Monday, September 09, 2013

Two men went up to the temple to pray...

Our Lady of the Forsaken



That's how my prayer began today. 

In fact, the recollection of the text was so impressed upon me, I was convinced it had to be the Gospel for the day.  Of course it was not... but the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee formed my meditation this morning.

I always considered myself the publican, always repenting - in the sense of prayer and my stance before God, better put, as in the Jesus prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.  I sit to the side and back of church, I try to pray and remain recollected.  Yet even in that, I can think, "Thank you Lord I'm not like the rest of men who don't know themselves, don't pray, don't follow the rules."  Of course I can't acknowledge such an attitude - it isn't how I want to think, or what I want to say, you know, in the sense of Romans 7:15: "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it..."

I lack charity.

But God does not - God is love.  He knows us through and through... deep... deep down... deep calls unto deep.  It makes me want to cry.

I was thinking how over the years, even under spiritual direction, I pretty much let my 'soul be my pilot'.  I'm not an especially obedient soul - 'I can't be managed' - one of my favorite lines from Michael Scott.  But I always went to confession when I ran aground.  Sometimes about five times a week.  Yet once I had the audacity to remark to a priest, who wanted me to join a third order or something, "I have more understanding than all who teach me because I do your will." (Ps. 119)  Oh my God!  I cringe now when I think of that - only Christ can rightly say that.  I assumed I could because I had renounced a gay lifestyle, lived chastely - went to confession when I didn't - and considered that obedience.  In a sense it really was.  God calls us to repentance.  Yet somewhere in all of that was the Pharisee who well could have added to his prayer, "Thank you Lord I'm not like those people who I ran into in the bar last night but don't go to confession..."  Get it?

Anyway.

This morning I considered all the holy priests who heard my confessions and absolved me from my sins.  None of them ever said, "You stupid twit - what are you doing!"  "You're going straight to hell!  You know better than go into that occasion of sin!"  "You have to wake up!  Leave your situation, wall yourself off, don't go near even the most remote occasion of sin."  "You're so disordered and evil, you're a scumbag, a filthy homosexual pervert."  Not one priest condemned me.  Not one.  Not one ever said: "I don't get it - I don't get you.  How can you come here week after week confessing the same sins?  You ought to be ashamed of yourself."  No one said that.  Not one priest condemned me.  Not one.

No one who comes to me will I ever reject.

Jesus said that: "No one who comes to me will I ever reject" - though he knows the heart of man... he knows our adulterous generation, our propensity for sin.  Not one priest ever condemned me - all of them were compassionate and kind and encouraging to me as I struggled.

As Catholics, like the priests who over the years directed me and absolved me from all my sins, we desperately need to see the person.  We may already see a sinful condition - but within that disguise is a person.  Beneath the façade is someones son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or enemy - there is a person, a real person who may not know of what spirit he is.  Jesus told the disciples that when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who rejected the Gospel, "You do not know of what spirit you are speaking."  I went through whole periods in my life wherein I did not really know of what spirit I was.  Hence the prayer, "Of my hidden faults acquit me O Lord."

If called to do so, we must defend the faith - even with our lives - but we have to stop condemning one another and setting ourselves up as arbiter and judge of everyone else.  We can judge behavior and recognize sin - and in certain situations - when challenged as to why we believe what we do, we defend the faith, the truth - in charity, but we must recognize and love the person who rejects the faith.  We do not need to brow beat them, berate or 'hammer' the truth home to them.  Many already know the things we can tell them - even though they reject it.  To attack and condemn only drives 'others' away further - and discourages those who are especially weakened by the 'world's slow stain'..  

Anyway - that's some of the stuff I've been thinking of while I was offline.  It's really good to be 'cut off' for awhile, to pray and get to know oneself.   This is my personal opinion of course, and I may be wrong.  If what I write doesn't work for you or make sense - it wasn't for you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

"Love is a teacher, but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor.  For we must love not occasionally, for a moment, but forever." - Dostoevsky, Fr. Zosima

25 comments:

  1. I love you, brother.

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  2. Terry, Thank you so very much for this reflection; it has been a blessing to me.

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  3. and teaching them to obey everything, I have commanded you. Mt 28 -28
    Where are the Master Rabboni's/teachers now?
    Francis can't do this alone
    - when we love, without the balance of gentle loving correction, we merely flatter
    - and as members of the body of Christ, we all hold this duty and responsibility.
    sharing is caring, caring is love, love is God
    weither it be goods, possessions or understanding - cuz it is ALL gift from Almighty God. with Peace His Peace, love and Holy Hope. Water! NOT WAR for Syria.

