The Comfortable Words

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28

These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.

Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.

But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.

The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.

Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?

We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.

The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:

Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.

Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.

It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.

Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.

Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.

 

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The Debt of Grief

A few weeks ago, someone I had known, committed suicide.

The mother found her strung up like a fallen power line, having lost, what we are told, a long period of depression. A night so dark and deep, that not even the starlight of her family’s love could reach the pit. This individual was active in the parish, taking responsibility for various children’s endeavours and ministries for the youth. We pray for the repose of her soul.

But where do we go from here? How can a parish, indebted to grief, console her children when a member of the family chooses to end his own life. Suicide is a grave perversion of natural order, and, a violation of the fifth commandment. However, when mental illness is involved, the lines blue. Dana Dillon of Catholic Moral Theology wrote an excellent little treatise on the moral situation of suicide. She writes “our culpability for what we do is measured in large part by our freedom in choosing it.” And this point, exactly, was the homily for Mass preceding the day of the funeral. Where exactly does our freedom end?

Dillon writes, “when someone has severe depression or is living with the hallucinations and delusions of schizophrenia or the challenges of an anxiety disorder, the brain simply does not process information in a normal way.” The mind of someone who struggles with an anxiety or depressive predisposition, is, set apart from the rest. Perhaps the phrase victim soul could apply. Regardless, we cannot stand in judgement of a soul which only God himself peers into. What moves me so, however, is prospects of our future as a society.

What kind of cry for help is death? A reaction to the oppression and violence of this world, a violence often underhanded, in nature. And who can handle the grief of a lost child, especially under these circumstances?  A mother weeps, bitter tears fall like rain upon memories of a body once so small and able to fit in the palm of a hand. The future becomes overcast, blurry, invisible. I write not to answer any questions like this.

I write to sort out the mess of human brokenness.

You may recall that we are all children of the same God. We converge not only by the breath of life but also the actions of our mortal inclination. Each person possesses his own sliver of a shard, which is why the Blessed Lord Himself came to defeat death. To restore in us, our new life, one we receive in baptism.

Our brokenness manifests itself in diverse ways; we all have our own temptations, but it is easier with God and Our Blessed Mother. We are not alone; we are not automatons, just given over to the desires of the flesh as modernity often likes to present ourselves as being. Reject not your soul, reject only the world.

We can no longer be so hard on each other. We can not be guilty of being a shade against our brethren. Do not be afraid to love. Perhaps if we love each other a little bit more, like a spark of light, we will become the light of the adorable Saviour in a culture affixed to darkness.

Let your heart be a broken door, a latch turned to dust, open wide.

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

-Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman

A compass to follow

I have surprised myself in how long a hiatus I took from the world online. It’s not only this blog I’ve neglected to update, but even my Facebook and emails have gone unchecked. I understand that in a time like this that that can be completely dangerous and grounds for admission to the nearest psych ward, but allow me to explain and tell you, my dear readers, what has happened in that time I’ve been away.

Soon enough, this will be the blog of a Catholic at University. I have passed all my courses, and today found out that I have even passed my Maths in which I went into the exam with a failing mark, but having pass THAT, passed the course. I’ve been accepted to University for a Major in Philosophy and a Minor in Theology, and I ask for your prayers in that regard. The overused phrase in the Catholic sphere is “discerning the vocation”, and at a loss for a new and reformed expression I have to admit that I’m doing the same right now. I have felt a calling to the priesthood for a long time, even since I was a young thing only four inches high off the ground, and that is my long term goal as it stands. I have also been looking into various forms of religion life, but I understand that in no way will this be a personal decision but rather like steering a ship with an unsure compass. Sooner enough, I’ll be pointed in the right direction by Almighty God but I am happy to follow wherever He and the Blessed Mother needs me.

In my absence, I have also grown closer to God in that I have experienced the things that the “man of Sorrows” could only help me through. The loss of good friends who had to leave because life desires them not to be held back, but to go and bloom as every flower does. I mean moving away and going to better schools, not fights or rows. I still have my main group of friends, all of which I wouldn’t trade for the moon and sun. It is through them that I have seen the light of God at night and saw Him as captain during the day.

However, I am not as happy as I ought to be, and I need to understand a few things about truth that I find hard to grasp, but I know that with the help of Our Lady, I’ll be there, just as I am.

