The now famous Brake Man, symbol of Adam after original sin, has been chained up for his own security subsequent to the fear of theft by a reader. He’s chained to a metal grate of a tiny opening that vents the crawl space under the rectory.
Think of it this man. It might seem that we are chained down by the effects of original sin, weakness of mind, weakness of will, emotions all over the place, sickness, death. But no. With our redemption, with saving grace, we can use those very weaknesses not as a source of our insecurity, but rather as occasions to assent to the solid grip our Lord has on our souls as draws us to Himself across Calvary to where He is lifted up on the Cross (see John 12:32).
We are unchained by being chained. Don’t fret about chains. Used them as the cross which our Lord commands us to carry[!] as an encouragement to follow Him, that other command of His. Don’t fret about chains. Let them encourage you to let the risen life and joy of our Lord shine out to others.
Having said that, I hope to get to heaven, as do we all, where all chains fall away.
HEY! It’s the 471st anniversary of Sacrosancta, the first decree of the fourth session of the most sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent in 1546. This is my most favorite of all magisterial interventions. Be awed by the syntax in Latin. Be awed by the breadth, the heights, the profundity, the glory emanating from this decree. Let yourself be wrapped up it’s reverence before the Most Holy Spirit. Let yourself be brought to your knees. Unfortunately, rebel Martin Luther, ex-Catholic priest, would die just months before this was published, though I have to think that he was kept up to date on the ruminations for the first drafts, not easy if one is in bad health.
First the Latin…
Sacrosancta oecumenica et generalis Tridentina synodus, in Spiritu sancto legitime congregata, praesidentibus in ea eisdem tribus apostolicae sedis legatis, hoc sibi perpetuo ante oculos proponens, ut sublatis erroribus puritas ipsa evangelii in ecclesia conservetur quod promissum ante per prophetas in scripturis sanctis dominus noster Iesus Christus Dei Filius proprio ore primum promulgavit, deinde per suos apostolos tamquam fontem omnis et salutaris veritatis et morum disciplinae omni creaturae praedicari iussit; perspiciensque, hanc veritatem et disciplinam contineri in libris scriptis et sine scripto traditionibus, quae ab ipsius Christi ore ab apostolis acceptae, aut ab ipsis apostolis Spiritu sancto dictante quasi per manus traditae ad nos usque pervenerunt orthodoxorum patrum exempla secuta, omnes libros tam veteris quam novi testamenti, cum utriusque unus Deus sit auctor, nec non traditiones ipsas, tum ad fidem, tum ad mores pertinentes, tamquam vel oretenus a Christo, vel a Spiritu sancto dictatas et continua successione in ecclesia catholica conservatas, pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia suscipit et veneratur. Sacrorum vero Librorum indicem huic decreto adscribendum censuit, ne cui dubitatio suboriri possit, quinam sint, qui ab ipsa Synodo suscipiuntur. Sunt vero infrascripti. Testamenti Veteris: Quinque Moysis, id est Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; Iosue, Iudicum, Ruth, quattuor Regum, duo Paralipomenon, Esdrae primus et secundus, qui dicitur Nehemias, Tobias, Iudith, Esther, Iob, Psalterium Davidicum centum quinquaginta psalmorum, Parabolae, Ecclesiastes, Canticum Canticorum, Sapientia, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Ieremias cum Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, duodecim prophetae minores, id est: Osea, Ioel, Amos, Abdias, Ionas, Michaeas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; duo Maccabaeorum, primus et secundus. Testamenti Novi: Quattuor Evangelia, secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam, Ioannem; Actus Apostolorum a Luca Evangelista conscripti; quattuordecim epistulae Pauli Apostoli: ad Romanos, duae ad Corinthios, ad Galatas, ad Ephesios, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses, duae ad Thessalonicenses, duae ad Timotheum, ad Titum, ad Philemonem, ad Hebraeos; Petri Apostoli duae; Ioannis Apostoli tres; Iacobi Apostoli una; Iudae Apostoli una et Apocalypsis Ioannis Apostoli. Si quis autem libros ipsos integros cum omnibus suis partibus, prout in ecclesia catholica legi consueverunt et in veteri vulgata latina editione habentur, pro sacris et canonicis non susceperit, et traditiones praedictas sciens et prudens contempserit: anathema sit.
Now my own slavish translation… NOT the usual translation!
The Most Sacred Ecumenical and General Tridentine Synod, convened legitimately in the Holy Spirit, with the three Legates of the Apostolic See presiding over it, is itself proposing for perpetuity in plain sight, so that, having cast down errors, the very purity of the Gospels may be conserved within the Church… [The purity itself of the Gospel…] which, before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten Traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Spirit dictating, have come down onto us, transmitted almost as if by hand… [The Synod] following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament — seeing that one God is the author of both — as also the said Traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. [At this point, the list of books is provided. See the Latin.] If anyone, however, will not receive as sacred and canonical these same integral books with all of their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as are had in the Old Latin Vulgate edition, and will hold in contempt the aforementioned Traditions knowingly and with considered judgment: let him be anathema.
Note “almost as if by hand” since this is all about the Holy Spirit!
This is THE Counter-Reformation assertion by the Sacred Magisterium of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church against the heretics who reduce revelation to theology and inspiration to feelings, the dark arrogance having them rewrite and remove things from the Sacred Scriptures so as to assert merely themselves. This decree is CATHOLIC!
On a personal note, I was ordained a deacon on this day in the Twelve Apostles Basilica in Rome. Also, this decree became the center piece of the beginnings of a doctoral thesis (the first chapter being 256 pages), the story of which needs to be told one day, reaching as it does into the very heart of the intrigue of ecclesiastical politics and stirring the pot so much that… well, I’ll leave that for another day. Just note that this decree is still THE engine driving any true ecumenical dialogue, that is, which brings unity in truth and charity those who sincerely follow Jesus.
Donkeys, also known as jack [male of any species] -asses [technical name in Latin: asinus] are thought to be especially vulnerable to trickery and tom-foolery on April 1. I hesitated to post anything about it until today, pretending to wonder if I would survive the day. Three tricks were played on yours truly, one by a hope-to-be-one-day-seminarian (saying he converted to be Episcopalian, one by a fellow priest (he overthought that one), another by some LEOs (simple, yet elaborate, making me laugh out loud).
