I miss Sunday. Its no big deal, as long as I've not set my heart on turning from God. This kind of grace, I get. And still, because of a healthy guilt complex, I reluctantly showered. Mindful of the hour fasting requirement, I even abstained from coffee & breakfast. Sigh... what's an hour to the Lord? Just a moment really... just a nothing. What difference will  my presence in church make in the grand scheme of things?

After
So I did it. I endured. I've visited this parish many times & am used to its "down home, southern gospel-esque" responses...  I'm used to the banter of familiarity & how they ferret out visitors or those with birthdays & anniversaries. I keep quiet & try & blend in so no one finds me out... One thing I love about the Catholic Church is no matter where I am or what "style" a particular parish engages in, the Mass is still the same. I stifled yawns & fidgeted in my pew... said the correct responses & tried to focus in on Christ.

When it came time for communion, I shuffled out of the pew with everyone else & prayed "Help me discern the Body.". As I approached the priest & bowed, He said what all priests say as he held out the bread: "The Body of Christ". I replied "Amen" as I took it from my hand & ate. And I have to tell you, I felt a subtle current of joy bubbling up within me as I walked back to my pew. It was like someone toggled a dimmer & the light kept getting brighter. I suddenly felt more awake. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and then Jesus' phrase from today's Gospel reading came back to mind: "Does this shock you?" What's an hour to the Lord? Just a moment really... but what a difference that moment can make.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gideon's Strength

This past week, one of the daily readings came from Judges 6 where the Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. Something stood out to me that I never saw before: The Angel told Gideon to “Go in the strength that you have”. The Angel didn't say “Go in the strength I will give you” or “Go in the strength of your forefathers.” He said to go in the strength that he had... right then, at that moment.

It would be helpful to remember that the Angel found Gideon beating out wheat in a wine press- that is, he was trying to hide what he was doing for fear of the oppressive Midianites. Gideon assured the angel he had the wrong guy. He was just a nobody... the low man on the totem pole of the lowest family in Israel. What would God want with him?

Relativism

I have a custom of listening to Catholic radio on my way home from work each night. I recently caught an episode of  "Life On the Rock", with guest Chris Stefanick. He's written a booklet called "Absolute Relativism, the New Dictatorship & What To Do About It" & gave a sobering statistic that 93% of teenagers don't believe in absolute truth. I'm not sure how accurate that number is, but the evidence is clear in our culture today among kids & adults alike.

I realized this evening that I have in fact done a great injustice by trying to embrace all under an umbrella of tolerance... If I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth & the Life, I can't say that I don't approve of this or that but its ok for you because you aren't bound to the same beliefs I am. That's like I saying I really don't believe what I believe...  Do I believe Jesus is Who He said He was or not? And if so, He is the Way, the Truth & the Life not only for me, but for you & every soul on this earth! Whatever you think about it doesn't really matter. And here, I feel like I've stumbled into some sort of haughtiness. Are my beliefs really superior to yours? And if they're not, why do I cling to them? Why are my beliefs worth believing for me if they have no value to others?

I've often been told that Christians aren't supposed to hold the secular world to the same standards of God's truth because the world doesn't concern itself with God. To enforce conformity seems barbaric in this day and age. And yet the secular world asks (& sometimes demands) that everyone else embrace conformity to its own relativism- live & let live...  what's true for you may not be true for me, but we all deserve acceptance, civil rights, etc. 

When I neglect to stand firm on something, no matter who I'm talking to or what situation I find myself in, what I believe actually ceases to matter. I become like a wave of the sea, tossed about by every breeze. But if I stand firm, I'm like a rock... better yet, a lighthouse that distinguishes the shoreline in the darkness- yes, there is a definitive border here & yes, you will suffer consequences if you don't heed the warning. Is that haughty? Or is that a kindness, a grace, a more true representation of Jesus' gospel message of hope & truth?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expanding Marriage Part 2

I realize in my last post, Expanding Marriage, I was coming from a somewhat impossible religious view. What about those who have no faith base or aren't interested in the Church's moral arguments? I'd almost think the Church is being brutish, standing up against issues like abortion or gay marriage... for allowing gays among their members as long as they aren't in an active relationship. What right does the Church have to regulate sexuality or life outside of it's boundaries? An abortion could save an unwed mother a lifetime of debt & hardship. A gay marriage could provide a couple with stability & love for the rest of their lives. A LGBT etc. relationship in a Christian context could be a good example to all because the partners love God as much as they love each other. Why be a wedge between happiness & stability? Condemning abortion, gay marriage & gay Christian relationships seems antithetical to unity within the Church & without.