Easter at King’s

Beloved readers, keep your eyes and ears out for the new DVD from King’s College this year, “Easter at King’s.” While the service is of the Church of England and taken out of the Book of Common Prayer, it is valuable to us as Catholics and could be of use for your meditations throughout the Easter season after the current Lent. Beautifully recorded in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, the magnificent boys choir is one of the finest and one I grew up listening to quite often.

And I’ll take a moment now to remind you to add to your prayers one for our Holy Father Pope Francis, that he may be led by the Holy Ghost and the Blessed Mother in completing God’s will for the Church and throughout the world. It’s a muddy spot right now, and any prayer could help remove the influences/attacks of the devil.

The Replacements

I am happy to announce that I’ve been accepted into University for a bachelors in Philosophy, during which I intend to apply to seminary. Thank you to those who prayed for me.

There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now, and I’d say now is the time to propose it. I look at this generation, and you see the lack of religiosity and the lack of faith, a growth of disbelief and paganistic replacements of Almighty God. It’s said that two-thirds of teenagers don’t believe in God, and think reality television is more important. Are you frightened yet? Along with this, we see the growth of sub cultures which in description, I believe we can reduce the ‘culture’ to ‘cult’, as many of these cliques have that feel of ultimate obedience and that “anyone outside us is against us.” Marijuana legalisation, the same-sex marriage bandwagon, urban gangs, the “gender theory” crew, the open minded obstinates, etc.

I love my clothes, my fashion, the deals on ASOS, but I know there’s a limit to how indulgent I should be in what I enjoy. Secularism tells us we need to indulge in order to be happy, that there’s no God but our own devices and that we need to keep up with the crowd or else, if we’re left behind, we’ll be miserable and we won’t be able to feed our ego. Life is just life, we have found a replacement for the religion that our human nature craves. So many young people are lost in confusion, they don’t know what to believe, who to look at, and so they give up, and the adults in the world are doing nothing so far to help that. We have the radical anarchist graduated and teaching in our primary schools, a feminist who of course believes in nothing but her emotional convictions teaching Social Justice and Kantian Ethics at a religiously blurred college remaining unnamed.

I am not an expert, and I love my many friends who helped me apply to get into university and helped me pass math last year, and helped me through exam seasons. I couldn’t ask for a better group when I go for a road trip or following the soccer team as they play against a school three hours away. But the world needs prayers. Our youth need prayers. Individualism is the religion, and in that they’re all the same.

We plough the fields and scatter…

During this synod, I’d find it appropriate that you and myself should offer up a prayer for the clergy involved, all the bishops, and most of all for the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.

Blessed be the mind, the heart, the hand,
That drew this icon fair,
Of beauty unsurpassable, yet sweet,
God’s Mother, rapt in prayer.
All pure her face, her hands, her heart unseen,
Chaste, white rapture, as morning glow:
She ponders deep. Her sorrow shows,
She bears the weight of souls on earth below!
Awesone, yet so love-filled and so warm!
Immaculate! her praise shall never cease,
In hearts that love and cherish her; God’s Mother!
Totus tuus! Mary’s littlest ones,
in the valley of Saint Therese.

Now, with that most important deed done, keep in mind it’s never a good time to cease prayer.

The past few days have been unparticularly busy, as things always are busy, and I’m crowded with sheets of music for the two churches I am organist for. One, my own parish, plus the other I fill in for sometimes on Saturday, and then the secondary Anglican church I play at, which pays the best money (I didn’t say that).

Through my small experience as an (amateur, unequipped, uncertified) organist, or, if you’re the much better and dignified collection of higher statute and honour, one of those who refuse to believe the title organist should be applied to anyone not a member of the Royal College of Organists, an organ player, I can truly say that I’ve learnt more than I’ve played.

Accompanying a choir, or an entire parish that is, is often times difficult. My opinion is that a choir should sing as it’s written, any improvisations should be noted on both their papers and on my papers, so that I know how to appropriately play along. There is the Daniel O’Donnell and Aretha Franklin of every parish, or he/she that believes they are. They’ll go off key in an octave you never knew could exist, or they’ll sing along to “We Plough the Fields and Scatter” like it were Lily Allen’s creation.

They’re well meaning, and I like Danny O’Dee so I don’t want anyone to think I’ve taken him in vain.

But you’re the organist for the parish, and these are included. It is my job to make sure I play along to what suits them, or play loud enough with as much flourish as I can so to cover them up.

