Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christ Disguised, Christ Beautiful

The past few weeks have been unexpectedly busy with more time outside of the poustinia [hermitage] than usual.

However as the Servant of God Catherine Doherty in her classic work POUSTINIA, notes: “He was available…..” . [ Poustinia by Catherine Doherty: see  ]  thus service outside of solitude is part of the vocation.

This has meant several days helping at the soup kitchen where I volunteer, with my family, where a new child is due to be born any day now and other situations where I was needed.

Writing this blog and other writings also had to wait, for when Christ comes knocking in whatever disguise He chooses are we not all compelled by love to serve Him in our brothers and sisters?

Being without a car since the accident almost two months ago [ but recovered almost completely, thanks be to God ] has allowed me to encounter and see Christ in more of His disguises, up close as it were.

He appeared one day in the guise of a short, very heavy set woman, with a grocery cart bulging with laundry, and a loud little-girl voice announcing, when the bus doors opened at the stop where she was waiting in the deep snow: “ Who will help me? This is heavy? I need help!”

The bus driver immediately assisted her and when she was finally seated I noted a certain disdain on the faces of some, and an odd expression of fear in the eyes of a few, and only one or two elderly passengers seemed to express kindness.

I tried to pray for her as she uttered disconnected phrases in her loud little girl voice, most often asking no one in particular, everyone in general: “ Am I bothering you? I hope not. My laundry is heavy. There is so much snow I couldn’t get out before. Am I bothering you?”

Jesus Christ does not always come to us in disguises that are comfortable for us to encounter, indeed sometimes He may even choose a disguise that is repulsive, such as many of those whom come to the soup kitchen with both clothes and body dirty to the extreme, of a mental state downright out of control and dangerous either due to illness or the ravages of drugs and alcohol.

The truly ground down and beaten down and totally wearied poor are often, frankly, angry, demanding, indeed so frustrated, powerless, frightened that they will start fights even in the place where they have been welcomed and provided with food and clothing.

The soup kitchen where I volunteer is staffed by a dedicated group of consecrated lay apostles who live there 24/7, serve not only the street people but others whose poverty is perhaps less visible but just as real, the wounds just as deep, if perhaps hidden by nice clothes etc.

Yes, Jesus has countless disguises.

Sometimes He is disguised as a little two year old girl, a family member, who had the stomach flu yesterday when I was with my family for supper. Her parents are expecting their newest child to be born any day now and knowing they needed some time together I took the restless and sick child in my arms and sat in a chair and rocked gently the Christ Child.

The most important act of love often is the simplest.

Each person reveals another aspect of the Beautiful Face of Christ.

Sometimes His face is of loneliness, pain, poverty, fear, or of a child-adult dragging a heavy burden of laundry and a heavier burden of non-acceptance by the rest of us who are, in truth, her brothers and sisters.

Humanly speaking it is perhaps more comforting and easier to hold and comfort a two year old family member who has stomach flu than to engage in conversation with a middle aged adult-child with an ear piercing voice or a very tall, muscular, drug-crazed-looking-for-a-fight homeless man.

But if we are only willing to love and serve Jesus when He comes in a disguise that comforts us are we truly loving Him?

Perhaps because the Holy Gospels are as they are in written form or when proclaimed during Holy Mass – by that I mean sort of at a safe distance – we don’t really get the sight and smell of the lepers, the sight and smell of the possessed foaming at the mouth, the sight and smell of spit covering His Holy Face – maybe that is why so many people had real trouble with Gibson’s film on the suffering of Christ – the sound was unavoidable, the sight stark.

The nitty-gritty reality of the Gospel lived means encountering Christ not just in the obvious beauty of the Holy Eucharist, but in the raw beauty of every human being, seeing His Beauty in every human face.

The wonder of encountering the heavy set, ear piercing voiced Christ hauling a heavy burden of laundry is in truth He is the one welcoming us.  The comfort of holding the two year old Christ with stomach flu is that we are the ones being held!

God loves us so much that every time we touch each other, with hands or eyes in pure love, true love, we touch Him and are touched by Him – this is the true beauty of life!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Boldly Back!

It has been a long time since my last posting.

Frankly I was caught by surprise, after the second car accident within less than two weeks, by the amount of time recovery takes, the physical therapy, the need for emotional healing.

Certainly allows for a lot of time to read, reflect, pray, get caught up on both e and snail mail.

Throughout this period, I have been reflecting upon the continued pain within the priesthood, the pain across the world from terrorism, war, poverty, epidemics and today’s news reports about the busting of yet another child porn ring stretching from Canada to the United States to Australia to Britain.

