Saturday, October 14, 2006
A friend mentioned a book by Michael O'Brien and I went to read about it, finding O'Brien's website instead. He has some very interesting essays, one on modesty in dress that I snipped a portion of and posted below. It works well in line with my various posts concerning art, modesty, as well as identity. I'm going to continue thinking about these things and posting what I discover. Read my excerpt from O'Brien if you wish.
“Dad,” each of our children has asked me at one time or another, “Am I in my body or am I my body?”
The look of puzzlement and intense curiosity on their faces when they ask this is a sign that ultimate questions are working their way up from the soul to the consciousness. But how do you explain it to a six year old, or a twelve year old, or a fifty year old? Of course, the body is not a container, nor simply a biological organism, nor is it a machine. It cannot be owned, manipulated, used, bought, sold or violated without something drastic and negative happening to one’s well-being.
Which is why the Pope was so insistent about lust in marriage. The body is part of the gift of life from God. We are in exile and weakened, but we are beloved of God and capable of sharing in his divine love. We are made in his image and likeness. We are damaged but not destroyed. Since the Incarnation an added significance has been given to our flesh, for we are now temples of the Holy Spirit and Christ dwells within us.
Saint John of Damascus once wrote that when man first sinned he retained the image of God but lost the likeness of God; and since the coming of Christ we are freed to be restored to the original unity. Thus, any diminishment of this truth is an offence against God; any harm inflicted on our bodies or the bodies of others is ultimately an act against Love.
In his encyclical on the family, Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II teaches that God calls man into existence through love and for love:“God is Love, and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation and thus the capacity and responsibility of love and communion.
Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being . . . Conjugal love involves a totality in which all the elements of the person enter: the appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affection, aspiration of the spirit and will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive self-giving; and it is open to fertility.” Michael O'Brien
More on Suffering and Identity
"The Martyr Sebastian Being Rescued By the Matron Irene." - Ribera
Please excuse me for accommodating the poetry of St. John of the Cross regarding the suffering a soul endures as a result of childhood sexual abuse...
Nevertheless, the verses can just as easily be applied to a soul in mortal sin, or a person suffering from a variety of addictions, and most likely, even depression.
"I live, but not in myself...
I have neither God nor myself.
What will life be?
It will be a thousand deaths,
Longing for my true life
And dying because I do not die.
What life do I have
Except to endure
The bitterest death known?
I pity myself
For I go on living,
Dying because I do not die.
Lift me from this death,
My God, and give me life;
Do not hold me bound
With these so strong bonds;
See how I long to see you;
I am so wholly miserable
That I die because I do not die.
What death can equal
My pitiable life?
For the longer I live,
The more drawn out
Is my dying.
I will cry out for death
And mourn my living
while I am held here
For my sins.
Dying because I do not die." (My free-base John of the Cross)
I left out most of the contemplative references to God to show the acute suffering a person in this state experiences. Contrary to the words, "I pity myself" it is not a whine of self pity the soul utters, it is the acknowledgement of the state of his soul. The person suffering doesn't seek pity - no one could penetrate that wound so deep and thorough, except God. On some levels it is the lament of hell, yet for the soul who prays and frequents the sacraments, it is part of the purgation process, that results ultimately in healing, although never satisfactory until eternity, since the pain continues to ebb and flow, as the night follows day.
(And please excuse me for dwelling on this subject for so many days. It's for "you". :)
Identity and Conversion
I was thinking of the first reading from today's Mass as it regards identity. Paul states;
'There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor freeman,
there is not male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3
I thought of my friend who is struggling with the issue of identity. As well as others who may have been abused or degraded at some point in their life, who struggle with low self-esteem and a shattered self-image. Even women not unlike the Samaritan woman who perhaps have been married several times in some unconscious effort to find validation in the love of a man. Or the promiscuous whose identity is and emotional life is affirmed and assuaged by meaningless sexual encounters.