Expanding Marriage

Today a couple who celebrated 50 years of marriage stood before the church (with their original witnesses!) & received a nuptial blessing from the priest. He blessed the wife & the husband separately & then as one, citing the mystery of Christ & the church as its reflected in the complementary marriage of man & woman. Just as the two become one flesh, so I am called to become one with Christ.

It suddenly became clear to me why the definition of marriage can't possibly be extended to include LGBT etc. The issue of “gay” marriage is not so much based on who deserves what because it's fair... In the secular, "civil" world, I agree that gay marriage seems good, feasible & even necessary. There's a growing, yet marginalized culture of people who identify with alternative sexual orientation(s) out there. Why can't 2 consenting adults live together with the same rights & privileges that a heterosexual couple enjoy? Why can't they raise children & receive assistance, credits & other benefits within a civilly recognized marriage like heterosexuals have? Why are the marginalized being punished for who they are?

Slaves of Mary, Quite Contrary

The day of consecration has come & gone... I had planned to do it on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15th), but didn't feel quite ready. So I decided to do a review of the last 2 weeks & move the consecration date to the 22nd of August (which is a feast in honour of the queenship of Mary), but after speaking with my priest, I don't feel nearly as compelled as I was in the beginning. He didn't have much to say about the act of consecration to Jesus through Mary, only that there are some things in the Catholic church that are just as kooky as the people who came up with them. Even a few of the best known saints had “problems”, but many of them came up with valid devotional expressions we still use today. I was encouraged to be discerning & not feel compelled to accept everything as gospel just because it bears the name “Catholic”. If it resonates with me, great. If it seems “off”, I don't need to bother with it. His advice put me at ease- though I came this far, I'm not a failure or any less devout if I don't go through with "total consecration".

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Scandal

“Children should not be afraid of the follower of Jesus.” George Macdonald

In light of seemingly endless scandal, my instant thought was a that child should absolutely be afraid of a follower of Jesus these days as much as a stranger on the schoolyard. It seems that some have become strangers not only to Christ & His body, but unto themselves. Its unfortunate that priests & other ministers of the gospel are among them.

Act of Contrition

I finally memorized it, but do I really “fear the loss of heaven & pains of hell”? Am I really concerned with having offended God by my sins? Do I really detest them? And if so, just how firmly am I resolving to let God's grace help me “confess my sins, do penance & amend my life”?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two Sides of the Same Coin

I recently hung out with an old friend of mine from my previous church. She was telling me about a weekend thing she went to & how God revealed Himself to her in a greater way through a series of organized teaching events & hands on spiritual exercises. Instantly, my preconceived notions kicked in. The thought of tongues, dancing & weird manipulative moments jostled my memories as she described the general atmosphere. I was familiar with the church that sponsored the ministry & felt my insides cringe. For the sake of all, I won't name names.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Way IS the Highway

Today I headed to confession & was taken aback by all the vehicles in the church parking lot. I felt disturbed by this, not sure where I could expect to find all these people (certainly not standing in line for reconciliation!), so I kept going. Usually the lot is empty, save the few cars that belong to the ministers. I was expecting to spend some time alone in a quiet sanctuary, but it wasn't meant to be.


