Sunday, April 05, 2015

Rejoice! Alleluia! Rejoice!

Every Easter Vigil is different because of the indelible mark left by those who have entered the Church, renewing Her like the waters of life-giving Baptism. It is also the same year after year because Christ is the same year after year—tearing asunder the veil of darkness and death, uniting hearts under His banner, renewing His Bride for service and love in this world. Such is the beauty of Christ—we see it in the face of the newly Baptized believer or the one who has returned to the font of every blessing... It is Christ who has risen from the dead, and it is He who continues His work through us!

It is a welcoming, a blessing, and ultimately an espousal that culminates in a wedding feast of God and His Church—of Heaven and earth. Happy Easter!

Beauty shines forth in the darkness...

"The God of gods, the LORD,
has spoken and summoned the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.

From Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

Our God comes and will not be silent!
Devouring fire precedes him,
it rages strongly around him.

He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth to judge his people:

“Gather my loyal ones to me,
those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for God himself is the judge...

“...Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me;
I will let him whose way is steadfast
look upon the salvation of God.”"
- Psalm 50:1-6, 23

May He be ever praised!

St. Mary's Catholic Church, College Station, TX, Easter Vigil Mass, March 30, 2013. Photo by Ed Rhodes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Contemplating Love

There must first be a dedication to profound and deep reflection and, thus, prayer before a contemplation of love may occur and even be possible. For in this time of love, we must be ready to go without, not particularly for our sake but for the sake of the Other.

Love is not always a close communion; often it is a waiting upon the Other and their return. We know not when nor how but for the reality of the return of Love. It has been promised, and He will do it.

On this day, we must first be dedicated not to one but to all, to the service of the Other. It may not produce the romantic feelings of cards or letters, but it is a profound reality of love. We must give of ourselves in totality exactly because that totality has been given to us. We must love because He first loved us.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Serving in the Divine Light

"Your word, O Lord, is truth: consecrate us in the truth." - John 17:17b,17a

Are there not days we wonder, "Does the Lord trust me too much?" Well, can He trust too much? No, for with trust, there is grace, and with grace there is much mercy, and with mercy there is much love—with much love, there truth rests.

Monday had startled me, immediately being thrust into an ongoing anxiety. Yet, it is the Lord who trusts imperfect instruments that we are. We can desire to delve deeper, to write more, and to share more, putting to paper with broad strokes of the pen the welling, the throbbing of our hearts. Within these lofty reflections, by God's grace, dwell His love and thus His truth. Yet, we are broken instruments, or, at least, flawed ones. Still, love must win out. We have been told this—no, SHOWN it!

Yes, it is so. He has shown it. Love has shown the Way. What other desirous act or thought should supplant it or surpass it? What human endeavor would increase the worth of life or existence if it was not first imbued with such grace? And these words today, "Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!" What searing words! We must let these words sink into our depths. It is not a competition with the Other. No, we are in competition in service to the Other!

We are a people called to service, to thinking of others more deserving the honor, the glory, the joy. Yet, He does fill our hearts with great joy, if we but let Him in.

We must let this golden light stream in each day, especially at the close. With our hearts open to this light, how can we not ourselves radiate this same joy to and for others? We are called to do it, and He himself has done it. He has promised it, if we but enter faithfully into this work.

Tuesday began a series of deepening introspection which gave even greater depth to this continuing gift of prayer and presence of the Beloved. He still trusts though imperfection. Through this imperfect response of ours, He trusts. This he does in a manifold series of ways, some more perceptible to our human eye or ear and others more sublimely.

One for me, as of late, are the dreamlike notes of the second movement of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto. They continue to resonate with me like a dream and, yet, here I am. It is no dream.

Like the Impressionist pieces by Claude Monet, such as the one above, Towing a Boat, Honfleur (1864), things focus at a distance and lose clarity up close. It is the paradox of the long distance view of joy. Pain seeps in as though points and sharp strokes of paint, yet the joyous picture is completed at a harmonious distance.

That is what I dwell upon recalling this week and the amber-lit evenings, as the sun drenched the church in those beautifully warm hues. I could not leave the place where I first beheld the beauty of the week nor the reminder of the Beloved as evening fell each day before the Presence of the Lord.