From what I understand, recently in this Archdiocese there had been a 'coming out' prayer service for so-called gay people at one of the Catholic churches in town. That is just unfortunate. Again, I think it is based in an identity problem. (If it had been a healing service, that would be all together appropriate, yet a prayer service, a coming out service, is a rebellious act.) Gay culture wants people to come out as a political act - it is not so much a liberation of self. Certainly there is a camaraderie and a modicum of acceptance amongst peers, but it is in the end a political act. The more self-proclaimed gays coming out, the more clout for the gay agenda - whose battle cry is that the gay life-style is normative. Hence, not only their demand for recognition and acceptance, but validation by Church and society.
The person who experiences same-sex attraction should understand this as an aspect of personality, not as their core identity. Their identity is as Genesis states, "Male, female, God created them." Each person's identity is that of being a human being created and loved by God, and now, as a baptized Christian, his true identity is in Christ, that he has become a co-heir with Christ. That is the starting point in conversion, the beginning of self-knowledge and discovery of identity. At least, that is what I always think of when I hear St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let me change some of Paul's words;
"There is neither black nor white,
addicted nor free person,
there is not male or female,
gay or lesbian,
therian or animal person;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are a new creation."
We have been created in the image and likeness of God - Christ came to restore that image. He has subjected all creation to Himself, and therefore to us. To mistake our true identity for something else is a form of idolatry on some level. We are placing the creature above God as it were. Christ, the Church calls men to conversion, to turn from what is false, to turn from their idols, and to be converted. There is indeed a wave of diabolical illusion sweeping the world, distorting the truth, while ensnaring many souls.
Elsewhere, Paul speaks about those of us who engaged in all sorts of sin and he tells us emphatically "you must put all that aside now." (Colossians 3) I do believe, however, there is good reason in the "school of self-knowledge" to accept the distorted image of one's self in an effort to understand and deal with it - not to fear it, since oftentimes the adoption of the identity was a result of fear, thereby becoming a coping mechanism in one's life. To accept one's 'therianism' (therian - derived from theriomorphic- is a person who believes his core identity is that of an animal, or an animal's spirit I believe. It seems to be associated with African or Native America animism.) or to accept one's homosexuality, is a first step in understanding the self. After all, same-sex attraction can be a rather neutral thing, if not acted upon. While the idea that one is a bear remains neutral, unless one begins to live like a bear. (Acceptance does not mean acting from it.)
The key would be in understanding what these experiences mean for the individual. What need is being satisfied, what does it do for the person? When did you first encounter it? Get to the bottom of the issue; where did it originate? Gradually one will unlock the secret and lessen it's power. It requires faith, courage, and perseverance. To understand the why and wherefore, is to begin the process of healing and conversion. Prayer, the sacraments, a good confessor is a necessary component in the process - because everything is a grace.
"Do not surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God's will and receive what He has promised." Hebrews 10: 35-36
(Just some thoughts for "you" and you know who you are. :)
Friday, October 13, 2006
"If I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest." from the Office of St. Bruno.
Pictured, St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai.
I love the desert fathers. If they only had showers. My VP at Dayton's (eventually Marshall-Fields, now Macy's.) was Greek and once in a conversation I spoke glowingly of the monks on Mt. Athos - hoping as an Orthodox Catholic he'd have some great tales about the holy mountain. He sneered - "I hate those monks - they never bathe!" He was very "The Devil Wears Prada." yet, for all his high and mightiness, he enjoyed conversing with me.
When testing my vocation in monastic life, very few monasteries appeared to me to be observant enough for my ideals. Few seemed poor enough, or if I found a community that was poor, there seemed to be a lack of stability. While some 'new' orders seemed a tad pretentious and ambitious as well as lacking any spiritual maturity. Of course I found, in my opinion, the Carthusians to be the best, but I wasn't suited to their life.
My experiences in good monasteries left me with a prejudice regarding other forms of religious life, and an imperious attitude towards new communities as well as hermits, not to mention neo-gyrovagues. Gradually, I learned never to judge whether a person or community was living a fervent life or not, that there are many instances in the spiritual life of persons seeking the will of God that do not conform to our prejudices.
