Finding God in All Things

I was admittedly surprised by BadCatholic’s most recent post: 5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music.  As a lover of “Christian” music, at first I was offended, but he actually makes some valid points.  I would be overjoyed if all music really and truly glorified God as it should.

So I have this sometimes annoying tendency to automatically analyze everything I watch and listen to for deeper messages.  The positive side of this gift is that I am often able to discern God’s presence in secular music.  Therefore, I am making an adjustment to tunage Tuesday – I will post songs that are considered secular which have positive messages and could possibly convert hearts.  Since BadCatholic thinks that Marcus Mumford leads more people to sing God’s praises than Chris Tomlin (and I tend to agree with him), we’ll start with Mumford & Sons.  And if you haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced to this band, shame on your friends.  Their incredibly deep lyrics blow me away every time.

Ghosts That We Knew

You saw my pain, washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart
But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we’ll live a long life
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

So lead me back
Turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
Cause you know my call
And we’ll share my all
And our children come, they will hear me roar
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me that we’ll be alright

But hold me still bury my heart on the cold
And hold me still bury my heart next to yours

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
And I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we’ll be alright

But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we’ll live a long life

The Noonday Demon

I know, I know – I said I would write more often.  I really am going to but this post took more prayer and thought than I anticipated.

According to the desert fathers and mothers – Us Catholics like to ramble off smart sounding statements like this, and half the time we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Do you know who the desert fathers and mothers were?  Don’t be afraid to answer in the negative, because I honestly only have a vague idea of what I’m talking about.  So, before we get into what wisdom they have to share with us, let’s find out who they are.

Busted Halo has a great answer to this question:

The desert fathers (and mothers!) were the pioneers of monastic life in the Church. Beginning in the third century, some Christians began to flee the comforts and conflicts of pagan cities to seek a life of asceticism in the desert. They sought a simpler life, in imitation of Christ during his forty days in the wilderness, and dedicated themselves to solitude, labor, poverty, fasting, charity and prayer. Some of them lived in isolation; others developed rules for communal life that evolved into large monastic communities. Over time their reputation for holiness grew, and Christians from the surrounding areas sought them out for advice and spiritual direction.

Some of them became great spiritual giants and teachers in the history of the Church: they include St. Anthony the Great, St. Pachomius and St. Athanasius (in Egypt) and St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Macrina (in Asia Minor.) Their influence in the Church has been deeply felt though the centuries, particularly as monasticism and religious life developed; ancient collections of their sayings have carried their wisdom down through the centuries. One popular collection today is The Wisdom of the Desert, compiled by Thomas Merton.

These early desert dwellers had an incredible understanding of human psychology, temptation, and sin.  Especially during lent, we can learn a lot about avoiding sin and resisting temptations through their wisdom.  During lent, we follow Jesus into the desert for forty days – the Abbas and Ammas made those forty days their entire lives.

Rather than focusing on the act of sin, the desert fathers outlined “eight bad thoughts” – the temptations which precede the act of sinning.  Over time, these became the seven deadly sins, which may have harmed our attitude towards sin.  One thought was lost in translation: Acedia.  Acedia is hard to describe and has fallen out of use over the centuries, but the desert fathers thought it presented the most danger in the spiritual life.  It is apathy, or spiritual depression, which tempts us into not caring about God or our spiritual practices.  It is deeper than sloth and is so dangerous because it can destroy our trust in God.  This blog post includes extensive passages from Kathleen NorrisAcedia & Me.  I learned about the reality and seriousness of Acedia through this book and would highly recommend it.

An excellent explanation of Acedia can be found here.

“Acedia’s genius is to seize us precisely where our hope lies, to tear away at the heart of who we are, and mock that which sustains us.” – Kathleen Norris

 

The Signs of the Times

“But, while the signs of the times led to the anticipation that a struggle was impending between the heads of the state religion and of the new worship which was taking its place, the great body of Christians, laymen and ecclesiastics, were on better and better terms, individually, with the members of society, or what is now called the public; and without losing their faith or those embers of charity which favourable circumstances would promptly rekindle, were, it must be confessed, in a state of considerable relaxation”

“the families of Christian parents might grow up with so little of moral or religious education as to make it difficult to say why they called themselves members of a divine religion. Mixed marriages would increase both the scandal and the confusion.”