My church sits at the edge of a rural area & one turn off the main road can send you driving for what seems like forever. I took one of those turns & navigated the windy mountain roads for a good 20 minutes past ritzy houses, forest & farmland, only to pop back out where I had begun. I headed for the highway, reminded that confession would be heard at a church across town. I passed by that church & made another large loop through the residential streets. Again, I came out where I had begun. I wasn't lost, just avoiding. Somewhere along the way, I ended up talking myself out of it altogether & decided I would just make an appointment. 

As I was driving back toward home alongside a roaring freight train, I thought about my circuitous route that ultimately left me tired & in much the same state I had left in. I won't be able to partake of the Eucharist Sunday, so why bother even going to Mass? I may as well skip it & confess that too. But that's the wrong way to think about confession. I decided to stop by a coffee shop to grab an iced beverage & cool my jets. I sat outside & watched people, called a friend & shot the breeze.

When it comes down to it, I avoided reconciliation because I wanted things my way. But my way cost me the Eucharist. If anything, it'll remind me that seeking my own interests (via sin) & then avoiding God's grace (because its not convenient or comfortable) severs my ability to really be one with Christ... It keeps me going in circles. And that's the whole point of faith, isn't it, to be one with Christ? What's the point of mine? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bit By Bit

Well, here I am rounding the homestretch with consecration to Jesus through Mary. I've actually been at it for 40 days now, having done the 12 day preparation twice. Week 3 focuses on the knowledge of Jesus in light of what I learned about Mary in the 2nd week & myself in the 1st. You would think after a month of devotional reading, prayer & contemplation, I would be sporting a strong spirit... but I feel weaker than ever. Quite frankly, I feel powerless over my propensity to sin & it pisses me off! How can I possibly consecrate myself to Christ in this state?

As I was writing the gist of these things in my journal, that Still Small Voice responded “You're now in the perfect position to succeed... My strength is made perfect in weakness- not just any weakness, but profound weakness. When you can't do any more, there I Am...”

I've come to the realization that consecration is not a one time event or even a daily one. Its second by second, bit by bit. Each moment is an opportunity for success or failure, no matter how holy or profane one claims to be. As long as I am human, I will be facing this conundrum. The question then becomes not how can I possibly consecrate myself to Christ in this state, but when? And the answer is always. I can always turn to Him as long as I have my faculties.

When I'm in the midst of sin or despair, I've learned to keep praying for help. Even if I'm far from true sorrowful repentance, I still pray. I turn myself over to God even as my flesh drags me backward by the collar. There are some days I resolve not to fall (& actually succeed ) & others where I'm in awe of my blatant failure. Still, every moment is an opportunity for consecration to Christ. I don't have to be holy to turn myself in... I just have to be willing to concede that I am who I am: powerless & in need of a Savior... not just once in my life or even daily, but second by second, bit by bit.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Luring God

In the beginning, I thought I understood what it meant to partake of the Bread & the Wine & the whole of Mass, but its so much more than I can comprehend. It truly is awe inspiring. I was surprised to realize I'm still not used to believing Jesus is actually present or that what actually happens at the altar is holy. The priest isn't just some guy in a frock... He is ordained by God to consecrate the bread & wine that we may be fed with the Body & Blood of Christ. He is given the right to shepherd the sheep & hopefully to deliver us to God no worse for wear.

To strip the spiritual reality from the outward expression makes the Mass nothing more than a gathering of inanimate objects & people. As a Protestant, I was heavily indoctrinated to believe the church was just a building & the pastor was just a guy who graduated from seminary. The presence of God was “out there” somewhere until 2 or 3 of us gathered. And even so, God only came at our bidding. So we prayed & sang till we laughed or cried in order to “lure” Him in. The bread & the wine (or in this case, the saltine fragment & grape juice) were the same whether they come from the foot of the altar or the grocery store. We only partook once a quarter for the sake of symbolism, nothing more.