So, I didn’t fall for any of them, at least not for too long a time… But I do appreciate the attempts. It’ll have to be better than that next year. I can’t wait. What mere human beings don’t understand is that donkeys are fierce guardians of the flock. We trick tricksters all the time: “Oh, we’re just dumb donkeys!” And then, bam, a swift kick followed by a calm esophagal crush, and the donkey and the flock make it to the next day. We live a life of foolishness. I mean, did you ever hear a donkey sing?
Jesus played the fool on the cross, letting us mock him. And then, bam, He rises from the dead. Saint Paul bids us to be fools for Christ (1 Cor 4:10). The foolishness is all about what is not of the world, that which is mocked by the world: honesty, integrity, goodness, kindness, peacefulness, being tabernacles of the Holy Spirit.
Update: Jenny the Jeep (Jenny being the female of the donkey species), has a new tag as of yesterday when it finally came with the new registration in the mail. She proclaims “PRO DEO” (“FOR GOD”), of which the rest of the phrase is “ET PATRIA” (“AND COUNTRY”) and is the motto particularly of the USARMY but in general of the entire Department of Defense. In this case, it refers in a special way to 1 Cor 4:10, being fools for God. My 4GOD4USA tag is now retired. Sassy has 4GOD4ALL.
Way back in the day, when I was a seminarian, spiritual directors in their conferences would insist on the virtue of humility, citing the things the saints did to help along their humility. But, I don’t know, I think the spiritual directors got it all wrong, with the effect — I’m blaming them ever so humbly! — that we seminarians didn’t become very humble at all. Some of us just stayed as arrogant as anyone might be; some started exaggerating on the “I’m going to do something to humiliate myself” kick. But, of course, humility is simply about truth, accepting the truth of the situation we are in. Compare the following three statements by which the seminarians might be categorized:
Look at me! Look at me! I’m doing something to humiliate myself! I’m soooo holy and I’m so self-fulfilled! [And this fellow then proceeds to act like a mentally handicapped person, thus demonstrating how terribly arrogant he really is.]
Don’t be such an idiot. You’re going to get yourself thrown out of the seminary. [This is said while pushing the first fellow to the ground just when the bus comes for the university so that the other fellow will be late for class, an infraction to be noted by the formation directors. Bullies, mind you, are as arrogant as the falsely-humble.]
In silence, a third fellow lifts up a prayer to the Lord Jesus: “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [And this fellow is happy to accept the truth of who he is before Jesus, rejoicing that Jesus is forgiving, good and kind, making us His friends in truth.]
Jenny the Jeep is showing her deficiencies to the whole world here. Previous owners thought they were electricians and mechanics. Not. The wires, which should be about none, are a rats nest of connected the wrong way and disconnected and shorting out wires. That’s not good for the junction box which only lasts about 30 minutes. One of the mechanics in town, a Jeep aficionado, is going to try to look at her next week. Jenny doesn’t care about the humiliation, showing what she needs to who can help her. That’s humility, which is modest yet eager to be helped, “doing” something that might make her look humble but not so as to draw attention to how good she is in her humility, but rather just to be helped by the one willing and able to provide that help.
I suppose I’ve been all three of the examples above at whatever time. But I have hope that Jesus will be happy for me to say: Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
P.S. Saint Philip Neri is most famous for “doing” stuff that would humiliate himself, but this was done as a clever ironic entrapment of those full of themselves, who were about to be taught a lesson fit to bring them to humility on their knees in the confessional as soon as they opened their arrogant mouths. Hey hey hey. The saints are also like that. Yikes!
FoxNews carried this AP story: Crocodile attacks Australian teen who jumped into river on dare. It reminds me of my childhood when a kid I knew, who wasn’t my friend, would dare me to do something which would certainly most likely bring about grave injury or death. I think I was a bit autistic as a kid and he knew it. Some autistic kids do grow out of it just a bit. The spectrum is very broad. I was an easy target. Somehow I just didn’t do what he wanted. I’m thinking this was my guardian angel making me just too stunned that he would ask this, and so was unable to wrap my brain around a such a thing. If I remember correctly, it was something like this:
Jump off this high bridge into the river, the Mississippi.
Jump off this roof (and so many times almost pushed off).
Jump out of this fast moving car.
Ride your bike in this super-dangerous area.
Drink this deadly chemical.
Cut yourself with this knife.
Shoot yourself with this gun (and shot at… once successfully)
Hang onto the back of this truck on your bike as it takes off.
Lay across train tracks next to the wheels of this momentarily stationary train (this being the most common dare).
Get electrocuted in this way.
Dig a cave into the wall of the deep trench of that excavated loose sand pit.
Jump into this quarry water.
Jump off the chairlift we’re on.
Et cetera et cetera et cetera. Just about anything you can think of.
Mind you, this wasn’t said like a typical “Go jump in a lake” brush off. Instead, in the circumstances, the pressure was really put on. I think my eyes just glazed over and he got tired of this and he went elsewhere. In looking back I have to wonder just how much his lack of a good experience with the father of his family affected his perspective in life. Although it seems he spent a lot of time with me from that list, these were instead momentary, purposed encounters. And that was the end of that.
Having said all that, we do have even more deadly dares of suicide coming to us all the time from Saint Paul and Jesus, all of Sacred Scripture really, the old die to yourself so as to live for Christ dynamic. I’ll tell you this. That dare is a lot more enthralling, captivating, necessitating, compelling, but it’s incomparably more difficult to wrap one’s mind around however much it makes sense. The reason for that is we don’t have the gumption to do it, to die to ourselves to live for Christ. That comes only from the grace, the love, the friendship with our Lord that He provides to us, He having taken the dare, if you will, to lay down His life for us that was issued by our dear Heavenly Father on our behalf. Jesus jumped right down to this earth. And we did what He knew we would do, therefore gaining the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, standing in our stead, the innocent for the guilty: “Father, forgive them!” We need but ask Jesus for the grace to say with love: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Meanwhile, I wonder if all that imprudent fearlessness of my provocateur had an effect on me after all. I mean, how many terrorists (a number of whom one way or the other committed suicide) have I gone out of my way to speak with? How many impossibly dangerous situations have I been in on purpose, bullets whizzing by? I think all the challenges as a kid made me think about the distinction between taking one’s life just to do it and putting oneself in circumstances in which one might well be hurt, even mortally, but for a good end. That might have prepared to begin to listen to those words about dying to oneself to live for Jesus. I admit I’m a bit slow with that one, a bit afraid, a bit weak. Actually a lot weak. But Jesus is very good and kind and patient. I’ll ask my guardian angel to smack me down so that I don’t use that as an excuse for complacency. My prayer is: “Jesus, please, don’t help me; instead, just kill me off to myself so that I live just for you.” Words are one thing. Actuality is another. But: “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Lastly: I have zero animosity for that kid, who now must be getting on toward 60 years old (older than me). I think he’s had what anyone might call a fairly daring life as well. I just hope he’s taking up Jesus’ dare to take up one’s cross and follow Him, dying to ourselves to live for Him.
