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Sunday 6 July 2014

Well, The Movie Review

I shall write two things: one, everyone should see the movie. Two, I wish Dinesh would have brought in the necessity of religion, specifically the Christian religion. The only thing which will turn this country around is the complete conversion to Catholicism. Period.

Important Note

Americans just are not paying attention

Movie Review Coming

Dinesh D'Souza's America will fill my afternoon. My friends tell me I know it all already, but I shall let you know.

Last movie I went to was the second Hobbit flick, which I saw in London with son.

Novella Part Four Sally Forth

Sally’s phone chirped like a bird. It was Matt. “Hey, Sal. Can Abbey and I join you for a day or two? Do you have room there?”

“Sure, no problem-she can sleep in my room and you can sleep on the little sofa, but it is a bit boring here, I mean not for me, but this place is quiet and isolated. I have a beach front and there is one small store about a mile away.”

“Sounds perfect. We shall be there tomorrow in the afternoon and stay until Friday. I have a job to do on Saturday for the city and Abbey needs to visit her parents. See you, then.”

Sally sensed news. Maybe the two were engaged. She was not sure how she felt about Matt marrying a Mormon. Since he had found the TLM, Matt was more and more pious than ever. She could not imagine how they would work things out. Abbey was not even a Christian.

These thoughts led Sally to her own problem of the future. She wanted so desperately to be in order and peace, in harmony and optimism for the rest of her life. She was coming up for review for tenure, and yet, the thought of this security did not add to her happiness. She would only enjoy, to some extent, the pleasure it would bring her parents, who always had expectations for her.  But, she also knew that even if she was granted this pleasure, Massie and Duke would undermine her moment of glory. She had seen the drama before, with James, when he was elected mayor of a small town outside of Fargo. Massie had said, “Too bad you are not mayor of Fargo.” Duke asked about his salary and shook his head when James told him.

Massie would not stop. “Well, it is sad that your talents are so wasted, but then you were never really competitive.” And so on…

When Mary was appointed head of the Museum of Modern Art in Minneapolis, Massie made a comment of how much she hated modern art. Duke asked whether it was a paid position or just volunteer. Even the super-correct and patronizing Mary almost lost her cool then.

When Sean won the all-state science fair award, Massie merely wished that the financial award was larger, and mentioned out loud that scientists were becoming extinct and that Sean would be better off going into medicine or dentistry.

Bobbie stopped sharing things the kids were doing, and Massie complained that she was never told what was going on.

Sally toyed with the idea of not even telling her parents she was up for tenure. Massie would make a comment, as she had done before, that the University of Wisconsin was just “not Notre Dame”.
Sally went inside and prayed. She was now praying up to four hours a day in her time off. She loved the silence and read Scripture daily. She even ordered a breviary from the monks at Clear Creek. She was beginning to plan her day around two of the Hours.

In the morning, earlier than expected, Matt and Abbey arrived. Yes, she was beaming. Matt was strangely shy. Sally invited them in for a veggie lunch she had made for them.

After they sat down, Sally said, “OK, tell me the good news.”

Abbey glanced at Matt. “You tell her.”

Matt said, “Abbey and I are engaged. And, Abbey is going to become a Catholic. She is taking instruction from Father Eliot, the new priest in Houston. What do you think?”

Abbey held out her hand and Sally took her fingers to look at the ring. It was a sapphire surrounded by diamonds. Sally’s eyes filled with tears.

“I am so happy, I can hardly see. Wait, I have to get a tissue.”

“See, I told you she would cry.” Matt laughed and looked relieved. He really wanted his sister to love his fiancĂ© as he did.

“And, I have a new job. Do you remember Tomas Page? He asked me to go into business with him, just the two of us.”

Sally could hardly answer. “I am so happy. Do you have a date for the wedding?”

Abbey spoke first, “October 7th which we chose on purpose. And Sally, would you be my both my sponsor when I come into the Church as well as my maid of honour? As you know, I have no sisters and well, I really want you to help me through the whole day-both days.”

Sally got up and hugged Abbey. This had to be one of the happiest days of her life. She said that she and Abbey would talk weekly after her meetings with the priest, and then, on the big day, she would fly down.

The three passed the time just enjoying each other and relaxing. The few days went quickly. Sally knew her decision would have to wait, whatever that decision would be.

Still, Hans’ words echoed in her ears, like the wind coming off the small lake at sunset.

To be continued…

Novella Continued Sally Forth....Part Three

“I am only going to meet Dr. Allen three more times and then quit,” Matt shared with Sally over the phone. “He is convinced that I am not scarred for life.” Matt laughed. Sally could imagine his bright smile over the phone. “He said I was remarkably sane for a person my age, which is a bit worrying, don’t you think?” Sally smiled at her end. Yes, Matt had escaped the habits of the Toxics. “I always wondered why you decided to get counseling. You need it less than any of us.”