There is a story from the desert fathers wherein a monk went to see another, renowned for his wisdom and holiness. The monk was scandalized that the father lived in relative luxury compared to what he had been used to in his scete. The father drank wine, slept on a bed of straw, bathed, and ate rather well, although he fasted and was faithful to the rule of psalmody and other exercises peculiar to the eremitical state.
The young monk left the father to return to his skete. The father knowing he had been scandalized called him back and questioned him as to his life. It turned out the monk had been a shepherd, sleeping in the fields and eating a very meager diet, without any comforts, no bathing, except in the river, and so on. In the skete, he had regular meals, a mat to sleep upon, in a hut for shelter.
The father then told him of his past. He had lived like a prince in Rome, with many attendants and great luxury, dining sumptuosly every day. Upon his conversion he renounced all of that and went into the desert to live the ascetic life as the young monk could see.
Filled with compunction, the young monk recognised his presumption and asked the father's forgiveness, often returning to him for spiritual instruction.
The story taught me as well. If a sister lives in an apartment and drives a car, she may no longer have had a convent to live in. If a friar lives in a nice friary, or a monk has a beautiful monastery to live in wherein every need is met, that does not mean he is not a fervent religious.
If a lay person dresses well, lives in a nice house, watches TV, or listens to rock music, or does anything else worldly, while striving to live a devout life, albeit hidden - that does not mean that person is living in sin. No more than two men or two women sharing the same house, or a man and a woman sharing the same house, are living in sin.
"Judge not and you will not be judged." I think Jesus said that.
A 'desert father-like' story.
About Bishop Carlson
I heard a story about him that when he was instructing a young couple who were preparing for marriage, he told them that it was inappropriate for them to live together before the wedding.
They had been living together for some time and their two incomes were necessary to keep their residence. Bishop Carlson said the young man was welcome to live at the Bishop's house with him, free of charge. He meant it.
The couple eventually found a way to live apart until marriage and kept the residence.
That's a good Abba, don't you think?
Wisdom from the Thebaid
Remaining sick today, after returning to work yesterday, I'm reading the sayings of the desert fathers.
A few of the sayings refer to that temptation which has been mentioned so frequently in our time. It made me think of the scandals in the Church that might have been avoided if there had been a greater vigilance on the part of the elders.
"Isaac from the Thebaid said to his brothers, 'Do not bring boys here. Boys are the reason why four monasteries in Scetis were deserted.'"
"A hermit said, 'Do not give or receive anything from worldly people. Take no notice of women. Do not remain long in the company of a boy.'"
To be honest, I found the warnings against boys or young men strange. Then Gustav Aschenbach, obsessed in his pathetic infatuation with Tadzio, came to mind. ("Death In Venice") In another place I again read that monks should avoid spending a long time in the company of the junior monks and never to steady one's gaze upon young men. I can't remember if it was from Dostoyevsky or Archbishop Brianchaninov - but I believe it was from the Russian Thebaid. It would be prudent to say these cautions would easily be applied to looking at young women as well.
Then for those who may pass judgement upon others, suspecting everyone as gay, there is this story.
"A brother, being tempted by a demon, went to a hermit and said, 'Those two monks over there who live together, live sinfully.' But the hermit knew that a demon was deceiving him. So he called the brothers to him. In the evening he put out a mat for them, and covered them with a single blanket and said, 'They are sons of God and holy persons.' But he said to his disciple, 'Shut this slandering brother away in a cell by himself; he is suffering from the passion of which he accuses them.'"
The desert fathers were hermits of course, yet their teachings are profitable for all, informing us of all sorts of temptations the demon uses. Discretion and vigilance are good sentries for any state of life.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
October 13, the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima
"A woman clothed with the sun." - Book of Revelations
Newspaper photo of pilgrims experiencing the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917.
The Miracle of the Sun:
"The proclamation of a public miracle caused the most intense speculation throughout Portugal. People from all parts of the country descended, in their tens of thousands, on the Cova, despite the terrible storm that lashed the mountain country around Fatima, on the eve of October 13.
A page from Ilustracao Portugueza, October 29, 1917, showing the crowd.
