Sunday, January 26, 2014

Splinters and beams.

Minding my own business ...

I came across a comment on another blog by a writer I've encountered in the past.  The person declared some things about how he is privately consecrated to Christ and needs no other mediators to go to Him.  The post dealt with the idea of total consecration to Our Lady according to St. Louis De Montfort.  Naturally not every devotion is suited to everyone and there is no rule one has to embrace the devotion of total consecration, however, the way in which this fellow made his point struck me as bordering on presumption and maybe just slightly lacking in humility.  I may have been wrong in my perception of course, but I had also seen comments by the same person in the past complaining he wasn't accepted in this or that traditional religious community for whatever reason.

As I mentioned, I am familiar with this fellow's writing and he is a very solid, faithful Catholic, completely orthodox, if you will - although at times a little censorious towards those who may not share his convictions.

I wondered if his problem might be a lack of docility?  Since he seems to be convinced of his own self-righteousness - in a good way of course: he's doing everything right, he seeks God alone, he wants union with God, and so on.  However, some people like that are hard to admit into religious life precisely because they can be quite convinced they are much advanced and deeply spiritual already, thus they are quite secure and believe they are even able to teach others.  They forget that the man who keeps his own counsel can fall into error, or at least presumption... the worst kind of self-righteousness.  St. John of the Cross counselled, "Allow yourself to be taught, allow yourself to receive orders..." (#112) ... considering that we are called always to grow in wisdom, grace and knowledge.

I can convince myself I'm just fine in the spiritual, moral life.  More often than not, I have trouble allowing myself to be taught, to receive orders, to even be despised.  I think many are like that.  Many of us do not receive correction very well.  Many of us do not receive criticism very well.  We ignore the Psalmist who says, "If a good man rebukes me it is kindness."  Oftentimes we do it because the one correcting us doesn't seem to have the authority to do so.  He might be a layman or a religious, but he might not be a priest, or someone in authority over us - so we discount him.  His education may not be what we expect it should be.  He may not even be religious.  In other words, he's just not qualified.  In addition, he has no idea how orthodox and faithful we are, much less the sacrifices we have made to get where we are.  We become convinced of our own self-righteousness - which enables us to look down upon everyone else.

Sometimes we can be right of course - but that doesn't make us paragons of virtue or right living.

I have to go now.  I have snow to remove.

I'll try to pick this up later.


  1. I attended a talk by a very wise priest, a Franciscan, Fr Svetozar Kraljevic. He opened my eyes (and heart) to the dangers of righteousness when he said:

    I am going to share something with you. I am the Rector of Mother’s Village and 83 people are employed there. Today there are 350 there for lunch. You get into a situation of human relationships when someone is in charge of a portion of the work there and takes it very seriously. I am sharing my frustrations with you.

    This person in charge, he suddenly sees that someone is doing something wrong. Wrong, period! The mistake that people make is that with the justice of God and their righteousness, they go charging in and in a rage crush the heart of another person. If someone then reprimands them for the tension that is suddenly in the workplace, they will say, “Don’t you know I’m right?” So with vengeance and justice they walk around ‘right’. They are able to crush their fellow co-workers and make tension in the whole place and create situations that are not desirable.

    This happens because we are not willing to suffer. We are so often so willing to condemn, judge and be righteous. The most damage we do to ourselves and others is by being righteous, by being right. That is why Christ goes to be crushed on the Cross. He didn’t say a word to the person who was crucifying him. He allowed that person to learn himself, in his own time. At that moment he didn’t know what he was doing. He allowed him to learn, to grow, to find out in his own way.

    That is the way we will be brothers and sisters and pilgrims: allowing the person next to you to be stupid, to be wrong, and you remain silent again and again and again, and be calm and then the situation will be resolved by itself.

    Pray to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God will teach you, but only after you have suffered and prayed. Then you become a redeemer yourself, a co-redeemer with Jesus Christ for your family, for your children for your friend, for your neighbour, in such a way that we stand not as judges but as brothers and sisters who will bring blessings to others, not condemnation. This person might be or is wrong, but the damage that is coming to this person in this harsh way is far greater damage than the initial wrong that this person was doing. Then we inflict greater sufferings with greater consequences that this initial damage that was there, that we thought we needed to address.

  2. I should have added that this was only part of a general talk on pilgrimage. Full transcript can be found here:

    1. Very good! Thanks my friend.

  3. +JMJ+

    I'm actually doing the preparation for total consecration to Mary right now and finding it slightly off putting. The excerpts from St. Louis's True Devotion to Mary sometimes make me think, "I hope a Protestant friend never asks me to explain this . . ."

    The circumstances which led to my doing this give me some peace that I'm doing the right thing, but I also feel as if I'm wandering blind--or rather, being asked to disregard what is before my own eyes. I do know that this is what I need at this time, but I'd feel so much safer if I could be like the writer and just say, "This looks weird. I'm not doing it."

    1. I think a lot of our difficulty with it is connected to the influence of protestantism in the Church and the downplay of Marian devotion since the Council.

      I had great troubles when I first went through the consecration, but I found really good support from our cloistered Carmelite nuns, whose prayer helped me very much.

      It was also through that passage in the Song of Songs which I frequently cite that I understood entirely:

      "...when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother's house,"

      "...I would take you into my mother's house, and you would teach me!..."

      Our perfect union with Christ is wrought through our Mother - it is perfectly chaste and completely devoid of self-interest and inordinate desire or illusion.

      As the scriptures say someplace, "Blessed (happy) are those found in her."

      My quotes may be slightly off, but you know what I'm saying.

      God bless you!

    2. +JMJ+

      And now you must have been praying for me, Terry, because when I did the reading and prayer for last night, suddenly everything became clear to me. If God, in His wisdom, saw fit to use Mary to bring Jesus into the world, then imagine what He would will, with Mary, in an individual soul.

      You're right that I'm pushing back against protestant culture (Was your small-P deliberate? Either way, I think I'll adopt it! =P), which I really shouldn't have to do, in the sense that protestant scruples are artificial obstructions on any Christian's path to Heaven. It helps to have support from people better versed in Tradition--and of course, in the Scriptures--than I am. Thanks for your help, Terry!

  4. "I have to go now. I have snow to remove."

    The thought that came to mind after reading your removing snow...
    "Excuse me while I stop to remove the splinter from my right eye. I can judge no one as both my heart and eyes are clouded."

    Thanks again, Terry, for another thought provoking piece.

  5. BTW - Fr. Z posted a really good piece on the spiritual works of mercy, explaining:

    "Only some of us are obliged or competent to perform the first three.

    In regard to the first three not all of us are educated or experienced enough to instruct or counsel. Not all of us are authorized to admonish. It is not our role in life to admonish, for example, our superiors in their various manifestations. Furthermore, we do not all have the aptitudes or ”character” to admonish tactfully, to counsel prudently, to instruct effectively our peers. Equal in dignity as we are, we are not equally gifted or competent in all ways. We have to get to know ourselves and our limitations." - Fr. Z

    It reminds me of St. Therese thanking God it was not her duty to correct her sisters for perceived faults - that it was the responsibility of the prioress.


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