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Thursday 11 December 2014

St. Augustine and St. Monica

Raissa makes the comment that too many Catholics do not believe that people can be as holy as those in the early Church.  This is not true. We look at the lives of the saints, states Raissa, in order to emulate them and ask for God's grace to be saints as well.

Yesterday, I was thinking of Monica and Augustine's road to God.

We usually think that St. Monica's long years of prayers were for St. Augustine's conversion. And, they were.

But, those long years were also, if not primarily, for St. Monica's conversion.

This dawned on me looking at my own life of praying for a son in the seminary. Daily, I pray for him and also offer up all kinds of sufferings for his holiness.

As you all know, we need holy priests. I pray for four seminarians specifically, daily, to become holy priests, by name.

The physical suffering I experience daily is part of this prayer for my son's perfection.

St. Monica had to pray for her son for two main reasons. One, his own upbringing was incomplete and he had to convert. She helped him by helping him end his long relationship with his concubine. But, the prayers of this mother helped him convert.

However, when one prays for another person, one is changed as well, especially if this prayer occurs over a long period of time. St. Monica learned to hope, to trust in Divine Providence, and she was purified of her own desires as well.

In her society, she most likely had most things her way. But, not in the plan of God for her son's conversion. Praying for Augustine was part of Monica's long purgatory, her purgation and Dark Night.

In fact, it was only in meeting St. Ambrose, that Monica entered into her time of Illumination. She was taught as well as Augustine by this Doctor of the Church on how to finally give all to God in love and trust.

Shortly after the completion of this illumination and union with God, Monica died.

She and Augustine had long talks about God. They were united in the common love they shared for Christ and His Church.

It is interesting how God uses children to purify parents of unholy love and selfishness. Monica's long journey mirrored that of Augustine. And, when God decided the time was right, He gave all involved the graces necessary to say "yes" to His will.

So it is for all parents....I am being purified in my years of prayers for my son, as I am sure is true for most good parents who want their children to follow God in truth and virtue. One learns to trust, to persevere, to hope, to love, to have faith.

One never stops praying if one is a parent. St. Monica's last entreating was for St. Augustine to remember her at Mass. She most likely did not need that grace, but her humility to the end teaches all of us to not be presumptuous about the graces at the time of death.

That she is a saint indicated that she, indeed, reached union with God before she died. And, one of her ways to that state was constant prayer.

Perfection Series VIII Part XX On The Truth of Conversions

Years ago, my spiritual director at the time told me that he personally knew the priest who brought Jean-Paul Sartre back to the Church just before he died.

The two priests were friends.

In Raissa's diary, on October 24th, 1924, she writes of finding out that her and Jacques's good friend Pere Clerissac was the priest who was there when another priest brought Oscar Wilde back to the Church.

Here is the entry from Jacques in the footnote to the journal note: 

" Pere Clerissac never spoke to us about Wilde. But he told on of our friends, who repeated it to us, that he was sure that Wilde died a Catholic, for he was there at his death. In the Revue Hebdomadaire (November 28, 1925), Mr. Robert Ross names Father Cuthbert Dunn, of the Passionists, as having given Wilde Baptism and Extreme Unction. In this case, Father Clerissac would doubtless have assisted. Father Dunn." (We Have Been Friends Together, Adventures in Grace, Doubleday Image Books, p. 177). I have a hardbound of that book and loved reading it years ago-STM.

The world wants us to believe that such conversions are either false or a sign of failing mental powers. On the contrary, these conversions, and others, reaffirm our faith in God's goodness and the fact that grace for salvation is available to all men.

Raissa and I had similar experiences of finding out about the conversion of a famous sinner when it was important for us to know this mercy. Shortly after this entry was written, God plunged Raissa into a new and deeper suffering. She was made to be detached from all her friends. Shortly after I found out, a serious thing happened in my life as well. Mercy in the lives of others should lead us to believe in the way of holiness for ourselves. This is why we read the lives of the saints and why we rejoice in conversions. Hope is necessary in the purgative times.

This week for five days, I spoke with no one deeply about anything. Talking to bus divers or shop keepers was a necessity, as well as answering e-mails. But, the realization that I was totally isolated from anyone who could understand me and where my journey was taking me was a heavy burden. To know that intimacy may be denied me for my entire earthly life caused me great grief and dying to self-will. This has been growing for a long time...for three years to be exact. God has denied me close companionship.

It was alleviated somewhat by my long talk with my friend last night and a talk with my son this evening.

But, not to have companionship or anyone who intimately cares about one is a huge suffering brought about by God's Hand.

The reason for this is suffering is that the soul is being prepared for more love from God. Here are Raissa's own words.

...I do not call it living to suffer as I have suffered these last days,. It ought rather to be called wandering on the threshold of death, experiencing nothingness, measuring the abyss of our solitude.

God allows one to grieve, to love without return, to be misunderstood, to be alone with creativity and nothingness side-by-side.

I perfectly understand this entry of November 10th, 1924.