“A long repose…had corrupted the discipline which had come down to us. Every one was applying himself to the increase of wealth; and, forgetting both the conduct of the faithful under the Apostles, and what ought to be their conduct in every age, with insatiable eagerness for gain devoted himself to the multiplying of possessions…The hearts of the simple were misled by treacherous artifices, and brethren became entangled in seductive snares.  Ties of marriage were formed with unbelievers; members of Christ abandoned to the heathen…Numerous bishops, who ought to be an encouragement and example to others, despising their sacred calling, engaged themselves in secular vocations, relinquished their sees, deserted their people, strayed among foreign provinces, hunted the markets for mercantile profits, and tried to amass large sums of money, while they had brethren starving within the Church; took possession of estates by fraudulent proceedings, and multiplied their gains by accumulated usuries.”

“Vocations became scarce; sees remained vacant; congregations died out.”

*****

Each generation of Christians has claimed their peers the most corrupt and immoral to have ever lived.  The quotes above could easily be applied to our world today, especially the United States, where Christianity is an accepted and “normal” religion.  However, these quotes come from Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman‘s Callista: A Tale of the Third Century.  This passage describes a reprieve in the persecution of early Christians.  I was astonished to discover how accurately these words describe the society I live in.  This leads me to wonder if we are also too relaxed.

James advises us to: “Consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  Should we desire persecution and trials to rekindle our zeal?  At the end of this chapter of Callista, Newman writes that Christianity is “seen to differ from all other religious varieties by that irrational and disgusting obstinacy, as it was felt to be, which had rather suffer torments and lose life than submit to some graceful, or touching, or at least trifling observance which the tradition of ages had sanctioned.”  Choosing to follow Christ means choosing to take up His cross.  When we begin to shy away from difficulties and become too comfortable, too complacent in faith, we begin to lose the discipline which allows us to withstand temptation and resist sin.

Since we are exploring the roots of sin, what is at the root of this indifference, this relaxation of faith?  As I introduced in my last post, we will turn to the desert fathers and mothers for the answer to this.  Stay tuned for more!

 

A Tune for Tuesday

I’ve been pondering my Lenten commitment over the last 24 hours and it is beginning to form a sort of structure through20051221223337_dead-trees-path the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Since Sundays are a day of rest, I’ll be taking that day off.  Like many people, music touches the depths of my soul and raises it to God.  I’ve come across a few songs lately that contain perfect Lenten messages.  Therefore, Tuesdays shall henceforth be Tunage Tuesdays.

During this Lent I would also like to really discern the mission of this blog and start making posts more focused.  So far two themes have emerged: discernment of vocation and moral theology.  One of my readers suggested that I explore pride as the root of sin and I think that this idea will be the theme of most of my posts this Lent.  However, I will write about the various roots of sin, particularly the eight bad thoughts of the Desert Fathers and Mothers(you’ll have to come back to find out what those are!)

Someone left a prayer card in a used book I bought recently and it says:

“God Sometimes strips you naked, only in order to reclothe you in innocence.”

– Br. Pierre-Marie

Ever since I found this little treasure it has been the focus of my meditations.  This quote will guide my posts for lent.  After all isn’t Lent about being stripped of everything that is not God to show the roots of our sins?  On Easter morning we are re-clothed in garments as white as snow, made new by the blood of the lamb.

I’m looking forward to journeying with you this Lent.

Here’s the song for today!

 

“Show Me”

You could plant me like a tree beside a river
You could tangle me in soil and let my roots run wild
And I would blossom like a flower in the desert
But for now just let me cry

You could raise me like a banner in the battle
Put victory like fire behind my shining eyes
And I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and bring me back to life
But not before you show me how to die

Set me like a star before the morning
Like a sun that steals the darkness from a world asleep
And I’ll illuminate the path You’ve laid before me
But for now just let me be

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and bring me back to life
But not before You show me how to die
No, not before You show me how to die

So let me go like a leaf upon the water
Let me brave the wild currents flowing to the sea
And I will disappear into a deeper beauty
But for now just stay with me
God, for now just stay with me

 

Some Perspective and a Promise

The internet can be an overwhelming place  and an unfortune breeding ground for attention seeking.  I’ve been searching its depths the last couple of days for tips on publicizing this blog and making it more popular.  With everyone and their sister blogging these days, how do bloggers like BadCatholic and Mark Shea make it on lists of top Catholic bloggers?