“It was my conversion, you know, Sal,” Matt said quietly. “You and I have something, and you understand.” Sally said yes, and Matt had to go. He had a client coming in after his lunch break and he needed to go over the information he had. “Talk to you soon.”

Sally did indeed remember Matt’s conversion, as it followed her intense experience of Christ by a mere two weeks, two years ago. The entire family had decided to meet for the annual picnic in Tulsa, where John and his family lived. But, an extraordinary thing happened. Matt was to fly in from Houston and Sally was coming in from Madison. They were going to meet in Tulsa for dinner before moving on to the family reunion at the Sheraton.

But two months before Tulsa, Sally was going to Adoration, invited by her friend Frieda, a member of the staff of her college. But, what Frieda had not told Sally was that Adoration began with Mass, a Tridentine Mass said by a member of the Fraternity of St. Peter, Fr. Richmann. Sally had never been to a “TLM”. She met Frieda outside the church.

“Here, wear this, if you do not mind,” and Frieda handed Sally a mantilla. “Why?” Sally looked at the black lace triangle. “Well, I didn’t tell you that Mass was first, and it is a traditional Latin Mass. But, you don’t mind, do you? I mean you are a faithful Catholic.”

Sally looked at Frieda. “Sure, why not. I have never been to a Latin Mass before and would like to attend one. Adoration is immediately after, correct?”

Frieda said yes, and the two went in. Sally had not expected a choir or so many people. She was genuinely surprised at so many on a Saturday. She followed Frieda into the pew, genuflecting, as she always did. Looking around, Sally saw more young people her age than she had seen in her parish in Madison. In fact, she was one of the youngest at that parish, even though she was in her mid-thirties.

The Mass began, a special observance for the Annunciation, and Sally immediately knew she was “home”. She experienced something she had never experienced in the Mass she regularly attended near the University. She discovered the Transcendent God. For the first time, for some reason, Sally knew the Indwelling of the Trinity, her baptismal gift, as if she had never experienced God before. At first, she was surprised, as the chant ebbed and flowed through her brain like a consoling breath. Then, as the Mass continued, Sally felt more and more like she “belonged”, that here was a place, a time where she was loved and respected in the depths of her being.

She looked around to see if anyone else had noticed her amazement, but almost all those in the pews were following the Liturgy with missals.

When Sally went up to receive Communion on the tongue and kneeling, something she had never done before in her life, her Communion became a real communication of the Presence of Christ. Her thoughts were lifted out of her world into something, Someone, else. Sally, for a moment, lost herself in God.

At Adoration, this moment returned, and for the half-hour the two women could stay, Sally knew she had been found by God, that God had let her be found.

She could not talk about this. Frieda wanted to go for coffee afterwards, but Sally begged off. “I need to go home.”

Frieda asked, “Did you like the Mass? I mean, do you want to go again? I go every Sunday.” Sally said, “Yes, I do. I can meet you here again tomorrow.”

And that was the beginning of a new time for Sally. For two weeks, she managed to get to daily and Sunday Mass in the Tridentine Rite. Then, she phoned Matt.

She had to tell someone. “Matt, I have been attending the FSSP Mass here and I cannot tell you what it is like. But, I am going to go now, all the time.”  Matt was silent on the other end for a moment.

“This is weird, Sal. My counselor goes and he invited me to come next Sunday in Houston. Hey, this is so, well, synchronic.”

Sally laughed. She and Matt had a thing about synchronicity. She remembered the several times in their lives that similar things happened to each of them at about the same time.

“Hey, Sal, I have to go. I am working on something. Get back to you soon.”

Matt did get back to Sal, when at a new restaurant, on Sunday, two weeks later. “Sal, I am sitting here with four great guys I just met at the TLM. Hey, we have been talking about the Liturgy for an hour. This is so cool. Why did I not know about this?”

So began the new lives of these siblings. Sally in Madison and Matt in Houston became part of the TLM parishes and discovered a Catholicism they never knew existed. They began to read new books which were very old. They attended Holy Hour and First Friday as well as First Saturday Masses and devotions. They both began to receive the sacrament of Penance more often, and soon, Matt was on a men’s weekend retreat just before the family reunion.

They wondered whether they should share this experience with their siblings when the Tulsa crisis hit. James and Bobbie came first with their three children to the camp grounds outside the city. They had a huge camper, the biggest and best one could find. Sally called it the “bungalow on wheels”.

John and Mary were to fly down from Minneapolis with their two children and stay in the same campgrounds with James and Bobbie. There was enough room for all of them. However, there was only one problem. Massie had apparently misunderstood the plans, thinking that she and Duke were staying with James and Bobbie, and that the rest of the family would be renting cabins. Matt and Sally had a cabin, and they thought Mom and Dad had rented one as well.

When Matt met Sally at the airport to go out for dinner before meeting the rest of the family, he had bad news.

“She just left. She turned around after an argument with everyone and left. Duke, of course, left with her. They are somewhere. There were no more cabins available. It is a mess. But, she got is wrong, we all agree.”

