Sunday, December 30, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 4- A Post for Suffering Priests

Rome tends to send bad news to priests through their bishops around the time of major feasts, such as Christmas or Easter.
Rome hardly ever communicates with priests directly, so often times after the multi-year appeals process a terse one or two lines will come from the bishop and since Rome virtually never rules in favor of priests those terse lines cause another upheavel of pain in the life of the priests and those who love him, family, friends, former parishoners.

So many emails, posts on other blogs, reflections in secured chat spaces for priests, so much snail mail has come my way over this Holy Season - so very much pain in so many priestly lives that I wrote what follows today for one group of priests and post it here - without names of course - so perhaps others may reach out to Christ who these days is being re-crucified in His Priests:

My Dear Brothers,

I have just returned, before the early winter darkness this far north
engulfs the city mid afternoon, from my daily prayer walk around the
neighburhood, past people, young and old, shoveling the sidewalks;
past the, quiet at this time of year, huge garage for the forest fire
crews; past one of the city bus barns, always so busy with buses
being repaired, cleaned, fueled up for another run; past too the
homeless, the hustle and bustle of street life, past families
returning from church or shopping or playing in the snow.

These walks are more physically demanding each day as, after the news
from Rome I mentioned the other day, my doctors examined me and are
concerned about the condition of my chest { I started smoking as a
street kid at age 10 - 54 years ago! } and other bits and pieces of
Brother Ass, to borrow from St. Francis, that may be hosting cancer.

As I was praying I was carrying each of you in my heart, reflecting
on today's posts and was stunned by the Scipture passage which kept
coming to my heart from St. Luke - so the walk turned into as much of
a meditation as prayer to the Holy Spirit for the right words for
this post!

I felt my own heart challenged by Father's words and asked myself how
do I really see our exchange of letters?
As the old monastic chapters of faults? No way!
As an variation on AA style meetings? Not hardly!
As some type of sharing circle where we all tell each other how great
we are, all will be well and let's praise Jesus? Doubt it!

So, how do I really see us, see myself?

Well let's start with the least important first: moi!

This will be long enough without covering the entire near 65 years of
my life so to keep it simple {now let's see if that miracle occurs
while I write!} I see myself truly - no matter what Rome says but
because Jesus said it and the Holy Spirit indelibly made it so - I
see myself as a REAL priest.

A real priest, like Jesus, is one who, like Jesus, becomes the object
of universal hatred, becomes the accused one, the brutalized one, the
suffering one, the wounded one, the crucified one.

Ultimately it matters NOT if we have become so as a result of the
repercussions of some hidden sin we committed, or some exposed sin
committed, or been exposed as it were to being like Jesus through
false accusation - what does matter is are we willing to BE PRIEST or

Ultimately in my heart and soul it matters not if Rome or some
Bishop does let us or not in the public area function or "do" priest, but
in reality, in our hearts, prayer, following Christ - will we choose
in each and every moment to BE priest - even if we are crushed by
whatever, even if we are covered by the spittle of things unresolved
in whatever form those things take, even if we are in such pain,
fear, darkness we cannot seem to satisfy ourselves that we are
priests, let alone always get it right when we reach out to our
Brothers and perhaps feel we are being confronted when exhausted,
challenged when hurting immensely - even then will we choose to BE
what we are PRIEST?

I admit readily I live in an almost perpetual state, certainly
enhanced with the news from Rome and my doctors, in an emotional
state that is filled with fear, doubt, anger, confusion, tears, and a
horrendous struggle to pray and as regards trust - well forget it

Our Brother X states clearly the stark, unjust, frustration-anger
inducing reality that we are caught up in the ceaseless vortex of a
dark and evil whirlwind rattling within the institutional church,
pulling us in, thrashing us about, spitting us out, battered, broken,
and sometimes 'offically' stripped of priesthood - but we must never
forget God is NOT bound by edicts from any institutional functionary,
even the ordained ones - He is bound only by His love for us!

He also reminds us to avoid the torture of what they do.

What precisely is that torture?

I would suggest my Brothers it is the chosen abandonment of
compassion and so the challenge for me, being priest, is to strive
with my will and heart, no matter what my emotions are doing, to BE
compassion, understanding, love.

The Scripture which kept running through my heart and which I
meditated upon to the sound of my laboured breathing, boots crunching
on the snow, the scrap of shovels against cement, the spinning of
tires as cars tried to get going again once lights turned green {this
far north no salt on the roads and not much plowing either} is from
St. Luke 9:62: Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand on the
plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

In my teenage years I used to work fields with horses and, unlike
plowing with tractors where you do have to look behind you,
experieced the folly of looking back because the horses would start
wandering away from the furrows to flatter ground and you'd have to
Worse if you were weeding vegetable fields and looked back then the
wandering horses would pull the harrows through the rows of
vegetables, uprooting everything and that late in the season you
could not replant.

So I asked the Holy Spirit what the dickens this has to do with me
and all my suffering brothers and suddenly I realized - now Brothers
I apply this only to me but offer it here because writing to you
helps me see things clearly - anyway I am being asked, profoundly to
leave the past in His hands, to keep me eyes on Him - on the 8th Day
as one of you always reminds me about.

To live not with my heart anywhere else but where HE is in this very moment - and my heart said YES! - it means to contemplate Him who is all-merciful, to trust as the Thief did - our
brother crucified alongside the High Priest in whose Person we are ordained.

This is the mystery we live: we are on the Cross as Christ Priest and
on the Cross as one needing His mercy!

Now my dear Brothers I know I am neurotic, verbose, lacking in real
faith, have very little trust, struggle with anger, confusion,
faliure to love and forgive my enemies, have REAL problems with
certain persons with power in the Church - but - and this confuses
the hell out of me {literally I pray such a complete purging occur
before death!} but these years of horror have been - are - in my
heart the most joyful of my entire life, especially my priestsly
life, and I believe have been, are, the most fruitful.

I certainly could not, would not, struggle to leave behind what must be left behind in His
hands, - for the challenge is to walk forward, following Him in His footsteps, wherever He leads, - no!, I could not, do that alone, indeed I am only able to do this following Him while holding onto the hand of Our Lady walking forward.

Indeed too without your fraternal affection and prayer, my Brothers and that of so many of the Laity, I might well let go of the hand of the Mother of Priests and then truly would fall - from grace, proably, from life off a bridge or some such possibly, for we all know this is too much, way too much suffering for any person - but NOT too much for Him and He is our faith, HE is our trust, HE is our courage and HE is the reason for our ad sum!, spoken not some yesterday of ordination but in the now of every moment in Him, which is always the graced moment of begining again!

Thanks my Brothers for following in His footsteps because following
you following Him makes this mysterious pilgrimage of the suffering
priesthood a possible one.

May the New Year of Grace bring to each, from the hands of Our Blessed Mother, hope, peace, joy, light, love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reply to a friend's question!


