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

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Not all are teachers.



Therefore, strive for the greater spiritual gifts...
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St. Paul says that someplace - I believe in first or second Corinthians.  I mention it because sometimes during our spiritual lives, when we experience a more fervent love for Christ and feel ourselves especially beloved by him, our enthusiasm gets the best of us and occasionally we imagine ourselves gifted with every grace and charism the Holy Spirit has to offer.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit pours out his gifts in abundance, yet not all of us are actually called to be teachers or spiritual guides and so on.  I expect the point can be argued that all of us are called to be all these things as Christians, but I'm thinking of the explicit roles here and how people of good will, often in their first fervor sometimes tend to over-reach.  John of the Cross writes of these things in his section concerning the faults of beginners.  And though St. John can come off as harsh and critical, I prefer to think he is all charity and gentleness in what he writes.  Likewise, I think maybe God smiles as a father might when his son tries to act like a grown up - keeping a close watch, yet allowing the boy to fall - much as the Lord does with ourselves, he permits us to fall through presumption in order to learn humility.  That is my hope at least.
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Fraternal correction.
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I didn't read the Holy Father's homily from last Sunday wherein he said Christians should offer fraternal correction to sinners, although I had to wonder after reading the headline if he has never read a Catholic blog?  Catholic bloggers and online personalities seem to thrive on fraternal correction. Of course, most non-religious people think that is all Christians do anyway - call out people for their sins and condemning everything they do.  After doing our Christian duty, we can find ourselves confronted by those who disagree with us, and we subsequently defend ourselves claiming we are victims of persecution for standing up for the truth.  I'm not sure the Holy Father sees it in exactly the same way many of us do however.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the prayer of prayer, and the obligation for Christians to admonish sinners, during his Angelus audience on Sunday, September 4.
Fraternal love, the Pope said, “involves a feeling of mutual responsibility,” which sometimes requires speaking frankly to an acquaintance “to help him understand that what he has done is wrong.” Making this sort of fraternal correction “requires great humility and simplicity of heart,” the Pope cautioned. A correction should be made with love, not with anger. “If a brother sins, we do not cease to love him by inviting him to return to the straight path.” The Holy Father observed that loving someone means helping that person in times of need, and sometimes what the person needs is guidance away from moral harm. - Catholic Culture       


The speck in their eye.
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Somewhere in the writings of St. Teresa, the saint expresses exasperation with seculars who exaggerate the faults of religious, considering their behavior so much worse precisely because they are religious, while if the same fault were observed in a lay person, it wouldn't even qualify as a fault, much less a defect in character - it would simply be overlooked.  We all have done the same thing I think - especially with fellow believers who aspire to a 'closer walk with Jesus' so to speak.
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When I was little I tended to be rather pious and loved to pray, attend daily Mass, and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament - in addition to frequent confession.  I went to confession so often because members of my family were always quick to point out what a hypocrite I was because I had so many obvious faults.  I was especially castigated if I told my parents I couldn't answer the phone if they wanted me to lie and say they weren't home.  Or when I asked them not to take God's name in vain, or why they drank so much.  I learned quickly that 'fraternal correction' doesn't always work out so well.
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Can a blind person guide a blind person?
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I once worked for a group of nuns.  I rarely ever speak of the experience since I considered it my side-job as it were, it supported me through the years I painted more or less full time - I worked there for about 15 years, with benefits such as health care and retirement.  It was a wonderful experience and a time of great grace - I liken the experience to being as close as possible to actually living in community.  Privately I helped a friend care for his elderly parents until they died - painting and living much like a hermit.  Long story short, the experience taught me much about fraternal correction and the imperfections of pride possessed by beginners in the spiritual life.  (And as a 'retarded soul' I still have much to learn - believe me!  A teacher, a guide I am not - the blind cannot lead the blind.  Ever.)
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During those years, many fervent, devout persons came through the place.  I remember one woman who worked as a housekeeper.  She was intensely devoted to the Eucharist, and to use her words, "could never go a day without receiving her Jesus!"  Once, a scheduling conflict arose and the woman made some demands upon one of the sisters in charge, only to be refused permission to do whatever it was to 'get her Jesus in her'.  I can't recall what the exact circumstances were, but I remember seeing the woman standing in the hallway, twirling her hair in her fingers, apparently feeling persecuted and denied her rights, she kept repeating over and over, "That nun is not going to drive the love of Jesus out of my heart!" 
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For days after that the housekeeper lady watched the sister closely, looking for every little fault she could find about her, calling her a hypocrite and a bitch whenever she spoke about her.  As deranged as the woman seemed to be, she was able to convince, for a time, several others that this particular sister was evil.  Eventually the woman left employment on her own accord.  Sadly, her personal history was rather complicated and dysfunctional, her devotion extremely emotional and self-serving.  Yet her 'case' isn't all that unusual when it comes to church people.  I've been just as nuts myself at times.
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We are all very much susceptible to sins of spiritual pride and vanity - which very often masquerades as zeal for the salvation of souls, expressing itself in and through fraternal correction based upon mistaken notions of perfection - and very often in the process, we miss the log in our own eye while we seek to remove the speck in one another's eye.  What I learned as a kid holds true for us today I think - frequent confession is a very good antidote - as well as a sense of humor.  I always wish I had a video of the woman standing in the sister's hallway with her mop-bucket, twirling her hair, ranting.  Catherine Tate could do a segment on her - frequently comedians and satirists show us our faults quite nicely - their antics can help us put matters back in perspective, while bringing us back down to earth.
As I said earlier, even God must smile sometimes, remembering how little children, with their big imaginations, do some very funny things when they try to act like grown-ups and play at being teachers and spiritual guides.
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Art: Top - Allegory of hypocrisy and gluttony
        Middle - Allegory of treachery and calumny (aka slander) riding upon envy's back. The arrows protruding from envy's eyes show that she is always ready to stab those of whom she is jealous.
        Bottom:  Allegory of pride borne by flattery. Pride is depicted tooting her own horn. 
   

