I’m not generally speaking a great fan of memes, but I couldn’t resist this one which I picked up on Barbara Nicolosi’s blog
Book Meme Rules
1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.
My nearest book is The Anglican Breviary. The fifth sentence on Page 123 lands at the end of Tuesday at Sext.
The next three sentences (not counting headings as sentences) are:
O put thy trust in God; for I will yet thank him, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Through the Year:
Ant. Thou upholdest me, O Lord, * and shalt set me before thy face forever.
Ant. Alleluia, alleluia, * alleluja
I tag the next 5 people to read this. Put your answers in the comments!
I am always amazed at how different the experience of saying the rosary is each time. I always start by asking Our Lady to lead me through it.
Sometimes it’s just a nice relaxing quite time in which I establish a gentle rhythm and move into a quiet trance-like state. Sometimes it’s a wonderful time of communing with Our Lady in which the emphasis is on her and the meditations take place somewhere in the back of my mind.
And sometimes I am transported into the mystery, and experience something of the time and place. Sometimes I am a spectator. For instance quite often I have been sitting at the base of a pillar in the Temple and seen a woman, her husband and their newborn baby come in, and started wondering what all the fuss was about.
Sometimes I feel what Our Lady felt, and I have shared her joy, her wonder, her grief and her glory.
And each now and then I am permitted to feel something of what our Saviour went through. Last night, I shared just a tiny bit of his desolation in the Garden, the helplessness and degradation of the scourging and crown of thorns, the physical exhaustion and collapse of carrying the cross. The feeling was so intense I was lying on the floor, shaking, in floods of tears. And then I found that I was lying at the foot of the cross.
One thing which the Blessed Lady has made me do is sign up for an ecumenical house group over Lent. I have discovered that she has quite a sense of humour - and I think this a very good example of it!
Ecumenism is all very well, but can you imagine how my giving the following (true) testimony during the house group might be received?
“Last Sunday I lit a candle to thank Our Lady because she had revealed to me that a soul I had been praying for had been released from Purgatory because I had asked God to antedate the plenary indulgence I shall obtain for my first communion at Easter and apply it to her”
Anyway I shall trust my Lady to tell me what to say and when. The one thing I can be sure of is that she loves all the people who will be in the house group every bit as much as she loves me.
May the light of Christ shine on us all.
Five days ago I put a cluster map at the foot of the margin because I was interested to know the geographical spread of visitors to the site. I was surprised to see that, according to it, the grand total of visitors since then has been the magnificent figure of 29.
On the other hand, according to Squarespace the number of visitors was a far more encouraging 569.
Which all goes to show that when it comes to statistics it all depends who is doing the counting!
The other night I was sitting in the pub with a couple of other men from church and we were talking about some of the difficulties which some of the people we knew had gone through. These were mainly very sad stories of marital break-up. This was particularly poignant as all the people we were talking about were faithful Catholics.
I suddenly had a flash of revelation. And without even pausing to think, I blurted out “Mary is the answer!”
Yes, Mary is the answer to the breakdown in relationships. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the great increase in Catholic marital breakdown has taken place at the same time as a decrease in devotion to the Mother of God. I know myself from my own recent experience what a powerful force she is for bringing the true Spirit of Jesus into our lives.
And then over the following few days, I kept hearing the same phrase “Mary is the answer” in response to many other problems which afflict the church and the world. I hope to write more about those some other time.
One of the points made by Fr. Schryvers in The Gift of Oneself is that our will is always about love.
The life of the will, its need, its irresistible tendency, is to love. If the love is regulated, the whole will is good, the entire man is good. If the love is not regulated, the whole will is perverse, the entire man is bad.
Chapter 3, Article 5
This is an amazing insight. If we ask ourselves “What am I loving when I do this?” we will have an explanation for all sorts of behaviours. Why am I writing this post? Because I love sounding off, because I love being admired, because I love having an audience, because I love showing off, because I love putting other people right, because I love demonstrating how holy or clever I am (preferably both).
This is what Fr. Schryvers in the extract above calls a “perverse” will.
But if my answer is “because I love God”, then my will is going to be a holy will.
She herself said:
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
In the pride of my heart I could not know her. But she has humbled me. I am humbled before her. I am humbled because I can now see how she has cared for me all my life, even though I have been blind to her care. She has grieved over me like a mother over a runaway son. She has always had faith that I would come to her.