This is the Icon of the Humiliated One – this IS Jesus, after He was arrested under cover of darkness, falsely accused by perjured testimony in an illegal, night time trial, forbidden by the very Law He was accused of violating - and those who were in judgement of Him had already met in secret, in darkness and predetermined the outcome – he was dishonoured, despised, and condemned as guilty by those with religious power over Him – and they were supposed to shepherd the flock, protect the weak, grant justice and further, because they had no power to fulfill their desire of His absolute destruction they turned Him over to the secular power – which in the person of Pilate proved itself as equally corrupt and cowardly – so this Innocent One was subjected to further suffering – in plain words before His execution He was tortured physically, spat upon, lashed, crowned with thorns and mocked – then – believing that they had succeeded in stealing from Him His dignity and personhood they executed Him between two common criminals so as to prove they were right in their false accusations, placing Him in person among the guilty, there could then be no doubt about His guilt – and they murdered Him and to guarantee He was dead they took a lance and ripped open the Heart of the Humiliated One.
As Scripture says: …one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. [ Jn. 19:34]
Yet that very river of blood and water gushing forth from the pierced Heart of the Humiliated One , as the Church teaches, is the source of the origin and growth of the Church…For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the Cross that there came forth the “wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.” [ CCC#766]
Most especially the Church sees in the flow of blood and water the gateway sacrament of Baptism and the source and summit of sacramental reality the Most Holy Eucharist.
In the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 11: 28-30, is the very specific revelation by Christ Himself of His Heart and – as difficult as this may be to accept – I believe it is also His revelation of the ‘heart-state’ of being of all those who would come to Him – but come to Him not just to ‘feel’ better but to become what we are [ once all the clutter of the false selves we have created or the false labels that have been put upon us are cleared away by Him ] real Beloveds – beloved of and by Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit – for only when the heart knows its own belovedness can the person emerge, free, dignified, selfless, able to love and serve others without ever counting the cost.
So this Heart, which began beating within the womb of Mary in anticipation – I would say with a full fire passionate anticipation of the day It would cease beating and be ripped open to flood the world with love’s fire, beats as the Awaiting One – waiting, of course, for us: you, me, every human being.
This Heart knows, even more true than we can ever imagine, the pure lines, the pure objective story of our lives from the moment our hearts first began to beat until the very moment when, wherever and in whatever condition we are, we hear His Heart call out the invitation to approach, be beloved, become: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give You rest.”
We are, especially in this time in history with all the reasons for fear, with all the immense labour it takes just to survive from one moment to the next, we are burdened more than we even imagine much less understand – so burdened that faith, or at least the risk of believing, looms over many of us like the proverbial straw which, should it add itself to our burden would not only crush us but – fear of all fears – would annihilate us ---- so -----satan, the culture of death, the merchants of what can be consumed, persons totally bent towards themselves acting as agents of our destruction, confusion, fear, for these do not want us to hear the Heart speaking so they too beckon us, they too promise rest – but they, liars all, never reveal the cost of their promised rest, which is no rest at all: stupor, sometimes; dark uneasiness, always; and perpetual fear.
Only the Heart does: “Take My yoke upon You and learn from Me….”
What’s going on here? What’s the catch?
Our weak faith, raw emotions, our addictions, wounds, fears, guilt, not to mention the cackling of the liar himself, causes many to pull away – after all most of us are already ‘yoked’ to something or someone to a disordered degree that has us burdened, labouring to exhaustion in the first place – but those yokes [ for their name is legion] are at least familiar and give us, as illusory as it may be, a sense of security, identity, etc. – so it is understandable so many are unsure when this Heart is asking us to – more accurately inviting us – to take on His yoke!
That is my point: wherever confusion is, satan is.
Wherever the stark simplicity of a truly free invitation is, Christ is!
Here is a moment when we really do need to step away from the cacophony of what we think we know, step away from the whirlwind of what we think we are doing in our lives, step beyond whomever and whatever has yoked us into bondage, brokenness, fear and, standing still, listen with whatever little corner of our hearts has not become stone but is still flesh and suddenly our ears, our hearts, will realize this is a marriage proposal, an invitation to intimacy, to being beloved for His Yoke is at one and the same time His Incarnation, Transfiguration, Suffering, Death, Resurrection – but also at one and the same time His loving-service, His intimacy with the Father and the Holy Spirit – in a word His yoke is His Heart and He is saying: Freely, freely accept My Gift, My Proposal, My Heart, My Truth, My Life, My Light, My Love.
The learning unfolds in the accepting and the reason He gives for learning from Him within this love-yoked-intimacy is because: “I am meek and humble of Heart;”
Only a meek and humble heart can suffer as Christ’s suffers: not for self but for other.
Only a meek and humble heart, yoked to the Heart which is ALL meek and humble, the Suffering Servant’s Heart, can truly be one with Christ and love and forgive as He loves and forgives.
The world since the Ascension of the Meek and Humble Pierced Heart has been awash in Popes, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Christians – but not so awash in Saints!
G.K. Chesterton once remarked on what he saw as the fundamental problem of Christianity was to be found not in its failure to succeed in its mission of restoration of all of human life and history to Christ, but rather that Christianity has never seriously been tried.
I believe the root of that can be found in the way we somehow only half-heartedly open when we listen to the Heart – it seems we just don’t stop and really wait to truly hear and fully understand and then live it out.
Meekness, of course, is that immense inner strength and exterior courage which has the silent fortitude of the Humiliated One before His false accusers, cruel torturers and even more darkly cruel religious leaders and civil authority who callously sought to destroy the One of Meek and Humble Heart for the sole reason they arrogantly assumed this was all about: eliminating the sole interference with their own agenda, which can be summarized as: “We have the power to say how God wants things done/We have the power to say how Caesar wants things done!”
Of course there is no indication, around the death of Jesus, either of those bent-toward-selves persons checked with either God or Caesar!