12 comments:

  1. ... We can leave ... comments?

    Thank you, Terry.

    Would it make sense to say that it's better not to know the spiritual progress one may be making, at least not at the time one is making it?

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  2. Yes - I restored comments after realizing comment moderstion works just as well - what fun is a blog without comments - in moderation of course. :)

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  3. Terry, this is such good news I've done an exclusive blog post anouncement on my blog!!!

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  4. +JMJ+

    Moderation can be a hassle, but it's an excellent preemptive strike.

    It's the ego boost we get from seeing our brilliant arguments show up for the entire world to be edified by, seconds after we hit the "Publish" button, that really brings the trouble.

    (My captcha is "whinsome" . . . because I'm either really "winsome" or I "whine some.")

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  5. Mercury--I think it's ok to keep track of one's spiritual progress, so to speak, perhaps through journalling..

    For example.. a baby step such as a short devotion, or 5 minutes of spiritual reading (I LUV Bishop Sheen!! nOr Mother Theresa) each day. In your journal write a few words how it makes you feel, or an interpretation, or if a devotion if you used it to pray for someone..you don't have to write a novel each day, just a few notes, it is for your eyes..

    Then each month take a few months to reflect on how that particular devotion/reading/ study affected your life..you may find that it lift you up ever so gently, or you may find that it did absolutely NOTHING...that is ok, it gives you permission to try something else.

    That is how I had to approach my Liturgy of the Hours for my Secular Carmelites....it was hard at first, now it is a most enjoyable part of the day, something I look forward to!!

    Sara

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  6. Sara, I have been praying for the repose of the soul of Warner.

    -Clark

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  7. Terry - I wish I could write like you. But then I'd be reading myself, and not reading you. Inspiring post.

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  8. Thank you so much Clark....it really does mean alot.

    I will remember you and your intentions at Mass this weekend and at Benediction...

    And this line..."Then each month take a few months to reflect on how that particular devotion/reading/ study affected your life.."

    It should be "take a few MOMENTS," not months :)

    Sara

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  9. Terry - Thank you for this. Good points for meditation.

    Btw: 1 Cor 12:31 is the verse you referenced.

    Lisa

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  10. Thanks, Sarah. I meant, sometimes I can look back and say "wow I made some progress", but it's silly to get hung up on that cause I've got so far to go. And it's not ME who did it anyway.

    But it sure as heck doesn't feel like progress on a day-to-day scale. :)

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