“Wow, we all agree on something, amazing.” Sally said this but wished she had not. It was sarcastic and sarcasm fit into the negative, obsessive thoughts she was trying to get rid of in her psyche.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. Matt grinned, “No problem. I thought the same thing but did not say it.”

They ordered dinner. “Well, John and James think they should leave and go home, to visit Mom and Dad there, making up for the mistake. I said that was stupid and that we all should just enjoy ourselves despite Mom’s temper tantrum. James went ballistic and said even though Mom was wrong, we should try and make peace. I call this emotional terrorism. Dr. Allen would call it gross manipulation.”

Sally stirred milk into her coffee. “I really do not know what to do. We paid for the cabin. It sleeps four. Mom and Dad could stay with us. Why go back to Minneapolis? It seems stupid and a waste. The kids are probably looking forward to being here together.”

“So, when are the kids being thought of first? They never are. They are just appendages.”

Sally did not reply. Kids never came first in this narcissitic bunch. No one really cared ever how the children felt about anything. John, especially when drunk, did not care. And Mary, who was an only child, lived for herself, excusing her behavior by blaming John for everything wrong.

“I am not going anywhere. I invited my new girlfriend up for a day and I was going to introduce her to everyone. If no one else stays, will you? Contra mundum?”

“Contra mundum,” replied Sally. This was the battle cry of these siblings. “It is giving in to hysteria to leave. I sincerely hope James and John come to their senses.”

The two finished dinner and took a rental car out to the camp grounds. Within minutes, it was clear that even though everyone there knew and agreed that Massie was wrong and acting like a child, how to deal with the situation varied.

James had asked Bobbie to take the kids swimming. Mary, John, Sally and Matt sat down in the bungalow on wheels with drinks. Mary wore her new muumuu she bought in Hawaii when she and John were there a month ago.  She looked very retro. James spoke first.

“Mom and Dad have disappeared. We think they went to the Radisson, which Mom hates and will complain about. But, we have to decide what to do. Mary and John want to leave, but to be honest, I paid a bunch for this site and I am not inclined to go. Matt, what do you want to do?”

James never asked Sally her opinion for anything. She was a non-person and knew it. She was content to keep silent. Matt would share her point of view. “I have decided to stay. I have my new friend, Abbey, coming up on Wednesday and I am not going to put her out. Sal says she will stay as well.”

James looked shocked. “You mean you are putting this Abbey before Mom and Dad?”

Matt smiled. “Abbey is not just this Abbey, she is the girl friend. Sorry, but yes, I am.”

James poured out a lemonade for himself. It was freshly squeezed in the huge kitchen. He did not drink alcohol at all. Sally knew James thought he was superior to John and Mary, as well as to Matt and herself. She had lived with his priggishness all her life. She was used to it and no longer noticed his grand obsession with health.

“Well, Matt, you are the youngest and cannot understand what Mom’s feelings mean to us. If you want to stay, fine. I am not sure what to do.” James was the master of passive aggressive manipulation. When he was young, he spent four years in a monastery. Sally had assumed he learned to be passively obstinate there. James continued. “Mary and John what do you want to do?”

Mary spoke, as usual, first. “Well, we do not even know where Massie and Duke are, do we?” And, as if on cue, James’ cell phone rang. It was Duke.

James left the table and walked into another room. A few minutes later, he came back. “Dad said they will come back if the kids stay with Sally and Matt, leaving room for them here.”

Matt squirmed in his chair. All five kids in the cabin and Abbey coming---Sally tried not to laugh out loud. She got up, “Well, I am going to go for a swim with the kids. You all let me know what you decide.”

Sally had her own way to deal with passive aggressiveness. She walked out, went to her cabin and changed. She honestly felt that she could not longer bear the charade of love and care her siblings wove like a web to hide the fact that they were all constantly manipulated.

Sally was taking her time and about a half-hour later, Matt came up to the door. “Hey, can I come in?”

Sally yelled out, “Sure”. Matt threw himself on the futon in the main room.

“Well?” Sally stood there in her swimming wrap and waited. “While James and Duke were sorting things out, Bobbie came in with Jewel and Carson. They have welts all over them. Mary is panicking. There is a nurse in the main building. I think it is poison ivy, but Mary is convinced there is something in the water. Well, the upshot is that John, Mary and their kids are leaving. Mary wants to sue the camp. I mean, one cannot make this stuff up.”

Sally was sure the children were not in danger. “Well, Massie and Duke can now stay with James and Bobbie. No problem.”

“No, James called them back, told them about the hives, and now the parents are leaving to go home.”

“Man, what a waste of time and money. I just do not understand any of this.”

Matt got up and went to the small fridge for a soda. “Well, you do not have to be the center of attention. That is your charm.”

Sally sat down. “Well, I shall stay for the week as intended. What are James and Bobbie doing?”

Matt offered Sally some pop. She said no thanks. “I guess they have not decided. Hey, I shall join you by the lake.”