Jesus twins the free acceptance of His espousal yoke and the willingness to learn that our hearts might be real hearts – like His – with the double promise that in the unfolding of yoking and learning: “…you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden light.”
No longer then shall we be yoked to those crushing burdens, bondages, fears, addictions, places, persons which so exhaust us, and no longer shall we be bent over towards ourselves by burdens whose carrying has no real destination or purpose other than the relentless continuation of their heaviness and destructive journey to no place.
Forever yoked to Jesus as we learn from Him less and less in our lives will two hearts be beating – for He will bring about a oneness of our hearts with Him and with each other, with every human being – for me this is the ultimate gift of His prayer to the Father: “…that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me….that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” [ Jn.17: 20-26]
That way into this intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity is through the opened Heart of Christ – this ripping open of His Heart is the eternal open door policy of the Holy Trinity, as it were – every open door is invitation, every open door bespeaks the freedom of movement to and fro and every open door, especially to a home, announces someone within is waiting for us – the open Heart of Christ announces Love is waiting for us.
We seem always to presume we are waiting for God and so we sit, like sulky children, outside the open door, blind to the open invitation, waiting to have our burdens lifted, to have life make sense, to be less afraid, to hear our name, to be affirmed, loved, to…………………but we will never, way beyond mere experience but actually knowing sweetness of yoke, lightness of labour, joy of suffering, fullness of belovedness, our real name, if we do not arise, go and enter!
Fr. Robert Pelton reflecting on abiding in God’s heart [ which is a chapter in his book CIRCLING THE SUN] notes that one day he realized something about Jesus, and us, a simple reality: Jesus, the heart-beat of the living God, the pulse of my own true heart.
ONLY if a priest stands with fullness of intellect, heart, soul, constantly day and night in the beauty and invitation, the metanoia [ conversion of heart], the kenosis [ being emptied of all that which is not of Christ we cling to] will the priest ever achieve the fullness of the sobornost [ absolute oneness] with Christ Priest – a gift and mystery sealed into his being by the Holy Spirit at the moment of Ordination, but like all grace I must moment by moment cooperate, freely, with this constant action of the Spirit within me.
The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, describes the heart of the priest as:
1] pierced like Christ’s with the lance of love.
2] is open, like Christ’s for the whole world to walk through.
3] is a vessel of compassion…a chalice of love…the trysting place of human and divine love.
Now the question asked of me was why can’t a priest close his heart?
The lance of love which rips open the heart of the priest IS itself Divine Mercy BUT the lancer often is a human being who may be seeking to pierce the heart of a priest with false accusation, lie, temptation, addiction, money – whatever – but the mystery is IF the priest accepts the original invitation from His Heart to come to Him then what reaches the heart of the priest IS the lance of love.
So – the priest cannot close his heart once ripped open anymore than Christ can.
Nations may place soldiers at their borders to allow in only those who meet certain standards; groups, religions, families, individuals can by various means restrict who may or may not enter wherever and most doors once open remain capable of being closed and indeed locked.
A real priest must NEVER exercise any such option but – being meek and humble of heart as Christ, in whose person he is by ordination, must always keep his heart open for, literally “ the whole world to walk through”……enemies, dislikeable personalities, whomever – for the priest’s heart is NOT the place of destination but a passageway, a floor, a bridge – to Christ – thus the priest must NEVER seek to keep any passerby in his heart as his ‘own’ – Christ alone is the priest’s Lover-Beloved relationship.
The priest, certainly, as a human being must have personal relationships – but never possessive ones for once he goes down that road he IS closing his heart, therefore he has begun to forget who he really is!
Finally IF the priest closes his heart then it is to fill the “chalice of love” with that which is not love and when the thirsty for Love Himself come to drink they will leave with only grit, or worse, in their hearts and “the trysting place of human and divine love” will be no oasis, no banquet, but a burning desert, a wasteland, a swamp devoid of the Bread of Life.
For myself as a priest I know in the core of my personhood, in the depths of my soul, that if I ever closed my priestly heart my physical heart would arrest instantly and irreversibly – which is why no matter how hard any human or spirit force might try to humiliate, hurt, whatever to achieve the closure of my heart I know, before I would ever close my heart or it be forced shut I would be seized by Jesus and Mary and either snatched away from such a definitive danger by an infusion of illuminating grace, the love intervention of family/friends – or – if the danger of my heart not being open was THAT extreme then I know Jesus and Mary will seize my soul right out of my body – and then, well, I would truly be in His rest!
© 2007
Arthur Joseph

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 3 - A Blessed for those denied due process

Fr. Antonio Rosmini was beatified today in Rome. This good priest suffered much, both in life and indeed in death since only recently have his writings been accepted.
Like St. Padre Pio, Chardin and countless other priests, Bl. Antonio suffered because of his ideas, but throughout his suffering he remained a loyal son of the Church and devouted to the life of charity.
In these seemingly never ending years wherein countless priests are denied due process, where appeals to Rome take anywhere from three to sixteen years, perhaps the new Blessed, having endured so much in his own life from those with power, will intercede that his brothers might, soon, recieve more speedily compassion from the Church.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have been back a few weeks now from the period of rest, pilgrimage and retreat for which I am profoundly grateful to each of you for your prayers and generous support. { I should mention that on my return 175 emails, plus a few dozen snail mail letters and cards were waiting and I answered them before writing this!}

My doctor said on my return that I look years younger and certainly in body and soul I returned renewed.

The numbers of homeless and hungry men, women and children being served at the soup kitchen, where I volunteer, remains very high.

The Staff and Volunteers are tremendous – it is a great blessing, indeed an honour, to serve our Brothers and Sisters with such a great group of people.

Joy is one of the hallmarks experienced there.

Joy from the Staff and Volunteers: indeed the kitchen, clothing room, dining room echo with much laughter. There is gentle seriousness as well when at tea break in the morning we reflect on some spiritual reading and then as a group pray for the needs of others.
In fact, mid way through the daily meal for the homeless the resident chaplain prays in gratitude on behalf of everyone there and for the needs of the homeless, then blesses everyone in the dining room.
The silent, respectful, trusting in Him attentiveness of the hungry reminds me of the power of their prayer: the prayer of the humble which pierces the clouds to the very throne of God.

During the retreat with brother priests we focused on the great gift and mystery of Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist.

During one-on-one conversations with my brother priests I was struck more than ever by their immense love of every human being and also our common understanding of the intensity of spiritual warfare and the need to preach, with our lives, the Gospel of Life in face of the culture of death.

I have returned to a simpler routine where I spend the first couple of days each week serving in the soup kitchen and then three full days in poustinia [hermitage], use Saturday for those common little duties we all must do, cleaning for example, and try and spend Sundays in absolute silent contemplation of the Holy Trinity with the emphasis on gratitude.

However, as the Servant of God Catherine Doherty teaches us in her book POUSTINIA, whenever Christ comes calling by knocking on the door, literally or by phone, email, etc., then what He asks immediately becomes the duty of the moment – so for example last week part of each poustinia day was helping a friend move – sometimes Christ comes hungry for food and sometimes just hungry for our presence in the life of another – so, for example, one day a lonely elderly man in the building here just wanted a companion on his daily walk – and I found myself during the walk reminded of Christ walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus!

Soon we will cross the threshold into the season of holy hope, Advent, beginning anew the rich liturgical cycle of the great events of our redemption – may it be for each of you this year a particular time of peace and joy, being assured of your place in my heart and prayer each day, especially during Holy Mass.

As promised I will next begin posting notes from the rest, pilgrimage and retreat.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Dear Friends,

The soup kitchen where I volunteer has closed for a few weeks both to give the Staff and Volunteers time for vacation and to do major annual building repairs/upgrades.

Having not taken a complete holiday in a couple of years, worn down by the constant struggle for truth and justice for myself and suffering brother priests who have been chartered, I will take these weeks not only for a rest, but for a pilgrimage - each of you will be carried throughout in my heart and prayer to a shrine of Our Lady where I am headed on pilgrimage, and where I shall be joined by priests from around the world for a retreat.

Each day I shall compose material for the blog and will put them here in sequence when I return.

Your prayer for myself, for all pilgrims, for all priests, especially those of us who will be on the retreat are humbly asked for and most appreciated.

God bless you and pray, as Pope Benedict reminds us I carry his words in my heart: " Making a pilgrimage means setting out in a particular direction, travelling towards a destination. This gives a beauty of its own even to the journey and to the effort involved."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Prayer for the times we live in

Years ago whenever a book was published about the life of a holy person not yet canonized either the author and/or the publisher would insert a note, stating the author/publisher, was not pre-empting that which is the Church’s alone, namely declaring so and so to be a Saint.

The same applies, of course, even in our day, even if it is not always stated, for we must never pre-empt what belongs solely to Holy Mother the Church.

She is an attentive Mother and while Pope Benedict, rightly, did not automatically declare Pope John Paul to be a saint, hearing the voice of the people, the process was, at least, begun.