I would love some advice from more experienced organists and organ players, because right now I have very little influence and no role model to imitate.

Sacred music is for the glory of God in the context of liturgy, of the Most Holy Sacrifice, and the Daily Offices so offered, and all within. I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be if I didn’t have Corpus Christi Watershed, their accompaniment sheets, or the public-domain hymn settings from the Church Music Association of America. Even though Americans sometimes have different words to their hymns, so long as the tune is the same, I’m happy with it.

I’ve been inspired to start a collection. Soon on top this blog, you’ll see a new tab called “Resources.” It will contain links to websites that have free sheet music, instructions for singers, choirs, instrumentalists, and how to appropriately provide company to the human voice during the Mass. To be fair, I’ll even include a few links to Anglican resources which I find can be helpful for those in the Ordinariate.

I’m not an expert, nor do I claim to be, but I hope it could be a good spot for the last minute “the priest wants to change the hymn” panic.

Religious Opinion

Last night I was graced with the presence of some of the most highly renowned 17-16 year old intellectuals on the island. My good friend and myself were camping with them, and when got everything around the fire so we could roast a decent marshmallow without cremation, the religious opinions broke out: peacefully, but in the way that the lark in the morning sweeps up the worm by surprise.

Of course this little gathering was not unlike the congregation of the finest educated minds at a pub near the finest and superior universities, so they thought, and their speech was that of foreign “grandiosity” (if I could use that instead of pretentious).

It’s hard for me to, in all honesty, take them seriously when they get at it because there’s just so much hot air that a boiler would push itself off the stove in embarrassment. It didn’t get steamy, but I found it a great insight, on my part, into the mind of he that aligneth himself not. Religion is useless, harmful, a dangerous corruption of civilisation. The very civilisation that is threatened by our religiosity, is one that was built and reared on the rock that is faith in Christ.

As it goes now, Christ is endangering the common good of the common man, in his common home and his common thought. I feel bad and angry at myself because I didn’t speak up. I couldn’t honestly take what they were saying, as something they were serious about. I had a hard time trying to understand if they were joking, or saying it just to see if I’d react? I wasn’t sure. I don’t really care, in all honesty, because you’ve got to base your reactions upon the character of each person. We all want an honest conversation, and we all know we’re right. Don’t go clawing and screaming at someone as if they were a wooden head with a mouth.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Gospel of St Matthew 5:44

If our aim is to be Christlike in all our actions, then who can we look to but Christ himself? He is our Master and our King. To imitate him is the greatest of all struggles because we have that pride and self-righteous idea that we are somehow better than all that breathes and God only knows how many days I’ve woken up with that attitude: Huff-puff, I know better, no one is greater than me. These are the days I need a good friend with a good rugby ball to smack me over the head. To match the logician, we’ve got to use our God-given logic. Pray, pray, pray. There’s no greater thing than prayer. This is more of a reminder to myself I’d say, than to back up what I’m saying.

When a friend upsets us, forgive him, but help correct him as well. Don’t get defensive. Say that “you understand why he thinks that because it’s certainly what it looks like, however, consider this (fill in the blank).” If I was a devout soul, I would frequent the sacraments much more than I do now. I’d say many more Rosaries than I do now. I’d walk the way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, much more than just at the beginning of Lent. Our good behaviour, our manners and inner peace depends on the faith we have and in our willingness to cooperate in divine providence and in God’s will. I’m ashamed at how many times I’ve sat by and let those who are genuinely ignorant of the truth in the Church because all they’ve been exposed to is the media’s perception and outlook, and let them criticise what they don’t really understand. Just the same can be said about me, when I sit and type a criticism of those who believe what they do. I certainly don’t know what they’ve been exposed to on television, the internet, radio, in school; and that is why our prayers make all the difference.

The world is unkind to any Christian. We have no spiritual weaponry ready at hand, but if we frequently met Christ at the fortress of forgiveness, the door to the confessional, and we poured our hearts out knowing that there is a forgiving and loving God always at our side, if we received Him in the Holy Eucharist, and adored His very flesh with a devout and pious spirit? Our words would flow as smooth as honey, sweet as the dew, never without the guidance of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Our heart would achieve it’s peace, and the burden of our cross would be as if the wood hollowed out. 

O Christian Soul, hold onto Holy Mother Church, and make use of her great traditions. Earth will survive us, I’m sure.