The Five Paths of Repentance

From the Office of Readings for today:

St. John Chrysostom on the Temptations of the Devil (from Universalis)

Shall I list the paths of repentance? There are certainly many of them, many and various, and all of them lead to heaven.

The first path is the path of condemnation of sins. As Isaiah says, Tell your sins, and you will be acquitted. And the Psalmist adds: I said “I will bear witness against myself before the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. So you, too must condemn the sins you have committed. Condemn them, and that condemnation will excuse you in front of the Lord, since whoever condemns the sins he has committed will be slower to commit them next time. Stir up your own conscience to be your accuser – so that when you come before the judgement-seat of the Lord no-one will be rise up to accuse you.

This is the first path of repentance but the second is in no way inferior to it in excellence. It is to forget the harm done to us by our enemies, to master our anger, to forgive the sins of those who are slaves together with us. As much as we do this, so much will our own sins against the Lord be forgiven. So this is the second path to the expiation of our sins. As the Lord says, Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours.

Would you like to know the third path of repentance? It is prayer: fervent prayer, sincere and focused prayer, prayer coming from the depths of the heart.

If you want to know the fourth path, I will tell you it is the giving of alms. It has great power.

And finally, if someone acts with modesty and humility, that path is no less effective as a way to deprive sin of its substance. Look at the publican, who had no good deeds to speak of. In place of good deeds he offered humility, and the huge burden of his sins fell away.

So now I have shown you the five paths of repentance. First, condemnation of sins. Second, forgiving the sins of those near us. Third, prayer. Fourth, almsgiving. Fifth, humility.

So do not be idle, but every day advance along all these paths at once. They are not hard paths to follow. Poverty is no excuse for not setting out on the journey. Even if you are destitute you can do all these things: put aside anger, carry humility in front of you, pray hard, condemn your sins. Poverty is no obstacle – not even to that path of penitence that demands money: that is, almsgiving. Remember the story of the widow’s mite.

Now we have learnt the right way to heal our wounds, let us apply these remedies. Let us regain true health and confidently receive the blessings of Holy Communion. Thus we may come, filled with glory, to the glory of Christ’s kingdom, and receive its eternal joys through the grace, mercy and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Quite the Day for Education!

Here are our saints of the day, as presented by Universalis (which is a great site for Liturgy of the Hours):

Saint Louis (1214 – 1270)
He became King of France (as Louis IX) at the age of 12. He was married and had eleven children, to whom he gave an excellent upbringing. He was noted for his spirit of prayer and penitence and for his love for the poor. He ran his kingdom not only to give peace to the people and economic stability but also for their spiritual good. He founded the Sorbonne and was a friend of St Thomas Aquinas. He was trusted by his fellow-rulers in Europe and often asked to arbitrate in their disputes. He undertook two unsuccessful crusades to liberate Christ’s burial-place and on the second of these he died, near Carthage, in the year 1270.

Saint Joseph of Calasanz (1557 – 1648)
He was born in Aragón, received an excellent education and was ordained priest. After working in his own country for some time he went to Rome, where he worked for the education of the poor and founded a religious congregation for that purpose. His idea was that every child should receive an education. As one might expect, he was the object of much envy and calumny. He died in Rome in 1648.

Of the two of these, I felt the strongest attraction today to St. Louis — perhaps because I am French. 🙂 You would think that it would have been the priest, with my vocation and the fact that it is the Year of the Priest, but no. However, Fr. Acervo spoke briefly this morning at Mass about St. Joseph. 🙂

I wonder if it is coincidence or planned that these two saints fall on the same day, and that both are known for how they educated others.

In other educational news, I start classes again at Seminary in 2 weeks! 🙂 Yay!

Chris, Where Did You Go??

Right after I crashed my car, about 20 months ago now, one of my priests told me to, “Get a St. Christopher medal!” Okay. So, I went to the Catholic bookstore and looked at all their medals, looking in particular for a necklace that I could wear all the time. While I was looking, I knew that I didn’t want to have a saint medal without a crucifix. It just felt wrong to have anyone on my person without Jesus there too. I picked out a crucifix and a St. Christopher. When I got home, I didn’t want to be wearing two chains, so I tried to take off one of the pendants and place it on the other chain. Well, the way the necklaces were made, you couldn’t just do this. So, I had to open the jump ring holding it on to the chain, take it off, then try to push it back together. If I remember correctly, I did this to the St. Christopher medal, since I didn’t feel right ripping apart the crucifix. They both had a little gap in the jump rings.