The diocesan stage of the process of the Servant of God Catherine Doherty has begun and in what follows I in no way intend to pre-empt Holy Mother the Church, neither when it comes to declaration of sanctity nor authenticating such and such a writing or prayer as being, although I believe it is worthy of use by the faithful, as formally approved by the Church.

That said there is a prayer composed by the Servant of God I pray daily and which I believe is a particularly powerful, indeed I would suggest a prayer of immense importance, for our day and age.

There are two prayers available invoking the help of Our Lady of Combermere, so in reference to the one commented on here you should specify ‘the one written by the Servant of God Catherine Doherty’, when asking for a copy.
The prayer in its entirety can be obtained from:

There we also find various books by the Servant of God which themselves, I believe, are of great import for anyone, laity, religious, clergy, seeking hope and consolation, courage and fidelity, as a Christian in the 21st century.

My purpose here is simply to comment on some of the aspects of the prayer asking the help of Our Blessed Mother, under her title of Our Lady of Combermere, in hopes of opening to all the wonder, the insight, the intercessory, the consoling, dimensions of this extraordinary prayer.

For example the first two words of the prayer are: Beloved Mary – these are firm relationship words, a statement of affection to be sure, but of being-heard confidence as well.

By the time we have prayed almost the entire sixteen sentences the expression will be: Beloved Mother – the relationship has deepened, become more confident, more intimate.

As the prayer is prayed do not be surprised if your heart recalls, for example, Our Lady of Guadalupe who came as a gift of hope to a suffering people; Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima, or some other of your favourite images of our Mother who loves and consoles, who counsels and urges, who intercedes unceasingly for all her children.

We are ALL her children.

This is something the Servant of God stresses throughout the prayer by her constant use of: “all, everyone, we, our, us”.

Indeed the collective expression, the all-inclusive expression if you will, is uttered, prayed, no less than twenty-one times, thereby assuring while we are speaking with Our Heavenly Mother, Our Lady of Combermere, we are carrying every human being living on earth, living in the womb, sleeping in the tomb, in our hearts as we pray. Indeed in this prayer we are bringing everyone to the loving outstretched arms, to the open heart, of Our Mother.

At the very outset of the prayer the origin and purpose, the very source Himself, of our relationship with Our Lady forms part of the invocation. It is a clear and critical statement of faith and trust.
Immediately in the same paragraph of the prayer is placed before the eyes of our hearts, and stated with trust by our praying lips, the truth of who we are in this relationship and the exquisitely authentic, maternal love-action of Our Lady for us, not merely toward us.

But we are free we human persons and so the Servant of God includes also the stark fact that to experience the fullness of this maternal love, protection, care, intercession, requires we be open, we be still, we allow ourselves to be loved.

In a word we must risk being childlike!

Today, in our so ‘adult’ culture, in a culture where deliberately being vulnerable is considered a type of sickness at worst, sheer foolishness at best, this is a challenge, but one rooted in the Gospel where Jesus Himself points out to us the vital necessity of being childlike.

The second paragraph of the prayer is a statement of fact, not with a collection of vague words about the core of the world situation, the reality of every nation and culture, but rather it is a powerful, and to a degree prophetic word, about every human being.

A true prophet does not primarily foretell what is to come but rather pulls back what clouds our eyes and hearts, revealing the actual reality we are in.

Here too the Servant of God uses the collective-personal, as if perhaps Catherine Doherty when composing these lines was herself desperately, with love, yearning that we would see-hear as we pray the words ourselves, that even in the desperateness of the human condition we are in relationship with our Heavenly Mother.

The next paragraph of the prayer is a great, passionate, clear, universal, intercession for every human being, whatever their race, faith, condition, need – but so clear is the confidence that the Blessed Virgin Mary knows exactly what’s what, there is no laundry list of we need this or we need that, rather all is contained in one central word of petition, a word which should invoke in every heart who prays this prayer the cry of so many men and women in the Gospel seeking the attention of Christ.

No one can more readily get His attention than Our Blessed Mother, hence the cry to Her is always a cry to Him through Her Heart.

Immediately within the same paragraph the intimate confidence of we children in Our Mother’s love is expressed.
This too as a universal statement of confidence not in “I” words but in “we” terms, recalling the perfect prayer Jesus taught us to Our Father.

Like the Our Father this prayer of the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, conversing with our Heavenly Mother, counters the egocentric desolation of contemporary life – perhaps the day has been spent in a “me” whirlwind – this prayer demands a “we” of heart and will enable, if we but truly trust Our Heavenly Mother, with each praying a deeper openness to Christ who calls us to learn of Him, He who is “meek and humble of Heart”.

Here I will confess I would surely love to directly quote from the prayer but there is such a powerful tenderness in what I would quote that, out of context, I fear both its blessing and beauty would be diminished, so again I urge everyone to contact Madonna House for your own copy of the prayer – and yes to pray and meditate upon it daily.

The second last short paragraph is a whole catechism, for it declares what is central to our faith, our hope, simply yet powerfully, all in right order, just as at the beginning of the prayer.

Finally the “Beloved Mother” part of the prayer, which all on its own would be a great prayer for spouses, for parents with their children, priests interceding for their parish, anyone caring for the human family, as the final prayer of the night – yep – even just the three little sentences with which the prayer comes to a confident conclusion.

All authentic prayer is rooted in the Holy Spirit coming to help us and speaking within us to the Father, for all prayer is, ultimately, Jesus, our perfect prayer to the Father.

Not every particular ‘formula’ of prayer sits easily in every heart and I certainly have, frankly, no patience with those prayers floating around for decades, first by snail mail or pamphlets in church, now on the net, which variously promise X, Y, Z good stuff if you send a zillion copies to a zillion people – or even threaten dire consequences if you do not.

I knew and was formed by the Servant of God while she was on earth and Catherine Doherty is my dearest of heavenly companions. Through her writings she remains my teacher and guide.

It is because of the blessing in my life of this simple, yet so on the mark for everyone in our day, prayer through the intercession of Our Lady of Combermere, that I have written about it here and yes, urge with love, everyone to get to know Our Lady of Combermere and her prayer as written-prayed by Catherine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 2 - A Three Day Reflection

Among my very first prayers each morning is a request of St. Joseph that he help me throughout the day to live only in the present moment, faithful to the duty of the moment.

Later I sketch out what I assume are those things needing doing on any given day, including blogging!

Well Dear Friends you know how rarely that happens!

This is not because of lack of caring, rather, as the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty teaches: “I am third!”

The full teaching is: “God first. My neighbour second. I am third.”

Thus, most days, God reveals through the ever-changing duty of the moment how He longs to be first in my heart, attention, energy, through phone calls and emails from suffering priests or laity; through requests from the soup kitchen I volunteer at for help – and the help is needed a lot these days when most regular volunteers are off on vacation and the number of homeless keeps increasing.

Then there is the loved necessity, which is actually such a joy, to be faithful to the Divine Office, Holy Mass.

It seems since June time has flown by day after day!

Since things like my writing the blog are not as urgent as, for example answering the call to serve the hungry, the blog has been dormant, but never are any of you far from my heart and prayer.

Today I am grateful that things seem to be slowing down somewhat [ okay so my cell just went and someone asked if I was busy because so and so needs to talk….God is calling, Jesus needing to be comforted…so I go!].


