Saturday, June 22, 2013

Letter to friends, 2

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death.

I put to one side argument, or proof. To another side, habit.

I form of habit a kind of parcel from which I stand apart. I observe. I consider. I unwrap this parcel, observe the contents, and wrap it up again.

I read and hear others who present this parcel as a thing complete, if of infinite meaning.

But I know meaning as I know my life in Jesus Christ not to be a thing, a parcel, to be observed, unwrapped, carried about, left here or there, protected, revealed or deferred.

Intercession, the category, the movement.
  • I am I as I am in the life of Jesus Christ.
  • I am I as I am a child of Mary, mother of God.
Perhaps, after all, it is too much to ask that the world speak to Mary, except that it can never be too much to say, Mary, pray for us.
  • Why is that so simple?
  • Why does it feel right to say, Mary pray for us?
My friends, pray the Rosary, by all means. I have not read a lesson or direction on the Rosary that I disagree with, or that is not, in my opinion, correct, noble, lovely, and true. I have the privilege of leading the Rosary every third Sunday at the Church I attend, and I can tell you that every single Hail Mary matters, and means something. I have found myself incapable of proceeding with the Hail, Holy Queen, for the emotions that overcome me.

This is not bragging. This is empirical fact, like being winded from a sprint.

So, yes, pray the Rosary. And more so, speak to Mary as you would to your mother. You do not have to be a signed and sealed Catholic to say, simply, Mary. Mary, mother of God, what should I do? Mary, help me. Mary, in the name of Jesus Christ, insert petition here.

What is religion? At its best, I believe that it is a practical outline of how to love God and obey his commandments, which are summed up (as Paul adjures) in the admonition to love each other as we do ourselves, where all worldly distinctions disappear and we are one in Jesus Christ.

Surely, under the watchful, caring, protective, ever-wakeful gaze of Mary, mother of God; surely, all are entitled to speak to Mary. Mary, mother to all, to all who would care to ask, if only casually, as an almost unconscious aside...

Mary, help me. In the name of God, help me.

Letter to Friends, 1

Galatians, 3:26-29

We can allow that the world has written our introductions and asks only that we speak the truth.

What is the truth? To do the will of God. What is the will of God? To do what is pleasing to God. What is pleasing to God? To love each other as God loves us.

Two men laid claim to the same house. I hewed those planks, said one. I hammered those hinges, said the other. Where upon, the door opened and a third man emerged, who said, Welcome to the house of God, and both men entered.
  • The fact of the Lord is not where one ends, but the very point where one's life begins.
  • Life has always begun at this very point, that Jesus is Lord.
  • One's life is in principal part a history or musical score describing a person's movements in relationship to this point.
There is little point in my saying, I love you, if I do not pray. For what is love unless I tell God?

How do I pray? I pray as you pray. I say, am alone.

The prayers we pray in common, they are like knocking on the door of the house of God. But once inside, speak to God. As you move about the house, from room to room, taking stock of its dimensions and furnishings, speak what is on your mind and in your heart. Anything other, or should you lose touch, you are outside the house again.
  • And so, turn. Knock once again, and you will enter.
  • Knock once more, and again, over and over.
  • As often as you fall away, you might rise again.
Turn, turn again, lest one be confirmed in having fallen away, by which you will form habits, such as pointing at the house, from outside the house, professing doubt, or claiming ownership. It is all the same thing. This is not prayer. While doubt can be noble, a sort of trace of the mind birthing the covenant soul - ownership is not the language of God. Perhaps you argue for ownership of the house, or you conceive that you are pleading for the house. But God does not need you to justify the house of God. God does not understand a person who says, I understand God.