It felt as though the sunset of Creation, that dusk to darkness before the next day, the Renewal of our hearts before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. As every sunset shines, whether painted or seen, it shines back to the deathless sunset of the One who is our Light. We are called to reflect it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Epiphany: "Your Heart Shall Throb and Overflow..."

"Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow..."
- Isaiah 60:5a

My mind recalls that piercing glance of the young families this last week. They were all about in my travels; their presence was at once a blessing and—if turned inward—a blow against my own thought of timing and gift, as though there is no gift for me to give this Epiphany. And, yet, this was all very well enough for the Lord of me. And, yet, these words come through that time...

Oh, how my heart overflows, deep within what the Lord prepares. Where the passing material value is placed under the subject of the spiritual and every glance becomes a sign of love. This happens every day in the family... every day! ...And yet we miss it as clear as the sun at Noon.

In the family, we forgive passing blows and stored grievances... why? Because the value isn't in the passing... it is in the girded strength of the Eternal that gives the family its worth. No, it's not blood or water that is the end but the Spirit of the one who dwells in each of us to empower us to be ones who say "Yes" as Mary continues to say "Yes."

Simeon foretold the sword that should pierce her heart, and yet we think the road to family life is to be peaceful. It was not peaceful for the Holy Family! Yet they had peace.

We think that family life should be perfect and without any messes. It wasn't pristine for the Holy Family! Yet they had perfection.

We think that family life should be without trial. It was not so for the Holy Family. Yet they had joy and love, and peace. Why? Because of the Christ Child. Even when He could not speak, He spoke. Even when we cannot speak now, we speak by our own presence. Let us not delay our presence for one another but be materially and spiritually present to one another, for the sake of the Other and in the example of the One that did it all for love of His Holy Family.

"Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD."
- Isaiah 60:5-6

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Through the Labor Pains of the Heart

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (cf. Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13)

These words of our Lord speak volumes. We may, especially when beset by deep sorrow and even depression, dwell on our unlovable nature and see how detestable our state is. We may even be tempted to grave sin, to abdicate the grace we have been given, or to be even reminded of the grave sin of the past already reconciled. Even so, there is this tumultuous experience that places us upon the parapet and tempts us to despair... Yet, we must remember those words of mercy—especially first for ourselves—that our souls may not be tortured but shining in the light of Christ. We must be light from His light, not that the fire is our own. He desires mercy over sacrifice in such a way that we are placed within His own sacrifice, we experience within His suffering our suffering, and we grow through such pitiable suffering out of love, not for ourselves, but for Him and, through Him, for the Other. Indeed, we cannot love the Other until we love ourselves, deep within our souls, in the way God loves each of us. Such as it is, we are able to begin anew, to love, to breathe, to live.

It is here that mercy is full realized and the original phrase becomes most profitable in a fruitful grace begotten by Him. It bears Him completely through the labor pains of the heart.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Traveling Our Way Home

There are a few things I dwell upon as we begin the Season of Advent. Much is still coming into focus, but on the trip back home this evening from visiting my family, I could sense the twilight of the past and the promise of future to come. It has made me very expectant for this December, and the reminders of the past—long trips to Texas to visit my extended family—a great joy from childhood. It was all triggered, oddly enough, from a faint familiar smell of driving through the Texas countryside... it was almost an earthy smell that within the instant connected me back to those childhood trips in the dead of night, traveling the way "home"... and family is always "home."

I have felt as though the explanation and the gift of remaining in Texas has come into distinct focus. There can be a false sense of nostalgia, distinct as one ages, but this shouldn't be confused with the cherishing of the past. No, the recollection of the past is for the benefit of the future, and even if everything cannot be recalled—nor should it in serious cases—the joy of the present is a future infused in the past, in tradition, and above all in a living with the past for the benefit of the future generations, such that, come what may, we may be able to pass on the joy of the Faith, of the truth, and ultimately the joy of life, replete with the everyday blessings we receive when traveling along the road of life with a song in our heart on our way to the town of Bethlehem and the infant child that awaits us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Thanksgiving

If we are to eradicate loneliness, we must be willing to subject ourselves to the possibility that we will be lonely ourselves and to be better from the knowledge of it. This is obliquely fear of the Lord. It is not that we should seek out loneliness for ourselves but that we accept the lot laid out for us as our task. Eternal damnation is but eternal separation from a God who loves us deeper than we could comprehend. It is a casting of ourselves into the cold that we have found ourselves, not that God first willed damnation but communion first. Actions have consequences. The anecdote for us in the world fighting the pernicious disease of loneliness is in the Sacraments, and chief among them is the Holy Eucharist, which bears visible an invisible truth that all humans desire—Communion with one another and ultimately with God.