Over and over again what comes to my heart is, in common parlance, our dual failure to communicate truth and to help one another connect the dots.

In the Divine Office of the Latin Rite for the Friday of the First Week of Holy Advent the Second Reading in the Office of Readings is excerpted from the Proslogion of St. Anslem and that, along with an article in the paper RESTORATION, gives comfort and hope.

I’ll try and clarify.

Since the mid-sixties, especially in  Western Countries, we have chosen repeatedly to continue down a path of ultimate self-destruction through an ever more pernicious disdain for the Lord and Giver of Life and for life itself.

Now in the early part of the Third Millennium, the 21st Century, there is an ever approaching catastrophe most visible in things like global terrorism, expected pandemics,  and the devastation of global warming.

Cries St. Anslem: Without God it is ill with us. Our Labours and attempts are in vain without God.

Pope Benedict and some Bishops and Priests, Ministers, Rabbis and Imams, even some intellectuals and artists who profess no particular religion, all these voices are trying to articulate a fundamental truth, namely we simply cannot continue as we are going or we shall indeed perish.

However what pains my heart, as a Roman Catholic Priest, is what I perceive is a more widespread lack of boldness in truth-speaking/preaching, an almost fearful hesitancy to connect the dots, both among clergy and laity.

These, I believe, are the dots needing connecting: abortion which leads to a cascade effect of disdain for life, especially human life, and a loss of the sense of the sacred dignity and worth first of every human being, whatever their stage of life or condition in that stage, and a type of greedy impunity when it comes to making decisions about the rest of created life, be it animate such as fish in the sea or inanimate such as the ‘environment’.

The cascading impact of abortion needs to be connected to greed and its cascade, terrorism and its, the spread of falsehood from the pulpit and its impact.

The immense evil of pornography in all its forms, the most heinous of which is that which victimizes children appears to shock ordinary good people when the news reports its spread – yet where is what should be in the first instance the greater shock and outrage over abortion?

How can a society which claims to be outraged at the horrific treatment of children living outside the womb not get the connection between the spread of abuse and violence being the cascade effect of murdering children in the womb?

If the unborn little person is reduced to a disposable object by abortion then we open the door to legions of evil spirits which spread disdain for life.

We seem, even the Baptized, to have become a people who reacts but does not act, who emotes but does not think, easily disturbed but unmoved.

I am not suggesting we abandon attempts to reverse global warming or cancel the war on terrorism or ignore epidemics.

I am saying we are overly focused on the outside edge of the cascade of evil and failing to address the source of the rivers of blood soaking the earth.

Until we rediscover the first Tabernacle of the Redeemer was the womb of His Mother, until we understand the first flesh and blood Presence of God-with-us was as tiny as our own beginning, and in the same place, we will never comprehend in the least the actual sacredness, beauty, truth of each human life.

Silence does not exist in and of itself. Silence is the deliberate absence of sound.

Silence in the face of abortion and all other forms of evil is a deliberate choice  which we, especially priests but urgently all the Baptized, must reject and become the bold, truth-speaking, truly audible voice of the voiceless.

We cannot tell the Islamists or the merchants of greed or those who starve women and children, and do worse, in Dafur: STOP! LOVE ONE ANOTHER!,
if we tolerate the abortion of a single one of our little brothers and sisters.

Rightly they will call us hypocrites.

This Lent is a time when we must, to borrow loosely from St. Anslem, take some little time with God, with the Lord and Giver of Life, deep in the enclosed garden of our hearts and LISTEN!

Pope Benedict urges us in his encyclical on the Love of God to contemplate the pierced Heart of Christ if we would understand love and I believe part of love’s understanding is action: charity – beginning with charity in the womb!

How shall we get to that enclosed garden?

Pope John Paul always urged us to go to Our Blessed Mother and, as Fr. Pat McNulty wrote in a recent article: When things get too messy or too mysterious, just put your hand in the hand of our Lady…. [ see the March 2006 issue of RESTORATION – ]

Tomorrow late, in the day I leave for an extended weekend serving the poor and staying with the Staff at a local soup kitchen.

These will be days of encountering the lonely Christ, the homeless Christ, the hungry Christ [ hungry in so many ways] and is something I am honoured to do as a priest.

They will also be days of many hours with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and from those hours I will be asking the grace to resume regular postings once more starting next week.

Be assured all who read this will be prayed for especially during those same days and I always ask the men, women, and children who come to the soup kitchen to pray for the whole world, for the prayer of the poor is powerful indeed!