You will enter the house of God when you say, I wish to enter the house of God. When you confess that it is the house of God, where one law serves for every law. By one law we abide in the house of God.
  • By virtue of the one utterance that is true, that we are one in the love of God.
  • By virtue of the one utterance that is true, that we are one in the life of Jesus Christ.
In this, I serve; in only this, do I serve. My life, my work, my family. In the Spirit, all men, women, and children are the Christ. I make no distinctions. I have not been tasked with distinction-making. I do not put aside my Cross to check identification papers, to ask how someone voted on this or that issue, to wonder at their personal history. I cannot express the words to doubt, except ironically, in a turn away from the true utterance which, by its locution, inevitably turns back to point at the house of God, to say...

My lord, forgive me, for I am a terrible sinner. Give me strength, to say, one, and forever...
  • I belong to God in the life of Jesus Christ.
  • Everything I do, do not do, write, do not write, or say must accord somehow with that simple, central premise.
  • My Lord. My life. Do with me what you will.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Purgatory: Place and Purpose

Lord, I am one among many, and I am not lost.

I start this posting with this prayer which only just now occurred to me, and which I hope applies to the moment.

For reasons and to the purpose of sights and scenes granted to me, I undertake to speak to the matter of Purgatory. To the matter, its being, its purpose, but always I hope first and foremost to the purpose of prayer for the souls in Purgatory. To their salvation, their reunion with God, their absolute resolution in the presence of God, the Father, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, in the company of all the saints and angels, guided by the love, the perfect love, of our mother, the Blessed Virgin.

I must really sound like I know what I'm doing, so far! But there are a dozen or a thousand ways to address such a dyed-in-the-wool topic as Purgatory. I've seen the web sites and read a few tracts here and there. They are, all in all, fine publications. All to the purpose of prayer for the benefit of the repose of the departed. Briefly, the Catholic church holds that those in the faith who have not attained perfection (purity, or complete absolution) at death must undergo cleansing in Purgatory before they can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, before they can dwell for all time, immemorial in the present of the Lord.

The history of Catholic literature, including the lives of particular saints, is rich with insights that build upon scriptural references. I could go on. Many do, but I won't. No, it is not to my purpose to repeat what others have asserted, or to provide links, references, etc. Anyone can locate these. No, building on my previous post, of this date, I will allow as being sufficient to assert what I know in my life in Christ.

You will see a posting I made called "November Dream" in 2012, which revolved around a vision of Purgatory. My vision, which I ascribe to the Grace of God in deference to the favors of the Blessed Virgin, comprised a scene that differs from the "cleansing fire" described by others. But I have to say, that where it is asserted that Purgatory is "like unto a cleansing fire," it therefore states that is not a fire, but only "like unto" one. In the vision granted to me, Purgatory was more in the nature of a confluence of bodies awaiting release. And indeed, last night I was granted a supporting vision, of souls collected en masse, almost like the pistils of a flower, faces streaming into a collected, yearning pattern.

I saw corridors, walls, as of a subterranean palace. Why all this? Well, I have felt compelled to address the purpose of my mission in this life (as explicated in other postings). So yesterday (while on a run) I asked the Lord to grant me a vision to confirm my purpose in speaking for those who cannot speak well, or in praying for the souls of those in Purgatory.  And this was the clincher (Catholics will like this...), I concluded my prayer by saying, "Lord, I will not take your non-response as a denial (!) I bet he loved that.

God is with us, and we are in the Lord. If we all knew this, the world would transform.

To the purpose of the here and now, I believe that prayers for the souls in Purgatory suffice to release those souls, those individual souls, persons, like you and me, to the presence of God. I agree with the tenets and the writings of others that the souls of the departed are dependent on the prayers of the faithful. I do not believe that the departed are subject to fire, but to what is "like unto" a cleansing fire.

In my visions, or what has been granted to me, what is like unto a cleansing fire is separation from God. Imagine dying and being somehow conscious, or aware, or present in oneself and with others, waiting. Waiting for God. In limbo (as the Old Testament describes it). Imagine not being...complete, finished. I believe that this is the penultimate fate that waits us, all of us, perhaps "only" most of us! But that's enough for me to believe that prayers for those who, like us, are not pure (and who can say - who would dare to say - they are purely in God) should be a present and pressing concern.