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  4. Terry,

    You were off the web due to computer issues; I wasn't able to do my normal web rounds and writing for nearly 2 months due to an increase of workload that had me away from home longer (and just trying to keep up with the usual after work hour stuff - like laundry). It was hard for me to come back to it as I felt a bit of freedom I didn't have when I was on the web all the time.

    But many times in the past this has happened. I once talked to my Confessor about giving up blogging and social media, because every time I turned around, I had felt the need to "clean house" in Confession. I wondered if it would be best to let go of it since it seemed to bring the worst out in me sometimes, discussing issues. And, I was spending way too much time on the web, and so little time in Scripture and other wholesome reading - a common problem, probably.

    LOL - The priest told me that would be too easy. He said giving up something that is good in itself, because I might not use it in the best possible way; or, because I'm neglecting other things, is losing an opportunity to practice the virtues. It would also let me off the hook with regards to practicing moderation, with time. So, what i took from it is that these experiences are ways to practice our faith, as well as talk about it.

    Your testimony is powerful. It magnifies God's love and mercy, and the beauty of imitating it with others. It had me inward looking and reflecting back to something in my own life that I struggled with before I took my faith more seriously. While through God's grace, I no longer struggle with that, there are other things in my life that have me going back to the Confessional for on a regular basis.

    It takes courage to go back time and again. God knows exactly what kind of cross he has given each one of us in how we are individually affected by human fallen nature. All he looks for is our response - before we fall to it, and how we respond after, if we do fall. He's always there, mercifully waiting to welcome us back if we don't yield to the kind of despair and hopelessness the Angel of Darkness is hoping for.

    You talk about this love and mercy you experienced and it took me back to the abortion mill here in Detroit that the Helpers of God's Precious Infants of Michigan hosts (and Archbishop Vigneron will lead on Sept 21 starting with Mass at 7:30 at Assumption Grotto). I noticed something with the best sidewalk counselors - and I noticed it in Msgr. Philip Reilly, who founded the apostolate when he visited: These sidewalk counselors have more love for the sinner than they have disdain for the sins they commit - sins that cry out to heaven. To see a sidewalk counselor greet a desperate, frightened woman outside of an abortion mill, talking to her about alternatives, and doing it with a warm smile that is devoid of any judgment of her soul - that's powerful stuff. I've watched the successfulness of it and would put it up over anyone trying to do the same without that genuine love for the person entering the mill.

    Since that thought came to me at the last public vigil some months ago, I can't help but think about that applied to any situation involving others who commit offenses. That is, loving them more in your heart than your heart can have contempt for what they do. I see others in a different light with that thought - one I continue to meditate on.

    People don't have conversions of hearts from our words; they experience conversions when we mirror the love of Christ in all that we say and do. That becomes like a magnet.

    Thanks for your witness and testimonial.

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  5. Oops - my comment about the Helpers of God's Precious Infants is confusing. Helpers of God's Precious Infants of Michigan does NOT "host" abortion mills. They host the prayer vigil outside the abortion mill a few times yearly, but sidewalk counselors and others are out there during open ours.

    Phew.

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  6. Thank you Diane for your beautiful comment - it expands nicely the thought I was trying to express.

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  7. I have to pipe in with one note: I still fail miserably, and probably will continue to fail miserably, at loving those who commit various offenses, than I have contempt for those offenses. God has a way of humbling us though, and taking us back to that point.... if we are paying attention.

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  8. And as a Carmelite you already know that is another reason why mental prayer is so important.

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  9. Oh, yes.

    Fr. Perrone, a diocesan priest, but also a secular Carmelite, always tells us to not slack off on the mental prayer. When you really think about it, the Divine Office, the Rosary - these are very good offerings. Mental prayer, now that is when we open ourselves to really "hear" what God might have to say to us. From there comes that interior fraternal correction - the one that looks in on the self and its imperfections. This is not so we can dwell in our own weaknesses, but so we can pick up our cross and try again tomorrow.