I presented myself to my priest and asked him to bless my St. Christoper medal, which he graciously did. I normally do not wear jewelry, but this necklace I never took off. So much so, that when my dad saw it and saw that there were gaps in the jump rings and offered to solder it shut, I declined. I thought it was fine, and I didn’t want to alter it. That, and I really didn’t want to take it off and didn’t think that my dad would agree to solder it while it was still on me.

20 months go by. I am fairly active and I’ve never had a problem with my necklace. I’ve gone jogging, swam in the ocean off Australia, ditto Jamaica — nothing. It’s always been fine. Occasionally, I have thought about having it soldered, but never got around to it.

About two months ago, on June 11, 2009, was the first time I took it off. And that was because I was in the ER and they were having me get a CT scan and required that all metal be removed.

Fast forward to today. I had a busy weekend planned. Meetings, a baby shower and a bridal shower, in addition to some other things which needed to get done. I had stayed out pretty late in Clinton/Tecumseh/Manchester Saturday night, and this morning, I pretty much just got up and headed out for Mass. I hadn’t had any time to go shopping for something to wear to the bridal shower, or take a shower or anything. During Mass, I got the sense that I should stay home today and pray. I thought about doing this, but ultimately set that thought aside. This was the bridal shower for a very good friend, and I was expected to be there. I didn’t want to let her down — I wanted to share in her day. Her shower started at 1 pm. By the time I got my shopping done, and got home, it was already 1:15 or so, and I still needed to take a shower and get ready. I did this as quickly as I could, knowing that I still had a 25-30 minute drive ahead of me to get there. I got a message from Patty, saying that she wasn’t going to make it to the shower after all and asked if I could take her present. Since I was already late and not far from home, I called her to see where she was. As it turns out, she was at a coffee shop about a mile from my house and on the way. I stopped to pick up her present and she asked me if I didn’t think that I should maybe stay home today. I was already an hour late, and I had been rushing around lately and I could really use the rest. Plus, I didn’t feel all that great today. It had been harder for me to breathe, and at this point it was 2 pm and I haven’t had anything to eat. I gave my reasons for going, and she asked me a couple more times if maybe it wouldn’t be a better thing to stay home. I was still a little conflicted, especially because I still felt that I should be spending the day at home in prayer, but ultimately decided to go. Patty told me to be careful and left with a parting, “At least think about not going.”

So, I went. The place where she was having her bridal shower was darling. It looked like a castle.

As I was driving up there, I was feeling worse — probably from not eating. When I arrived, I found out that I had missed lunch and that the kitchen couldn’t get me anything to eat. I felt like I was going to pass out or cry or something. Then, I realized that my St. Christopher medal was missing. I looked around for it, but it wasn’t anywhere to be found. I was sad that I had lost it, because it means a lot to me, but I tried to make myself feel better by thinking about the truth of the matter:

1. It was just an object, and not something irreplaceable. After all, I could go out and get another one and ask Father to bless the new one.
2. Even if Father couldn’t/wouldn’t bless another one for me, he had already blessed me, and I couldn’t lose myself.

Still sad, but not catastrophically upset. I felt increasingly bad, I felt that I was a horrible guest and I thought that I probably should have stayed at home, if nothing else but to save Krystin from having an Eeyore at her shower. After the shower, Stacy stayed behind with me as I ate something. I did feel a little better after our meal. Not great, but definitely better.

Tonight after I got home, I looked around the house for my medal, but didn’t find it. I decided to go for a walk. As I walked, I was thinking about the day. In addition to the things that I realized at the shower, I had these other insights:

1. Not only did Father bless me (and pray over me many times), but he baptized me and brought me into the new covenant as an adopted daughter of God. That right there trumps any number of blessed medals. And that is something that can never, ever be lost or taken from me. It’s now a permanent part of who I am.
2. It might be a blessed medal, but it is not a magic medal and I have never thought of it as such. I know that it reminds me of St. Christopher, and reminds me to ask him for intercession, but I also know that it is God’s grace and protection and love which are efficacious in any capacity in my life. The medal itself does absolutely nothing.
3. The thought popped into my head that while I had lost St. Christopher, I hadn’t lost my crucifix. I didn’t lose God. 🙂
4. I felt that God was saying, “Okay, so you often ask for his [St. Christopher’s] intercession, particularly when driving. Now, let’s focus less on him and more on Me.” I knew it was time to stop worrying so much about where that medal went and start focusing on the true priorities in my life. Ironically, this morning, I looked at some pictures from Katie and Joe’s wedding and saw a couple of me and was drawn visually to my necklace — normally, I wouldn’t have paid much attention to that detail. Also ironically was the fact that when I was driving here, usually I ask for St. Christopher’s intercession (not every time I drive, but when I do pray in this way, it is usually directed at him). However, today, I was praying to Jesus.