In the Mass, we don't gather to try & attract God to us. We go to Him. He is present in the building before, during & after our activities there. We approach with this understanding by showing reverence toward the altar & signing ourselves with the cross & with water to remind us of our baptism. We come to God acknowledging our faults, thanking Him for His salvation, and committing to following Him after hearing the Word. He freely feeds us with Bread & Wine, Word & Spirit, Body & Blood, that we may be sustained on our journey. Sure, many times we leave like any other Christian with our car keys & bulletins in hand, but we also leave with Christ in us, “the Hope of Glory”. Lord, I am Catholic for a reason. Help me remember why.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Gift of Guilt

I used to think guilt was a bad thing. In my (Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical) Protestant upbringing, guilt was unacceptable. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! He came to wash all my guilt away! Abiding such a thing was unthinkable... it was a flagrant slap in the face of God. Entertaining guilt was akin to entertaining the devil himself. Best not give him a foothold...

But as a Catholic, I'm actually starting to feel thankful for my guilt... Without guilt, there's no true contrition (*sincere repentance or remorse) & no true change occurs. If I sin & am instantly forgiven with no fear of consequences, what's to stop me from doing it again? Love for Jesus? Hah. “I don't know the man.”

Guilt seems like a kind of temporal punishment that interrupts relationship with God (& others) & sends me to the corner till I'm ready to 'fess up. Since one typically doesn't have instant access to the sacrament of reconciliation, the process usually involves waiting days between the offense & confession. In the meantime, I confess my sins to God & receive His forgiveness by faith, but that's not enough. It never seemed enough, even when I was a Protestant. Sometimes my relationship with Him seems imaginary- much like my sin. Its my perception of reality & morality or the sacred & profane that validates what “is” & disregards what “is not”. If it isn't accessible to the senses or subject to 2nd hand scrutiny, there's no consequence because there's no evidence. No one will ever know... its just between me & God... and doesn't He cast my offenses as far as the East is from the West? Doesn't He sink my sins in the deepest ocean & post a no fishing sign? These are the kinds of things I was told about sin & forgiveness.Confessing & resolving to change was supposed to be "enough", but its not. Resolve isn't the same as action. Why does a parent still discipline a repentant child? To make them suffer? Or to teach them the difference between right & wrong to to help the child learn to respect parental authority?

Outing myself & speaking my offenses to a priest makes my sin "real". My guilt becomes real. My weakness & the true state of my heart come to light. Consequently, my God, the Eternal Father & my identity as His child becomes real as the priest listens & gives counsel, as he extends forgiveness & absolution, along with "discipline" (penance). As an adult, penance is no burden, but a joy done with a thankful, hopeful heart because I understand its meant to teach me the way in which I should go. The gift of guilt moves me out from the shadows, into “His marvelous light...”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sinning in Circles

Jealousy is a God quality. Dt. 4:24 “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
But when I embrace jealousy for myself rather than God's glory, I err & fall into sin.

God allows sin that His glory may be revealed. But sin is not an effective way to gain more of His grace. On the contrary: if I sin to gain more from God, I err precisely because I'm seeking my own fulfillment. Ro. 6:1 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

All the things that cause me to sin are such because they're directed inward, toward my own interests & my own glory. Passion is a Godly thing, but lust is not. Jealousy is a Godly thing, but envy is not. Humility is a Godly thing, but false humility for the sake of gaining one's own glory is selfish.

Satan wanted to be like God. But aren't we all called to be like God? Aren't we called to be “little Christs?”. Satan didn't just want to be like God, he wanted to be God. He wanted God's glory, power & authority for himself. He wanted to call the shots, he wanted to sit on the throne, he wanted to take for himself what God would never give him. And this got him kicked out of heaven along with 1/3 of the angels. Think about it. Angels who were created by God & dwelt in His presence actually thought Satan was onto something & followed him headlong.

Satan & his cohorts were cast to earth & given dominion outside the confines of heaven. Jesus came into the kingdom of this world- that is, Satan's kingdom- and was obedient unto death, not for His own sake, but for ours. Jesus didn't give His life to re-establish God's authority, nor did He die to satisfy some self-serving prophecy. Jesus died for the jealousy of God concerning us, the anger of God concerning sin & the excellence of God's image that still marks us, sinners though we are. For love of God & for us, Jesus, His own Son, surrendered Himself completely. He “...humbled Himself & became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” Philippians 2: 8. Consider why He became obedient to the one who opposed Him... “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20-21. God gave the devil what He wanted, but there was a catch.

