Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Vianney File

Below is what I've decided to call "The Vianney File." It's a series of four poems that I wrote during a visit to Houston for the dramatic performance Vianney about St. John Vianney. Sitting in the pew at the premiere, I wrote the following poems with my own voice but also with an attentive ear to St. John Vianney's life and his voice, specifically Vianney's love for the Eucharist and Confession.

In the first, Sanctus, I explore the timelessness of the Sacrifice and the words tied to it, specifically, "Sanctus." This one was written during the opening hymn before the performance. The sacred music did so much to raise my soul to write these words.

In the second, Moment of Grace, I have attempted to link the Eucharist and the necessary Reconciliation for that communion. I've also explored here some of the sacramental life in general that all Catholics are called to. This one came in rapid succession to the first. It also acts as a personal prayer of thanksgiving through the line "Soul rejoices over the Other." It is, in fact, a thanksgiving for the communion of persons shared that evening from the community of St. Mary's in College Station. The moments of grace and the moments of love are one in the same.

In the third, Weeping in Love, I explore a phrase used during the production by St. John Vianney: "Weeping in love." It's something Vianney did often, and through this poem I try to emulate with dignity. He did indeed find little rest, but it was because he emulated Jesus in giving of himself to his flock, to his loved ones. And so we must do, in our little ways, also.

The fourth, Faithful Families, is a poem of appeal. It is an appeal that was veiled in the historical nature of Vianney's time as well as ours today—the growing secularism of society and the general godlessness of today. This poem is meant as an arousal from the doldrums of our faith. It is a call to action.

If we do not rise to be of faithful families, how are we to go forth and positively change the world? Can it be done if we do not root ourselves first in the Faith? Love cannot be broached by lustful desire, and rightly so only the water He gives brings forth Eternal Life. His love does cover a multitude of sins, and, in this poem, the prayer goes forth for all to return to the fold.

The fourth poem took the longest to compose, seeing as the natural light in the Sanctuary disappeared as the performance continued on, but like ones before this one it was brought to fruition later before the Blessed Sacrament. Even so, I am nearly certain there will be more poems of the sort to fill this file, maybe some more trivial, but what matters most is not the secondary messenger but the Message itself. Here they are, as of yet...


What words to describe,
Life, love—timeless in sight...
What glory given—
Words, those words: Sanctus!

What joy in communion,
Faithful wonder and mystery,
Timeless joy in oneness—
Faithful communion, Sanctus!

What wonder in love,
Faceless and seen all the same,
What wonder in sight—
The moment becomes eternal, Sanctus!

What gift in love—
Blessed Communion in Spirit,
Blessed Communion in Host,
Blessed Communion in the Other,
Blessed Communion in Love!
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!

Moment of Grace

Moment of grace,
Moment of love—
Absolution from the Mark,
Communion face-to-face!

Spirit graces Soul,
Soul rejoices over the Other,
Spirit and Soul soar skyward—
Soul speaks His Glory.

What gift immeasurable, the Moment
No length of time can compare
Where love and grace meet—
The Soul that is spared.

What glory to speak, a mystery
Without fear, without worry—
Perfect love casts out fear,
Soul rejoices over the Other.

Moment of grace,
Moment Eternal,
What love to revere!
Soul speaks His Glory!

Movement of heart,
From stone to life,
Where grasp is turned to gift,
Gift of face-to-face.

Heart Afire, Heart of Glory,
Speak to us now,
Speak to us with gift of grace,
Communion face-to-face!

Moment upon moment,
United through the moments
To love in the Moment—
To see His Glory face-to-face.

Weeping in Love

Weeping in love,
Immeasurable grief,
Abandonment to God's will,
Dependence in His Providence.

Weeping in love,
Fighting the tears,
What of my direction?
Am I even near?

Weeping in love,
Turning all to Him,
Leaving all behind,
Turning to His Grace.

Weeping in love,
Finding no rest,
No rest for the weary,
Only rest in Him.

Weeping in love,
No conversion without price,
No victory without defeat,
No joy without grief.

Weeping in love,
God fills in the lacking,
The missing He restores;
God gives His Love Restored.

Weeping in love,
All hearts are to be,
Given to the Other
In perfect harmony.

Weeping in love,
That is who we are to be.

Faithful Families

Family of the living,
Family of the past,
What have you done,
Forsaking all the past?

Where is thy devotion,
Where is thy love?
Where are your hearts
That are supposed to be burning with love?

In the brothels,
In the dens—
With wanton looks,
With the multitude of sins!

What choice is there
When love is broached
By lustful desire to be filled
And yet never is fully filled?