The children reached the place around noon, and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked what she wanted: "I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.
"Then rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, growing more brilliant as she did, she disappeared, being replaced by various visions seen only by the children.At the same time the vast crowd of approximately 70.000 people experienced a visible miracle.
The black clouds parted, and the sun became visible, looking like a dull grey disc that could be looked at directly quite easily.
A journalist, Avelino de Almeida, described the event as follows: "...one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: "A miracle! A miracle!" Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun "danced" according to the typical expression of the people..."
"People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it with its rays. Some said they saw it change colors successively..."
The crowd experiencing the Miracle of the Sun.
Many other witnesses testified to the terrifying nature of the solar miracle: "It turned everything different colours, yellow, blue, white, and it shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people. They cried out: 'We shall all be killed, we shall all be killed!' ... At last the sun stopped moving and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were still alive and the miracle which the children had foretold had taken place.
"Other people witnessed the solar miracle from a distance thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination. A final intriguing, and important, point was that the heat of the sun, as it descended on the people, also had the effect of drying their clothes and the ground, so that they went from being completely soaked to being dry in about ten minutes." - Courtesy, "Living Miracles" website.
The New York Times also reported upon the event.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
"Que muero porque no muero."
"That I die because I do not die." - John of the Cross.
Pictured, "St. Sebastian" by Mimmo Rotella
I have often painted St. Sebastian, who had been shot with arrows, left to die, only to be revived and submit himself for martyrdom again. In a sense, for me, he became an allegory for what happens to a person who has been sexually abused in childhood. The image shown here by Rotella, is particularly poignant since the saint is visible only as an outline, his body simply a shell, his identity obscured.
Speaking to a friend who had been abused and degraded as a child, we discussed the issue of identity, self image, and dissociative experience. Oftentimes, at the moment of violence, the victim removes herself mentally from the actions being performed upon her. This can result in a dissociative personality disorder that endures throughout one's life. Or, it can be simply a coping mechanism that does not become pathological. Then again, the person may so identify with the personality they either invented or embraced, they become conditioned to accept it as being their true identity. In such a case, this new, safe identity helps them to navigate through life, unknown to outsiders.
My friend is going through great passages of self-knowledge and acceptance, experiencing a wonderful freedom of spirit. At times however, the wounds reopen and she goes through difficult times dealing with the hurt, the pain, and the anger - as well as the lonely sense of isolation that is the result of having one's self-image disfigured by abuse. I mentioned my concept of St. Sebastian, having died in a sense, only to be revived, yet the stigmata of his wounds remaining. However it is a long, difficult process of healing that one must go through. Something someone cannot just "get over".
I compared it to the mystery of the saints who actually had the stigmata, which would open and bleed on Fridays and feasts of the passion. In similar fashion, I believe the person who has been abused, while on the road of recovery, perhaps all of their lives, will periodically relive the event with all it's pain and suffering - only now, like the stigmatist, the person may have a better awareness of who they are and what happened to them and what the pain means. In a sense, the suffering becomes redemptive and healing. (This is best accomplished if the person prays and frequents the sacraments, as my friend does.) Nevertheless, no outsider can ever understand the person's interior martyrdom of spirit. They die because they do not die.
Abuse is a terrible crime against a child, it kills the spirit in a manner, it devastates the identity. The person's resurrection from this death is difficult, although often taking a lifetime, it is not impossible. Oftentimes we mistake others behavior, even their sinful life, as a willful moral failing. To be sure, sin is sin, yet I have met prostitutes and promiscuous people, as well as homosexuals, whom I believe are living in such a way as to assuage their pain. Often victims of sexual abuse or some other trauma, they adopt an identity or way of acting that alleviates their misery, or in the worst case scenario, they are living out the personality they adopted after the degrading assault or trauma they experienced. They self-fullfil the prophecy that seemingly damned them to make such a choice, albeit, not a choice made in complete freedom. Many alcoholics do the same thing. It's not a satisfactory remedy however.
Remember to pray for the living dead.
The Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Mother of God "Salus Populi Romano"
[snip] In the year 1931 a jubilee marking the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus was celebrated to the great joy of the whole Catholic world. The fathers at that Council, under the guidance of Pope Celestine, formally condemned the errors of Nestorius and declared as Catholic faith the doctrine that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, was truly the Mother of God. Prompted by holy zeal, Pope Pius XI determined that the memory of so important an event should continue alive in the Church. Accordingly he ordered the renovation of Rome's famous memorial to the Council of Ephesus, namely, the triumphal arch and transept in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the Esquiline. His predecessor Pope St. Sixtus III (432-440) had embellished that arch with a beautiful mosaic, but time had done it damage.
In an encyclical Pius XI, moreover, underscored the principal teachings of the General Council at Ephesus, developing in detail and with loving affection the singular privilege of divine Motherhood granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He believed that so sublime a mystery should ever become more firmly anchored in the hearts of the faithful. At the same time the Pope singled out Mary, the Mother of God and the one blessed among women together with the holy Family of Nazareth as the foremost model for the dignity and sanctity of chaste married life and for the religious education of youth. [snip] - The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
Pray for us O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Blessed John XXIII
October 11 is the feast of Blessed John XXIII, as well as the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day chosen to convene the historic Second Vatican Council in 1962. The first image of the Holy Father I present is one I painted for the occasion of his beatification by John Paul II, it is now in the possession of the Cathedral of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The second photograph captures the wonderful kindly spirit that was his.
I wrote to him when I was little and received a beautiful picture of His Holiness, with a little note, that unfortunately has been lost. (My mother hid it for safe keeping and I never knew what became of it after that.) He was universally loved, and is now venerated among the saints of God.
Pray for us Blessed John XXIII.
[snip] Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar today was the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The theological controversies regarding the divinity of Christ which disturbed the Church during the fourth and fifth centuries led to a denial of the divine maternity of Mary. The heretics refused to honor Mary as Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared that the Blessed Virgin "brought forth according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh" and that in consequence she is the Mother of God. Thus she is rightly given the title of divine maternity. In 1931, on the fifteenth centenary of this great Council, Pius XI instituted today's feast. By this act the pope wished to emphasize not only Mary's divine maternity, but also her motherhood of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. [snip] Go to Catholic Culture for further reading.
(And do not neglect to visit tonight - and tomorrow for his homily - Don Marco's "Vultus Christi" a superb blog, for his posts concerning Bl. John XXIII.)
Adaptation and the needs of the faithful.
The litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto.
In every era the Church has canonized new saints for the edification of the faithful. New devotions have been promulgated, such as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion to the Holy Face, and more recently devotion to the Divine Mercy. The devotions are not "new" yet their form and cult have been adapted for the needs of the faithful at any given time, oftentimes by express command from the Lord himself. (Although always requiring the recognition and approval of the Church.)
Recently, two new titles of Our Lady have been added to the litany of Loreto. It is my understanding that this is not unprecedented, having occurred in the past as well; in fact, certain religious orders have been permitted to add titles, such as "Queen of the Friars Minor" for the Franciscans - who incidentally are the custos of the Shrine in Loreto, Ancona, Italy. (See "History of the Litany" for details.)
In reading some traditionalist blogs, as well as comments left, it seems the changes add to their suspicion of anything new promulgated by the Vatican. Comments such as, "Why did JPII feel the need to add his innovations to everything that has been a defined devotion for centuries?" Of course, many will not accept the "Mysteries of Light" he suggested, since it increased the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary to 20 mysteries.
Certainly proponents of the rosary understand the history and development of the devotion. Many realize that a series of beads used to count one's aves and paters eventually became organized to become the original 150 aves emulating the 150 psalms. While the mysteries were categorically introduced later. One could always meditate upon other mysteries of our Lord's life. Upon examination, the mysteries comprise in detail, the essential points of the creed. If one is so attached to 150 aves, then let them pray 150 aves a day, using the traditional mysteries or adding the new mysteries - just don't exceed that magic number of 150. (Though praised by a succession of popes and saints, the rosary is not even a required devotion for Catholics.)