Jesus was never legally bound to Satan's authority, though He submitted to it for a time... God was & is and ever shall be the ultimate reigning authority. All authority that “is” has been given by God the Father (Ro. 13:1), including the authority He gave Satan over this earth. It was God Who established the laws by which Satan could rule. “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” & “The wages of sin is death” (Gal. 3:13, Ro. 6:23) were actually God's idea...

“You will not surely die... you will become like God...” Remember those words from Genesis? I can't help but wonder if Satan tempted Jesus' humanity with these words in the Garden of Gethsemane (just as he spoke these same words to Eve in the Garden of Eden)... Jesus didn't have to go through with any of this. He WAS God... but in the end, we know Jesus did indeed take the fruit of a tree- that is, the cross- and ate of it. But the result was different. Adam & Eve lived out their lives & died. But in Jesus' case, its as if time & consequence collapsed & came full circle in 3 short days. He took the curse of sin upon Himself & paid the penalty for it right then & there. The curse of death was vanquished by the death of the curse when the Beginning & the End signed the final word of the covenant with His own blood. “It is finished.” He said. The terms have been written & satisfied. The devil is doomed & we can be saved because Jesus subjected Himself to the jurisdiction of death but for a moment & reconciled us to life with God for eternity. Consider God's mercy: that even now we may become citizens of heaven & escape the kingdom of this world because of Christ's selflessness.

All the things that cause me to sin are such because they're directed inward, toward my own interests & my own glory. This is what got Satan kicked out of heaven & earned an him eternal wrath to come. But Jesus came to break the cycle of sinning in circles. All I have to do is look up to the cross. When I allow it's image to be reflected not only in my eyes but in my heart, I'll start walking straight (the cross ever before me) & people will start seeing Jesus in me...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Freak

I drove through downtown after work one Friday & all the clubs & bars were buzzing. People lined the streets & crisscrossed in front of traffic without a care. The short, sparkly evening wear of some of the women reminded me of what prostitutes wore back in the 80's. But I had to remind myself that this was just average clubbing attire for this day & age. The guys wore tight pants & t-shirts, their hair slicked into faux-hawks or some other mess. Everyone was laughing & happy to be alive. I don't get out much in the evenings... I've worked nights for almost a decade now. On the weekends, I prefer to be home or with a small group of people. I've never gone clubbing, never owned a party dress, never smoked a joint or come home drunk off my rocker. I've never been on the arm of a man for a swanky night out on the town. That isn't my idea of a good time anyway. And I guess this kind of makes me a freak.

I've spent most of my life wanting to fit in. Sometimes I actually made the effort. But I was always met with a disappointing sense of failure. Why couldn't I be like everyone else? I have all my limbs & faculties. I'm not a female Quasimodo. But there must be something within me, like oil & water or the opposing poles of magnets that won't allow me to fully embrace the world, or the world to fully embrace me. And I'm starting to be ok with that. Jesus calls His disciples out of the world. “In it, not of it” as the scripture goes, and boy, do I feel it sometimes...

I'm a freak because I don't often choose to insert profanity into my vocabulary. I don't have cable & I barely turn on my tv except to watch the odd DVD... I don't get out to the movie theater much & I despise shopping. If I've ever been to a bar, its because of the restaurant attached. I choose to do my drinking at home, but never to get drunk. I don't smoke & I've never done drugs. The idea of dancing horrifies me- not because of my religious background- but because these days it just seems kind of dumb & self serving... Unless its traditional &/or professional. I rarely go to concerts- while I love live music, multitudes of people screaming & getting drunk kind of wears on me. But I do enjoy a quarterly evening off work or a spontaneous road trip to hear a favorite artist/band.