No amount of water
Will slake your deadly thirst,
Unless you drink of His water,
Unless you let Him love you first.

His love covers the multitude of sins;
The many souls He saves.
His love does this all;
The whole world He saves.

Don't you get this,
The magnitude of this message?
Don't you understand it,
The Truth in this Age?

He covers all in His love.
Return O families to Him.
With all mercy He restores,
By the Father's right hand, it is Him.

Grace upon grace,
No matter the distress,
Build a Civilization of Love—
Build on Him, the Mighty Fortress.

Faithful families rise up,
Let us pray fervently—
Pray for those lost souls—
Pray for His love to forever take hold—
Pray for mercy, mercy to behold—
Pray that all may return to the fold.

An Addendum: Catholic Ethos

I've come across something more to add to the last posting and would like to offer an addendum and an expansion to further magnify what was already stated on a Catholic political ethos.

As it was read from the Gospel according to St. John this Sunday:
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." ( John 6:53-58)
To summarize and distill Jesus' words here and, as it were, also the call to all Christians in its very essence: "In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: 'Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.'" (CCC 1327). These words, "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking," come to us from St. Irenaeus in the Second Century A.D.—before the Schism of East and West, before the Protestant Reformation. The question we must ask now is, why aren't we fully living it in every aspect of our lives? The Church is not stating in her teaching that it is merely our religious thinking or our political thinking. Her teaching states clearly our thinking ought to be attuned to the Eucharist, to His Sacrifice—where time and space are spanned.

This is the Catholic Ethos: the Eucharist.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In Response: A Catholic Political Ethos

I was sent a convincing collection of U.S. state constitution preambles in the context of questioning President Barack Obama's 2009 words in Turkey: "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

The preambles of the constitutions use an explicit declaration of an "Almighty God" and even the Virginia Declaration of Rights states in its Article XVI: "That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."

I am neither going to agree or disagree with the President's words or those of the author of the e-mail I received regarding them. However, the Virginia Declaration of Right's words speak to the duty we have in our view of society and of government in general. I wish to claim it necessary, as such, to view—and thus to to judge—the whole of American society through this particular lens.

Whether or not we were, are, are going to be a Christian nation...the first thing that must be done and instilled in our civics classes is that we have the right as citizens to the exercise of our religious beliefs, which does not mean a shirking of religion from the public square. Rather, it is a healthy expression (not coercion) of religious belief. And, in that, we are to live out the free will we were given since the time of Creation and thus reiterated, time and time again, in the preambles of our state constitutions and echoed countless times through our country's existence—that a country's citizens have a right to not be coerced but to live with one's countrymen in peace and prosperity. That we are truly endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Freedom of religion (or more rightly stated as freedom from an established state religion) does not equate to freedom from the existence any religion in the public square of the State. If this were to be the case, then the citizen's liberty has been trampled upon and the citizen's pursuit of happiness been halted dead in its tracks.

All men practice religion, but only few actually know what or whom they worship. It's often money, fame, or simply the vain pursuits of life. However, the true virtue of man is to look beyond one's own happiness and see the common good, the common thread in his fellow man. The true practice of religion is to see God's graces in His humanity and His creation and see the Sacrifice He instituted, once and for all time, for the salvation of Man—for the life, the liberty, and the happiness all men deeply long for. It is because of this Sacrifice and the awe of one's gifted existence which flows from this Sacrifice that they are called to true worship, not because of coercion of belief or because of mere labels.

Only once our countrymen actually live up to this calling, to this rugged individualism balanced with a responsible love can we even dare to even call ourselves a "Christian" nation in both word and deed. Only then can we be fully proud to be Americans.

Listen to what Ronald Reagan has to say:

Patriotism is not meant to be blind. It must be informed, informed not just with thoughtfulness and knowledge but also compassion for one's fellow man. There is no freedom without sacrifice. Freedom exists because of sacrifice.

As Pope John Paul II once said: "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live." We must change this country not by political speeches but by change in one family at a time. We are called to be missionaries to the secular world. It is in this missionary work that true change can—and will occur. All we must do is put our Hope in the correct place and be the change through Him who sent us—and do all this with perfect confidence in His love.


In chapter three of the Georgetown University Press book by Charles E. Curran, Catholic Moral Theology in the United States: a History, pages 77 to 78, the censured Curran makes an interesting deduction: that American constitutionalism as found in the prevailing inalienable rights "is in continuity with medieval constitutionalism" (78).

All other questions of Curran the theologian aside, the first two paragraphs on American political consensus are a good read. As St. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Test everything; retain what is good"!