Our Thanksgiving begins by thanking the King who has given of Himself to tear down the walls of loneliness and despair and raise up a Kingdom that is in Communion with Him. We are charged to do the same for the least among us, for He is in them, and we must see Him in the Other and give of ourselves to be present to them. Our fate lies in the balance; we must recognize Him in the Other to avoid missing the slightest chance to serve the King. This disguise is subtle but the results are huge; we cannot expect Him to see us as part of His love if we do not offer every agony or pain experienced with the Other as a gift back to Him in the sublime solidarity of love. There isn't a chance for delay, and the world is in need of it.

Life is the fullest and the most beautiful not when we ask "What if?" to a world of endless possibilities and of failures of the past now made present. Rather, we should boldly ask: "Where are you, Lord?" We are then surprised by His immediacy, even in the failed attempts to find Him in everything we experience. Our God is not a god of the history books as though a mythological fable; He has written every word of it. Our God is not a god who remains in the past; He is a god who is very much alive. He is a god of the present, of the evolving, of the "what is to come." He is ultimately the God of the Apocalypse—the God of the Unveiling. He is with us now, guiding us to a future bright animated through and in and with Him!

God has placed in our hearts a greater joy than one we could possibly imagine or think of in our own dim view, but He does reveal this great joy to us in the Ordinary. These are the Sacraments. When we accept in our lives this animating joy given when we live a life for Him through those outward signs of the inner grace, we participate in the Divine Master's very existence, His work for the good of His people. These are the Sacraments of Service—Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Through these the life of the Church are renewed and strengthened. We, no matter our state or impediments, should not run from the Lord's desire to elevate these from the universal priesthood given through our Baptism in Christ Jesus. They are Sacraments for building up the Baptized and confirming them in the apostolic zeal that continues be handed down through that Missionary Mandate. They are critical in the same Mandate, and ever the more needed critical in a world that has forgotten the Sacraments.

In this light, we should run to Him, as He runs towards us and give thanks. For when I see this reality in its fullness of truth and its overwhelming catholicity, I see all that our Lord has promised—if not its timing—and my soul is overwhelmed with sincere joy. This is a Faith unshaken and a Hope secure in a Love that satisfies. May He be praised.

In all things, graciousness. When finding fault in another, find the reason which excuses the fault—silence of friendship. If you cannot find the gracious word, offer a silence befitting the joy you have been given which points toward all grace. Healing isn't about what is said; rather, it is about what isn't. Healing is chiefly about presence.

Credo et Accipio.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

O Fragile Cross

You have given me, Beloved,
A cross I have borne and carried;
It has now traveled with me
With tears like Peter's.

He had his own cross to carry
In this ancient city,
But mine has broken,
Shards of porcelain now scattered.

I have traveled the streets;
I have walked the hills.
I have found the Savior's sorrow
That He felt as He carried His up His hill.

Those blessed shards of porcelain, red and white,
Form a heart in love on a frame of Divine Mercy.
At once pressed together,
They create a reminder of God's great love:
to lay one's life down for one's friends.

O fragile cross now laid to rest,
If I must let go, let me let go
Now at the tomb a lover, a new Peter, a saint blest.

Tomb of St.John Paul II, St. Peter's Basilica

Sunday, October 05, 2014

"Rejoice in the Lord Always!"