My idea of fun isn't dressing up to the nines, but dressing down to the essentials. Give me a comfortable pair of shoes, some worn in jeans & a t-shirt & I'm good to go. Let's take a walk to a park, explore a nature preserve or go for a drive out to the country. Lets go camping for a week without running water! Museums are great, but I really can't stand being inside all day. How about a road trip? I'm one of those people who actually enjoys living out of a backpack. I don't need a separate carry-on to haul my beauty supplies (b/c my carry on is filled with paper & books instead). I'm not into “e-reader" technology... I prefer the real deal I can hold in my hands. I like the smell of ink & age, the feel of cracked spines & tattered edges. Writing is my chosen voice. Paper is like oxygen. I can take my time & breathe deep. I like silence as much as I like distraction & I crave being alone a little more than I desire to share other people's company (but a handful of friends are always welcome in well-planned moderation). On the spiritual side, I actually look forward to going to Mass. I pray in some capacity every day. I fast from meat on Fridays even though its seen as archaic. I still read my Bible, consider the roots of tradition & struggle to live out my faith daily. I'm not your typical female. I'm probably not even your typical human. But then, is anybody? In the eyes of the “world”, I know I'm a freak. Nice to meet you.


When The Cup Runneth Dry

I was out of town this weekend & attended Mass at a church that's become my home away from home. Every time I go, there's a different priest presiding. At first I felt kind of annoyed by that, but now I look forward to a new face & a new perspective. Today we met in the gym for some reason- I never found out why. It felt crowded & strange. A very obese man came in with a small boy & asked if he could sit next to me. The entire row was empty, but he literally sat next to me. Suddenly "rubbing elbows" took on a whole new meaning. I listened to him gulp for air every now & then & caught random whiffs of body odor. In front of me, a young family of four filed in. A little girl sat directly ahead of me & was a powerhouse of energy. If she was still for even a moment, I must've missed it. I had to keep scooting my chair forward to maintain my sacred space. An ambo & an altar had been brought in, but it was painfully obvious we weren't in 'Kansas" anymore. It wasn't exactly "Oz" either. Behind the altar, instead of a life sized crucifix, a naked basketball hoop hung suspended from the wall. A couple candles were lit as the priest & a lone altar boy presided. Aside from the crucifix used during the entrance/exit, there was no representation of Christ anywhere. We went through our readings, responses & prayers as usual. It felt strange not to bow to the Virgin Mary during the creed or to abstain from kneeling at the consecration... We stood, said our peace & awkwardly filed up to the front to receive the Eucharist. The wine ran out before I got there, so I walked back to my seat masticating a very dry wafer. It was the Body of Christ (I kept trying to remind myself), but it didn't change the fact that it was painfully difficult to swallow.

All throughout the service, I tried to imagine myself in some foreign country where the luxuries of a dedicated building full of stained glass & icons isn't available. What a blessing it is to go to Mass in a building set aside for that purpose. What a blessing it is to be able to gather with others without fear of persecution or death. What a blessing to be able to share in the sacrifice of Christ in some small way. How much more did Christ suffer for me? And how much more do those without access to religious freedom suffer? I thought about those remote places with no churches, priests or Mass... Some travel hundreds of miles or wait months till they can have any contact with a faith community... Yet I can go to church everyday if I want for Mass & adoration. The Eucharist is readily available to me. I can even go to reconciliation weekly if I need to- its a grace that many others don't have the opportunity to receive.

When the cup runs dry, I pray that I would remember to be thankful for what I DO have... that the representation of Christ is not so much in the outward appearance of art & atmosphere, but in the presence of the people gathered. Christ resides in the hearts of His own... and where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

To Jesus Through Who?


So I'm halfway through week 2 of consecration to Jesus through Mary. Last week, I felt incredible conviction of sin. This week, I've been just plain uncomfortable. Montfort says that God made Mary the custodian- the sole custodian “of His treasures & the sole dispenser of His graces.”. My first response is “Huh”? First of all, what precedent for this kind of thing is there in all of biblical history, that God should make one human a custodian of anything He owns? And then I realized that everything I have comes from God in one way or another. In a sense, He considers each one of us custodians over His various treasures here on earth. Why not give Mary the job of minding the storehouse & dispensing grace in the heavenlies? Afterall, He sent Jesus to this earth to bring us a new covenant of salvation. And Jesus still had to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples. The treasury of grace doesn't emanate from Mary herself- she must obtain all from her Son, Who obtains all from His Father through the intercession He offers for us continually...