Two hours later, John and Mary packed and left with the children, who indeed, had a severe reaction to poison ivy. Mary had told James that she would never agree to any place he and Bobbie would decide upon for a vacation. Bobbie had said, “Fine, you decide and plan next year and let us know.” As usual, James and Bobbie were undecided as to what to do with the rest of the week, when Sally and Matt joined them for dinner in the bungalow on wheels.

“Bobbie and I are having a little disagreement.” Bobbie glared at James. Obviously, it was more than a little disagreement.

“The kids do not have their cousins here and the reason for this vacation was a family reunion.”  James stopped talking.  He wanted others to decide for him.

Bobbie had fallen into a sullen silence. Sally knew the scene. Bobbie would not say anything in front of James, but complain behind his back for days after any decision was made. But, most likely, a decision would not be made. Things would just happen.

Matt said they should all eat and discuss details after dinner. Sean, Fiona, and Michael came in from outside. They said nothing. Sally felt so sorry for these three. While Jewel and Carson had a drunk dad to deal with, these three had to work around unspoken resentments and a clawing negativity. She really felt for her niece and nephews.

Sally thought of some fun things they could do together this week. She would be a real aunt and help the kids have fun.

“When is Abbey joining you, again? I cannot remember the day you mentioned, Matt.”

“Wednesday, and only for the day, because she has a sister in Tulsa and is going to stay with her. She just wanted to see me and meet some of the family.” Matt was setting up a chess set to play with Fiona, who loved chess.

“Well, I can understand why you want to stay,” Bobbie ventured into new territory, expressing herself before James had done so.

Bobbie continued, “What about a compromise, James? We can stay through Wednesday and then leave Thursday morning, visiting the parents on the way back.”

James sat down with his ice tea. “Hmm, that might work. I shall phone Mom and Dad and see if we can see them. It will take us about a day and a half to get there.”

So, the vacation plans were settled. Sally managed to go riding with Sean and Michael, and Matt got to introduce the puzzled Abbey to at least part of the family.

As planned, the giant camper pulled out on Thursday morning, leaving a relieved brother and sister to spend three days as they wished. The first thing they did was to find a Latin Mass in Tulsa, using the rental car for the rest of the week, and having more of a retreat than a vacation, until they left. Sally more or less decided this was the last family reunion she would ever attend, but as it turned out, she ended up at one more.

However, this year, two years later, as she flicked water away from her with her feet,  this year not attending the reunion but staying at her own little place, Sally knew she would have to make more serious decisions than merely avoiding family gatherings. She had to decide on her life. She had to make a severe break and she was not sure how to do this. But, deep down inside, a little voice niggled at her. She could here Hans’ voice, quiet, severe, serious.

To be continued….

Novella Five-Sally Forth Part Two

Sally looked at her cell. Massie was calling. "Where are you? We are all here, waiting. You will make dinner late. You only think about yourself."

Sally wanted to sigh into the phone."Mom, I told you several times I was not coming. You forgot."

Massie was not listening, "John caught six bass for dinner and Mary has made bread. Where are you?"

Sally repeated, slowly, quietly, "I am not coming, Mom."

Massie stopped talking for a minute. "You never think of the family. You are always doing your own thing. You were alway selfish.""

Sally knew the litany by heart. Massie would start dragging up every failure in Sally's life, her business failure, her failed relationship with Hans Kronstadt, her illnesses, all these were her fault. "Mom, I shall talk to you later. I do not want to hang up on you, but I need to go."

"If you hang up on me, you need not ever come to the Big House. I'll talk later." And, true to form, Massie hung up.

Sally now sighed. She would not go to the camp in Minnesota. She would stay in Wisconsin, for a bit. She was on holiday and did not have to report back to work until August 9th, when the meetings for teachers and administrators started up. She knew her teaching schedule, no new classes for which to prepare. She was ready.

So, Mom blamed her for Hans leaving as well. Interesting, as Mom never liked him. Matt always called him Kronstadt and it stuck. Everyone called him that except for Sally, but even then, she slipped into the habit.

Hans Kronstadt and Sally had met in a strange way. He was the first one to tell her that her family was caught up in complusive thoughts, in irrational thinking. He should know. He was a psychologist.

Sally had gone to visit Matt in Houston three years ago. Matt had just bought his first house and wanted company. He had not yet met Abbey, but he was getting counseling. Sally was amazed. "You are only twenty-nine. Why do you need counseling?"

"Come on, Sal, you know why. I want to nip negativity in the bud. Now, not when I am fifty-five and am looking back on a history of ruined opportunities and relationships. And, I am meeting Kronstadt for dinner. Want to come? He won't mind and he is single."

Sally laughed. But, this dinner changed her life. It was "love at first sight" for her. She could not believe what she felt, as if Hans were a soul-mate, a long-lost friend. They hit it off immediately, acting as though they had known each other for years.

