Saturday, May 31, 2014

FYI on the Visitation: Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.

Pondering Our Lady's prayer when she visited her aging cousin St. Elizabeth ...

Our Lady, Mother of God, went in haste to visit and attend to St. Elizabeth.  She, the tabernacle of God, carried her Lord in charity and meekness - and through her the Baptist was sanctified in his mother's womb.  Mary is the model of the active contemplative, she has been the inspiration and example of evangelization from the beginning.  The Religious of the Visitation, founded by St.s Francis de Sales and Jane-Frances de Chantal were named for this very mystery.  Yet the realization of what the saints originally intended was more or less best expressed, or fulfilled - but not limited to, the work of Bl. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity.

In the work of evangelization - or charity - the readings for the feast lay out a pattern of conduct, exemplified by the Blessed Virgin.

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.  - Romans 12: 9-16

Do not be haughty, do not be wise in your own estimation.

Lately I've noticed the attacks upon the Holy Father and many of the Bishops in communion with him are getting much worse.  Even some priests have been making derisive and divisive comments, which seem to fuel the contempt growing among a few outspoken lay evangelists online.  

It strikes me they are convinced, often in their own opinion, that they are faithful insofar as they "hate what is evil, hold on to what is good"  and say what they say out of charity - harsh though it may be.  Instead of showing one another honor, they demean and belittle those who contradict them, while defending their own honor and expertise by boasting of their education and academic degrees, as well as their experience in evangelization, and many years writing online, and so on.  

Instead of "anticipating one another in showing honor", they find something to tear down the rival who contradicts them.  They are convinced their spirit of zeal is approved by God, that the fervor they exhibit is full of grace and truth, that indeed, they are serving the Lord.  Yet it seems to me they lack humility and meekness.  The Blessed Virgin is humble and meek, her Son, Jesus, is meek and humble of heart.  When we lack humility, we need to examine ourselves, we need to ask, Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.

Instead of boasting about ones achievements and record as defender of the faith - remember Henry VIII bore that title - as Christians, as Catholics we need to strive for the higher gifts.  As St. Paul exhorts us, and Our Lady exemplified for us:
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.

Do not be wise in your own estimation.

There are consequence to that.  As the Holy Spirit proclaimed in Our Lady's prayer of praise:

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. - Luke 1: 39-56
He has confused the proud in their conceit.

I've failed - sinned - in the same way. On this blog, in the com boxes of others.  Even more so when I was younger - believing myself to be fervent and right about everything the Catechism teaches.  I once wrote a letter to a former Archbishop.  A letter not unlike some of the things I read online at Catholic blogs.  The Archbishop sent me a letter of sharp rebuke and reprimanded me.  It caused me to repent, to understand my error and presumption, my very grave self-righteousness.  I imagined because I was faithful and lived according to Church teaching I somehow had the duty to correct others - without understanding what sort of pastoral care might be taking place privately ...

Without going into details of the circumstances, let me just share with you what the former Archbishop said in his reply to me:
I found your letter to be insulting ... most judgmental ... you have condemned your Archbishop.  You need a letter on Christian charity and a reflection on the evil of sarcasm. 
The Archbishop graciously closed his letter, writing:  "I ask the Lord to bless you with an awareness of your own judgmental and sarcastic attitude toward others which is unchristian, to say the least."

His prayer was efficacious, because after I received such an unexpected reply, I was cut to the heart, repented, wrote a letter of apology and thanked him, and I went to confession.  The Archbishop graciously accepted my apology.  To this day I regret the insult, and subsequent criticisms.  As the Psalm says, "I was stupid and did not understand - no better than a brute beast."  Why?  Because as Christ said, "We do not know of what spirit we are."  "If we say we have no sin we are liars."  We can't even judge ourselves, whether we are in the state of grace or not, how do we know the hidden judgments of God?  We judge as human beings - we do not know the mind of the Lord.

Unfortunately, I continue to fail, but I try to make amends - the unfortunate episode confronting the Archbishop often comes to mind when I catch myself falling into the critical spirit, or notice others falling into the trap of assuming the role of reformer and inquisitor.

I have this beam in my eye which is really difficult to remove - but I keep trying.

Please pray for me.



    The link above (by Kevin Tierney) covers some of the same themes and has some convincing arguments about problems in the blogosphere. There's a lot of truth and wisdom there, but it mostly comes after his comments on the latest Patheos/Trad battle.

    I han an 1 1/2 phone conversation the other night with a Long Island deacon who reads your blog. He runs a Catholic halfway house for ex-cons and has been around many movements (Catholic Worker etc) that are pretty far from the old Latin Mass crowd that I often draw sustenance from. We had a lovely conversation and I learned many things from him. After the conversation I was reminded--yet again--that the divisions among the faithful (leaving aside the problem of those who want to change the faith) are artificial, man-made, unnecessary and the result of sin. I especially like Kevin Tierney's comments about how our petty divisions dissolve once you actually spend time with faithful, on-fire Catholics from other "parts" of the Church.

    Wake up, people! The Spirit moves where it will. God's mercy and grace fall on the faithful and unfaithful alike (if only we accept it!), in our faithfulness and amidst our sin (a vile post by a prominent blogger became a great grace for me recently--God can even work through an acid tongue). Blessed Charles de Foucauld had it right: be strict and demanding of yourself (so that you might grow holy) but be patient and long-suffering with others.

    1. Thanks Scott - I'm sure I read Tierney before, an interesting post.

  2. ( As the Psalm says, "I was stupid and did not understand - no better than a brute beast." Why? Because as Christ said, "We do not know of what spirit we are." )

    All this week I have been re-reading the teaching Pope Francis gave earlier this month on the Holy Spirit’s gift of “Understanding”.

    He said: “It [the gift of Understanding] is not a question of human intelligence, the intellectual capacity with which we can be gifted to a greater or lesser degree. Instead, it is a grace that only the Holy Spirit can infuse and which awakens in the Christian the ability to go beyond the outward appearance of reality and scrutinise the depths of God’s thoughts and His plan of salvation.”

    Full text:

    1. I can't wait to read his address to the Charismatic conference in Rome.

  3. As always, such great reflections! Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Did you know Pier Giorgio Frassati had great devotion to Savonarola and took his name in the 3rd order?

    2. no, i didnt know that. Its such an odd character in church history and often maligned. Thanks for the info though, It's more of an inside joke I have with a friend who loves Alexander VI


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