It is mid-afternoon now on the feast of St. Clare, passionate believer and lover of God, and in a couple of hours through the Divine Office of Vespers we will cross the threshold into another Little Easter, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Our brothers and sisters in much of the lower 48 of the United States suffer an extreme heat wave; here in the north of my country the weather has been autumnal for several days now; while deep in the earth of Utah, as of this writing, six of our brothers await, Lazarus-like, to be called out of the darkness into the light; monsoons cause unspeakable suffering to countless other brothers and sisters; still others suffer war, famine, terror, and numerous others suffer the horror of abortion, abuse, human slavery and other forms of death, pain, - indeed the evil our egocentric sinfulness inflicts upon others seem unbearably vast.

Thus when the man I was asked to open my heart for, and listen to, last night shifted back and forth from his pained anger over the cancer gnawing away at his father to all the above and other evils and asked the very anguished human question of God: “WHY?”, none of my words, truth-speaking though I was, seemed for a long, long time, to make any sense.

But when I kept repeating the words of Pope John Paul: “Love is stronger!”, little by little he allowed his pain to become grief and his grief to become acceptance and to understand energy wasted on anger was time taken away from being fully present as a son to his dieing father.

I mentioned in my last post that: “….we have within the Church our own Gitmo.”, and I asserted that the number of priests forced into this Gitmo numbered in the thousands.

Since then I have seen a report that there are currently an estimated 5,000 cases before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith alone; the public broadcaster in Canada ran a radio show about the bullying of priests by their bishops and people, and similar bullying being inflicted upon clergy of other denominations as well; yet another priest wrote to me about his pain at the suicide of yet another priest –accused but not charged: in this Catholic Gitmo accusation, real or false, means the inevitable imprisonment in a dark place ‘outside’ where there is only the pain and heartache of abandonment and injustice.

Another priest phoned me from yet another country in immense pain.

He is in pain because his Bishop, who has targeted several priests based on dubious information and not a one of them has been charged criminally with anything, anyway his Bishop publicly bragged about how many priests “…I have gotten rid of!”

What has become of the time when a Bishop’s joy was over the number of men he had ordained, not over the number he has crushed and abandoned?

Of course there is an immense and very serious spiritual danger for “chartered priests”, ……………..


Well I got that far when another villager knocked on the door!

I should explain!

In her classic work POUSTINIA, wherein the Servant of God Catherine Doherty teaches the Russian Orthodox dimensions of the hermitical life, we read on page 32 that the poustinik, i.e. the desert, forest or even urban-hermit, “…must always be available.”

This deeply connects to the tradition of God first, neighbour second and I am third.

Thus Saturday when I had gotten as far as “Of course there….” , someone literally came by, knocked on the door, needed help moving.
By the time that was done it was late in the evening, time to return to the poustinia and with Vespers enter into the blessing of the Little Resurrection. Sunday!

I live in a city not far below the 60th parallel and so when I went for a walk Sunday afternoon, in the autumnal air, fully aware of the extreme suffering in the lower 48 from the heat, the miners trapped so far below ground in the dark and the cold in Utah, of their suffering families, those working so hard to free them, of our brothers and sisters in Asia suffering the monsoons, I prayed the Jesus Prayer and the Holy Rosary for those and so many other intentions – chuckling at the countless frothing over climate change as I marvelled at the fact here instead of the three digit highs blanketing the south daytime now is in the low 40’s and at night drops to just above freezing, while the leaves on the trees have already begun their yearly change from shades of green to a myriad of yellows and reds!

It was a restful, renewing Sunday.

Throughout the day, into the evening, into sleep and throughout yesterday, Monday, my heart kept contemplating “Where your heart is, there is your treasure.” , from Sunday’s Holy Gospel.

Yesterday was my regular day each week serving in the soup kitchen. The numbers of our suffering, homeless, addicted, battered, damaged Brothers and Sisters remain very high.
Yesterday too, for the first time in a long time, the tension level was very high and there were a few situations which required our intervening to prevent violence.

There was one woman who asked me to pray over her for she is facing surgery for a brain tumour and for someone from the streets that is daunting for whom do they have to be with them?
Another man was stealing from the supply room and when I confronted him he got rather violent, shoving me but we settled him down – we never resort to violence – with the Angels, soft but firm words and lots of prayer!

These men, women, youth, children, experience far too much violence in their daily lives so we try to handle things with love.

In the midst of all this a woman who comes daily to the soup kitchen saw me.
She is one of His anawim and has been beaten, often. She pilgrims seemingly broken and alone, battered and poor, covered in the grit of living on the streets.

She is beautiful in my eyes.

Humble of faith, she, always it seems on those days when I am most exhausted because of the sheer numbers and needs, called out: “O Father! I love you!” , took my hands and kissed them with the same reverence one kisses the crucifix.

There comes a time each day when we have to close and most days that goes off without a hitch but yesterday a young man, clearly having a psychotic break, and believing as he explained alternately with screams and tears or softly with tears, he was possessed, refused to leave.
Suffice to say it was an effort to get him outside, settled enough to get him to agree to going to the hospital.
The ambulance was called but in that part of the city it can take some time because so many accidents, beating, shootings, etc., can occur – so by the time the paramedics did arrive our Brother was out of control and the police had to be called as the paramedics [ who made the call] felt they were at risk.

Eventually the police came – waiting for them the paramedics, myself and one of our Staff did our best to communicate with our suffering Brother and, without having to use force, kept him and bystanders safe.

The police came and with great patience and compassion handcuffed him gently, and between the six of us, gently, we got him into the ambulance and he was taken to get the help needed.

Christ comes to us, seeking to be comforted, to be loved, in many disguises.


It is Tuesday now, the feast of the great martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, vigil of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, and so far today no villagers have come knocking so perhaps today is the day I shall actually complete these reflections and get them posted!


Already today, among the snail and email I have gotten, there is more of the pain within the Church post-Dallas: an elderly couple write from elsewhere in this country, where the Bishop is money obsessed and has raised Mass stipends so high they can’t afford them, not to mention participation in Sunday Mass has dwindled immensely. I was once assigned to that parish and in those days we were three priests there and every Mass was packed and daily Mass drew close to one hundred people; a priest writes from another country in his pain and anger over the suicide of a falsely accused brother banished without due process who couldn’t handle the strain – the letter describes the death as the action of the local Bishop.

Deep is pain in the lives of priests.

So I am brought back to what I had begun to reflect upon last Saturday: “ What has become of the time when a Bishop’s joy was over the number of men he had ordained, not over the number he has crushed and abandoned?”

Here I must urge everyone that we pray and beg our Heavenly Father to take these Bishops in hand.

I then had started to write the conclusion of the reflection which I will do here and get this posted before this week is out too!

There is an immense and very serious danger, in particular for ‘chartered priests’, especially all those denied due process and I suspect it is particularly a challenge for the falsely accused, namely becoming, deliberately or unintentionally because of high emotion, non-Christ-like.