But the Israelis are not the first to land an attack fighter with only one wing. Perhaps my dad was the first. He also had the wing of his gull-wing corsair knocked off during a training exercise at Andrews Air Force Base in D.C. by a knucklehead student pilot coming up out of a barrel roll a bit too quickly. In the case of my dad, Commander of the Checkerboarders, he was able to keep the inevitable spin from happening by holding the stick all the way over while flying at 45 degree angle, landing on the tip of his good wing, and then the wheel of his good wing. Hah! He would have used the side of his plane for the necessary lift. Hah!
Whenever I see cockiness trounced, I am tempted to do a dance. Attack pilots are the same. And attack pilots are pretty much all the same. Here are some Russians. I can just hear the criticisms, saying that those are toy planes without any serious possibilities in a real war, blah blah blah. Regardless, this is some good flying:
Even if tender snowflakes are offended by this, I have to say: Competition is a good thing. It’s hilarious. It brings us beyond where we’re at. A challenge to overcome. Let’s see what Saint Paul says in Romans 12:10-19:
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.[!] Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [Outdo one another in showing honor.] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [Outdo one another in showing honor.]“
So, on the Feast of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (transferred from Sunday to Monday this year in our Lord 2017), many, including yours truly, have begun the preparation a consecration to Merciful Love, 33 days away, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Octave of Easter.
The meditation for Day 1 started in the Garden of Eden with original sin. Since my doctoral thesis was on this topic I’ve read thousands of commentaries, monographs, articles (theological, linguistic, exegetic, philological, philosophical, economic[!], psychological, archeological, etc), Festschriften, notes, etc.), on the topic. And so, a bit jaded (none of them were up to the standard I would want for a serious investigation into the meaning of the Word of God), I was immediately thrown into ho-hum mode.
Stupid me. Father Gaitley with no wasted verbiage came right to the point with an exactitude worthy of any academic study of the inspired text. But he did much more: he brought me to a spiritual insight that was stunning for me. Here I was, cruising along on the laurels of my academic studies (and there are many laurels in this case), and he made me crash and burn. Well done, Father! I love it. Although everything he wrote was consonant with what I had written, he took me a step beyond where I had been. But even more than this. Spiritual insight is still “insight”… something for our sorry brains. Father Gaitley did something even more than this. He threw me to my knees before the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, that Son of the Mother of the Redeemer spoken about in Genesis 3:15. Our Lord took it from there.
Methinks I will very much enjoy this do-it-yourself retreat which fortunately has nothing about do-it-yourself to it, as Father Gaitley leads us adeptly to Jesus, and then leaves us with Him, Mary’s dearest Son, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Wonder Counselor, Prince of the Most Profound Peace, who will come to judge the living and the dead and world by the fire of His Merciful Love which had Him stand in our place of judgment, founding His mercy on justice, having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, the justice making the mercy most majestic, most good and kind, most credible, most enthralling, most joy-filled, a bond of love with the Most Holy Trinity, having us walk with God in this sorry world until we should come to the gates that, please God, will open wide for us… Please, say it with me: Jesus, I trust in Thee.
Fasting with a spiritual purpose is different although overlapping in many ways with mere nutritional dieting, the latter of which can, by the way, also have profound spiritual motivations. After all, we are not Promethean Neo-Pelagian Self-Absorbed Self-Congratulatory Manichaean Gnostic haters of the physical universe, are we? No. After all, our Lord Jesus is Incarnate, the Divine Son of none other than the Immaculate Conception. Some quick points:
Fasting goes way back to the time of the formation of Adam in the Garden of Eden, even before his wife was brought forth. God commanded Adam not to eat that which would harm him, but gave him free will to do as he chooses. Adam did not fast from the forbidden fruit of perceiving any good as admixed with the evil of egoism except if he should assent to enmity over against Satan, assent to the redeeming, saving grace from the Son of the Mother of the Redeemer.
Adam was thrown out of the paradise aspect of the garden lest he attempt to grasp after that which he could not understand, the fruit of the tree of the living ones, feigning unsuccessfully that he could, by his own efforts, thereby gain eternal life, but instead necessarily only hurting himself all the more. Mercifully, the cherubim with the fiercely flaming sword were stationed to protect the tree of the living ones, converting his grasping into receiving if he should humbly so choose.
As we grasp and are then painfully routed by the ardent enmity over against Satan that is God’s love at the end of that sword of the fierce cherubim, we see our weakness all the more clearly, excruciatingly clearly, so that we might choose to give up trusting in our own efforts of grasping and be humbly content with receiving the fruit of the tree of the living ones, thankful for the eternal life we then receive.
But we are weak, and we fall when we choose to grasp instead of receive, setting up gods for ourselves and being delayed in entering the promised land. And we are pedagogically punished, analogously, for forty years of anguish in the desert, learning not to trust in ourselves but instead in the Suffering Servant.
That Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, would, of course, found mercy on justice and stand in our stead, demonstrating this by being tempted for forty days and nights in the desert, fasting because we had instead glutted ourselves. In those temptations, those mind games of Satan, Jesus answered each and every time – no matter the temptation – with reverence before, obedience to, and love of His Heavenly Father. That is what we must learn: not mind games, but love. He, Love, conquers all.
Brought to the tree of knowing good admixed with evil, the cross, our Lord transforms it into the tree of the living ones, and after we fast in those days of His passion and death, He would have us feast on the fruit of the tree of the living ones, which then we don’t dare to grasp ourselves, but which we then, by His grace, that ancient enmity over against Satan, He would have us instead humbly receive, providing us thus with eternal life.
Fasting is not about saving ourselves, pretending to become ‘stronger’ (preparing for a bigger fall in our pride), but rather we begin, endure, and conclude fasting with friendship with Jesus:
Before: “Jesus, I’m terribly weak, and if I fast I get headaches and am at the ready to be testy with anyone in any situation. Jesus, please, in having me see how desperately weak I am, have me die to myself altogether so as to live only for you, trusting only in you.”