The Vatican Museum - Mural of the Eucharist

I found great joy in the Agnus Dei today, the Mass setting from the Mass of the Morning Star... The music remains for me a motif, a scent of a profound underlying beauty of the Faith made intensely personal. The very familiar notes remain with me and bind, in a way, my sorrow with His at the Mass. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. We do not make ourselves clean; "by His stripes we are healed." (cf. Isaiah 53:5)

And so this causes me to respond as St. Paul enjoins on us even until today: "Rejoice in the Lord always! Rejoice!" (cf. Philippians 5:4)

Even so, can joy be mixed with sorrow? YES! Because joy does not depend on us. It is a grace, as all good things are, from above. His joy is made complete with our participation; that is why we must participate both in the joy and recall it even when we face sorrow. The Cross did not eliminate sorrow or suffering... His sacrifice has given us a clarion call, a mustering point to which we have a duty and honor to observe—out of pure love of Him. When we make it about us, piousness grows hollow. When we search for joy without service, we become empty tombs of faltering, passing happiness. Love of Him in the Other cannot be ignored; if distraction appears it is an opportunity to deepen our commitment to the radical love of Christ—to go to the root of that love—that bears fruit that remains. Then we become the servants worthy of praise by the Father, for we have not divided against the Son. Rather, we have thus joined with Him in the work of the Vineyard. The Vineyard is the People of God, and we must labor no matter our state with Him if we are to share in His inheritance. Out of love for Him, we serve, and out of this love comes the everlasting joy that gives us hope in the present for a future secure in His love. May He ever deepen this gift to us for the good benefit of others.

Deo gratias!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Of the Brightness—Reflection

I have grown over the past decade to love morning Mass, especially in a church that fills with the morning light as it shimmers through the trees and has cast within it light and shadow in the kaleidoscopic variation that changes with the breeze. All of this coupled with the Presence—I cannot ask for anything more. He is greater than I, and my heart belongs to Him and those who love Him.

The sun may shine, but shadows do exist. Although they do, the light shines ever brighter... It's warmth on a Saturday is a consolation on the Way—of chill mixed with warmth.

What can I say that He doesn't already know? I sit on that bench in prayer. Waiting, yes, waiting... For my beloved whom I do not know. I wait because of the light—that sure light. Can I do anything else? Where else can I run? To whom should I go?

Can there be anything to add or to give? He has given everything. I can give my presence, my thought, my accedence, yes. But can I give my love?

I do not move because of the light; within it there is no darkness.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Church as One

My heart burns... it yearns. I wish every day was the eve in anticipation towards a Sunday morning. It is not that every Sunday has its note be the sweetest... though we must do our part. No, it is the anticipation of something even greater, greater than even the Mass present before us in our hearts of the day. That is why we are called forth, the Mass is a sending into the Vineyard. So must we... and to not grumble when we see gifts greater than our own. Even that morning, the arresting breath! A turn of the corner, a flash of light, a peace not my own. The Eucharist is our highest joy on this earth.

My heart returns to these successive weeks... for me, they're enveloped within the consciousness of the Domestic Church. At Mass a few weeks ago, again and again at that early morning offering—the young families present. We mustn't grow weary of their participation—of the coos, the noise, the shaking of the Church. It is a good and necessary thing! It reminds us of our vitality, of our love for one another. They do not belong behind, away, or shuttered. They belong in front.

I wish to take the latter of this into my arms... and ultimately into my prayers. My prayers are for those who deal with such deep loss within the Domestic Church. There is good in desires and better in their purification. We are not a Church at rest! We are a Church active, a Church Militant. A Church in Love is a Church active, not doing Her own will but the One who sent Her, who Baptized Her, who Commissioned Her for the great good She does because She is empowered by Jesus Christ himself and the same Spirit that fills us as believers in the true Faith of Jesus Christ. We are the Church, but not in our isolation... in dissident, fractious belief or in our vanity, our impatience, our own self-centeredness... We are the Church in Communion, called to be One, called to be Holy, called to be Apostolic... called to be Catholic.
Lord, repair what I have undone, what I have done poorly. Fix what I have broken, heal where I have made division, speak where I have remained silent. Make known Your love to us. Take us back into Your own heart, a people set apart. Let us see You in the Other.

Guide us into the Way of Peace, into the Way of Truth, into the Way of Love together as One. Amen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Little Flower

What shall I say? Let us make a return to the Lord, for He is good and forgiving, slow to anger and rich in kindness. To the hungry He brings good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. Let us pour ourselves out as the Little Flower did, be rich in word and deed for others, and sacrificial in our service—no matter or place in life. We are called to do good and to be love for one another. Let us seek out the good, for our time is short. Let us seek out the good and think better of others and trust in the Lord. Let us share that goodwill and be present to those in our midst and count not the cost of love.