I said "penultimate" because one who is on Christ is assured of gaining admittance. We have an ultimate reward. We know this from the Word.

And yet, of all the works available to us, even as we feed the hungry or administer to the needs of the oppressed, can we afford to put aside this incredible opportunity to free the souls of those in waiting so that they can enter Heaven? Do we understand what this means? Catholic literature is certain on the point that those whom one releases will pray for their benefactors - but, more than that - let me say, that as souls populate (or should I say "occupy") heaven, so will the earth and the universe, the reality of the here and now, the present and future historical occasion - so will this place and time be drawn toward the Kingdom, the Revelation of His Kingdom, when all souls in Christ will be drawn into the presence for all eternity.

I wrote in my previous posting of the melding of faith and the every day. Here and now, in this present time, let us pray for the souls in purgatory, especially those who are most forsaken, that we may effectively make paradise a reality. We vote on laws; we consider the environment; we school ourselves and our children.

We are assiduous in what we and others define as our ethical duties. I, for one, speaking only for myself (and as I wrote in the posting mentioned above) believe in choice and in life; I believe in freedom as the Lord has granted us freedom to choose what is right and just. I believe that God is the author of the universe, historically and in the here and now, into eternity, in the present and in future forms.

I have no choice therefore but to say, categorically, that Purgatory exists, is real, is formed within the greater purpose of God as a place and a purpose; that we, here and now, are granted this opportunity and Grace: to pray for the souls in Purgatory, as others will pray for us, for our souls when we have passed from this life. Yes, if you would believe in your own salvation, pray for others who, like yourself, believed in life, love, and ultimate peace. Pray as you would pray for yourself, with no thought of social or economic barriers - no barriers of place or time. Pray joyfully, and as if there were no choice. As if, both presently and ultimately, the fate of the living universe were in the balance.

This is complete love. Love given and taken, both in part and made whole, to say, Father in heaven, have mercy on the souls in Purgatory, especially those who are most forsaken. Amen.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Say, to Authority, in Love, Speak

Catholicism, or dare I say any religion, is not a matter of picking one’s spots. One does not simply choose this and that and let the rest subside; or, to put it another way, one commits to one’s religion if one is capable of committing to anything at all. Less than that, and we are searching,  a noble task, a necessary precursor to belief, of course, but neither praising utterly, nor asking for help, completely.

And, as one believes, one is in the midst of practice, its rituals, history, its ethical ramifications. I do not put aside the world to pray, attend Mass, or partake of the Host. I do all this in the middle of my life. The Lord made no distinction. Neither, upon pain of separation from He who is life, and His purpose, shall I.

An aspect of scripture in the New Testament that continually interests me is the assertion that Jesus taught as one with authority, not at the scribes taught, but as one with full knowledge of God, and with love. That notion puts me in mind of the manner of St. Paul, who also writes as one with authority, with love, in the name of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? Well, for now, or at this juncture, I say what I believe and know in the exact words that I choose to communicate, which is this: it means that one should write from one’s life in the full knowledge that one’s life is the Lord’s. What can I assert otherwise, in any part of my life, if I believe that I am in Christ, and that He is in me?

But, we are taken up with demonstrations of proof, from which we hope to derive authority. This is weak stuff, appealing to human terms of authority on matters pertaining to the Spirit. Certainly, we are all familiar with demonstrations of "authority" wherein one would be hard-pressed to detect the sort of perfect love shown by Jesus, time and time again; and certainly there are few if any human authorities who can make the same claims to knowledge of perfect love made by St. Paul. No, we settle - if that's the word - for proofs and arguments, such as might settle a court case, or put someone in their place. Weak stuff, indeed.

Rather than this, rather than "settling," we should say what we know, and everything we know or feel, in the confidence that we are in Christ. And - this is key - we should stop there. We who are can we fail to do otherwise? Well, to be fair, there are numerous factors governing other manners of speech. Our personal doubts and insecurities, the claims made upon our time, on our emotional and intellectual lives. And, there are the authorities of our Church – and Church, any religious practice, really – these educated, convincing, seemingly complete authorities. They are duty-bound, I suppose, to try and "convince" others of what they know by argument. This, they appear or pretend to imagine, is how one shows one's authority.

