Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thoughts speak louder than actions and words

It is commonly said that actions speak louder than words. Last night, I read advice from a priest who is a writer that the real thing are thoughts. We may be terse and hard-working, but where is our heart? In August, as part of my begin-the-academic-year prep reading, I perused The Well-Trained Mind, and it kept popping in my head that what I most desire for my family is that we pursue a well-formed heart. Americans do not tend to have a problem with laziness. We are a country of work horses. In my own family, there are several "rags to riches" success stories. The material is not the problem. Again, in my family, we boast intellectual success. So often, we avoid the truth that neither brains nor brawn can substitute for spirit. Man is half spirit and half flesh. Mother Teresa saw much "spiritual poverty" when she visited the US of A. What did she mean?

She meant that in the heart (the will) of each individual, there is a capacity for a certain surrender to God's will; and, further, that here in the ole US of A, she observed much evidence that we are a heartless culture. Our hearts are not in line with God's heart. We do not seek to follow the Lord of life. We, in the main, do not seek salvation and are not in need of a Savior. We seek self-reliance. To many folks, grace is neither a necessity nor, in many quarters, is it a reality.

The good news is that many Americans are people of faith. There is hope. There is love. I am in awe at the capacity for love that I see around me. I am blessed to live in an atypical suburban subdivision that is a real community. I am blessed to belong to a parish where love is in evidence. My local homeschooling groups are also lovers of God's ways. Wow! I choose the life of the heart over the life of the mind any day.

Back to thoughts and thinking....the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the driving force behind most human thinking : it is concupiscence. I wish I had been taught that, if left to myself, I would fall and fall again in to sin. This tendency to sin is not washed away by Baptism; we are cleansed of original sin, but concupiscence remains and we battle it with the seven sacraments. There are no other weapons that are effective, and that is the clearest thought in the universe. It is a thought which is compelling. We are compelled to live lives of virtue not by our own effort. We are compelled to seek God and seek Him again and again and again. (So tiring this work of dying to self...)

I am in debt to the intercession of the Little Flower, St. Therese. A novena I said imploring her prayers back in 2001 produced a miracle for me and my family. I know I have to show up and be faithful. I know I have to desire holiness of life. I also know that I am a sinner, and without God's grace, without His Passion, His Church and His Sacraments, I would be a slave to sin.

While I am rattling on about the basics, I am very surprised at the lack of thought many Americans give to the three enemies of love: the world, the flesh and the devil. As my children get ready to go "trick or treating" (and that is another post), I know in my heart that prayer is the weapon that defends us against the continual onslaught of temptation. Temptation comes from our concupiscence (internal), the bad example of other humans (external) and the fallen angels (for the most part, only external).

As C.S. Lewis pointed out more than once, it is the great victory of the devils that people cease to believe in them, that they see them as harmless superstition or humorous folly. As All Hallows Eve approaches, may our hearts turn to Christ Jesus and His Mother, Queen of Angels. Soldiers are dying in wars that do not have to be fought. Babies and children die who could live and be cared for. People starve spiritually and materially who could be fed. The ill suffer who could be supported by their fellow man. Marriages break that could be mended. Families feud who could forgive.

Thought must be supported by the ongoing conversation with God that is prayer. In order for our thoughts to produce kind words and right action, it must be inspired by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. There is no other training that is right or just. So much of what is wrong with our culture is rooted in impious thought.