"The demands of the contemplative life: not to seek consolation from any creature. And consolations not sought, 'use them as if not using them.'"

For a long time, I thought this lack of human consolation was owing to my imperfections and sins, but in reality the lack of consolation is a gift to see one's imperfection and to highlight one's sins, but move beyond to the realization of God's love. Only in the nothingness does one really see one's self. as much as God wants to show one one's self. When one begins to see what and who one is, love is really possible.

Sometimes, for reasons of learning humility, God blinds us and waits.

Here is the real sign of the call at this state of purification:

"And then the luckiest thing that can happen to this soul is that God, in order to keep it entirely to Himself in spite of itself, causes every creature from whom it asks consolation to fail it. Then, they all become, at least in appearance, enemies. Where it seeks counsel, it finds silence. Where it seeks a friendly heart, it finds deafness. Where it seeks rest, it finds more rigid restraints than those of God's commandments--which are all lovable. And that the soul suffer thus is a very great grace. If God loved it less, he would allow creatures to console it. It must recognize its error as soon as possible. For in looking thus to right and left, it is following a zig-zag path which perhaps will weary God's patience. The straight way that leads to God is infinitely short, for He is as close as our own soul. The straight way is the magnanimous way without the errors and faint-heartedness of childhood, but with the simplicity and trust of a child."

This passage reminds one of the episode in St. Therese the Little Flower's life when he overheard her father complaining that she was still acting like a child at fourteen, instead of growing up and not expecting childish attentions. So it is with God. for years, I fought this and sought my own consolations. Finally, in God's mercy and forgiveness, I gave up. In this giving up, I have crossed a line into a new realization of the love of God and that peace which passes all understanding.

Raissa continues with something which those of my readers who have experienced this will recognize, as I do.

"...God only grants the soul what it does not ask, apart from what charity itself makes it a duty for it to ask. A truth experienced a hundred times. Above all, he refuses what it desires too much. On the contrary, he appears to grant everything one asks in an impulse of charity, even material things, daily bread, fine weather."

The big things are denied until the will is absolutely purified. One become resigned to how God wants to work in one and let Him determine one's life. One stops playing God.

I remind all that none of this happens without much pain and the sorrow of letting go of earthly loves and joys unless God directly brings these about. And, He may not at all.

A note for this evening....

The internet connection is going off and on and I am losing too much work. I shall continue this tomorrow.

Perfection Series VII Part XIX The Inner Life

One of the things which has struck me in my own life is the fact that I really do not care about outward things. I must care about eating, drinking, clothing myself, hygiene, and trying to find a way to make money, but there are only two things which really matter to me.

The interior life and souls...when I talk to people for some good reason, in kindness or explanation of the Faith, or being friendly, or listening, I am sincere.

But, everything else tires me. This is because my energies are going to the interior life.

I was hard on myself over these facts until I re-read Raissa on her own sense of insincerity about most things except God. Her comments freed me.

The world does violence to the soul which is concentrating on God within. The "inner treasure" she describes, demands all one's attentions and energies. One seeks solitude, even among others.

God purposefully separates the person seeking Him from all others. Raissa calls Him a jealous God. He truly wants to know that a person puts Him first.

This total focusing on God makes one realize how little one has to give to God. One is more and more aware of one's nothingness.

But, that does not matter, as God is all in all.

By the time she was 41, Raissa was in the Illuminative State. No longer did images, reflections, meditations, favours, or symbols mean anything to her. She was communicating in and with sheer Light. In this state of Light, Raissa saw that God gives all activity, thought, feeling to the purified person.

In this Light, one no longer desires anything, lives totally on love from God and wills nothing but God's Will. One can even rest in the unknown will of God.

But, like St. John of the Cross, Raissa writes that this Light makes all things dark as well. This is because God cannot be understood by one's own imagination, symbols, images, thoughts. In this darkness, there is complete trust in God and love for God. One experiences God indwelling in the soul constantly, but in a type of unknowing.  The author ofThe Cloud of Unknowing, another book I read a long time ago, understood this state.

For thou hast brought me with thy question into that same darkness, and into that
same cloud of unknowing, that I would thou wert in thyself. For of all other creatures and
their works, yea, and of the works of God’s self, may a man through grace have fullhead of
knowing, and well he can think of them: but of God Himself can no man think. And therefore
I would leave all that thing that I can think, and choose to my love that thing that I cannot
think. For why; He may well be loved, but not thought. By love may He be gotten and
holden; but by thought never. And therefore, although it be good sometime to think of the
kindness and the worthiness of God in special, and although it be a light and a part of contemplation:
nevertheless yet in this work it shall be cast down and covered with a cloud of
forgetting. And thou shalt step above it stalwartly, but Mistily, with a devout and a pleasing
stirring of love, and try for to pierce that darkness above thee. And smite upon that thick
cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love; and go not thence for thing that befalleth.

Love just "is".

Love only desires the other, the good of the other, and the will of the other. Love, if it is true, makes no demands.