Hans was incredibly good-looking. He was tall, dark and yes, handsome. Sally was not. She was plain, strawberry blond, with freckles and big, too big feet. But, Sally had a smile which one did not forget. And, two days later, Hans phoned her cell. She had, of course, given him her number when asked.

"Hello, do you remember me?" Sally could hardly speak. She felt as if she had never loved anyone in her life before. They started dating, but under one condition. Matt would have to see someone else. Hans, very proper, said it would be unprofessional, but Sally was becoming, quickly, the most important person in his life.

Matt was a philosophical sort of guy an actually like Hans' associate, Allen Hall, better. Allen was less stuffy, said Matt. Well, he only had two more meetings and was free to leave.

To be continued...

Novella Five: Sally Forth-Part One

Sally sat on the top step of her beach house. She was the only one staying for the weekend, and she needed the quiet. James and John, her two brothers, were on a long camping trip in the northern part of the state, with all the kids and wives. Sally had been invited, but she desperately needed time on her own. John had promised to stop drinking, but she saw the SUV packed with beer as well as the camping gear and knew he was lying again. She did not want to face his self-deceit, which she had tried to talk with him about since 1999.

She was tired of lies. All her life, her family insisted on pride and lies to cover up the lies. Successes were always bigger than life and failures overlooked as unmentionables. Lies about being Catholic formed the worst nest of vipers for Sally’s soul. At least James did not lie about his atheism. But, John pretended for years he was “Christian”, never darkening the door of a church since 2003. Sally did not want to hear lies.

Her family, one of the most prominent Democratic families in the state, had campaigned vigorously for anti-life candidates. James had gone so far as to openly criticize Sally for her pro-life stand. “You can’t vote for one thing.”  He yelled. She yelled back, “Yes you can.”

Duke and Massie, their parents, told them all to stop arguing and that all politicians were the same. Sally was ashamed that her parents had fallen into a cynicism which she only saw among her youngest brother’s generations. Matt was not cynical, but many of his fellow Millennials were.

But, Matt was dating a Mormon, and no one seemed to care anymore, about real religion, except Sally. She had met Abbey, a great gal, but full of the great Mormon “religion”. Matt told Sally last Spring, “I can convert her, Sal. Don’t worry. You’ll see.” But so far, Abbey had not shown any interest in Catholicism.

Yes, she was moral and the two “items” were keeping chaste, no small thing. Duke actually told Sally to “stop talking about Catholicism” and Sally left the dinner early.

Now, as she sat on the top step of her beach house, she had to think about her family. No one, absolutely no one, admitted John was an alcoholic. Everyone pretended he did not have a problem, which Sally knew for over twenty years he did. Sally got up and moved down to her pier. She sat at the end of it and stared at the sunlight in the water. She had forgotten her sunglasses.

No one seemed to want the truth about anything, but they all stayed very, very busy-working for the symphony, working for the Knight of Columbus, working on the new house James and Amy just bought, working on new degrees, working on making new investments.

Sally was tired of workaholics and liars. But, what could she do? At thirty-six, no one listened to her, no one cared that she was getting “more religious” daily, except for Matt.

Matt knew, but chose to say nothing. He saw the lies, the pursuit for status, and had decided to go his own way. The reason he was dating Abbey was that they had met at a piano camp, both pursuing music, both ready to be poor for art. But, neither Matt nor Abbey were poor.

Abbey had told Matt and Matt had told Sally, that Abbey called the family the Toxics. Abbey’s family was upbeat, happy, even peaceful.

Sally could not understand the gross unhappiness of her own. Matt dealt with it by moving to Houston, were he worked as a computer tech guy. He wanted to be a professional piano player, like Abbey, who did concert tours, but Matt was not quite the top drawer grade.

Of course, Duke and Massie lied about Matt’s talent. It was the fault of the orchestra hiring committees, or the fault of the piano, or the fault of the sound systems.

Massie complained almost constantly and had her entire life. She lived a life of comparing herself and her children to everyone else in the world. Sally knew the mantras. “Why did you do this? So and so did this. Why did you take these courses. So and so recommend other ones. Why did you not marry T…. or J….? Why did you not go into business like Jack or John? Why?”

Sally and Matt tried to be positive, refusing to fall into “victim” mentality. Abbey was Matt’s positive angel. Sally knew this and supported his choice, for now.

“It must be something like wanting to control everything and other people,” Abbey had shared with Matt one day over coffee. “I do not want control.” Sally stirred her green tea. “Nope, me neither. I never wanted power. And, I have learned there are just some things I must accept. Not immoral things, of course.” Abbey agreed. She and Sally went once a week on Wednesday mornings and prayed outside the abortion clinic. Sally said the rosary and Abbey read out of her prayer book. Sally loved Abbey for this.

“Petty grievances and mutual unforgiveness keep my family together, I think,” said Sally. She was unhappy talking about this with Abbey, but Matt was getting serious about this woman and Sally felt a bond with her.