As evil, stressful, unjust, etc. as the current situation post-Dallas is, as widespread as the despair and overall suffering of countless priests is, as painful and exhausting the abandonment and rejection by our bishops and brother priests, if we still love the Holy Trinity, Mary the Holy Mother of Priests, the Church, the Priesthood, still care for the restoration and sanctification of the priesthood and the salvation of souls, still believe we are priests called to be truth-speaking advocates of the sanctity of life, for justice, especially for the poor, then we must beg for the grace to truly be Christ-like, not just, as it were, by default because we are ordained in persona Christi, but by cooperation with the Holy Spirit who beckons us to preach the Gospel, in season and out, in pain and joy, even stripped of our name and dignity, preaching with our lives without compromise – indeed recalling the words spoken over us and promised when we held the Holy Gospels at our diaconal ordination: BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ, PREACH WHAT YOU BELIEVE, LIVE WHAT YOU PREACH!

Thus no matter what any bishop, vicar-general, roman bureaucrat, real or false accuser does to us or says, no matter what satan has seduced us into doing, but by grace has been repented – no matter what – in every moment of every day we can begin anew in Him IF we but open the door of our being to Him.

Yes I understand the pain of the priest who believes rather than his brother having ‘taken’ his own life that the bishop, by his cruelty ‘murdered’……but no baptized Christian, no Priest, can go there: “ … to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” [Lk.6:27,28]

We Priests, ordained with gift and mystery, have been entrusted with ‘talent’ beyond measure and so must heed deep in the core of our heart and soul: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” [Lk.12:48]

I mentioned carrying Lk.12:34 in my heart throughout the day and night Sunday and it applies here.

If my heart is given over to pain, anger, a hunger to settle accounts, for vengeance, spending countless amounts of energy venting against accusers, bishops, etc., { which does not mean pulling back from pointing out what needs to be converted in the Church, episcopate, priesthood, society in general, but this can and must be done with charity }, then my heart will be in some dark and dangerous place, not resting in Christ and living and moving in His Light.

Yes advocating for justice for my brother priests, comforting my suffering brothers, serving the poor, being in poustinia, writing, form my treasure – but only, by grace and the protection of Our Blessed Mother – in Him, with Him, through Him.

My prayer for everyone, and the prayer I beg you for my own poor self, is never to forget that “Where [my] treasure is, there [my] heart is.”, and to have no other real treasure but Him!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Right Order!

It is dusk on this Holy Trinity Sunday and the extreme heat continues.
The sky is a deep crimson, almost blood red, like the blood of Fr. Ragheed Ganni who, along with four Deacons, was found murdered in Mosul after Holy Mass.
These words from the Second Reading of today’s Holy Mass have lingered in my heart since very early this morning when, alone in the hermitage, I celebrated Holy Mass...alone that is in terms of other human beings on earth but, as at every Holy Mass, surrounded by the entire Heavenly Court: “ These sufferings bring patience...patience brings perseverance...perseverance beings hope...this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.” [Rm. 5:3-4].
In his homily today when he canonized four new saints, three of whom are priests, our beloved Holy Father Pope Benedict noted the constant prayer of St. Father George Preca: “ Lord God, how much I owe You! Thank You, Lord God, and forgive me, Lord God.”
I have two days of notes to continue my commentaries on life in the Catholic Gitmo but they will have to wait for a day or so because I am reminded by the example of the new priest saints and the new priest martyr of the right order of things!
Lord God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, how much I owe You!
Thank You, O Holy Trinity.
Forgive me, forgive those who hate so much they slaughter Your priests, deacons, their own co-religionists and fellow citizens, the unborn – ah Most Holy Trinity have mercy on the human family, teach us to love our enemies, to love one another.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 1

Living as far north as I do at this time of year it is still daylight well after ten in the evening and the temperature is in the high eighties!
However these days of ever lingering light and heat will begin, in a mere twenty-one days, to shorten, until most likely, as last year, the snows will come the first week of October and linger, with the ice-winds, until early May!
Weather and seasons, heat and cold, light and darkness, the passage of time, especially within the ebb and flow, the grace and mystery, the purpose of being which is constantly before us in the Person of Christ revealed to us, ever ancient, ever new, in the daily Scripture of the Liturgical Year – well, for me at least, such things are important.
More than important, they are part of the lived material/spiritual reality of Catholic life, Church life, as Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory reminds us in his book: THE MASS AND MODERNITY – “...God uses ordinary material things such as water, oil, bread, and wine as a means of communicating himself to is a giving, in love, by one person of himself, that is, God, to other persons, that is, to his people.” [see p. 93]
Father Robinson, at least in the above passage, left out one ‘material thing’, as it were, God also uses: the human person, specifically through the Sacrament of Ordination when a, albeit immortal soul being, created and redeemed by Him, a being in many ways more fragile and vulnerable to ‘deterioration’ than other sacramental matter, becomes priest, becomes in persona Christi capitis, of the very One who is love-giving.
As I look out the window of my urban-hermitage the broiling sun has slipped beneath the rooftops of this poor neighbourhood, a line of golden light marking the difference between the darkened streets and alleys, [ where late day dumpster-divers are seeking whatever might be sold at the re-cycling plant ], and the as yet devoid of moon and stars vastness of the heavens.
Some years ago, on a late spring night not unlike this one, weighed down by whispers, isolated by terrorized abandonment by confreres, heartbroken because his Ordinary shunned him, a young priest known to me took his own life.
As the now common saying among priests goes, he had been “chartered”!
A few days ago I got an email from another priest who also has been chartered and who spends his days humbly serving fellow addicts as best he can and who was the sole caregiver of his aged mother.
When she died he had to plea for permission to at least concelebrate at her funeral. After some negotiations permission was granted but his Ordinary said he himself would not be there in case he be too indentified with the disgraced priest and people might protest.
Today I got a phone call from another priest telling me about a young priest who was whispered about, nothing ever proven, no investigation ever done, but a fellow cleric, who now has a lot of power, saw to his being so isolated he got permission to ‘serve abroad’.
He died in that other country very alone, living in a hovel.
His distraught family hoped the new Ordinary would at least bury their son.
He did not.
His brother priests did.
I checked the diocesan web site.
It is as if that young priest never existed.
The world press, clergy of various faiths, Catholic hierarchy included, make all the right noises about CIA renditions, the secret catching and putting into prisons of alleged terror suspects and even more noise is made about Guantanamo Bay and third country torturing.
No rational human being can deny the horror and impact of 9/11.
No rational human being can deny the horror and impact of clerical abuse of innocents.
Neither can any rational human being fail to be concerned about the repercussions of some of the methods used to prevent another 9/11, especially when it comes to such basic realities as human rights.
I believe the time has come to challenge Bishops, Priests, Laity, to look at the repercussions of the Dallas Charter and the abusive way in which priests are denied due process, the poisoned atmosphere where allegation becomes fact, where indeed, though not as visible as the one in Cuba, we have within the Church our own Gitmo.
Throughout the world those priests condemned to life in this Catholic Gitmo numbers in the thousands.
Over the next little while I will express opinion, concern, challenge, and, recommendations for a more in the light, the light of Christ as well as the light of day, approach as an alternative to being chartered.
It is a fundamental, but seemingly forgotten reality, that when the ‘material’ of a baptized man is used by God to communicate Himself in the Priesthood, it is the local ‘high priest’, the Bishop, who calls down the Holy Spirit, and within that sacred moment there is also the act of the promise of filial obedience.
It is part of the yearly Chrism Mass, the renewal of this promise.
What seems forgotten is this is an implicit two-way promise.
The Bishop is promising, de facto, to be Shepherd, Father, indeed friend to his priest.
The weakening, if not near dissolution, of the presumed Episcopal fidelity, even if the son is an outright prodigal, which I would argue should urge Bishops all the more to be true shepherd and father, through the aftermath of Dallas is the emerging great tragedy and scandal within the Church today.
One dark and cold night in 1988 in Canada a Native leader was shot by police. A cover-up ensued.
Eventually there was a Judicial Inquiry.
In 2003 a movie was made called: COWBOYS AND INDIANS.
It is worth viewing.
It has much to teach Bishops, Priests, Laity about many things.
One particular scene has stayed with me.
The mourning half-brother of J.J. Harper, the Native Leader who was murdered, is accosted by another Native on a dark winter street.
The man is very drunk, dirty, belligerent.
He claims to be “your brother”, and is angrily shoved onto the sidewalk.
After walking some yards away a remorseful man, seeing in his heart the face of the crumpled body of his half-brother J.J. laying dead on the ground, filled with compunction, turns, walks back, picks the guy up, somewhat sheepishly assuming the man is really looking for money, offers him the change from his pocket.
The money is refused with a look of profound disappointment and these words: “ I just asked you to recognize me.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bathed in Light: Easter Meditations-2

