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Saturday, 31 January 2015

St. Paul, St. John Bosco, and Tolkien

Today's First Reading from the Feast of St. John Bosco speaks to us Americans.

Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice[a] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.[b] Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved,[c] whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[d] these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Notice that St. Paul is exhorting the Philippians not to live like the world does, full of anxiety and harshness. The world we see around us is consumed with the pursuit of comfort and pleasure. God is demanding a simple life from us for one reason-to keep our focus on Him and not the world.
Whenever I return to America after being in Europe, even for a short while, I am astounded by the wealth of the ordinary people. Most Europeans accept a much lower standard of lifestyle as normal. Some of my friends still have twin-tub washing machines and no dryers. Some have tiny freezers, or no freezers. Many do not have central heating.
Food is simpler, and less. 
Yet, Americans forget to be grateful, to thank God for the many, many physical blessings. St. John Bosco knew this-he warned his boys of comforts and pleasures.
But, peace does not come from comforts or even the security of things. Peace comes from a pure heart, a pure mind, a pure soul.
When you read the epistles, remember that St. Paul was not writing to theologians, or bloggers who have time to sit and meditate on his words, but to the "people in the pew".
His high standards remain the standards of the Church for pursuing the life of holiness.
For me, it is much easier to be holy in Europe, as one has less and has easier access to Mass and Adoration.
Since I have been in the States, I have not been able to get to daily needs a car. This fact alone makes me uncomfortable here, as I cannot receive my Lord daily, nor find daily Adoration.
Is this not ironic? That one of the richest countries of the world does not allow its people to worship God daily?
I am reminded of a quotation from J.R.R.Tolkien on the Eucharist.
“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.
"By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.
"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.
"Frequency is of the highest effect.
"Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children—from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn—open-necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).
"It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.
"It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand—after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”
 The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, p. 219.