During: “Jesus, I trust in you… Jesus, I trust in you… Jesus I trust in you…”
After: “Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me so much about how you are our only Savior, and that to trust in you is to love you, and be brought by you to our Heavenly Father. Thank you, Jesus.”
I think it was reader sanfelipe007 who mentioned the joy of a young child jumping in the arms of a loving father, squealing with joy, and how much Jesus could not but immediately present such a soul as His gift to our Heavenly Father. I paraphrse. But I really, really like that… squealing with joy…
A good friend of mine is very poor. He mends his clothes with bailing wire and glues on shoe cleats which he makes with discarded pieces of wood. He doesn’t waste anything and has an appreciation for everything, always and in every circumstance grateful to our Heavenly Father for all that he has, particularly his reception of the goodness and kindness of the Lord. He walks with our Lord in humble thanksgiving. He would be the first one to say that he is not to be praised, but would readily offer his example to be followed in whatever way according to our own circumstances. In this way we also help each other to get to know the powerful love of our Lord Jesus who walks with us.
On Shrove Tuesday Eve, there was party thrown by some friends celebrating some recent events in my life, which happened to happen all at once. It was a victory celebration in many ways.
This massively huge “tree” was just outside the window. I think it’s an Ent, you know, of Lord of the Rings fame, those gigantic creatures which ever so kindly carried our heroes into the battle of battles.
Hey! Why not personify the cross into being a friend, a best friend, who will carry you right into the battle of battles next to the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Wonder Counselor, Prince of the Most Profound Peace? That would make for an ENT LENT!
In this way, pareidolia is a gift making life more interesting even while personifying that which is able to be personified is altogether helpful for analogy, without which Christianity is naught.
Take as an example the great “Sophia”, the Wisdom of God spoken about in the Old Testament, not a goddess or fourth member of the Most Holy Trinity, but that receptivity of Sacred Tradition which Cardinal Siri in his great work “Gethsemane” called univocal, the same for all who correctly perceive that which comes to us unchanged by way of the Holy Spirit and which is only passed down by the Church quasi per manus, almost as if by hand (for it is done by the Holy Spirit), as we read in the glorious first decree of the fourth session of the sacrosanct Council of Trent on 8 April 1546.
Diversely, directed Rorschach projection is just so boring. You’re not allowed not to see anything but the very thing the examiner wants you to see, delegitimizing, of course, their attempts to figure out their place in the universe with their willing guinea-pigs. The various categories of answers, and put to statistics, even with conversational follow-up, cannot but skew results. Much better just the unrepeatable circumstances with conversational follow up. Pigeonholing simply makes for a quick and easy diagnosis with generalized statements at which one throws money. Anyway, I never did this. I would, however, discuss at length methodology with the psych students at the Gregorian.
At any rate, don’t hug a tree. Instead, accompany Ents stomping on untowardness:
Solum Facilis die fuit heri. The only easy day was yesterday. – A Navy Seal motto…
Some think to get a bit of hope by things becoming easier. The Navy Seals get hope by having tougher days, as the tougher days are the only ones by which one can be challenged to excel all the more in the service of all.
There’s a spiritual analogy here… no? What think you?
Can we be encouraged to try to do better? Sure. The resulting goal that we set for ourselves can issue from a reckoning about what our dogs think about us and what the reality actually is. Fine. But…
Don’t have any goals in the spiritual life. Sure, there are things like keeping the commandments with a firm purpose of amendment, of frequenting the sacraments, of following the precepts of the Church, etc.
But that’s our ecclesial life, so to speak, intimately tied, it is true, to our spiritual lives, but there is a distinction to be made. Our Lord plucks us up out of the quagmire of this world, up to cross, where He is, where He said He would draw when He is lifted up there. We might think that we can climb up on the cross ourselves and don’t need or are afraid of His help to get there. We know that the goal there is set by Jesus, not ourselves, namely, that we participate in the charity of God in drawing all to the Heart of our Savior.
But that is something we cannot bring ourselves into living. It is beyond us. We have no idea what it means to intercede for all the members of the Body of Christ who are being drawn by Jesus to Himself on the Cross. This outrageous charity is not the way we would go about things. If we set anything to do with that as a goal for ourselves at which to arrive through our own machinations of doing this and that, we will only arrive at what we imagined with our own brains. It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. We are not our own saviors. He the One, the only One. He saves us because we cannot do this ourselves.
The fad in the formation of seminarians for all these years of darkness was to equate psychology and the spiritual life, making the seminarians into perfect human beings who then don’t need any grace of redemption or salvation. And then the house of cards falls. The most oft cited book on vocations here in these USA is all about God calling perfect human beings, or human beings who are well under way to becoming perfect human beings who don’t have any weakness consequent to original sin. This has a certain insanity about it.
I wouldn’t want anyone in a seminary who thought he didn’t need Jesus because he was already the perfect human being (what arrogance!). Neither would I want someone around who despaired of depending on Jesus. I would want someone available to formation, that is, someone who was willing to be at ease with the fact of the cross we are commanded to carry, which includes all weakness consequent to original sin. Know yourself! Yes. To a point. But we don’t really know whence Jesus had to save us until He lifts us out of the quagmire.
Jesus doesn’t make us of ourselves stronger, more whole, perfect. No. He brings us into His strength, His truth, His love, His goodness and kindness, before which standard we can understand a bit more what He’s done for us, leaving us in humble thanksgiving. In heaven there will be no more weakness, but here, in justice, as consequences of sin freely chosen with the sin, yes.
Having a goal of humble thanksgiving? No. We don’t know what it is. But assent to it as our Lord brings you into being humble, into thanksgiving, into His truth and goodness and kindness.
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!” commands Jesus. Yes. But not of ourselves, but because we are made to be members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Jesus is perfect. He’s the Son of His Father. He’s the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. It’s all about JESUS!
Philomena with the anchor; Mary of Magdala with burial supplies
[[This was written in the days of “Holy Souls Hermitage.”]]
I just love that: the Virgin Martyr Philomena and the sainted penitent Mary of Magdala, together. This is the glory of the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the aim of going through purgatory in this life instead of the next. Both knew themselves to be saints and sinners.
