See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Monday, March 07, 2011

Mass chat - a day late: Vain praise...



This post may be deleted.
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The Byzantine rite priest I mention a few days ago - accompanied by a video of him in a holding cell, drunk - is now in rehab.  His attorney says he feels terrible and is so ashamed of his conduct.  I know how that feels.  I took the video down because it seemed to me I was repeating the sin of Ham in a way, by showing it - and laughing about it.  Nevertheless - I still think it's funny.  I loved the part where he demands the cuffs be taken off because he is getting a rash.  He is so funny.  The priest reminds me of a friend who used to get so drunk he didn't know what he was doing or saying.  Once he woke up in - well never mind.  Coming from a family of drunks who did really nutty things - I laugh at the behavior - even when it hurts.  So that should take care of anyone who thinks I'm such a good guy.  (OMIGOSH!  Don't ever mention Charlie Sheen though!) 
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John of the Cross quotes Isaiah saying, "He who praises you deceives you."  It seems to me that is always true - for me at least.  Ask all the people who once told me how spiritual my blog is only to find out otherwise, and then dropped me like a hot potato.  Vain praise has caused me so much harm in the past, it is not funny.  (Well maybe a little bit... like when I told off - never mind.)  Though the one who flatters or praises may be sincere, I am still the one deceived.  No matter how much I would rebuff these things, there is always some level of unconscious satisfaction or sense of approbation which often leads to a certain presumption, or at least complacency.
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Maybe that's what happened to the Byzantine priest?  He was praised all around, by everyone it seems.  And now this.  A tough lesson in humility, no doubt - but God loves humility so much he allows dumb things to happen.  He wants us to be what we are.  May he alone be praised.
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Early on in my conversion I received many signal graces.  A prioress of a contemplative community once made the mistake of telling me these signified some sort of arrival or introduction into contemplation.  I did my best to ignore or mortify any temptation to think I was special, but as St. John points out, the beginner cannot help but secretly esteem such praise.  It did me great harm.  I became convinced some priests just didn't understand me, and since it was a time when contemplative prayer was held in little esteem, and traditional piety and devotions were more or less discredited, perhaps I was actually acting prudently  to some extent - but at the same time there lingered a secret intuition I knew better than others.  This particular nun not only overestimated my spiritual state, she also sowed seeds of suspicion regarding other priests and confessors outside her orbit.  The nun eventually left her monastery to pursue her own way of life.
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I esteemed that nun too much.  Just as I esteemed many other nuns and priests.  We need to be discreet in our estimation of others.  Remember the stigmatic Fr. Gino - originally of the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin from San Vittorino, Italy?  He was later found out to be a fraud.  We encounter a similar situation in Fr. Maciel.  These men were praised by the faithful and clergy, and attracted many followers.
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I've pointed all of this stuff out before, so I'm just rambling here and repeating myself.  But I fear people who offer praise.
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I have a friend who used to tell me how spiritual I was.  I always assumed he was teasing me or at least testing me.  Even when I'd tell him not to say such things he seemed to try to convince me otherwise - so at times I thought he was being truthful.  Although his flattery seemed disingenuous, and despite my annoyance at feeling mocked by it, I sometimes took a secret satisfaction in it, and even became his confidant - which also did me great harm.  He's a very good priest, but I needed to avoid him because of that.  I'm the weak one and though I can't believe he was intentionally deceiving me, I couldn't continue to deceive him.
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Somewhere in the Gospel - I think it is John, Jesus tells the Pharisees, "How can you believe when you accept praise from one another?"  It is good to remember what St. John of the Cross says about this stuff, "Never take a man for your example no matter how holy he may be, for the devil will show you his faults."  I continually have to remind myself of that, because I continually make the same mistakes.  I think of the local priests I esteemed so much, who have since been disgraced.  I'm not talking about judgement here, or being suspicious or looking for errors in everyone - but we have to understand that we are all human beings and that we are extremely weak and fallible.
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When the rich young man approached Jesus he called him good and Jesus gently rebuked him saying, "Why do you call me good?  Only God is good."
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Our culture feeds on vain praise and awards and status and winning and tiger blood.  It is all an illusion and a deception.  We set ourselves up for our own fall. 
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PS:  I just did.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:10 PM

    Terry: I suffered for the priest, could you imagine the suffering he probably had in his past and now what happened in his arrest.

    When I saw the video, I felt nothing but pain for the poor guy. It really hurt, I believe that most people drink not beccause they are bad but rather because they are suffering pain and the drinking, overeating, drugs, etc.... So they use these escapes to deaden pain, I have been praying for him, maybe God allowed this incident, so that his drinking be come known and so that he could probably be forced to get help. The pain seemed to exude from him. "All things work for the good for those who love God."

    fr ray/dc

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  2. michael r.12:38 PM

    You shouldn't yank this one off the air. I won't dare you though, by saying what a beautiful reflection it is that God has allowed me to read...

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  3. Nope - I certainly won't yank this one, because it clearly demonstrates my failings.

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  4. +JMJ+

    You know what would be cool? A Catholic blogosphere version of a muckraking tabloid show. The True St. Blog's Story! With sources from "citizen journalism" (i.e., spying) and all!

    The online priests would be on it, the convert apologists would be on it, the crazy reactionaries would be on it, and best of all you would be on it, Terry. And then nobody would call you good ever again and you could go back to blogging in peace.

    ^^^ And this is the only part of my original comment which I can leave without hurting people whom it's not my place to hurt.

    PS--I just realised who the new guy in your profile pic is! Are you going to see his new movie?

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  5. Enbrethiliel - that would have to be on EWTN. They are doing a new show I hear - a Catholic version of The View - but without the... what word am I looking for here?

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  6. Anonymous4:44 PM

    Well said - I think a Catholic version of The View would be one where the panelists actully listen and respond to each other w/o interrupting and cutting each other off. And I think the expression you're looking for is B.S. I've spent most of my life as an approval junkie, but God has slapped me upside the head a few times and I'm learning slowly to seek approval from only Him. Also, what about the folks who incessantly praise themselves? There's an amateur theatre group in our town which is presenting a musical next week, and the members' Facebook posts are filled with words like "fabulous", "awesome", "terrific cast", etc, etc. Seems to me there's lots of pride to go round. My Mom always said "Self-praise is no praise" -- how true. Keep up these posts; they are reminders of how far we have to go on the road of spiritual growth and closeness to God.

    Thanks and God bless,
    chloesmom

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  7. in the 'three ages of the interior life,' fr. garrigou-lagrange talks about those in the lowest level of spiritual maturation - the purgative stage. he calls those who continuously fall into the same sins over & over again spiritually retarded (if i'm recalling this correctly, that is ... if not, correct me). anyway, it stung when i read that the first time 'cuz it really resonated. now i like to remind myself of those words when i catch myself thinking i'm actually progressing.

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  8. DB - I'm a total retard - I'm like a barren fig tree. Something happened tonight to remind me of that. Perhaps I will wither during the night.

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  9. +JMJ+

    Hi, Chloesmom! I think a Catholic version of The View would be made of B.S. and hosted by "approval junkies."

    Unless, of course, they get me to host it. And then watch out, Catholic blogdom!

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  10. This is not a vain praise compliment but...........i love your blog Terry, i love fighting with you, saying sorry, making friends again, the whole hullabaloo. Reminds me i'm real.

    on a tiger's blood point,i wonder if anyone is praying for charlie sheen's mom? i keep thinking about her, i speak to our Lady about it. Our Lady is thinking about her too, I think.

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