The Banality of Hell

This evening at the vigil Mass, we had a visiting priest – or rather, a priest originally from our town returned to offer Mass. He was always very intelligent: spiritually, theologically, liturgically. His heart truly carried each word of the beloved sacrifice to his lips, visibly stirred his soul.

Now, for a long while we have been under the, um, regime of a rather particular vicar who years ago was silenced for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage™ but somehow was reconciled to stable ministry. Today, during the intercessions, I watched a pleasant rouge fade to a placid grey as the intercessor, through no fault of his own, beseeched us all to “pray for people of all faiths, that we may come to know the truths in all the religions of the world.” This was quite a trick on behalf of our regular parish priest; an intentional shot from the arrow of contempt for good and solid theology, and the sensibility of a pious priest.

Notice the wording. I trust my memory in this case, because it disturbed my conscience that we as Catholics should be praying for others to basically remain pagan and not led home to the truth of the Church. Notice the banality of it – for people of all faiths – know the truths in all the religions of the world – we could interpret that in various ways, really. But the common individual would hear “all religions are equal and good.” In addition, one could think that by virtue of the word “truth”s perhaps it really is a plea for conversion, as the truth can only be found in one spot in fullness; a thing cannot be half true or a quarter truth. But the Church, in her holy wisdom, does not deny that people of diverse belief can come to know some truth: quantity vs. substance.

But recall the nature of ourselves: somewhat genteel, or possibly selfish. We often tend to follow the crowd, as the pack mentality consumes our more definable individuality – we see this in the world: the rise of socialist politics and self-entitled teenagers whining because they refuse to work for an education and want it on the taxpayers wallet, or, the “public purse.” See how they riot? In New Orleans a group of protestors wanted to tear down a statue of St Joan of Arc, confusing her with some civil war figure or other. Notice this new iconoclasm of sorts? History repeats itself.

But now, more than ever, we ought to be apt in claiming the truth of God’s glorious redemption; His redeeming love, and His Mother’s role in salvation. Now, more than ever, in this age of nihilism and absurdity – we should strive to lead souls HOME to Christ, not confirming their position in Buddhism. We were warned by the Lord to not be lukewarm.

There is truth. Let’s stick to it. Why are we so adverse to obedience? Why do our own members reject our own teaching! We need to pray. We need to love and protect and pray for our priests and bishops. They are how God communicates with us, and those men are whom God chose to be His soul-keepers.

Escaping the Meantime

We are all in a rush. A rush to grow up, to get through life, to fall guilty of complacency and absurdity in our practise and belief. The world presents itself a harsh friend; you try and die as quickly as possible. We kill each other quickly enough, due to the stress and personalized hegemony we try to place on ourselves and other people. We can’t control what we wish to keep reigns out, and therefore despair and anxiety upsets what ought to be our naturally cheerful, patient, or serene disposition.

Truly, the meantime becomes our enemy. Our enemy we cannot escape, but we are not God – we are not divine – contrary to our desire to be God. The desire to control. The desire to dominate. Only the spiritually mature can escape this, and it is through the universal call to holiness by which we loosen the shackles that keep us bound in depression, fear, and anger. You see: we are not of the world. Christians, by virtue of their baptism, break a bond with evil and death and the Church – the Mystical Body of the Saviour, nourishes and feeds us as we come to serve and possess knowledge of the Divine as we take part in Him, the lover and nourisher of our soul. The creator of all things, ‘visible and invisible.’ 

Keep that in mind. Life is not meaningless, it is not a waste of time, and we ought not to rush through it entirely. Remember your maker, who desired you in this world so dearly that He thought you up and put you down on earth. He created you because He loves you. He needs you to sow your roots, and groom your garden.

Jeremiah 1:5 states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” This is the truth. Every day each and every one of us is awoken by the sun, and the memory of His unfailing, everlasting love.

And so therefore, waste not the meantime.

Beauty, Past Change

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

The famous Romantic poet, a contemporary of the illustrious Christina Rossetti, and convert received into the Church by Bl John Cardinal Henry Newman. This priest lead a troubled life, and fell into melancholy later on: but he never abandoned the faith nor fell into despair.

 

Medicine for the Young

What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.

Who said that? St John of the Cross, the counter-reformer whose writings many Catholics have come to love. I resign myself to complete humility before the sight and gaze of these greats, these treasures of our tradition. I, myself, have a heavy cross. I often meditate on the more sanctified souls – how great then do they bear the wood of the cross? I say this because we have forgotten the way, in this world, to understand how badly we need the mercy of God!

Look at the youth: look at our inheritance, our younger generations. Look at whom we have to bear our torch. The world is in complete misery, and young men and women who have been brought up either anti-theist or without any faith have no means of coping with the anxiety of this world. They have no reason, religious nor existential, to make a leap of faith. Instead, the rates of suicide go up – why not? They’ve no reason to be here. One switch of a blade and it’s all over. Binge-drinking? Why not? There’s no spiritual nature to the cleanliness of our body and soul, no consequence for our actions. All we must do is carry the stone of this existence until it’s over! Why not escape while we can? Do a few drugs, lift our brains to Ganja, metaphorically if not spiritually. Nihilism has crept in, taken over, and redefined existence in the modern eye.

So therefore, the human condition makes no progress but regresses into a primitive state, perhaps one before man became respondent. Did not our loving Creator form mankind out of clay, in His image? Is this not the greatest act of love? But we live under the conditions of the greatest act of disobedience, destroyed by Christ on the cross. We are each cleansed of the structure of original sin at our baptisms, yet as humans we recognise our weakness and susceptibility to giving in to that which we know is bad for us. When we lack faith, we self-medicate, and turn into robotic things freely choosing our poisons when we know there’s something better in the world. We are rowdy, bashful, loud.

Our ears are closed.

Our lips constantly apart.

We crave nothing but what satisfies our heart for the mean time, until when its over we crave another temporary satisfaction.

We end up hating ourself, unaware of infinite mercy and forgiveness that God extends to every creature on the face of His green Earth.

He forgives us for forgetting the sovereignty, He forgives us for rejection our dominion. He forgives us for all that we repent for, and He takes us and hides us deep within His wounds until we go kicking and and leap out. We can do this a thousand times, and He will forgive us because He never tires of forgiving.

Aren’t we lucky? Don’t we have a vast and immense privilege to be children of Love itself?

Equal to the Apostles

Today we honour St Lydia of Thyatira, a woman found in the Book of Acts.

And upon the sabbath day, we went forth without the gate by a river side, where it seemed that there was prayer; and sitting down, we spoke to the women that were assembled. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. And when she was baptised, and her household, she besought us, saying: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.  Acts 13-15

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She is known as the ‘seller of purpler’ or the ‘dyer of purple’ and the Church has graciously named her patron of cloth-dyers. Why do I find the story of St Lydia so provocative? Well, the eastern and oriental Churches (our twenty-three sui iuris particular churches, as well as the Orthodox) have a special title for her, being “Equal to the Apostles.” The effect of grace on a willing heart is miraculous, and we should pray to St Lydia that God will grant us that grace: to love God with an intensity that she did while on Earth, so that we could become saints like her and spend eternity in Heaven.