What more can I write of her? I could write all day in her praise, but she will only allow me to write a few lines more. I could tell of the wonderful advice she gives. Or how in the space of eighteen days she has done more to solve all my problems than my own struggles over decades. I could also say how much she longs for you who read these words to love her too. if you give yourself to her, she will give herself to you.
Totus tuus sum ego, Maria
Now my Lady won’t let me use any of my techniques or methods, not even the one in “The Gift of Yourself”. She says it is enough to love her. Anything else will take away from that love. If I love her I don’t need to worry about my actions. I can act as I like. Someone who truly loves her and lets her into his heart can never act other than according to God’s will.
I love to read of her, to think of her, to talk with her. If I were a poet, I would write poems to her. If I were an artist, I would try to paint her. If I were a musician I would write music in praise of her.
What always surprises me about Our Lady is how easy she is to love. Having searched for God most of my life and failed to find him as a loving presence, the warmth of love I feel from her is astounding. Why is she so much easier to love and feel the love of than God himself? She tells me that it is how God has ordained it. That it is God’s love that I feel when I love her. It is God that I love in her. Just as meeting a saintly person in this life can tell us more about God than a myriad of books or sermons, so meeting Our Lady brings the reality of God as nothing else can.
She is such a presence. She is so real. There are times when I feel I know her better than any person in this life. There is nothing hidden in her. She does not hide herself from me. There have been times when I have found myself comforting her as she weeps over some horror. Only I have the power to put a barrier between us.
Saying the Rosary has become a joy because I say it with her, leaning upon her breast, saying it as words of love to her, letting her show me the mysteries, feeling them as she feels them.
My frozen heart, which I have often thought incapable of love, has at last found itself warmed in the fire of divine love. I have found someone I can love totally and without reserve. Someone who will never leave me, or disappoint me, or disapprove of me. I love her as my mother, but also as my lover. There are times when we whisper things together that can be shared with no one else.
My Lady, my beautiful Lady, how I love you! And what a surprise your love is to me. How could I ever have thought that one day you would play such a part in my life? How could I ever have suspected how wonderful you are? Everything that people have said about you over the centuries, over the millenia, is right. You are indeed a maiden without compare.
My life seems entirely different since you became the mistress of my life. There is a warm loving at my centre where once there was coldness and loneliness. Even M. notices it this morning when she comes to cut my hair. She calls me “darling” without even noticing it and relaxes with me in a way she never has before. Having my Lady in my heart makes M. much warmer towards me. Not that she has ever been unfriendly, but I know that she senses the walls that have fallen within me.
You tell me, my Lady, that all I have to do is love you. Nothing else. You also say that if I put up no barriers between us then there are no limits to our love. You tells me how much you love me and that your love for me means that I can hurt you easily. Yet you are never hurt when I am open to you. I can share whatever I like with you. But never hide from you. You are hurt when I hide from you because then you cannot help me. And you are hurt even more when I deliberately repel you.
The surrendered life is one of peace. When one has surrendered to God’s will, there is an integrity, a purity, a directness and simplicity about one’s actions. Instead of trailing myriads of one’s own intentions, the eye of the spirit is single.
This sounds easy and indeed it is. But like most actions that are simple when one has learned them, they take an immense amount of practice to learn. The difficulty is not in doing God’s will. That is the easy part because God always makes his will clear when we are prepared to listen to it, and he also always gives us the grace to do what he asks of us.
No, the difficulty lies in getting our own will out of the way. Every moment of every day we are assailed with thoughts and impulses which rush into our minds. These thoughts and impulses usually come in one of two guises. One is fear and the other is pleasure. We think of something that we are afraid of or worried about, and our immediate reaction is to forget what God is willing us to do at that moment and go off and do our own thing. Or we think of something we would like to do, and exactly the same thing happens.
Neither the actions resulting from fear nor from pleasure are necessarily sins. In fact they may on the face of it be spiritual or holy things. The point is not that they are bad in themselves, but that they take us away from the “one thing necessary” - the doing of God’s will at precisely this point in time.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
There was nothing wrong about the work that Martha was doing in itself and indeed it would have been the right thing to do in its place. It’s just that at that particular moment the right thing to be doing was to be listening to what Jesus was saying. And notice that, not only was Martha missing out on the blessing of that moment, she was also resenting that her sister wasn’t missing it!
