Friday, December 14, 2012

Saint John of the Cross

"Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. [...]

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it."  -- From a spiritual Canticle by Saint John of the Cross; Liturgy of the Hours, vol. I, Office of Readings, 1246-7.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


"Be crucified with Me. To be crucified is to be stretched against your desires, against the love of poverty, obscurity, and obedience to the Father. Remember that the crucifixion is the prelude to the resurrection, that is, to all joys."  -- Jesus to Gabrielle Bossis; June 3, 1939

"When the love of the cross sinks deep into a person, he lives in a joy that the world can never know. For the world has only pleasures, but joy belongs to Me and Mine, My friend."  -- Jesus to Gabrielle Bossis; November 19, 1939

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Not long ago, on a gray afternoon in January perhaps it was, I was kneeling after Mass in a pew near a statue of St. Joseph, praying. St. Anne’s, where I attend weekday Mass, is a large church, and across the expanse of nearly empty pews, in the distance was a woman on her knees before the tabernacle weeping and wailing and crying out to Jesus, with her arms outstretched in profound grief and sorrow, beating the air.

Her child had just died. His death was announced during the Mass.

As I absorbed her sobs, as her fists pounded the chambers of my own heart, and I filled with her grief, I was given to understand something about why Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. His tears were an expression of sorrow for the pain suffered by those who grieved. His heart was filled by the suffering of those who suffered and He was brought to tears.

He was not weeping for Himself.

This is why He did not weep upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, a death that foreshadowed His own impending death. The death of the one who’d leapt for joy in the womb upon encountering Him, so deeply attuned was John to the life of the Holy One in his midst, so fully available to receive Him in his heart’s embrace, the one whom Our Lord proclaimed to be the greatest among men who’d ever lived. Surely, that loss would be worth weeping over, and yet He did not weep for it because when He wept, He was not weeping for Himself.

And we must also recall that during His ascent to Calvary, along the way of the cross, Jesus met with a cluster of holy women who were weeping for Him. What did He say to them? He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:28)… which was another way of saying, do as I have done.

In that case, it is not wrong to weep for oneself, for Christ has wept for our pain. But something else I have learned is that in following Him, in doing as He has done, through time one comes to cease weeping for oneself and one weeps only for others and their pain. In doing as He has done, one is like John, that greatest of all men, weeping not for himself over the martyrdom and cross that is his own, but trusting in the One who has wept for us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Heights of Grace

From the writings of Saint Rose of Lima, "who gave up everything to devote herself to a life of penance," we are privy to the following words imparted to her by God.

Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: "Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven."  

Just a reminder.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Saying 'Yes!' to Joy

"Someone could ask whether it is right to be so happy when the world is so full of suffering, when there exists so much darkness and evil. Is it right to be so high spirited and joyful? The answer can only be 'yes!' Because saying 'no' to joy we do nothing of use to anyone. We only make the world darker." (Pope Benedict XVI, press release, August 7, 2012)
To be sure, Benedict is speaking of joy and happiness in the midst of suffering external to the one who is joyful and happy. Yet, being all members of the one Body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer, and when one is joyful, one is joyful in the midst of suffering. In this world, suffering is the standard, and joy is the exception. Suffering is without effort, present in the space of joy, while it requires some doing to be joyful in the space of suffering.
Yet our Lord encompasses these two entities that are generally seen as opposed, within His divine and human person. Therein lays the answer to the riddle. It is the grace of His divinity from which joy is radiated in His embrace of the cross that will bring His flesh immense suffering. And when someone who is suffering radiates joy, is that not the ultimate triumph of good over evil? It is a clear manifestation of the divine present in the human being which emerges as joy in the midst of suffering. It is a clear manifestation of the presence of God in the human when joy is possible in the midst of suffering.
And so, when we say ‘yes’ to joy in a holy way, that is, permitting Him to occupy us while we suffer on this earth, to suffer in us and with us, we exert the effort of deliberately making a place for Him within ourselves, choosing life over death, happiness over despair, good over evil.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Nativity of John the Baptist

La Vierge, L'Enfant Jesus et Saint Jean Baptiste,
William Bouguereau
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thanks Be To God

Today I swam for the first time in five years—swam for the first time since withdrawing my foot from the pool five years ago, recoiling in pain from Lyme disease. With the onset of symptoms, my skin had become so sensitive that it hurt to be touched by the cool water, the ill-placed human hand, and the heat of the sun. But today, I swam.
As I kicked my feeble legs through the water, I remembered a summer when I used to swim every morning, play tennis each afternoon, and in the evening, I’d walk a few miles at the beach. For a moment, I dwelt on tennis, thought of beginning to teach my nephew and suddenly remembered that I am limited by my physical therapist at present to walking for only six minutes at a time because my legs and lower back are shot.
Regardless, I was pleased as punch to be in the water. To be relieved of the weight of my body, relieved of the awesome pull of gravity upon my limbs was exquisite. To live for a little while in no pain, was exquisite. To see the pie-eyed gaze of my cat follow me back and forth from one end of the pool to the other, no doubt pondering how I could be in the water and survive it, was exquisite.    

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Body of Christ

We know from Lanciano that this bread is the heart. The very heart of God is hidden within a simple disc of unleavened bread, the infinite God made small and palatable to the human tongue.

It is vulnerable and naked that Christ comes to us in the Eucharist. Within it is contained the Man who lived among us, who suffered with us and for us, who was tired, who thirsted, who wept, who bled.      

Because He has so desired this communion, He has been willing to entrust to us His heart as an object, a thing exposed before us and handled by human hands, a thing that we might gaze upon and long for, a thing that we might swallow and consume.

While many today will ponder the majesty of the Body of Christ encased and displayed in a glittering gold monstrance, admiring His simplicity and His power, I would like to recall His words to Saint Paul, “my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Fond Remembrance

For about a month, I’ve been stretching myself a bit farther than I am accustomed to, and I find myself feeling frayed and sort of wobbly. I haven’t rested or slept as much as I need to in order to maintain the state of Lyme health I’ve been enjoying for several months. Even after good sleep last night, I woke feeling an undertow… like the ground I had beneath me is being swept away.

At first, I was a little afraid. Not of falling ill again itself, but of how illness would delay my getting on with the future. Because I am already invested there, moving toward the completion of one project and the beginning of another.

But then I remembered. During Mass today, I was struck with remembering how it feels to be weak. And with that remembrance, I was enveloped by peace. I was returned to that most sublime of all places, returned to resting in the very arms of Jesus, which is also to say that I was reminded of the truth, the fact of my own frailty and the joy of it in delivering me to that divine embrace.

In that moment, all changed and I was no longer concerned about the future or any delay in its coming to fruition, because I was reminded that where I am and what has led me here has come about in and through grace.