The Race in Seeking Christ
The snows, as we begin this 3rd week of Holy Easter, seem finally to have stopped. Indeed going out late yesterday evening I even saw and heard a large, healthy, singing tirelessly, robin high in a spruce tree!
Now in the late afternoon the sun has broken through and brightness bathes the city!
Yet, across the world from Virginia Tech to Iraq, from Darfur to the very streets of this city the culture of death flows like an unending river of darkness, blood, chaos, insanity, evil, seeking to perpetuate the original lie which seduced Adam and Eve, that God is not to be trusted – yet the Person-Truth Himself had us all cry out during the Easter Vigil: “O felix culpa......O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us such a Redeemer!”
It is the very same Risen Redeemer Christ who beckons us from the ocean of struggle and search, to the beach of rest, where He awaits us in a type of divine hunger expressed in His threefold, urgent yet tender plea: “Do you love Me?” [ cf. Jn.21:15-19].
And we, seeing what He had prepared, presumed we alone were the ones hungering!
While correctly seen in the first instance as directed to Peter, and after Peter’s ever more affirmative response, Christ mandating Peter as Supreme Pastor, in the second instance this is the Light Himself bathing us once more in His brightness, asking each of us: “Was it worth it the horror and death I endured for you? Was it worth it little one? Do you love Me more than these people, ideas, plans, needs in which you are enmeshed? Do you love Me? Do you love me?”
I had noted at the end of the first meditation in this series that I would reflect in this one on the gift of freedom flowing from the brightness of Easter.
Events of the past two weeks, some personal, some involving family, some the larger human family, have made such a reflection somewhat, I admit, of a challenge.
Yet thanks to a woman who came up to me in the middle of the crowded dining room of the soup kitchen where I volunteer, {post the horror of Virginia Tech, post the not unexpected suffering of John and Lucille in their marriage, post the middle of the night plea from a seminarian in Brazil for special prayer }, she, one of the battered, overweight, multi-addicted homeless women asked me an oft repeated question about her ersatz marriage to a rather odd homeless man.
Jesus on the beach, Jesus beckoning!
When, as I always do, I reassured her all was well with her , she grabbed me like a mother holding her child, like Magdalene at the tomb rejoicing at hearing the Bright Risen One call her by name.
Suddenly the tears and terror were gone and the woman repeated over and over; “Thank-you Father, thank-you Father!”
The beauty of her face in that moment was as if never in her life had she ever been betrayed, abused, lost her innocence.
Her very ragged, filthy, far too thin for this time of year coat, her soiled jeans, torn boots, already wet from snow and rain – well it was as if she was suddenly clothed with light!
“Do you love Me? – when I am frail, battered, scared, confused, addicted and filthy?”
When I was a boy and my Father rarely at home, my Mother would just be overwhelmed by the antics of myself and my multiple siblings, she would just walk away.
I, all less than six years of me the first time, would be left in loco parentis.
So when John and Lucille hit a rather severe bump in the road and all I could/should rightly do was silently pray, even though it felt as if I were that abandoned child once more– a far too wee shepherd of a flock!
“Do you love me? – when I seem to abandon you and leave you with more than you can cope with?”
In his homily on his birthday last Monday Pope Benedict stated very clearly the truth it is indeed mercy that puts an end to evil – mercy being clearly in the first instance that life-gift God bestows on us.
We are in His image and baptized to be imitators of Christ.
Mercy, the restorative life-giving-love-giving gift, is the food we are to feed the poor, the broken, the guilty, to our enemies, to those who hurt us.
If we do love Him then this becomes our inalienable love-duty-free joy towards other.
“Do you love Me? – when I am disguised as a crazed killer, an abortionist, terrorist, or just someone who, when your need for comfort is greatest, ignore you?”
The phrase “the race in seeking Christ” I have borrowed from another talk of Pope Benedict’s, from the General Audience of the 15th where the Holy Father confidently asserts that is the only competition the Fathers deem worthy of us, the race to get to Christ.
Following on that the Pope further assures us the One who has found us, bathes us in His Brightness, “....He Himself will come to meet us; He will make us recognize Him, He will call us by name, He will bring us into the intimacy of His love.”
When He comes to meet us, on the beach as in today’s Gospel, in the mystery of another’s pain or in the depths of our own anguish, when He enables us to recognize Him in the face of another, enemy or friend, beloved or one seemingly as yet a stranger, in whatever circumstance, in whatever disguise He comes, He will/does call us by name and in the calling asks: “Do you love Me?”
In a sense the newborn Infant Holy Child cannot bring us, if that was the extent of His Incarnate life, to complete union with God; likewise the crucified Christ, if everything stopped at the 9th hour with the last beat of His Heart, cannot bring us to God – for evil would have vanquished holiness, darkness would have overcome light, death would have conquered life, hatred supplanted love, despair become the emptiness of every human heart, indeed there would be no real persons left for the image of God, broken by original sin, shattered into tiny pieces by our own sins, would have remained forever scattered about the cosmos, drifting into an endless abyss of nothingness.
Prisoners of fate, slaves trapped in an incomprehensible vortex of evolutionary caprice, why would any ‘human’ creature seek anything but self, self-satisfaction, self-worship?
Just as we cannot self-create ourselves neither can we bond ourselves in oneness with the Holy Trinity – our arms are too short for such a reach, our hearts too little for such an ocean of love-fire, our imaginations too cluttered for such exquisite silence!
The stupendous truth, brightness, joy, Good News of Easter is that CHRIST IS RISEN!
It is the Risen Christ, whose holiness reduces evil to impotence, whose brightness disperses darkness with the Light He is and the Light can never be overcome; it is the Risen Christ who with His own self-gift-life embracing death crushes death’s power to end anything at all; it is the Risen Beloved and Lover whose passionate merciful, bright love waters the desert of hatred with the living water of true life and especially in the Holy Eucharist Love Himself fills our hearts with Divine Trinitarian union, bonding us to God in the ocean of love, “ pressed down and overflowing!”
Christ Risen has freed us.
We are free in the brightness of His Glory, bathed in the light, His light, His Self.
It is the freedom of the children of God.
“Do you love Me who has freed you? – will you go and love Me in all your brothers and sisters who have not yet heard they are free, they are loved?”
“Do you love Me?”