It’s not that Philomena didn’t know that she was totally weak and conceived in original sin, absolutely deserving of hell because of that. It’s because she knew that all so well, and was filled with such humble thanksgiving for Jesus, the greatest love of her life because of His grace, that she was able to persevere in being a martyr because of the virginity which she gave to Christ Jesus, knowing that He appreciates the utter agility of soul which goes along with this, one’s very life becoming an act of intercession for the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Having said that…
It’s not that Mary of Magdala wasn’t a saint, though knowing full well her “past history” not only of original sin, but she must have felt somehow besmirched by having been possessed by seven demons (though feelings don’t make you besmirched at all). It’s because she knew of her need all so well by the grace of Christ — the standard of goodness and kindness — that she was able not to look to herself and get depressed and despair, but was able to take up the invitation of the goodness and kindness of Jesus in order to be a great, great saint, for whose intercession we are all of us so very thankful, never forgetting, however, why she needed that invitation in the first place.
If one gluts oneself in sin, one no longer knows oneself to be a sinner. For the sinner, there seems to be no sin. For such a one, saintliness is out of the question. If you’re not a sinner, you can’t be a saint! That is to say…
If one easily, simply, fully accepts one’s weakness, that one would easily fall into sin (the possibility not being a sin) without the grace of Jesus, then one can know that one is invited by our Lord’s goodness and kindness to be a saint, that is, to be His good friend, as He called us in a creative act after the Resurrection.
So, saint and sinner: it’s either both or neither one. Confession brings all this home gloriously. When’s the last time you’ve been? It’s a great experience of our Lord’s goodness and kindness.
Just to be clear: When people say “I’m a sinner” and they are not, or “I am in the dark” but they are walking with our Lord, they are not calling virtue “sin”, but are merely saying that this is the way they would be if they were without Jesus’ grace, His goodness and kindness, His love and truth, His friendship, the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity.
How we can see ourselves even if we’re in the state of grace.
Update: I’m re-posting this as I found a picture of a mangy donkey…
Easter Sunday evening until today [Easter Monday night 2016]
My neighborhood, in fact, in front of my little rectory, was the epicenter Easter Sunday evening for what so far seems to be the world championship dog happiness days, happy, that is, to get away from what seems to be some ill treatment against them. There were a couple of our friendly police trying to assess the situation, and there were dogs everywhere, six in view and uncountable others screeching and howling and barking, that is since Easter Sunday evening until today, Easter Monday, pretty much non-stop, all night. This recording is taken from my phone. Sorry it’s not very loud. In person, it’s really, really loud:
Meanwhile, someone on yet another street over got out a super-loud martial-law-enforcement-quality public address system, about enough to make the windows of this part of town shake, and — incredibly — started to berate the dogs, as if that was going to do any good. Honestly. The dogs did stop for a few seconds in amazement, but then went on with their happy mayhem.
The dogs that I happened to see were in pretty good shape, unlike the one pictured here. They were thin, but able to run around, at least because it seems they were happy not to be where they had been until that time, which may have been some sort of confinement. There seems to be a consensus among the dogs that the immediate neighborhood of the rectory is safe territory. Wherever they had been before, they seem to run straight here for refuge. I haven’t seen these dogs since I was in Rome until just now (the beginning of February 2016 until Easter Sunday evening).
Mind you, dogs on the loose often smell of rotted fish or whatever carcass they happen to be happily chewing on, but these smelled like their own feces, really rank, really bad. Dogs might eat their own vomit, but they don’t ever roll around in their own feces. What happened is what I want to know, or maybe not. I’m guessing they had been locked up for these months with plenty of food and water, but were never checked, and somehow got out. Nature finds a way. But maybe that’s a silly guess. Did the owner die back in February and the owner has yet to found dead today?
At various times during the night (it was really loud!) I went outside and stood in the street, immediately surrounded by the dogs if they weren’t happily rampaging elsewhere in the neighborhood. They would quiet right down and come up respectfully for a pat on the head, and then lie down then and there to get some rest, right on the road, totally exhausted as they were. Then I would go inside and the mayhem would start all over again.
I was out talking with the neighbor just after 6:00am, and he said that the animal control crowd is going to come by to pick up what animals they can get in our neighborhood. It’s a dogs life, a dog eat dog world.
Holiness is for the dogs
Can’t let this go by without making an analogy, right? How about reading some fallen human emotions and feelings of whatever kind into this kind of doggy situation.
Over in Rome, when my leg was in pre-op traction with some 13 breaks and the traction bolt having been pounded literally right through my heel, with bits and pieces of bones coming out in multiple places, an Archbishop friend came to visit. Many weeks later I thanked him for having taken the time to come by, and he said that surely my happiness and patience at the time was all a bit of a façade, that I had instead really been suffering. It’s not that I was faking it, as it were, but I can see his point; latching on to happiness was, I suppose, a kind of coping mechanism. But, I mean, I would rather go that way than into despair.
How we might actually look.
So, what about the suffering underneath the surface thing, dragging all the past into the present and projecting it into the future and pulling all that back into the present in one heap of dark existentialism, all with a façade of happiness? It can happen, just like with the dogs chasing about here and there and everywhere, happy to be out, but being pushed into running about in happiness by the great suffering they have endured and are still carrying with them, anxious as well, about what will now become of them. But right now, for the sake of distraction: Happy! Happy! Happy! Hmmm….
Add to that for ourselves that we’re dealing not only with the effects of original sin (weakness of mind and will, temptation, feelings and emotions all over the place, knowing that all is not right with God if we are apart from His grace, sickness, death), but also of whatever effects of our own sin. Self-inflicted suffering is still suffering.
Our is so often the mistake of the dogs, feeling that not all is right even if we are in the grace of God. We look for mercy as an escape, not realizing that, in justice (for ourselves) we must retain the just consequences of sin chosen with the sin as a matter of God’s own justice while we are in this world, a justice which, unbeknownst to us, is the very foundation for mercy.
Did not Jesus stand in our stead so as to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, with justice providing the foundation for the mercy? For the sake of His sorrowful passion (justice) have mercy on us and on the whole world (mercy).
Does not Jesus use the just consequences of our sin, our weaknesses, as the cross He commands us to pick up and carry though meanwhile looking only to Him, following Him? The weakness is the occasion for receiving the mercy of joy, God using our very weaknesses to have us turn to Him, that which could be an occasion to drag us down being the occasion to have us look to Jesus for His strength.
Ignoring the implications of all that, spiritual directors so often offer merely psychological coping mechanisms to lull a person into thinking that they are making progress, when, instead, such Pelagian self-medication cannot save us, cannot introduce us to a personal friendship with Jesus. No matter how many rosaries, holy hours, masses, no matter how much fasting and almsgiving, one can be left with such coping mechanisms with grit determination to be nice covering over a whole lot of repression of the just effects of sin. That’s a recipe for disaster. But this is absolutely typical spiritual direction. It’s insane.