“I wish, just once, we could have a conversation without slicing someone, or criticizing or dissing…just once”. Matt ate his sandwich in silence. He was tired. So much of his energy had been sapped by John and James. The two men had married complainers as well. More complainers were being made in those homes, as the kids were growing up without real religion, without the domestic church.

Sally sighed, “I think we all need to move away.”

“I have already, but you haven’t.” Matt said the obvious.

This conversation happened last week. Matt asked, “Did St. Augustine really say that sin was energy in the wrong direction? I mean, negativity takes energy away from me.”

Sally put her feet into the lake water. She remembered Abbey’s answer. “Well, in the Confessions, he did say that he carried his unhappiness around with him.”

Matt almost dropped his salmon and dill on rye. “You have read Augustine?”

Abbey stared at him with her blue eyes. “Of course, my first degree is in theology. I told you that.”

“But, Augustine, I mean, he is Catholic.”

Abbey laughed. “Well, I claim him as well.”

Sally wondered at Abbey claiming Augustine. No wonder Matt loved Abbey. She was full of surprises, and completely free. She knew, for some reason, how to love. Sally could see that.

Well, that was last week and today was the annual family reunion at the lake north of the one where Sally sat. She would not be going this year. She had to do something new, something to break away and clear her mind. She felt so sad. But, she was not going to engage in destructive behavior anymore.

No, she and Matt decided that and they decided to do it in very different ways. Kronstadt had told Sally what to do, but she was not prepared to share her decision yet.

To be continued…

Hello to Readers in Poland

Hello to Readers in Germany

Two Signs of Purgation

Ending this section on the general call of all to perfection, one can take a last look at St. Catherine’s Dialogue for help.  I think most people can understand the activity needed on our part in order to walk the path to perfection, but what may be puzzling are the passive purifications.

Two signs, according the saint, indicate that one is going through the passive purifications of the soul, which is the same as the Dark Night of the soul.  The first sign is complete docility to the Holy Spirit. One no longer trusts in one’s self, but in the movements of the Spirit. One is no longer rebellious but cooperative in grace.  The second sign is the receiving of Divine inspirations through the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and here, I am reminded both of St. Angela and Cardinal Manning in their repetition of the flowering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These seven gifts become “mature” after the passive purifications, a point I made over the past several years in the perfection series. That Garrigou-Lagrange reminds us of this fact corresponds with his other works, and with the great saints of perfection-Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, and Alphonsus Ligouri.

The passive purgations, again, take away all the dross in our hearts, minds, including the imagination, intellect, and memory. The senses are, as noted before, purged first, and then the spirit.

Then, one enters into the Illuminative State and finally, the State of Union, again defined in the perfection series.

The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are, as a reminder: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord.

These gifts come to the fore only after we are purified, which is hard for many people to understand. Sin blocks both gifts and virtues, even repeated venial sins, or venial sins which are habitually done almost automatically, revealing a need for healing as well as purgation.

Garrigou-Lagrange notes, that “while conforming ourselves to His expressed will, we must abandon ourselves to His divine will of good pleasure, however mysterious it may be, for we are certain beforehand that in its holiness it wills nothing, permits nothing, unless for a good purpose.”

Another theme on this blog which is covered in this book as well is that he who is faithful in little things will be faithful in big things. I have written over the years that being obedient in the small things is like a daily boot camp experience, wherein we make our wills stronger. Garrigou-Lagrange notes that “If every day we do what we can to be faithful to God in the ordinary routine of life, we may be confident that He will give us grace to remain faithful in whatever extremity we may find ourselves through His permission; and if we have to suffer for Him, He will give us the grace to die a heroic death rather than be shamed and betray Him.”

This book was published in 1937, when persecutions around the world were ratcheting up.  We must not forget that the daily practice of virtue and the faithfulness in small things helps us grow. The author states that, “Daily fidelity to the divine will as expressed gives us a sort of right to abandon ourselves completely to the divine will of good pleasure as yet not made known to us.”

We are faced with suffering daily, and if we do not shirk from this suffering and if we do not complain or judge others, we are being faithful to this daily fidelity.  Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “Daily fidelity and trusting self-abandonment thus give the spiritual life its balance, its stability and harmony. In this way we live our lives in almost continuous recollection, in an ever-increasing self-abnegation, and these are the conditions normally required for contemplation and union with God. This, then, is the reason why our life should be one of self-abandonment to the divine will as yet unknown to us and at the same time supported every moment by that will as already made known to us.”

Garrigou-Lagrange states something interesting: “In this union of fidelity and self-abandonment we have some idea of the way in which asceticism, insisting on fidelity or conformity to the divine will, should be united with mysticism, which emphasizes self-abandonment.”

Some things are just plain basics and on top of this we add our act of complete trust in God, in Divine Providence. We give God our present and our future. We also give God our past, which is very difficult for many of us who have had tumultuous pasts and need to rely on Divine Mercy, as the author points out, for the consequences.