5. More irony. God told me to stay home and pray. I didn’t listen to Him. Then, He had Patty try to tell me to stay home today. I didn’t listen either. Now, my medal for the Saint who is the patron of travelers…is gone.

That has to be a coincidence . . . right?? 🙂

Sermon on the Mount

Snippets that I like from “The Lord,” by Romano Guardini.

Some of the uniqueness of the Sermon on the Mount includes:

1. The energy with which it insists upon progression from the outer, specific act of virtue to the inner, all-permeating state of virtue.
2. Its demand that the degree of identification-of-self-with-neighbor be the sole measure for purity of intent.
3. Its definition of love is the essence of man’s new disposition.

In the Sermon on the Mount, God is calling us to a vocation, one which is the “living intention of God, [the] efficacy of His love in the chosen one.”

And isn’t this what it is all about? Not taking the credit for our own goodness as anything of our own doing, but rather recognizing the fact that all goodness comes from God. Our “goodness” or properly ordered acts are rather merely a cooperation with the graces given by God. We are not so much acting of our own volition, but cooperating with His will. We are letting His grace flow through us; we are letting His love be efficacious through us. We are, if you will, merely a conduit for His action. This is not to say we are mere tools. What saves us from this is the fact of our free will. We have the option of being not so much a conduit, but more of a dam — stemming the flow of God’s grace. We can refuse to cooperate with His will, and in so doing thwart the efficacy of His love.

A great analogy of this was given by Deacon John last Sunday: our relationship with God is a lot like a pair of magnets. In the proper order of things, we are aligned so that we natually have an attraction to God and move in His direction, the same way that properly aligned magnets have an attraction for each other and seek to become one, even to the point of joining their electromagnetic fields to make one, stronger, field. When we choose to sin, we are flipping one of the magnets around. God stays in the same orientation, but we have turned away from Him, and in so doing, we have created an obligatory separation. Aligned in this manner, no longer is there one magnetic field, but two. The harder one tries to push the two magnets together, the greater the force which separates them. You cannot join yourself to God if you remain oriented away from Him. Great analogy. Points to Deacon John for appealing to my ET Nuke nerdiness. 🙂

“What the Sermon on the Mount demands is not everything or nothing, but a beginning and continuing, a rising again and plodding on after every fall.”

I Hates ‘Em!

Recently, I have been feeling a little Gollum. I have been given a prescription for these pills, to try them out and see if they improve my chest pain. I am highly skeptical, but (grudgingly) willing to try. Okay, I think I started taking the things on Wednesday. By Friday, I was hissing at them, the mean little hobbitses.

However, I must admit to being the world’s worst pill-taker.

Since Saturday has a much different format than a weekday, I completely forgot to take my pills until just as I was making lunch. And then, I’m supposed to take them on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes prior to eating. Several hours after lunch, I had forgotten again.

Ditto Sunday.

Monday, I had taken the pill bottle out of my backpack (trying to remember to take them on Sunday, but failing), so when I went to work, they were on the kitchen table. Monday = FAIL.

Ditto Tuesday.

Ugh! Stupid pills! And I’m supposed to take them in the morning. I get up about 4:45 a.m., get ready, and head off for Mass. I should try to get breakfast in, but this rarely happens. I need a better plan. And getting up earlier is not really a good option for me. I need increasing amounts of sleep lately.

Any good suggestions?

I will be so glad when this month and its Pills-for-No-Reason are OVER. 🙂

The Priest Holds the Key to the Treasures of Heaven

Hideously stolen from the OLGC bulletin, but I likes it! 🙂

Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest that continues the work of redemption on earth…. What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…. Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshipping the beasts there…. The priest is not a priest for himself; he is a priest for you. — St. John Vianney, Curé of Ars, Universal Patron of Priests

Please remember to pray in a particular way for our amazing priests today and throughout the Year of the Priest. May God bless them all!