It was the last episode of the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility last night, and my lasting memory of the adaption will be Hattie Morahan’s portrayal of Elinor Dashwood. For some reason even the greatest artists seem to find it easier to portray evil than good (think Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost or Dante’s terrific and terrifying Inferno). But here Elinor Dashwood came over as a woman without peer, every last nuance of her feelings reflected on her beautiful face.
My only serious quibble with the production was that it blurred the subtlety of Jane Austen’s ending by making Marianne fall in love with Colonel Brandon at the end. In the novel it’s made quite clear that she marries him as a man “for whom she has no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship”. The irony of the plot is that it is the “sensible” sister, Elinor, who has the true feelings, remains faithful to her love throughout despair and discouragement and eventually marries him in spite of the fact that he has no fortune and few prospects, while the “romantic” sister Marianne’s strongly expressed feelings vanish away like the morning mist and she marries sensibly a man with plenty of money and a fine house.
Either way, it’s the happiest of happy endings and I love Austen’s concluding sentence:
… and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.
Yesterday we went to see the “Renaissance Siena” exhibition at the National Gallery, London.
It was a marvellous exhibition of art from a city which always to some extent saw itself as set apart from the rest of the world. I won’t write about the way in which Siena was saved from disaster many times by the intervention of the Blessed Virgin - the latest being during World War II. But I do want to mention one thing which struck me very forcibly. In the first half of the exhibition, the Sienese artists depicted the Virgin and other saints as though they believed in them and wanted to honour and glorify them by their art. Then quite suddenly there seemed to be a change of style and to me it was as if the artists were depicting the Virgin and the saints as just another set of subjects for their Art. In other words it was the Art that had become important rather than the saints. Perhaps it’s only coincidence that this was rapidly followed by the loss of the city’s independence and influence.
Living without intent is a classic idea of Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. What it means is that you “just do” an action, rather than have intentions about it. So to give an example if you are doing the housework, you just do the housework rather than have the intent to get it finished as soon as possible, or get it out of the way, or show your mother-in-law what a good home you keep.
Done in this way actions have a purity and a restfulness about them.
When we abandon ourselves to God’s will we need to have a similar purity of intent. Anyone who sincerely tries to hear God’s will about all their actions will find themselves becoming aware of of the multitude of raging and often conflicting intentions that they have within them.
Just as the Eastern concept of living without intent is very simple (though not easy to do), so is the purity of intent we need to do God’s will. Our intention is to do God’s will, nothing else.
Therefore any intentions of our own need to be surrendered to God moment by moment. The right attitude is to do each task as if it were the only thing we have to do. Then when we have finished it we allow the Spirit to tell us what to do next. Everytime a thought enters our mind about what we should be doing, or could be doing, or ought to be doing, or would like to be doing, we share that thought with God and let it go.
That surrender is the basis of living a holy life.
When I was a child my family were very scornful about the “superstitious” popular Catholic pictures and statues one would see in the souvenir shops near major churches in Europe. I remember well visiting Rome with my mother and aunt when I was about 15, and how we looked down on the people who would buy such things.
I’m still not exactly a fan of the style of picture shown above, but I’m no longer scornful of the people who buy them or have them in their homes.
For one thing anyone with a picture like that is likely to be sincere, simple and without pride, and therefore vastly superior to me in the eyes of God (I can sometimes manage “sincere”, but “simple” and “without pride” are still quite beyond me).
Secondly, there is an instinct of orthodoxy associated with such pictures. They are not at all compatible with New Age religion. Nor are they compatible with creeping Protestantism. Nor are they compatible with the destructive intellectual arrogance which has so damaged the Church.
In other words, someone with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary in their home is not likely to be a heretic. They may not understand the deep issues of theology but their heart and their instinct will be in the right place
And if they love the Virgin and her Son, they will love them back.
I have been meaning for some time now to write about what Mary has come to mean to me over the last month or so. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I have so much to say on the subject that I will have to publish what I want to say over a series of postings. So this is only an introduction.
Mary is always a difficult subject for a protestant. And as an ex-protestant I have gone through various stages in my appreciation of her. I have written recently on Mary as mediatrix of all graces and one of the things I said that I had begun to realise was that, far from being some sort of add-on, she was at the very centre of Catholicism. This realisation has only got stronger since I wrote that.