Montfort also says “The most fearful enemy that God has set up against the devil is Mary...” and he goes on to cite Genesis 3:15. Yes, it does say the enmity is between the woman & Satan, as well as her seed & Satan... I suppose I'd never seen that before in quite that way. If the seed is Jesus, of course the woman must be Mary. So Satan is at odds with Jesus AND Mary. I guess I've always read that verse as meaning Satan would be against both Eve & the human race because she was mother of “the living” (Ge. 3:20). At least that's what we were told... but it doesn't make sense because “the seed” is one person who is specifically denoted as male. According to Catholic theology, If Jesus is the New Adam, Mary is called the new Eve and mother of all those who live according to Christ, beginning with Christ, Who Himself came from Heaven...

Montfort did say something that resonated with me right off the bat. He noted that in the natural, a child must have a father & a mother, so too in the supernatural. “Since Mary produced the head of the elect (Jesus), she must produce the members of that head, that is, all true Christians.” He goes on to say “If anyone wishes to become a member of Jesus Christ... he must be formed in Mary through the grace of Jesus Christ, which she possesses with a fullness...” This actually makes sense to me. If Mary bore a Head, she would have to bear a Body as well. Scripture tells us Jesus is the Head & we are His Body. It would logically follow that Mary bears us as well in some mystical way or that we would have to go “through” Mary to remain united with the Head, Christ, Who has already emerged into the world. It brings new meaning to the idea that we are His hands & feet...

Mystical V.S. Practical Faith


Do things like Acts of Consecration or praying the Rosary or saying novenas even matter in light of what Christ called us to do? We're supposed to be following Him & taking up our cross, not our beads & our prayer books. Those things can't possibly be part of God's will for us, can they? 

There seems to be a great chasm between mystical faith & practical faith these days. Mystical faith might include private devotions & prayers which are meant to strengthen one's inner self, whereas practical faith is more concerned with the “social” gospel. It's distinctly outward reaching & others focused. Clearly, practical faith is most congruent with how Jesus approached His ministry here on earth. Its an effective approach to spirituality because its a hands on, down in the dirt experience with flesh & blood. But I'm of the mind that mystical faith is just as important, if not more so. 

Jesus couldn't have done all He did unless He had cultivated the more mystical aspect first. He strengthened the “inner man” by spending copious amounts of time in prayer. He encouraged His disciples to take time away from the crowds & rest. He reminded them certain things couldn't be accomplished without prayer & fasting.

Mystical faith takes time... hours, perhaps even days of stillness, prayer, soul searching & even repentance. But these days, we barely have a few moments to spare. We want instant access to the end result. We consume the spiritual equivalent of energy bars & energy drinks to keep ourselves going, but life bites back without warning. In the same way, if we're not well fed through an internal, mystical faith, we'll be devoured by our own weakness. Practicality for the sake of convenience can only go so far in relationship with God & with others.

Mystical faith is notoriously inconvenient. It means shutting down the computer, turning off the t.v., muting the cellphone, taking the headphones off & just stopping to breathe. It means experiencing quiet, not only externally, but internally. It means reigning in the wayward thoughts & pressing concerns. If our thoughts were like sheep, it would be a gathering of all & taking the time to find the one that's lost. And when all are present & accounted for, we can begin to lead them back to the sheepfold of the Chief Shepherd, that is, Jesus. This is taking every thought captive & making it obedient to Christ.

Mystical faith can help us engage in the practical more effectively. It provides us with true sustenance, true rest, true strength. It is the foundation upon which the practical is built & the foundation to which we return when battered by daily life. Acts of devotion, novenas & prayer beads seem frivolous, but its what these things inspire in us that becomes invaluable to our souls.