Seventy Times Seven

Compassion is a talent, a virtue: honed and practised, one we ought to teach to our children from a very young age. When we know compassion, we know also the basic tenet of forgiveness – that big word, the ‘f’ word we dread and use rarely. I hope the word burns within you: forgiveness is humbling, and to be forgiven is even more so…we ought to forgive because we all can recall a time when we have done wrong to someone else, whether it be to someone we love, a community we once belonged to, a mistake against our future. Notice how I write “we” instead of anything more singular? It is because none of us are exempt.

I’ve done wrong to others, and you have. Perhaps I’ve caused you to remember all those people in your life who have caused you harm, betrayal, or turmoil. Perhaps you do not feel vindicated enough for being the ‘offended’ party. Perhaps, you remember with sorrow, the greatest regret of your life – the greatest mistake, the most painful recollection of selfishness. I know I do. ‘We’ are guilty.

It is of great virtue to recall that all of us are of flesh and soul, of mind and body, spirit and blood. That each of us are created by one Father, crafted in His image, and it is literally the sin of the world that Christ bore on the cross for all of our redemption. Therefore, we ought to pray for the grace to be able to forgive, and forgive radically.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. and since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” St Matthew 18:21-35 (ESVA)

You see here that Our Lord commands not just forgiveness, but forgiveness without limit. The Jews of the time placed a special significance on the number “7,” for it meant a certain height of infinity – and today we know, it remains just as special (the seven sorrows, joys, days of creation). Our Lord doesn’t mean just seventy-times-seven, no, He means again, again, again, and again: today, tomorrow, always. He commands us always to forgive. My friends, it is very important that we read this gospel as often as we can. Weekly, monthly – however, as long as it becomes a habit. Our Saviour continues to teach the apostles that those who sow mercy will also receive it, and forgiveness is contained in every drop of Christ’s Precious Blood.

Oh, but how difficult that is!

If anyone has ever read The Brothers Karamazov, you may recall how Fyodor, the father of Ivan and Alexei (amongst others), reacts towards his own embarrassments, mistakes, and maniacal behaviour – he begins the blame the victim, and even, hate him. This is because he couldn’t bring himself to forgive himself for his wrongdoings, and rather than straighten up and carry on, Dostoevsky, in his psychological way, creates a narrative around hard-headedness.

We as Christians ought not to have hard hearts, and I am as guilty as the next. We have to forgive: radically. Ourselves, others; we do this because God forgives us.

This is why He left us a Church.

This is why He left us the sacraments.

This is why He left us the confessional.

Because He loves us. He forgives us.

Confession is mandatory. Let us pray for the grace of a good and holy confession, for graces that come from forgiveness, and from being forgiven.

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Faithful Before Thee

Faithful before thee, Mother of God, now kneeling,
Image miraculous and merciful — of thee
Not for my soul’s health nor battles waged, beseeching,
Nor yet with thanks or penitence o’erwhelming me!

Not for myself,– my heart with guilt o’erflowing —
Who in my home land e’er a stranger has remained,
No, a sinless child upon thy mercy throwing,
That thou protect her innocence unstained!

Worthy the highest bliss, with happiness O bless her!
Grant her a friend to stand unchanging at her side,
A youth of sunshine and an old age tranquil,
A spirit where together peace and hope abide.

Then, when strikes the hour her way from earth for wending,
Let her heart break at dawning or at dead of night —
From out thy highest heaven thy fairest angel sending
The fairest of all souls sustain in heavenward flight!

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The Grace of Time

There is no tear, no scar nor wound, neither is there any embarrassment or humiliation that the balm of time cannot heal. For time itself is a form of grace: to persevere, to inspire hope for what has not yet come, and console us as we rest in the prison that we have built for ourselves. Because, in time, that prison dissolves and falls around us. Then we can walk freely and embrace the seconds of grace freely given to us. And when we understand that everyone we meet, brush arms with, or lock eyes with, has time to their own to fall and rise, and to wrong and resolve, then our understanding of humanity; the brokenness of our flesh and desire; becomes the light through the rubble of our choices as individuals. What time we give of ours so that it may become another’s, begs us to love our friends and neighbours because we share that same ache, that same inclination towards utter imperfection. That no man is greater than the next in the human condition, but with grace and time, we can become holy and grow our resolve to resist our desire towards self satisfaction. When we practise and grow in virtue, we know it is right to rather act in pursuit towards that which is authentic and true. With depth of understanding comes depth of love: and this is a divine love, because it comes from God alone who loves each one of us.

– from my exposition for the first day of University classes. Cameron dP O’M.

Living and the Dead

Today I travelled a wee bit outside of town, and came across a beautiful little village that contained two churches and a chapel. One, Anglican, the other, Catholic. Both were imbibed with the beautiful of 500 years, another a more Victorian structure (that was the Catholic) with seating in the upper part of the church as well as the lower. It is amazing what a God-fearing priest can do to revive the dusty faith of and ageing population.