There is no error, no misjudgment, no sin which God has not forgiven in our past. There is no trial so difficult in our present which God cannot overcome, and there is nothing in our future which we need to dread, as we are in the Hands of God.

Romans is most likely my favorite epistle of St. Paul, and Romans 8 may be the chapter masterpiece of this letter. Garrigou-Lagrange refers to Romans 8:31-39 as to the way of perfection through abandonment to God, whether we face the good will of men or malice, as he notes.

Childlike confidence is key. One cannot be too childlike, states the author, and I am glad he wrote that. He states, “Therefore, in abandoning ourselves to God, all we have to fear is that our submission will not be wholehearted enough.”

Amen to that…to be continued…

Prayer and Perfection Again...Review

The third question to answer, which has been on this blog in other ways and through other words, is whether vocal prayer and not mental prayer is sufficient for the life of holiness.

The answer is no. Garrigou-Lagrange writes that mental prayer is like the soul to the body. This is a serious statement. Too many Catholics rely on the Mass and oral prayer only. Vocal prayer is needed and, indeed, for some of us in third orders, required for certain prayers. Saying the rosary in a group gives a special indulgence not given to one saying the rosary on one’s own.

But, the need for mental prayer cannot be denied. Follow the tags on prayer and the perfection series on this blog for much information on mental prayer.

Meditation is the beginning, followed by active contemplation, and leading to the grace of passive contemplation. This is, for most people, a slow process, but for some, so graced, a quick process. Many saints who we know and love had great graces of contemplative prayer early. Such saints as Padre Pio and Gemma Galgani were given intense graces of passive contemplation early. Some had to go through a process which took many years, such as Teresa of Avila. We must never compare ourselves with others on the road to perfection.

Christ told St. Catherine that vocal prayer “abandons mental prayer”. Christ said, “Let her be attentive when I  visit her mind sometimes in one way and sometimes in another, in a flash of self-knowledge or of contrition for sin, sometimes in the broadness of My charity, and sometimes by placing before her mind, in diverse ways, according to My pleasure and the desire of the soul, the presence of My truth….The moment she is aware of my imminent presence she must abandon vocal prayer; then, My visitation past, if there should be time, she can resume the vocal prayers, which she had resolved to say…of course provided it were not the divine office which clerics and religious are bound and are obliged to say….”

God can “visit” a person in and through the Divine Office. One of the problems is the over-busyness of too many orders which do not allow time for those who are called into contemplative prayer. Part of the problem is that there are too few nuns in some convents to do all the work needed to deal with the day to day working of the convents, to the detriment of those who are being visited by God and called into passive contemplation.

Another place the soul can be taken into prayer is through the Eucharist.

Adoration can be a great gift as well for the learning and involvement of contemplation.

St Catherine writes that the more the soul knows, the more the soul loves and in loving much, “she tastes much”.

This answer to this third question is one which causes many lay people anger. They cannot see that they absolutely must schedule time for mental prayer. This is seen, and I have been told this bluntly, as a luxury. Mental prayer is not a luxury, nor is silence in the day, nor is the reading and study of Scripture and the works of the saints.

As many priests have told their congregations, if one is not setting aside one hour a day for prayer, one is too busy and has a problem with priorities.

I remind young people who are considering marriage to talk about prayer before marriage. A man must help wife, especially when she is a mother, find time for prayer daily. The same is true for the wife. She must help her husband find an hour a day for prayer.

If we do not encourage each other to the life of holiness, we shall fall back into mediocrity and from there, into evil quickly.

There is no safe medium in the spiritual life.

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Sitting and Waiting

One of the good things about being poor is that one learns to wait. One waits for the bus, one waits for other people to take one somewhere not on the bus lines. One waits for money, one waits for job interviews, one waits to get online in public places, one waits to buy another phone card when one runs out of money and so on.

Waiting creates two things. The first, because of the daily practice of patience, one learns that one is not the center of the universe who will have needs met immediately.

Second, one learns humility. One is not only NOT the center of the universe, but not the center of anyone's life.

I know that I live daily with many one person in the world thinking about me, sometimes. I know that I am invisible, as are most of the poor, who have no voice, no influence.

I prefer this to anything else as I know there is One Person Who thinks of me constantly, and that is God, as I would not exist without His constant thought of me.

Waiting creates detachment from people and things. Waiting leaves time for reflection and even a rosary.

I can wait for God.

Simone Weil, about whom I have written on this blog before, wrote this:

Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached. 

Weil also wrote that humility is attentive patience

Waiting makes reality really real.......waiting makes me attentive.

St. Catherine Again....

For my purposes here on this blog, perhaps the key chapter is “Providence and The Way of Perfection.”

Some of the questions asked by readers over the years are answered by Garrigou-Lagrange profoundly through his use of St. Catherine’s Dialogue. My latest copy is in England in storage (sigh) and my original copy is in storage in Illinois, but one can find the Dialogue on line, and also I have quoted quite a bit from this work on this blog. Just follow the tags.