One website compared the more ancient text from the litany of Loreto with a supposed new litany they found in a missalette. It had been adapted and was obviously not the official litany. I found the official 'new' litany on the Holy See's website - it is the same as the ancient one, except for the new titles. See for yourself:
THE LORETO LITANY
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, one God,
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church, (Officially added - although suggested by Paul VI after V.II)
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother most amiable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Saviour,
Mother of mercy,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Vessel of honour,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Tower of David,
Tower if ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families, (Officially added - do you have to wonder why in a time of the disintegration of the family?)
Queen of peace.
The Church and the Holy Father certainly have a right to add to the devotional life of the Church, certain elements requiring our attention. Why is the litany so sacrosanct that titles of the Blessed Virgin may not be added, or the rosary, that additional mysteries of our Lord's life may not be added? These are devotions after all, and become the means of catechises in their formulation. As far as the rosary goes, there are many forms; the Franciscan Crown, the Brigittine, along with a variety of chaplets. In one's private devotion, one may meditate upon any mystery of the Lord's life one wishes while praying the rosary; as with the litany, when privately prayed one may praise the Mother of God with varying titles according to one's devotion - so long as they conform to Church teaching and revealed truth.
Queen, Beauty of Carmel, pray for us. (A privilege given to the Carmelite order when they were custos of the shrine.)
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that we, your servants,may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body; and by the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may be delivered from present sorrow, and obtain eternal joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
The inhabitants of Limbo...
"How low can you go?" - Remember that song and dance from Chubby Checker - it was called the "Limbo" since you had to dance forward under a stick, bending back until you were as if suspended in air. Limbo is like being suspended - as everyone knows.
Many blogs are covering the topic - the
definition of Limbo - well there won't be a definition as such, just a statement from the Commission's findings. It is so not going to be abolished, one can be sure of that.
Yet I thought it interesting that for centuries, millenia, the inhabitants of Limbo have been represented in art. They are called 'putti', which translates 'little boy', in Italian. The ancient Romans frequently painted them in frescoes and sculpted them on facades or objects. Since the Renaissance they are often seen in Roman Catholic religious art, frequently in the clouds surrounding the Madonna, along with little Cherubim. In his secular work, Michelangelo used them, as did most of the great painters of mythology.
It demonstrates how deeply embedded in the unconscious is man's concern for the innocent dead. It suggests the belief in Limbo is a major dimension of man's spirituality. Though it has never been formally defined by the Church, it is a comforting belief for those who have lost children. On the other hand, to say the departed are in a suburb of hell is not at all comforting. It reminds me of something St. Therese said to a sister in her monastery whose spirituality was focused upon the justice of God. Therese said something like this, "Well, if that is what you expect of God, then may you have it. We receive according to our hope. As for me I will continue in my confidence and hope in His merciful love." (A very free-base quote from memory.)
In art, the putti are usually shown joyfully playing, often exhibiting gifts of the fine arts, suggesting a superior talent and knowledge. Their Limbo is one of natural happiness and contentment. If the souls of the innocent, as it has long been believed, are deprived of the beatific vision, surely they may keep company with the saints and the Madonna - even Christ in His humanity, I suppose. How could that be? Well, the Blessed Virgin and the saints could visit them. If they are depicted in art as surrounding these personages, then one can hope it could be a reality. (Not that art is dogma, although some Orthodox iconographers would have you believe that.)
Ah! There is the key...hope. Limbo, while not a defined article of faith, is a place one may hope exists; furthermore, one may hope, that in God's merciful love, the unbaptized may be saved. I'll bet the conclusion by the Commission will be on those lines. No big deal, unless the SSPX's make it into one. OH! MY! GO.....! What if there are Jews there! :)
I missed my chance for Limbo - I always imagined it would be like being on Valium, running around naked in the sun, painting when I felt like it, bathing in the ocean - oh I'm sorry, that was one of my vacations.
The man was first.
Today's readings at Mass focus upon marriage - an old fashioned idea - yet one Hollywood celebrities seem to enjoy doing over and over.