Now, in both churches, the altars were facing ad orientem. Central to the Catholic church was the tabernacle placed beyond the altar. On said altar remained three traditional Mass cards, and a statue of Our Lady and St Therese on either side. The priest is a young, recently-ordained fellow and in charge of three other parishes. I had missed daily Mass, but it was evident how used the building was. According to the figures, it has been growing and growing each Sunday do to the attraction of traditionalists and those who seek a proper Mass each Sunday, as both rites are offered at the Church. I knelt at the altar rail for a prayer, and was moved at the tranquility the little building enclosed. There was a quaint little pump-organ placed in the back, and on it by some sort of Divine Providence was placed my favourite hymn. I managed to walk a little further around town, and enjoyed the familiar spray of salt water on my face. The beauty of God’s creating is amazing. And for someone struggling like I am, a five-hour drive from home truly does one a world of good.

The Anglican church was a fully wooden Gothic building, and a very grand one with the full English pipe organ, now in disuse (such a pity for a beautiful thing). Of course, the minister is a liberal who preaches the modernist concept of tolerance.

The building is threatened with closure.

So, it seems as though a dead faith makes a dead church… but a ‘lively’ faith, creates a lively congregation.

Praying for Houston

Another term begins next week, and I am inundated with a variety of philosophy and Russian classes. Thus begins my journey towards polyglotism, complementing the Irish, French, and Dutch along with my native tongue, English. I am particularly excited for one of my professors, who attends the Latin Mass each Sunday. Please pray for all students during this time of renewal.

Of course, now is the time to pray for Houston, Texas. It has been washed. A priest, member of the Companions of the Cross, was found kayaking for wine, and another parishioner of Queen of the Angels Church was drowned on his way to Mass. Besides this, there have been a number of unnecessary deaths as a result of the intense flooding.

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Our Lady of the Annunciation, Patroness of Texas, Protect Thy Children. Amen.

Accepting Suffering

On the other hand, whoever bears firmly in mind the thought of final divine justice and projects the light of life eternal upon the obscure paths of earthly life, will not be uncertain as to the way. Modern light-houses function in this manner in cloudy weather. They do not project their light forward, out onto the open sea, but upward, onto the dark clouds. And the clouds, which otherwise would envelop the horizon in darkness, thus reflect the lighthouse gleam for more than a hundred miles. Our faith, too, projects the glow of eternal life upon the clouds of our earthly paths, because it knows that otherwise suffering cannot be endured. It cannot be endured, except with the consolation given by the knowledge that this is not the final word in our lives.

Man was not created by God for affliction; he was created for happiness. Every particle of us longs for happiness. Mary Magdalen was great when she wept repentant tears at our Lord’s feet, but this was not the final part of her journey, not the final word in her life. That moment of supreme bliss was when the risen Christ said to her: “Mary.” The Blessed Virgin was great when, with grief-stricken soul, she stood under the cross of her divine Son. But the final halting-place of her journey could not be the Stabat Mater; it is the Regina coeli, laetare, “Rejoice, Queen of Heaven.”

– Fr Thamer Toth: The Great Redeemer – Acceptance of Suffering

How He Loves Us!

He found it hard to focus on the light, because the strength and depth of the void between them was far too blighting, far more gentler, and slightly more beautiful than the stars which mapped the heavens.

Water moved below his feet, slapping against concrete, holding the River Thames together. Finite, finished, feeling. “Oh just to plunge, to drown – to fall into the depths of darkness and complete this earthly journey…”

The young man prayed, and Jesus came. Consumed by divine love and ardour, he took up his pen. Then he wrote a hymn, words of hope and an expression for reason. A true reason, the only reason for to live.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Samuel Trevor Francis is the author. Although a member of the non-conformist Plymouth Brethren, as a lay preacher, his sentiments are contained in no ecclesial community specifically, and reign in the fulness of truth when we consider the profound truth of Christ’s holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Perhaps if Francis were a member of the Church, he might have been completely consumed in the fire of Divine Love, with access to the Body and Blood of our loving Saviour himself.

I love this hymn. Quite often I find myself lost in the void of darkness, carrying the burden of a sadness so inhibiting and burdensome that I wonder if I can carry on until the next day. I have never been suicidal, because it is the love of God alone who guards me from those thoughts. It is my faith that drives me, because I know that God wants every individual here on Earth for a divine reason. I know I am loved, and I know who is my master, and it is not myself.

“How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!” How true are these words! How He loves us! Each Sunday we are privy to His own flesh and blood, soul and divinity!

Though unworthy, how He loveth! 

To all who carry their cross, never despair. Always hope, and if you can’t hope, pray. Then you will be given the grace to hope. Never stop praying.

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The Good Shepherd – Voelkel