Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mass chat: Spiritual reflections.

No one seems worried about what others are wearing either.  What?

On Today's Collect [Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time]

"That you may restore what you have created
and keep safe what you have restored..."

Think about that.  "Restore what you created".  Remember how recovery literature always used to tell you - God didn't make junk.  Scripture affirms that, telling us all He created was good.  He didn't create disorder.  He didn't make people LGBTQ either.  Neither did He make alcoholics or addicts.  Something happened - it was the Fall - original sin.  After the Fall, disorder - sin entered the world.  Hence we pray, "restore what you created."  We then pray, "and keep safe what you have restored."

When we were first called we were told, "strive to enter through the narrow gate".  "Strive."  Keep trying - conversion is a work, an ongoing work.  We fail.  We fall.  We waver.  So we ask with all of our heart, "keep safe what you restored" mindful that we are restored in and through the sacraments, especially penance and the Eucharist.

God can restore what He created.  God wills it.

On the prayer of recollection.

We have to learn to listen.  To listen to the Scriptures.  To listen to the Liturgy.  To listen to the Holy Spirit who prays in us.  That is what mental prayer and the prayer of recollection disposes us to do.  Listening - to hear - is what obedience means.

We can train ourselves to listen in and through the practice of prayer.  We have to learn how to pray amid the tumult of ordinary life with its extraordinary challenges.  Remember the Gospel passage where Christ was harassed, the townsfolk took offense at him and wanted to throw him over the hillside?  "He walked in peace through the midst of them."  Remember how upset Martha was and how there was much activity in her house that day, but Mary sat at the Lord's feet listening to him.  Jesus said that grace would not be taken from her.

That grace is the prayer of recollection.

"I find Him everywhere while doing the wash as well as while praying." - Bl. Elizabeth of the Blessed Trinity

We can acquire that prayer.  In a noisy church, a busy street, a raucous household, and so on.  People in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany found him in the camps, amid the horror.  Walter Ciszek found him in the Russian camps - he celebrated Mass, clandestinely, threats all around those assembled.  
 “God’s will was not hidden somewhere ‘out there’ . . . the situations [in which I found myself] were his will for me. What he wanted was for me to accept these situations as from his hands, to let go of the reins and place myself entirely at his disposal.” - Ciszek

This prayer of recollection can become habitual, and like the sheep pastured by the Good Shepherd, the soul "will come in and go out and find pasture" - all the while remaining in his presence, before his watchful gaze. The prayer of recollection becomes the pasture, as it were. As Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said, "That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times."

The practice of the Presence of God.  

To be busy about many things doesn't mean one is distracted from the presence of God. We can accustom ourselves to an awareness of God's presence through the prayer of recollection - which means nothing more than being aware of God's presence within ourselves. It is a very simple prayer. Making use of short prayers, frequent spiritual communions, or using holy reminders, helps us accustom ourselves to this practice - in this sense, the prayer can be 'acquired'. Coupled with these practices, daily prayer, spiritual reading - lectio - Mass and Communion when able, grounds us in the Presence of God.  

Distractions, rejections, inhospitable conditions ...

We have to learn how to pray and to seek Jesus alone - even if we are surrounded by irreverence and disbelief, what is that to us?  We can be reverent, we must believe - we are in the Presence of God - no one can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.  It's up to us to act from our faith.  It seems to me Fr. Ciszek is an excellent model and help for the Christian, on how to conduct himself in a hostile environment.

A priest to them, at best, meant a man out of step and out of place in a socialist society; at worst, he was a dupe in the employ of a Church that was itself a willing tool of capitalism.
I was stunned at the depth of feeling and prejudice against the Church that came spilling out. The more so under the circumstances. [...] There was at least a minimal sense of camaraderie among the political prisoners in the cell, a certain companionship in misery. But not for me when it became known I was a priest. I was cursed at; I was shunned; I was looked down upon and despised. Against the background of my Polish Catholic upbringing, where a priest was always treated as something special... this reaction to a priest on the part of my fellow prisoners made me by turns angry and bewildered. I was at a loss to understand it and furious at the added injustice of this stupid, blind prejudice. [...] In the words of Isaiah, I felt "despised and the most abject of men".
[Christ] too sought someone to comfort him and found none.
As for the humiliation I felt because I did not get the proper respect as a priest of God, was "the servant greater than his master"? Our Lord said to his disciples, "If they despised me, they will despise you.
In how many ways too, had i allowed this admixture of self, this luxury of feeling sorry for myself, to cloud my vision and prevent me from seeing the current situation with the eyes of God... Under the worst imaginable circumstances, a man remains a man with free will and God stands ready to assist him with his grace. Indeed, more than that, God expects him to act in these circumstances... For these situations too, these people and places and things, are God's will for him now.
He may not be able to change the 'system'. any more than I could change conditions in that prison, but he is not for that reason excused from acting at all. Many men feel frustrated, or disappointed, or even defeated, when they find themselves face to face with a situation or an evil they cannot do much about. ... But God does not expect a man single-handedly to change the world or overthrow all evil or cure all ills.
What each man can change, first of all is himself. And each will have - indeed, must have - some influence on the people God brings into his life each day. He is expected to be a Christian, to influence them for good. He will in some small way at least touch their lives too, and it is in that touching that God will hold him responsible for the good or ill he does. In that simple truth lies the key to any understanding of the mystery of divine providence and ultimately of each man's salvation. " - He Leadeth Me

Photo: Heads bowed, members of 1RAR attend a mass conducted at Coral by Father George Widdison


  1. This post really resonates with me today. Thanks.

  2. I needed to read this today. Thanks, Ter. God bless you.

  3. I read He Leadeth Me this past Lent. What an amazing life.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.