I love the passage from Genesis, wherein the Father brought the animals to Adam for him to name - just like little kids get teddy bears and bow-wows to name and play with from their parents.
In His Providence, God recognized man needed a partner and created Eve from his side. So pay attention ladies - the man was first. Evolutionists ought to think about this as well.
Thinking about marriage however, one cannot help but recognize how it has disintegrated today in our society with the increase of divorce over the recent decades, along with the trend of couples more frequently cohabiting without benefit of marriage. Many of those who feel they do not need to be married to authenticate their union have done so after having endured a divorce or some other trauma in their own family. Many people in their desire for affirmation or self-preservation do not seem willing to admit the consequences of divorce upon their children. Granted, in some cases a marriage was bad from the beginning, perhaps there was abuse, or intolerable alcoholism, or some other mitigating circumstance, wherein there was no other alternative but divorce, or at best, annulment. That isn't my focus.
It's the kids. My own mother was divorced and remarried my father, I have an older sister and brother from her first marriage. There are negative effects in such a family. There had always been a sort of disconnect between my step siblings and myself. My brother really didn't like me, I'm certain he resented me. My mother resented my brother and sister, because every time she looked at them, she was reminded of her 1st husband, whom she despised. And my dad never adopted them. It wasn't a happy home. Nevertheless, this isn't about me.
It's about a woman I know. She has a little brother. Her parents were divorced when she was about four or five-years old I think, her brother was a baby. The mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol and rather promiscuous. As is often the case in divorce, the kids go with the mother. Though not homeless, my friend and her brother were pretty close to being so. Sometimes they would awaken in the morning not knowing where the mother was, only to find out a day or two later she had been in jail. An occasional ray of sunshine for them was when they would be placed in a foster home, although the niceties and kindness of the strange people who took them in baffled them. They didn't know how to act.
They moved a lot. The mother was drunk or doped up most of the time, the house was full of other types just like her mom, and of course, the kids were abused and neglected. Sometimes, when the mother was in jail, they scrounged in dumpsters for food. At school they were humiliated and rejected because they were dirty and poorly clothed. It was a horrible life.
One day when my friend was little, she was watching a cartoon on television and found herself identifying with a strong cartoon character who was a fierce animal. She was convinced she was watching herself - in other words, she adopted the beast as her interior identity. To this day she feels within her deepest self that this is her true identity - her true self. She is normal and functions ably in the workplace and society, nevertheless, interiorly she is always the outsider. Her self image had been shattered in her formative years and she found a means to cope and pull herself up and out of a near animal existence - by identifying with an animal.
It caused me to wonder, this concept of the "shattered image" many people have had to come to terms with in their life. It wasn't a great leap for me to view trans-gender or homosexual persons with the same compassion and understanding that I learned from my friend. Many of these people must have had some experience in their life that caused them to choose an identity contrary to their created being. What else could convince someone so fundamentally that they are indeed other than the norm of those around them, the person they were created to be?
It is not just divorce that shatters one's image of oneself, or one's identity, there are many dynamics at work. Yet, it seems to me, as the family disintegrates, and the stability of marriage is cast aside, society itself shatters, hence the children, the most vulnerable, have no compass.
My friend still lives with her brother, who has children from a broken marriage. They work and make a good living and home for their "family.' My friend is an uber-Catholic, if you will. She went through very much to get to the Church: aspects of the occult new age, fundamentalist Christianity, and so on. The abuse and dysfunction she discovered in the Catholic Church moved her to find greater stability in the strictures of the traditionalist movement. It demonstrates her need for moral absolutes, coming from a life wherein reality was what can only be called occult - that is, obscured and distorted. Thus in traditional Catholicism she has found the truth for which she had been yearning. My friend still has issues that she works on, but I see her growing and becoming whole. Grace builds upon nature, and God is allowing her to understand and find her true identity.
We must sometimes step out of our paradigm and try to understand one another - we never know what may have happened in the life of the person next to us. Prayer for one another is good. Pray for my friend who has helped me understand things a little better.
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