Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ideas Matter

What with the election just behind us, I have been blessed to have so many fruitful discussions with friends and family regarding the challenges and opportunities in this country. A couple of years ago I read Mother Angelica's biography, written by journalist Raymond Arroyo. This is an inspiring story, if ever there was one. Mother loved Sacred Scripture and was devoted to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. She saw the power of our Savior, through the sacramental life of Mother Church, to strengthen lives and bring peace, holiness and joy. Morever, she saw the potential for an enlivened Church to transform society. The idea of the Incarnation is the most powerful idea ever formed and it was, of course, formed in the mind of our Maker. Mother Angelica had an "Ideas Matter" bumper sticker made in the 1970's. I'd love to have one of the originals. I heard someone has recently made a bumper sticker, "Think first, talk later." I'd add, "Pray first, act just thereafter." My friend Rachel and I were discussing the fact that too many Americans have very nebulous beliefs. For belief to really do good it must come from a pure heart. Here are some ideas that recur in my thoughts and prayers:

I believe, help my unbelief. If our lives and our prayers begin with humility, then, possibly, they will end so. We are not nearly troubled enough by assaults on human dignity. We are not nearly troubled enough to go on our knees, in public, and pray to our Lord for His intervention. This intervention starts first in our own hearts. We (including me) are so prone to idolatry. For centuries, Mother Church has held up the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience as the weapons against pride, the root of all idolatry. The cry for help is a cry for sanctifying grace. Unfortunately many do not acknowledge that we must avail ourselves to the fullness of Christian religion, all seven sacraments. The sacraments are instituted by God, not by man. Weak and fallible man is called to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. When sin creeps in, as it always does during this earthly pilgrimmage, all manner of revolt, disobedience and heresy result. The Church raises up great saints who relied (and still rely today) on the Holy Mass, the greatest prayer, to combat revolt, disobedience and heresy.

The devil doesn't bother someone he already has. In other words, if you are not experiencing a great deal of turmoil, which is the reality of those working to spread the Kingdom of God, you are probably off track. I tell myself this often as I am very prone to seek my own pleasure and comfort over the quiet whisper of my conscience. Turmoil and Peace run together. Like Jesus, we must be tender with others and hard on ourselves, spending much time fasting and praying. Fasting, praying and giving alms are the actions of the life bound to the three abovementioned counsels. Over these good works, the bad angels swarm, seeking to derail such potent efforts. As is seen in numerous lives of the saints (Padre Pio comes to mind in recent times.), Mary and Jesus never leave their children alone, even during the worst spiritual warfare. Our suffering is redemptive. We should seek it out.

"Be who you are and you will set the world ablaze!" St. Catherine of Sienna. Matthew Kelly, more recently, has preached this timeless idea. He exhorts people to be the best version of themselves, to be the person who God created them to be, what he calls our "authentic self". We need others to help us be the person we ought to be. The first person we need is Jesus, as He is present in the Eucharist. If we allow Him into every corner of our being, He will give us His Cross. It is true that "they will know they our Christians by their love." This love will often be unappealing to persons steeped in worldly pleasures. If we want this country to be a place where creativity, beauty and truth flourish, then we have to be willing to set most of our own desires aside.

Desiring holiness is desiring true love; it is the one desire to honor. We are to run the race for this. We are to beg God to change us; we must go at least once a week to quiet ourselves in front of Him in the Blessed Sacrament. We are to ask our Lady to pray for us. Devotion to her will lead us to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) more often, in order for God to change us. We are to bless each other tenderly. Love is not always painful, yet love is always holy, giving glory to the One who made us. Praise Him from Whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

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