The first question answered by the two Dominicans is phrased by Garrigou-Lagrange like this. “In what Christian perfection especially consists”.

Catherine quotes Aquinas: it is not in acts of piety or in mortifications that perfection principally consists, but in charity-the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Many prayers and many acts of devotion pale in comparison with death of self-will, the great act of love we can give to God. Acts of piety and mortifications are means, not the end, points out Christ in the Dialogue. These means are, most likely, necessary for the death of self, but the goal is complete dependence and trust in God. Again, love is the answer. Love forms the basis for all actions, all prayers, which Christ states are external works, not internal change. These external works are finite, not infinite. Christ refers to these in the Dialogue as material, not spiritual realities.

Christ tells Catherine, “Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, directed by the light of true discretion, without which the soul is worth nothing. Discretion gives me this love endlessly, boundlessly, since I am the supreme and eternal truth. The soul can therefore place neither laws nor limits to her love for me; but her love for her neighbor, on the contrary, is ordered in certain conditions.”

So, we cannot sin for the good of another, or we cannot act against prudence. However, as Christ did and as Christ tells Catherine, we can lay down our lives for our friends.

“This, then,” Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “is what Christian perfection consists in especially, principally in a generous love of God, and secondarily in love for our neighbor, which is no just affection, but translates itself into action.”

Catherine writes, as Garrigou-Lagrange reminds us, that love is the basis of all the virtues. Love is the mother of all virtues. Love is the “bridal garment of God’s servants” writes Catherine.  We love for the sake of God, not for the sake of the person. Many do not understand this, but those who have been married for a long time and come to love the other in the will, not merely in the emotions, have found this love.

So do those in the monastery who do not lose their first love find this love again and again, through obedience, through devotion, through loving the others in their convents, in their abbeys.

Those who are single must seek out ways to love in this detached manner, if God does not give them aged parents for whom to care, or siblings to whom to reach out.

Catherine states that the fountain of God’s love gives life to friendships. Yes, this is true. We love God more than all others, and more than ourselves, therefore, we can love others.

This ends the answer to the first question.

To be continued…

Prayer and Perfection Review

I have written somewhat on infused contemplation, also called passive contemplation. This is a high state for proficients. This is not the same, as I have repeated many, many times, as meditation or active contemplation.

Again, the prayer of simplicity is a prayer for active contemplation moving into infused or passive contemplation. Simplicity is simply looking at Christ, the glance to the Cross, or the reflection on the Attributes.

Again, know that different authors call the stages of prayer by different names. Most of us can do meditation of the Scriptures, the Life of Christ. Most of us can think on the Attributes of God in active contemplation.

Weeks ago, I wrote on the connection between prayer and Divine Providence from Garrigou-Lagrange’s book. Today, I want to repeat a few of the ideas in order to tie together the idea of prayer and self-abandonment to God.

The Dominican notes that “Prayer is not our invention.” We are inspired to pray by God and from all eternity He knew and willed our prayers.  When we pray, if we have allowed God to purify our intentions, our hearts, minds, wills, we are praying in the will of God.

This is a repeat but an important one, “True prayer, prayer offered with the requisite conditions, is infallibly efficacious because God has decreed that it shall be so, and God cannot revoke what He had once decreed. It is not only what comes to pass that has been foreseen and intended (or at any rate permitted) by a providential decree, but the manner in which it comes to pass, the causes that bring about the event, the means by which the end is attained.”

Providence desired a certain effect and our prayer is part of that. If we are purified, and to the extent that we are purified, our prayers are answered.

All self-abandonment opens us up to efficacious prayer.  If there is too much egotism, too much self-interest and not real self-abandonment, our prayers will not be answered, or, at least, delayed. But, God also tests our faith, our perseverance.  In real prayer, our wills are lifted up, states Garrigou-Lagrange, to cooperate with the will of God.

We begin to will what God wills. How wonderful, how freeing this is.

Why is a saint canonized when a prayer or prayers are answered? Because this shows the Church that prayer in the will of God is more powerful than science or disease, or trauma.

Garrigou-Lagrange writes: “It is a spiritual energy more potent than all the forces of nature together. It can obtain for us what God alone can bestow, the grace of contrition and of perfect charity, the grace also of eternal life, the very end and purpose of the divine governance, the final manifestation of its goodness.”

Tonight, a dear friend of mine is in the hospital terribly ill. I pray for God’s will to be done, either her healing or her passing on to a greater good.

I pray daily for the conversion of several dear to me and for the healing of some I love.

I fully expect God to answer my prayer as He wills only good. How God answers these prayers will be His will.

“God never permits evil except in view of some greater good. He wills that we co-operate in this good by a prayer that become daily more sincere, more humble, more profound, more confident, more persevering, by a prayer united with action, in order that each succeeding day shall see more perfectly realized in us an din those about us that petition of Our Father: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”