The purpose of the spiritual life in this world is not to be introspective, and its certainly not to be more whole, and nice, and balanced and wonderful, and effervescent. No. The purpose of the spiritual life in this world is Jesus dragging us into reality away from our hell of denial, dragging us right to Himself on the Cross, right through all of hell broken out on Calvary, right up to Himself on the Cross, so that we can thank Him not with fake happiness of any dog on the street, but with the true joy of the Holy Spirit.
The catastrophe of self-referential, self-congratulating, self-absorbed, Promethean Neo-Pelagianists (those who equate psychology and the spiritual life), is that they deny that the spiritual life is about love; they effectively deny that we cannot go to heaven without dragging others there. Thus, psychologically someone might seem to be on an even keel until for some unknown reason the person is thrown into a spiritual tizzy. The psycho-spiritual director might say that this or that aspect of one’s childhood is surely coming to the fore or whatever other stupid thing. Meanwhile, it is just the blinders coming off the person’s eyes just a little bit more as occasioned by the need of someone else of whatever time and place in the Mystical Body of Christ, not that one carries the other person’s cross, but because one is carrying one’s own cross better as occasioned by the need of the other person. When one is simply faithful to Jesus no matter what, this makes one’s very life into an act of intercession for others. How about let’s let Jesus be our spiritual director in His love? I think that that’s the way to go. After all He’s the Way.
We don’t have to “feel” this way to be this way.
The upshot: Just because we are mangy dogs at the beginning of the spiritual life doesn’t mean that we are not already dragging others to heaven. One is saintly inasmuch as one has the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity from the beginning. Sure, one can grow. Whatever. That’s good. But don’t ever feel left out (even if you feel that way!) just because you bear all the more intensely the effects of sin, with Jesus letting you know all the more accurately whence He called you. Even the greatest of contemplative saints, to grow, must go by this way of dragging others to Jesus (by intercession) by carrying one’s own cross all the better. To judge where we are in the spiritual life is not the thing to do. The thing to do is to get direction about how best to be faithful in whatever circumstances one find’s oneself in, letting Jesus do what He needs to do in the greatest most tender solicitation for our eternal welfare and that of others.
The spiritual life isn’t a mind game. It’s love. God is love. Rejoice!
Even I rejoice, mangy dog that I am!
Or is it that I’m a mangy donkey?
Sometimes I think I’m having too much fun. It’s Jesus’ fault.
You have heard that it was said that those working in whatever capacity in the Holy See (the “Vatican”) are scared. I say that if they are ever afraid, whether priests or bishops or religious, they shouldn’t be. Fear is a sign of the lack of truth, a lack of discernment of the truth, a lack of the Holy Spirit who would instead lead us to the truth. To be established in him who is truth is not to fear. Being one with him who fearlessly says “I AM” cannot at the same time tolerate fear.
“But what should we do? Give us clear direction!”
So, I guess you missed it the first time around. Here it is: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
“But you don’t get it, Father George, that’s considered Pharisaical, Pelagian, Promethian self-absorbed idol worship.”
“Really? Are you making that application? Even if that were true on whoever’s part, so what? Since when did we lose sight of the Beatitudes? Since when are we to mope about, have nervous sweats, panic attacks and ulcers instead of rejoicing and being glad that great is our reward in the Kingdom of the heavens because we love Jesus and want to share the greatest love of our lives, namely, Jesus? Is not Jesus the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Wonder Counselor, Prince of the Most Profound Peace, who will be the one to come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, the very fire of God’s love, the fire of the Holy Spirit? Yes, that would be him. He’s the One who said: “I AM.” So what are you afraid of? Amen.
P.S. I mean, really, what are these protestations of fear about? Is this a way of making an excuse? “Oh! I’m so fearful that my fear acted as a coercion forcing me to do something I otherwise would never do! It’s all the fault of fear! I’m soooo afraid.”
To which I say, grow up, love Jesus, and be a good son of his good mom. Also, and I don’t say this lightly, have some respect for your guardian angel who sees God in the face.
Saint Paul speaks of being whisked away to the third heaven, whatever that is, though he does give us a clue in his repeating a number of times that this happened to him while he was in the body or out of the body he does not know. This sounds like the ecstacy some of the saints have experienced, but whether in the body or out of the body we do not know. Sanctifying grace, which turns to glory in heaven according to the Apostle in another place, is entirely amazing in the profundity of the Sacred Mysteries, as this concerns the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity, the fiery Holy Spirit bringing us through, with and in Jesus unto the Father, as Jesus’ gift to the Father. Some confuse this with the beatific vision. I always tell such good souls that, in fact, the beatific vision will be so very much better, no matter the goodness and love they experienced, what with that grace turning to glory. But, again, what do I know or what could I even say, since the Apostle himself says that he heard ineffable things that man is not permitted to speak.
2. I found out the other day just how much I don’t know about God’s love, again
Here’s the deal: I brusquely take Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament with me on long and not always uneventful journeys of some hundreds of miles such as I did this past Tuesday, racing off to see this and that person who have suffered more than most of us have or could ever suffer put together. And then we speak of heaven, of God’s love, or, rather, I have the privilege of listening, captivated by all that which resonates in the weak sounding board that is my heart and soul. They come close to speaking that which is ineffable as they open up above me the weight of the glory of God, putting me into reverence mode before the Lord who loves us so much, before the angels who encourage these souls for my sake to express their love of the Lord the way they do. I come to know a little bit more just how much I don’t know about God’s love, but rejoice to have been introduced to His goodness and kindness in whatever way that is. I am so very much in debt to those who pray for me, so many lay people, so many priests and bishops, so many cloistered souls, some of whom have offered their prayers and sufferings for me for life. As I often repeat, when I complained to one cloistered nun that the Lord is going to reprimand me at my judgment, asking me what I did with all the graces which I have been given because of all those who have prayed for me, she said, yes, Father George, that is true, but just think of where you would have been had we not prayed for you!
So, having said all that… let’s continue our journey to the gates of heaven, which journey boasts of two possible venues, the first of which is inescapable here on this earth, the second of which, in purgatory, can be dispensed if we cover the ground which we must here on this earth if we should go straight to heaven when the Lord calls us. Both places are, after our redemption and, please God, in our being saved, training grounds for entering into heaven. The training is somewhat different here on earth and in purgatory.