Then I realized: it doesn’t matter.

The wonderful and hard thing about writing is its one of those ministries with hardly any visible reward.  Once in a while I get some feedback from my readers, but most of the time I have no idea how many hearts I am touching, or in what ways.  The lord knows this is really good for curbing my pride.

The important thing is for me to just keep writing, so I’m making that my Lenten commitment.  Since the baby I’m now watching sleeps quite a bit, I’ll have more free time and am determined to use that productively.

I’m asking you all to hold me accountable and gently demand more posts.  If there’s something specific you would like me to write about, I would love to know!

Digging for Change

Change – it’s the only constant in life, or so people have been telling me.  I’ve been going through some big changes personally and with the wider Church.  Appropriately, these changes are happening on the cusp of Lent.

Lent is all about change.  We often refer to Lent as a time for “metanoia.” In Greek, metanoia means “changing one’s mind.”  While researching this word I found that it is used in other disciplines besides theology, but the meanings are strikingly relevant here.

In the realm of rhetoric “metanoia” refers to correction.  In psychology this word refers to a psychotic break down followed by healing.  Although I hope none of you experiences an actual psychotic break down during Lent, this makes for a great analogy.  Lent should consist of breaking down all of our sinful habits, which is incredibly painful but ends in the healing of Easter.  Most of the time change is painful, even if it is ultimately for Good.  The recent change in my life was incredibly painful and yet there is a deep sense of peace about it.  I know there will be healing eventually and that God’s hand is bringing everything together for a greater purpose.

The entire Roman Catholic Church was surprised by a huge change recently.  Many people are deeply saddened and confused by the Pope’s resignation.  We must trust that this change is also for the Good, leading to the building up and healing of the Church.  In the video below Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria points out the lesson of detachment we can learn from this event and I think his words reveal why it is so timely that this happened at the beginning of Lent.

At the beginning of this lent we have an example of a holy man who has humbly allowed God to make a change for the Good of the Church.  He took a realistic look at himself and discerned that someone else would be better for the job.  As a side note – I am simply using this as a timely example – no scandal or spiritual failings caused the pope’s resignation, it was due to his failing health.

As for this being a surprise – since when does God makes changes when and how we expect them?  The greatest moments of conversion are usually a surprise.  St. Paul literally fell off his horse the moment his life was changed forever.

Saying that change is the only constant in life is utterly and totally false.  God is the only constant – the only unchanging, immovable thing we can ever count on.  “The Holy Spirit does not go on Holidays!”

It is us that needs to change, or more accurately, allow God to change us.  If God seems farther away, who moved?

Be Not Afraid

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

~ The Silver Chair

I could blame it on Nemo, I could blame it on my lack of free time, but in truth I have not written in almost 3 weeks because I have been mulling over some big decisions and couldn’t quite put into words all that God has been asking of me.

In the past few weeks, I have been astounded by the mysterious, yet wonderful ways in which God opens doors.  I have learned that when God swings open a door and asks you to run through it, you make like the apostles and follow him immediately.

I have  been begging God to provide a way for my loans to be taken care of.  After being accepted, that begging became more persistent and demanding(we’re supposed to be like children, right?)  I really need to start being careful what I wish for…

God answered my prayer, but, true to form, not how I was expecting.  The same week I was invited to join the Sisters, I was also offered a nannying job which would allow me to pay off a significant chunk of my debt(but I still need your help!)  As you may remember, I’ve been part of Chi Rho Catholic Service Corps since September and had committed to do that until June.  And yet when this opportunity presented itself, there was a definite sense that it was time to move on and that  God was calling me to take a real and active step towards my Vocation. He has given me another chance to respond with an emphatic “yes!” to his call.

So, at the risk of seeming irresponsible and being rejected by those who do not understand my decision, but with the blessing of the TOR Sisters, I have left Chi Rho.  It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but I am at peace with it.  I will miss my students and coworkers dearly but they will continually be in my prayers.

Stay tuned for updates as I embark on the next step of my journey!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,  “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

 “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

~ Isaiah 6:8