But, what is authority? God is the only true authority; and God is with us. He is in us and we are in Him. And we have the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, as He did the prophets of old. The authority to speak and speak confidently, and truly, is with you now.

But, as I said to start out, one cannot merely pick and choose. One’s life in faith, no matter how strong or notable or story-worthy, no matter how saintly, is itself undertaken and experienced in the midst of a life with a beginning and an end. The cloistered or ordained life is in part a response to this context, to choose to experience one’s faith apart from distractions, lures, etc. But even so, that does not remove oneself from historical or ethical contexts, it is only a particular form of response to context as perceived by oneself.
This is why I assert that I experience my faith and its practices in the midst of my life, not apart from it. If anything, I have seen my experience of the every day colored and changed by my religious practices. I am in Christ, and He is in me, at Mass, at work, as I write and as I sleep, in practice, in truth, in love. This is an incontrovertible article of faith. It goes beyond the nature of a mere fact, even as it is located in the here and now. It is a fact forever, for all time. It preceded me and it will outlive me in this mortal life. It is a truth, one that will come into full flower in the world to come.
And it is in full appreciation of this truth of one’s existence that one can, should, and perhaps must speak with authority and love. Not as one who merely studies and recites scripture, but as one who lives it. As did Jesus Christ, as did St. Paul, following the example of the Lord. In full knowledge of God and His love; and therefore, incontrovertibly, in and with love for all.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Love Complete, Conditioned Love

An odd experience of the Vigil Mass for Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ). I have never felt so disengaged. Or, at all disengaged, but tonight, I was. I spent about a half hour in the chapel beforehand, talking to the Lord, went for a walk thinking I might go home and return for Mass on Sunday; felt relief, then, seeing a couple parishioners, went back for Mass anyway.
I think I know what the deal is, based on this simple yet acute understanding. The Lord knows me, and I know him. I know his ways. In the process of joining with the church, I was granted several visions that showed me over a few months, in succession, my calling into the church; my ministry in the church; a vision of heaven; a vision of purgatory; the nature of Mary as the Church; and my death, or the flight of my soul. While I have been granted a couple insights since then (the Cross of the Lord on a mountaintop beset by heavy rains; the epiphany of forgiveness only by God the Father) I do not expect much more in the way of visions. For, you see, Lord, I read. I have made myself familiar with your...modus operendi. The Bible tells me as much, that you grant faith and insight and promise, then withdraw. It is our duty then to maintain our promise to you. To adore you. To pray. To live according to your laws and your example. Oh, yes. It is an old, old pattern, more reliable than any other that comes to mind, for by your grace it preceded the birth of the heavens and it will be invoked on the day of judgement, when the heaavens and earth pass away, and are made new.

And so, tonight, while the Spirit may have withdrawn from me, I am unshaken. Alerted, but unwavering. There is no power and no vacancy of power that will cause me to falter in my love of you. I am happy, overjoyed to be tested thus, for I know how you test those you love. That you should continue to show me favors, first by obvious gifts, then withdrawing them to test me (boy, am I Catholic, or what...) is something I can’t even begin to comprehend as being anything due any cause but that of a father’s love. My son, Jackson, holds the same favor with me, and I have told him as much.

That comparison draws a thought, that you seek to teach me something about love and duty. You see, Lord, I know you. I know that all that I am and have is yours, and that insofar as you are with me, you will prompt me, and provoke me. You challenge me. And this too is love. We are fond of the term “unconditional love.” What is that? Perhaps a better term is “complete love,” to describe a love that is unfailingly attentive to the whole person, in which both persons are present, awake, dutiful, responsive, alive.
And so I am present too, Lord, when you are silent. You can’t fool me. I know you are there. Even when I am not allowed the pleasure of feeling it, I know you are there.