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  10. This, "but we have to stop condemning one another and setting ourselves up as arbiter and judge of everyone else.  We can judge behavior and recognize sin - and in certain situations - when challenged as to why we believe what we do, we defend the faith, the truth - in charity," is very true. It's also a much finer line between than we like to make it. Not infrequently a person may believe themselves to be walking in the realm of the second half of that truth when in the eyes of another they are trafficking in the former. I'd like the black and white to be a little less grey but there it is.
    And per the comments, oy, were it not for the holy Rosary and the LoTH I probably would have not merely failed but baled by now. I'mtthinking that's a good thing, right?

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  11. Are we using and sharing our God given talents, abilities and gifts to proclaim the kingdom?
    because this is NOT solely to be offered when challenged.
    Mt 25 -28
    Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.
    Balanced Love produces Good fruit by mental prayer, intellectual thought, physical participation, emotional servitude and spiritual engagement, ALL for the benefit of OTHERS, which is Christ-unity based, not individual focused. UT SINT UNUM. With his Peace Love and Holy Hope.

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  12. Both Rosary and LoTH are valuable. I added the Office of Readings some years ago, perhaps with some curiosity (it is not required of secular Carmelites, as is Lauds and Vespers). The Office of Readings rocks! One place it can be found online is at DivineOffice.org, for those who don't have it in a breviary. I myself use iBreviary on my iPhone and it is on there. I just went to their website and it looks like you might be able to pray online there too. http://ibreviary.com/new/index_en.html

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  13. Diane. Yes, for me that particular devotion and the official prayer of the Church (in the 4 volume version) have proven to be both my path into the Church (former Protestant clergy) and my anchor along with the Mass, but of course. I have not always been faithful in the practice of this devotion or this universal prayer but they have been faithful to me.

    I've used various of electronic forms (there is also the not free version that has audio readings - my least favourite form) of the D.O. but I always come back to the old fashioned codex. And while I took to the Monastic Diurnal for a while and also tried the pre Vatican II versions (in their electronic formats) I relinquished my temporary snobbery (I cast no stones and refer only to myself in such a state) and embraced both the Liturgy of the Hours and the Novus Ordo Of course my personal ultimate form of the holy Mass would be a solemn and properly ordered N.O. but I live in the real world so I quit complaining and focus on what is good in it and others and what is not good in me needing growth -- not, not in keeping with "two men went up to pray", n'est-ce pas ?

    From roughly that point on I found renewed peace and a kind of freedom in both my online world (which both shrunk and expanded) and my offline world (which came alive again). That wasn't there when I allowed myself to be all-caught-up in a swirling vortex (as it were).

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  14. P.S. Terry, thanks for allowing me (who no longer keeps a 'Catholic' blog) to use your combox (as if I did).

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  15. Owen - I dabbled with the older form too - electronically and translated, but it didn't last long. You've gotta really have a lot of time for it, moreso than the new form. Plus, I do like some new additions to it in those readings.

    I would like to use my four volume, but found I had higher fidelity when I could open, update and scroll to pray rather than fiddle with figuring out what I need to pray and jumping ribbon to ribbon.

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  16. Terry. Thanks for all you do, and thank you for all your prayers and good advice over the years ... But uh, don't get too prideful, you still suck! :)

    (That last part is my facetious attempt at trying to balance my appreciation of you with your repeatedly stated desire for humility)

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  17. "I considered all the holy priests who heard my confessions and absolved me from my sins." Please correct me if I am wrong; isn't it Jesus who absolves us from our sins and not the "holy priests"? And thank you for the Dostoyevski quote at the end, Gonzalo T.. Palacios,Ph.D., author, "The Virgin Mary's Revolution or Love and do what you will."

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  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  19. Gonzalo - yes - God forgives sins through the ministry of the priest. More specifically:

    "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

    I removed your other comment because I don't permit embedded links. Thanks!

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  20. Thank you for this fine piece. I am guilty of beating myself up and wandering onto the path of "I am not good enough for God's mercy." I then realize the danger of such thought and seek refuge under Mary's loving mantle. I will go to confession today and ask the Lord to forgive me, a foolish sinner who loves him but who many times over forgets He loves me more than I could ever imagine.

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  21. Forgive me for entertaining a notion...

    Two men went up to the temple to pray. The first one said, "Introibo ad altare Dei."

    And the second one said, "ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam."

    And then in return the first one attested, "Júdica me, Deus, et discérne cáusam meam de gente non sancta: ab hómine iníquo et dolóso érue me."

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  22. JJ - I like that. I used to be an altar boy.

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  23. James, I'm just a N.O. slob, I know, but I'm going to guess neither of those men said _that_. {ahem}

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