As anyone in my parish might attest, there a number of “sayings” I tend to repeat a lot. To anyone’s question of “How are you, today?” the response is always “I’m still alive up to this point in the conversation, but beyond that I know nothing.” Those used to my silliness just laugh. Those who don’t know me are bewildered, which leaves me an opening to talk about abandonment to Divine Providence with explanations such as “If we say we know what we’re up to on any given day, the Lord may well laugh, as he may have something else planned for us that day.” They agree, of course, but now have something to chew on the rest of the day.
Another saying I have is: “I just don’t care. I absolutely don’t care.” Now, that might sound altogether dismissive, and it is, but when I say that I’m talking about my life as in dead or alive. Thus, if someone is talking about the local drug problem – a pretty decent chunk of the local economy – and we speak about strategies for closing down the local meth labs and crack houses, I’ll mention how I closed down two booming businesses just by making it obvious that I was taking pictures of license plates and cars parked at whatever menace’s establishment. When it is said just how dangerous that is, I’ll then say: “I just don’t care. I absolutely don’t care.” And then I’ll explain that I’m sick of seeing tiny tot kids filling those houses, having their little lungs rotted out while their moms do some deals for their boyfriends. Some might say, but you’re just pushing them into some other place; better to leave them there. But both of those places adjoined the parish’s property. Our parking lots were also being used for parking and drop points. Ain’t gonna happen at this church. Not on my watch. It did get scary a few times, with vengeance from druggies in the air, but, as I say, “I just don’t care. I absolutely don’t care.” I gotta do the right thing. And it’s not that I was being a vigilante. I was working with Law Enforcement.
So, in other words, take life seriously. Take religion seriously. Take morality and truth seriously. Take respect and service of others seriously. Take serious care of your body and soul as a temple of the Holy Spirit. But don’t take any consequences to your life seriously. Don’t take your aspirations and plans so seriously that you cannot take seriously what you must. Don’t be unavailable for service because, you know, reasonably you’ve done enough already, like what silly Meg said to her father before he got his head chopped off by Henry VIII.
No one makes it out of this life alive, so just be sure that when you go, which could be any second of any day, that you are ready to meet your Maker. Go to Confession. Go to Mass. Keep the commandments. Love one another. Then go ahead and put your life on the line. When you take life seriously, just not your own life, that’s when life becomes totally fun. Did I say fun?
O.K., I should backtrack on that. There are some somber moments. Today I mentioned that the stats for ambushes and assassinations of our Law Enforcement Officers had again skyrocketed this year, saying that we must pray for our LEOs. After Mass, a visitor at the mission church came up to thank me for saying that. He was retired out of the police up in Connecticut, and had seen many of his fellow officers killed right in front of him. He then quickly made his way to his car, his eyes filled with tears. So, O.K. not always fun. Perhaps I can put it this way: the joy of the uprightness of integrity. I think that’s it. It’s freeing. The enthusiasm is there.
Having said all that, I’ll admit that this is all nothing compared to what I should do as a priest. While I can’t let stuff happen on church property, I should have a bigger plan to evangelize the druggies of the town. For the kids, they need something to do, employment, whatever. Also, they need religion. Pretty much no one is Catholic. Among the druggie young people, pretty much no one goes to any church, baptist or whatever. Outreach right to the druggie houses can be done I should think.
You’ll remember the story I’ve recounted a 1000 times when my guardian angel smacked me down for wanting to have the same kind of reverence he has before God, for, after all, didn’t Jesus say that they see the face of God right now? Yes. But the reprimand was justified, as the kind of reverence any of us mere mortals are to have is not that of angel, but we are instead to go to the Father through with and in Jesus, something an angel simply cannot do. It’s good to get smacked down by one’s guardian angel. It’s their job. When it happens, say “Thank you” to them.
When I was smacked down on the retreat by a good and holy fellow priest who told me of my hubris (in the face of my weakness) that I must take back all the vows and offerings I’ve given to Jesus over the years, also for priests and bishops, I have only thanksgiving for what had me do. This is, after all, a family affair, and I should not bypass our Blessed Mother when making such offerings to Jesus. No one should. She can present them to Jesus, and that’s only right, since she also requested that we receive whatever grace we receive through Jesus. As I say, I did make the Monfort consecration uncountable times, but making particular offerings in this way is also to be done. Of course. Happy to do it this way with the good mother of Jesus and ours. Brilliant. Happy to get smacked down only to be lifted up by this good priest friend.
But then this “things are clicking into place” phase I’m going through brings home that love of God and love of neighbor are the same act of love just as the Head of the Body of Christ should not be decapitated from the members of the Body of Christ. And thus, my being indignant at the way priests can be treated, HERE and HERE and HERE. I am a bit more aware that the least I care about my fellow priests (and others) is the most I care about Jesus. Yikes!
In all this, how can one not give a flower to the Immaculate Conception? She’s the one who leads us to Jesus, to the entire Mystical Body of Christ. She teaches us how to love with purity of heart and agility of soul. She teaches us how to be good children of God.
Update: During the consecrations at Mass: permission granted. Of course, that means nothing if I don’t follow up with prayer…
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Requesting permission from Mary to carry the very dead body of Jesus from the Cross, from her arms, to His sepulcher is not the fruit of the retreat with the Diocese of Charlotte which I might have wished to glean this past week, but only because I am so very weak, all talk and no reality.
A priest friend reprimanded yours truly during the retreat for such weakness, the same weakness by which all the Apostles ran away from Gethsemane, from Calvary. John returned. Would I? The Apostles had exclaimed their dedication to the Lord – “Let us also go to die with Him” (John 11:16) / “‘Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you;’ and they all spoke similarly.” (Mark 14:31 et al.) – but they could not possibly keep their vows.
Paraphrasing and adding my own reflections: “What hubris, what arrogance, all these vows of yours to the Lord,” protested my friend about a lifetime of my offerings to the Lord, vows I had made in good faith for my good and the good of the Church, vows which our Lord took seriously, much more so than I: “It’s for you, Jesus!” or “It’s for your priests, Jesus!” And so on. Despite my superficiality, Jesus showed me His own priesthood in action countless times with miracles of grace for so many, putting my little offerings to Him into action. Although rejoicing in our Lord’s priesthood all these years, seeing His ministry in my priesthood ever so very plainly, I was not at all as close to Him as I knew I must be. “Take all your offerings and vows back from Jesus,” commanded my friend, leaving me quite aghast, my heart trampled on the ground, he not allowing me to fool myself with complacency any longer.