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bathed by the Light: Easter Meditations-1

                                    Bathed by the Light: Easter Meditations - 1

The last time I had any emotional strength to write here was a few days before Christmas.
Almost immediately thereafter I plunged or was nudged by the Spirit, or tricked by the evil one –once more into the swamp of darkness.
Actually, I am not sure at all how it came about.
Might simply have been the exhaustion.
On this day the Orthodox call “Bright  Thursday ”, this holy 8th day which is the unending today of His Holy Resurrection, I have been trying to understand the whole darkness thing!
Trying to claw yourself out of the swamp of darkness, yet again, is a messy business – in truth, like Peter, all you really can do is scream : “Lord, I am sinking!”
So, the proceeding is my scream!
It was not what was in my heart when I approached this computer to begin, after so many months, writing again.
What follows is, and, I believe flows from the experience of pierced and glorified hands lifting, lifting, lifting!........
In this northern city the snow was falling steadily as I began writing and yet there was a spring brightness radiating from the very snow covered ground as if the earth was refusing to return to winter’s slumber, very simply and clearly because CHRIST IS RISEN! GLORIFY HIM!
“Blood on the snow! “
This line from a powerful reading of the epic battle of Vimy Ridge in WWI, which took place 90 years ago on Easter Monday, seeps into my beginning reflections, so I took some time to mediate on the whole mystery of post-resurrection evil.
Sanguinis martyrum, semen christianorum, proclaims Tertullian – likewise, it seems, the blood of citizens is the seed of nations – witness the American Revolutionary War, the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge, which is seen as the birth of Canada’s sense of nationhood, the Russian Revolution – these epic struggles left blood on the snow.
We, or at least that ‘we’ not living within any other nation than our own embraced national history, may not always see the blood-seeding of citizens as having the outcome ‘we’ would like when the killing is ended.
Perhaps that is more indicative of our collective arrogance, self-righteousness, or as in the case of some, from various religions, it betrays an anti-human extremism.
For all the horrors inflicted by the current crop of international terrorists or national insurgents, the fact remains it is WE, the formally rightly called Christian nations which wage the bloodiest of wars against the most vulnerable of our own: pre-born children.
We must passionately pray that somehow the blood of these innumerable aborted children becomes the seed of a culture of life.
Blood on the snow, blood at the foot of the Cross!
I recall countless times attending winter crash sites, anointing the dying, comforting the wounded-living;  memories triggered as much by the violence suffered by the homeless I am honoured to serve at the soup kitchen where I volunteer, as by reading and meditating on these words of Pope Benedict from his book, “ On The Way to Jesus Christ”, where the commentary is on the second temptation of Christ:  “The whole big question of how we can know God and how we cannot know Him, confronts us here.” [1]
Suddenly my heart heard this also as being the question of how we can know and cannot know the mystery of the Church, the reality, in all its ‘vessels of clay’ dimensions of  the episcopate, the priesthood, within the Holy Spirit’s process of Apostolic succession.
Not to mention the ‘cafeteria-Christians’ who pick and choose through the treasury of truth seeking only that which will not demand too much surrender to the Brightness of His Love!
This point was driven home all the more as I read: “ The arrogance that wants to make God into an object and tries to impose our laboratory conditions upon Him cannot find God.” [2]
As a priest, but also as a baptized soul wondering about the promise of Psalm 90, and a priest who hears daily from countless suffering souls, I had not, until now in the brightness of His Holy Resurrection, been willing to make a connection between falling again and again into the swamp of darkness, sinking beneath the waves, and the root-anger of all that.
Satan’s whole effort was to imply God, if He did not fulfill the promise of Psalm 90 and should Jesus leap from the parapet fail to protect Him, well God would then be revealed as one not to be trusted.
This is the original lie told to Adam and Eve so they bent away from God and towards themselves with the disastrous consequences we all know in our very bones.
This lie remains the evil one’s preferred opening statement, whisper, cackle, suggestion, especially when we are vulnerable due to stress, fatigue, loneliness, etc.
He conveys this with a subtlety that can seep into the imagination before we are all that aware, and with a persistency wearying in itself until suddenly we have found in our thoughts seemingly rational and irrefutable reasons to turn away from God and bend towards ourselves.
In that following uneasy loneliness the rest follows, hyper-critical rejection of Church, truth, etc.
My sin, which became anger which became depression, was simply in not admitting I had tried to become God and chief operating officer of His universe, His church, of self!
I had been making God and the Church into an object, that is seeing Him more as one at my beck and command rather than as loving Father, true Abba whom I yearn to love in return through trusting His Holy Will, and struggling to live it out;  the Church: seeing Her more as institution – because frankly of seeing my own and other Bishops as CEOs rather than as who they truly are in not only the sacramental reality of ordination but in the reality of Church as ‘sacrament’.
Thus these words of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Chief Shepherd, seared my heart as a conviction, not with shame but with liberation: “Someone who thinks this way makes himself God and thereby abases not only God but also the world and himself.” [3] {and I would admit such a person who approaches the Church, bishops, priests, fellow Catholics, Christians, any person with that attitude diminishes every aspect of faith and  the person of every believer, every human being.}
As an ordained man, a priest in persona Christi capitis, I must embrace the fullness of being configured to His suffering, for only therein can mine - or any baptized person’s – pain, be His kiss which purifies and vivifies,  otherwise we find ourselves allowing the pain and suffering to become a potential opening through which the evil one will whisper the stench of his lie that God cannot be trusted: after all, look at how He ignores your pain!
Therefore, in the depths of any darkness, pain, fear, loneliness, the first vocalization of “Lord, help me I am sinking” comes with remembering to imitate Christ who “....did not put God to the test. But He did descend into the abyss of death, into the night of abandonment, into the desolation of those who are helpless.....[ and the Holy Father adds].....Someone who obeys God’s will knows that, in all the horrors he may experience, he does not lose a final refuge. He knows that the foundation of the world is love and that therefore, even in a situation where no man is able or willing to help him, he can still continue walking in confidence toward the One who loves him.” [4]
After contemplating that I took a break and read a friend’s Blog, and my heart was moved by their powerful reflection: “The answer to tears”:  “Here, in this celebration of Easter, is the answer to our tears, to our pain, our emptiness, and every darkness....[5]
Sanguinis martyrum, semen christianorum!
The proto-martyr is Christ Himself and His Most Precious Blood is the seed of the Church Herself, and we are invited in every Holy Mass to receive this glorious gift and the Giver Himself.
The glorified pierced hands that reach out to us are trustworthy, for He has given Himself for us and remains with us.
Knowing does not necessarily mean the absence of struggle, being lifted out of the swamp of darkness is no guarantee I might not return there if bent towards myself again.
Receiving Love Himself, receiving Resurrection Himself, Truth, Life, Light Himself into my being in daily Holy Communion when I celebrate Holy Mass – does mean freedom!
More on this gift of freedom flowing from the brightness of Easter in part II!
[ 1-4 above from: On The Way to Jesus Christ, p.94; Joseph Ratzinger; Ignatius Press]
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