In this year, Raissa began to experience what St. Teresa of Avila defined as the "sleep of the faculties".  This prayer succeeds the prayer of quiet and precedes the state of union. This sleep of the faculties is a time when all the person's abilities and senses, as well as the spirit, concentrate on God.

One is still active in this state. The prayer of quiet is preparation, but the total passivity of receiving God in the mystical marriage, in union, is yet to come.

It is hard to come to the realization that God does not care about what most of us do. He only cares that we love Him and that we are faithful to Him. Raissa writes this from experience.

I ask at the end of this post that my readers pray for me to have stability in my life, a place to continue to pursue active contemplation.

I had a set-back in my plans today, another interference from the evil one who has attacked some friends of mine who were helping me with immigration to England. This attack is too serious to put on the blog, but it shows the great evils which are building up daily against those in the Church who are holy and praying.

Remind God, with me, that even the sparrows have a home. I rest in God, but to do more is almost impossible.

to be continued....

For the heck of it

Thoughts on Today's Readings

Today in the Old World, this is the Thursday in the Second Week of Advent.

The readings at Mass included one which is a favorite of mine...

Jesus means that those who do violence to their own wills and desires, will seize the Kingdom of God. Like a good Jewish Rabbi, Christ plays on words. The Kingdom of God suffers violence from the outside, but those who allow the inside to be purged of sin and tendencies to sin, those saints will triumph over the exterior violence and hatred. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Knights of Malta, is a prime example of one, who although without sin himself, suffered violence by choice, in fasting, prayer, and preaching, and incurred the violence of the establishment.

This is the way to holiness.

Here is today's Gospel.

Matthew 11:11-15Douay-Rheims

11 Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John:
14 And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

If only.....

...Father Barron would watch fifteen minutes of the E channel, and 15 minutes of a typical music video channel, even with the old ones, he would change his mind as to whether there are people in hell.

I was bombarded by porn, sex, greed, and the occult within a half hour or so sitting in a restaurant today.

Does he understand the great evils in the world?

I missed seeing the 1980s videos, as I was studying, teaching, and raising a think that satan has just taken over the entertainment industry since 2000 is very naive. I think most readers would agree with that assessment. The few I saw earlier today were horrid.

To Be A Catholic

For almost two hours, one of my mentors in this world and I discussed poetry, from Gawain and the Pearl, to Morte d'Arthur, the five virtues of chivalry, the nature of the soul in time and out of time, the Last Supper, the Passion, the great councils of the Church, fairy tales of six or seven authors, swans, snakes, Celtic art, Chesterton, Julian of Norwich, Thomas More, John Fisher, Suarez, the Jesuits, Rahner, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, the Pilgrimage of Grace, Richard III, the Five Wounds of Christ, the Throckmortons, Sherborne's Old Castle, Sir Walter Raleigh, Arundel Castle, the Duchess of Norfolk, the last Plantagenet Margaret Pole, Cardinal Pole, fantasy novels, The Phantom of the Opera, the Passionists, St. Alphonsus, Glastonbury, Avalon, Merlin, Robert Hugh Benson, the book of Revelation, Dante's Inferno, Napoleon, the Vendee, Marseilles and legends, Pugin and the Victorian revival of Catholic architecture, the True Presence, the martyrs of Otranto, the Knights of Malta, the Knights of Jerusalem, Isaiah, Ezechiel, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Mary the Mystical Rose, the myth of Psyche, Thomas Aquinas, the Jansenists, grace, Garrigou-Lagrange, desert experiences and other sundry things, including Littlehampton, and Norwich.

At the end of this conversation, which did not end, my friend stated that what we experienced was a soaking in Catholic identity. There are only three people in the world I can speak with at such a level of history, literature, myth, philosophy, theology, art, music, and architecture. Sadly, these people are separated by thousands of miles. We are all Catholics who love our Faith and the Church. We identify first and foremost as Catholics.

But, Catholic identity sixty, seventy years ago could be part of one's life just by being Catholic.

What has been lost is so scattered, that I feel like a person combing a beach after a shipwreck for pieces of identity....a  rosary here, a medal there, a piece of a poem, a chant, a candlestick, all washed up on the shore of modern man's empty world.

For years, I tried to set up schools in classical education, knowing that the liberal arts were part of our identity. For years, I taught a combination of history, music, philosophy, literature and art to students who thought they were in a religion class. They got it-that Christianity created Western culture, that Europe was the Faith and the Faith was Europe. To think like a Catholic was to immerse one's self in a Catholic identity. One could understand the Penny Catechism better if one knew the bare ruined choirs of Yorkshire.

One does not separate knowledge, which is connected by the great and beautiful Catholic religion.

I passed some of this identity to my son, who, once in awhile, notes that he has no one to talk to about such things, neither do I, except for my three friends, far away, in other countries.

The remnant must stop and pick up the detritus of Catholic identity before this identity completely disappears into the sea of time.

I hope it is not too late, that the tide of utilitarianism has not wiped away all traces of true civilization based on Christ and His Church. What has been lost can be found again.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.