"O little martyr of Love, you know now even better than in the days of your pilgrimage that Love embraces all vocations; that it is Love alone which counts, which unites us perfectly to God and conforms our will with His. All you sought on earth was love; to love Jesus as He had never yet been loved. Use your power in heaven to make us love Him. If only we love Him we shall desire to make Him loved by others; we shall pray much for souls. We shall no longer fear death, for it will unite us to Him forever. Obtain for us the grace to do all for the love of God, to give Him pleasure, to love Him so well that He may be pleased with us as He was with you.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen."

"Thought for the day: Love of God. I will love God alone and will not have the misfortune of attaching myself to creatures, now that my heart perceive what He has in store for those who love Him.

What attracts me to the kingdom of Heaven is the call of our Lord, the hope of loving Him as I have so desired and the thought that I shall be able to make Him loved by a great number of souls who will bless Him forever.

When Christ said, "Give Me a Drink," it was the love of His poor creatures that He, the Creator of all things, desired. He thirsted for love.

Remember that the dear Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone. Remember that He is consumed with a desire to come into your heart."
- EWTN's "Little Flower Novena"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seeking After Gratitude

Now I crash again against the beachhead, a wave of compassion washing ashore. The dash to Mass was one that had me come up short so many days of the past weeks. I recall one day, especially, where I didn't hear the Gospel that day, but I did experience it. I grew bitter and uncharitable, all of it bitter fruit and without much mental or spiritual acuity. Again this happened today. The interesting truth about this?

God works with even that brokenness and lack of self worth and hardness of heart in the moment. He allows the hardness so that He can break our stony hearts and expand them for a greater capacity to love.

I knew once I came tumbling into the church one weekday evening, that, in spite of these setbacks of getting to Mass, I had made the right decision to press on. I recall those sonorous words of Fr. Trahan on 1 John 4:19. God does not love us for some sort of response. He loves us because we are lovable, and we should do the same.

I'm still working on this... but it makes each day worth living.

"The saints do not contemplate to know, but to love. They do not love for the sake of loving but for the love of Him whom they love. It is for the love of their first beloved, God, that they aspire to that very union with God that love demands whilst they love themselves only for Him. For them, the end of ends is not to bring exultation to their intellect and nature and thus stop at themselves. It is to do the will of Another, to contribute to the good of the Good. They do not seek their own soul. They lose it; they no longer possess it. If in entering into the mystery of Divine filiation and becoming something of God, they gain a transcendent personality, an independence and a liberty which nothing in the world approaches, it is by forgetting all else so that they do not live, but the Beloved lives in them."

— Jacques Maritain

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Great Boon in the Tide of Love

"We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become."
- St. Clare of Assisi

This is an epigraph that encompasses the great boons of a love grounded in this heavenly courtship of the Other. First, because the Other is worth that price of sacrifice. Secondly, because, even if one discounted the intrinsic value of that person and therefore also that love between, its value is too much to be rendered inconsequential. No! It, rather, gains more day by day in dividends. This movement of dying to self and to every expectation opens for oneself a great boon in the tide of love.

As it is our passions, rightly or wrongly, push the waves ashore, crashing upon the beachhead, but it is always that great gift of love which raises the tides of the whole sea. Love in proximity itself increases the level for those further along. Every attack on love affects the members of this vast body. Likewise, the more pure the act in opposite, for the Banner of Love, wins a great salve for the ones adrift in this body. It brings hope, like a life raft in a sea churning within a storm... which informs us further despite the tempest: "Be not afraid!"

And so it is, "We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become."

Friday, August 01, 2014

Dwelling in the Desert of Love

God gave me a garden of love, and what I found was Gethsemane.

Even in absence of every good thing, He is there, and my heart hopes. In love it hopes, and though it is far off—further than any other night—I see the brightest star through this dark–this Dark Night. Love abounds even where there is thirst and exhaustion. This desert is but a delay, a damper, but not a death. Love finds its way, and it is the choice—the free choice—to love or not. Even if it is far off, Love comes to us and travels the distance. Love bounds toward the brokenhearted because it is in breaking we grow wider than we could alone. Love always goes the distance.

And for this it is worth everything, even death... Death on a Cross.