In reading these two books and putting into practice what they say I have discovered why the liturgy uses extracts from the Wisdom books and the Song of Songs for her feasts, why so many saints and poets seem to go overboard about her, why she is given so many titles such as Mother of Good Council, Help of Christians, Mother of the Church and so on. I have also discovered that she is very different from the plaster statues of her, in which she stands with bowed head looking completely impassive.
Another thing I have discovered is the power of the Rosary.
I would be very careful of the danger of inventing for myself an “imaginary friend” if were it not for the fact that Mary has led me through some very deep repentance about issues that have troubled me all my life. The truth is that as anyone who starts to venerate Mary finds she is a very real and discernable presence. This is hardly surprising if she is indeed the Mediatrix of All Graces.
Ante luciferum genitus, et ante sæcula,
Dominus Salvator noster hodie mundo apparuit.
Before the morning star begotten, yea, before all ages,
the Lord our Saviour as on this day is made manifest to the world.
Venit lumen tuum, Jerusalem, et gloria Domini super te orta est,
et ambulabunt Gentes in lumine tuo, alleluja.
Thy light is come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee,
and the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, alleluia.
Apertis thesauris suis,
obtulerunt Magi Domino aurum, thus et myrrham, alleluja.
When they had opened their treasures,
the Wise Men presented unto the Lord gold and frankincense and myrrh, alleluia.
Maria et flumina, benedicite Domino:
hymnum dicite, fontes, Domino, alleluja.
O ye seas and river-floods, shew forth the praises of the Lord;
O ye fountains of living water, bless ye the Lord of all, alleluia.
Stella ista sicut flamma coruscat, et Regem regum Deum demonstrat:
Magi eam viderunt, et magno Regi munera obtulerunt.
Yon star, a fiery beacon, pointeth out the way to God, the King of kings:
where Magi, when they see, do then unfold their princely gifts.
Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, quia venit lumen tuum,
et gloria Domini super te orta est.
Arise, shine ; for thy light is come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, O Jerusalem.
Well, not quite the Best Books of 2007 - but the best book’s I’ve read in 2007 which doesn’t imply that they were written this millenium, or the one before that, or even the one before that!
In no particular order:
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. A stunning book by one of the best Victorian novelists, it tackles some extremely difficult themes. It was the first novel by a well-known author to deal sympathetically with contemporary Judaism.
The Book of Wisdom. The Bible book I never knew existed as a Protestant. And what a revelation! Apart from anything else I now know where Herrick got “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”
The Red Horse by Eugenio Corti. This book is a novel about young men of the Italian Army in the Russian Campaign of World War 2 and how they were sustained by their Catholic faith, followed by a heart-breaking but deeply illuminating account of how the Catholic faith itself collapsed in Italy after the war, destroyed by the enemy within.
The Founding of Christendom by Warren H. Carroll. Most history of the origins of Christianity is written from an “impartial” viewpoint, i.e. makes every effort to debunk Christianity itself. This book is deeply “partial”, seeing history as God working in the world. I love it!
True Devotion to Mary by St Louis de Montfort. A classic, life-changing book. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again after reading it. I will be writing more about this book and the effect it has had on me in the near future.
We remember the Catholic clergy and religious slain for the faith in 2007:
Father Mario Bianco
Father Martin Addai
Father José Luis Camacho Cepeda
Father Fransiskus Madhu
Sister Anne Thole
Father Richard Bimeriki
Father Wolfgang Hermann
Father Salvador Herandez Seller
Father Humberto Macias Rosales
Father Raghiid Ganni
Rev. Basman Yousef Daoud
Rev. Ghasan Bidawid
Rev. Wahid Hanna
Seminarian Justin Daniel Bataclan
Brother Enrique Alberto Olano Merino
Father Tomas Perez
Father Fernando Sanchez Duran
Father Ricardo Junious
Father Florante Rigonan
Father Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith
Father Allard Msheyene
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints
O admirabile commercium! Creator generis humani, animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.
O wonderful exchange! The Creator of human nature took on a human body and was born of the Virgin. He became man without having a human father and has bestowed on us his divine nature.
May all the readers of this blog have a holy and blessed year of Our Lord 2008.