But then, of course, he picked me up a second later, telling me to give my all to Jesus once again, but this time through Mary, she being our mother. It’s not that I hadn’t made the Monfort consecration to Jesus through Mary as a seminarian, memorizing the long form of that consecration and repeating it so very many times in my life, a thousand times it seems. It’s not that I hadn’t preached and given retreats on ‘To Jesus through Mary’ throughout my priesthood all around the world. It’s not that I couldn’t provide an ultra-academic Scripture based explanation of ‘To Jesus through Mary’ perhaps even much better than most anyone anywhere. It’s just that when it came to making my particular offerings and vows to Jesus, I had done so without much thought being given to Mary, much like, I dare say again, the Apostles before the passion and death of our Lord. And that’s a mistake, deadly.
The task set before me was to present my vows and offerings anew to Jesus, but this time through Mary. During adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament I had tried to do this with words, but I was not satisfied and I felt quite lost, cut off, useless, not that an act of the will in our Lord’s grace was not enough. I know that. But then an image, a picture, a depiction of what this might mean analogously came to mind, making this ever more personal, at least to my weakness. Effectively, such offerings and vows are meant to be, I think, in some tiny way similar to what the beloved disciple did when our Lord, ever so dead, tortured to death, had just been taken down from the cross and was in the arms of His mother. John needed to carry about the dead body of Jesus to His sepulcher. Would he not, say, put a hand on the shoulder of Jesus and then look to Mary for her permission to take Jesus from her arms? Yes. And he would wait for seemingly interminable heart wrenching seconds for her to glance up into his eyes and then giving a nod and perhaps a word of encouragement…
“Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering” (Lamentations 1:12).
That moment of looking into her eyes would bespeak ten thousand offerings and vows to Jesus through her, “I promise to carry about the death of the Lord!” with this being reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 4:10, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”
I say “would bespeak” since I am so unworthy and yet await her glance. But this is the fruit of the diocesan retreat thus far.
Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.
You can read things dozens of times over the years and just not “get it” at all. That’s me. But this year when I read the following letter of Padre Pio, I was mesmerized. I now know a bit more just how much I absolutely don’t know anything about the spiritual life. I have written academically about that of which he speaks, the flaming sword. I am vindicated on that academic level at least, for I am alone across the millennia in what I have written. But on a spiritual level, well, I am thrust to the ground in deep humiliation, for I obviously know nothing of the spiritual life. But at least I know that I know nothing. These days, that’s something. And it’s way more than enough to ask for this great saint’s help. Apologies are given in advance for the inadequacy of [my comments] below. You can see from my Coat of Arms (thanks to Elizdelphi! No words on the banner yet) that I am grateful to have written about the sword of which Padre Pio speaks…
From the Letters of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest (Epist. I, 1065; 1093-1095)
I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him
“Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 [Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus] and all day on the 6th [Feast of the Transfiguration].
“I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [making them saints!], I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person [an angel, a cherub] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cutesy cutesy. Pio speaks of torment and terror, and this angel is from heaven!]. He had in his hand a sort of weapon[“weapon”] like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. [This is the sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24. It is the sword which “turns into its contrary by way of the fiery grace of enmity against Satan and by way of friendship with God whatever is presented to it.” This is the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. This is the sword of Saint Michael. This is the sword of Saint Teresa of Avila…] At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. [Seeing that a cherub could crush the entire universe if given permission from the Most High, this is saying really a lot…] I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boys to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. [What an understatement of all time. They must have been scared for him.] This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon,[“weapon”]and nothing was spared. [“nothing” – and here I try to hang on to this and that. And in doing that I am totally lacking in generosity. I’ve done nothing in my life. I’ve not laid down my life as so many have done. Pio is going through his purgatory all at once, 40 some hours for him. And what would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of the world?]
Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms
“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [And this is no longer his wound, but that of humanity, with Pio now being in solidarity with Jesus on the Cross even as Jesus is in solidarity with us, loving us while we are yet sinners, drawing all to Himself as He is lifted up on the Cross. And we watch with Him…] I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature! [For we do nothing to save ourselves. Jesus is our Savior. We come to realize this. We are nothing. He is all. He shows us what He has saved us from, and not just us, me, but we see how He has saved all of us as we gain some heightened perspective on the cross.]
“On the morning of the 20th of last month [two weeks later], in the choir [making the traditional thanksgiving prayers after Mass], after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5th. [We entertain angels and even the Son of Man and do not know it. How much the angels reflect the Son of Man! And the fiery love of God, issuing from the throne of the Most High, from the Heart of Him who loves us so much, is just that fierce on that sword which transforms us utterly in God’s love.] The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. [We are utterly weak. It is all Jesus.] The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. [He speaks also and especially of his embarrassment, for he, as all of us from Adam until the last man is conceived, caused those wounds in our Lord. How is it that he, Pio, or any of us could share such wounds of love for all those Jesus has redeemed and wills to save?] The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.
Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.
“Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? [The embarrassment, mind you, is more than enough to end his life on this earth.] I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on August 5th. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. [This Hebrew description of this sword in Genesis 3:24 (which I think I am the very first to translate pedantically, as it really is just that difficult), the sword which the angel is mashing around inside Pio is variously and wrongly translated as the twirling sword, the sword which moves about this way and that, etc., is, instead, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Thus, we don’t take from the Tree of the Living Ones, though we can humbly receive its fruit (the Eucharist from the Cross).] My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffering.” [If it were I who had to respond to him, knowing I know nothing, but despite that, I would say that in our very reception of mercy we must show mercy to the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, those whom Jesus has redeemed and wills to save. Our suffering is occasioned by the lack of others, lack of faith, etc., but it is not their cross we carry, but instead we come to know what we would be like if we ourselves were to be without the grace of our Lord in therefore our lack of faith, etc…. and our remaining in friendship by the grace of God in such horrific circumstances acts as an intercession for those who are truly without faith, etc. This is drawing all to Christ on the cross in solidarity with Jesus, who does this by His grace. He, the Head of the Body does this, but we are members of that Body and we are with Him. If we only knew! If we only knew! Now Pio had his eyes opened, his soul torn open, his hands and feet and heart torn open. But it’s all Jesus. Jesus’ love taking on our lack. Embarrassing to us? Yes. And we run away. Pio couldn’t run any more. The angel presented himself, and, fiercely raising his weapon of God’s love… I know nothing. Saint Pio: help this donkey-priest to come to know Jesus! Help all of us priests!]