Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Hard Lesson About Vigilance!

The other day I finally completed the notes for the promised post on “The Thin Place” when something happened which threw me off track, the brutal murder of a young homeless man at the gates of the soup kitchen.
While coping with that, emails began arriving from priests and laity alike worried about the extreme turbulence in the financial markets.
The same day I got a phone call about the sudden death of a dear brother priest, which threw me for another loop!
Then, of course these past weeks and days have seen horrendous acts of terrorism in India, Pakistan, Spain, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, peoples devastated by hurricanes, typhoons, floods, the outbreaks with widespread illness and death from tainted meat in Canada and poisoned milk in China.
Increasingly, with the often times harsh political campaigns in Canada and the US currently underway, the uncertainty about the political situation in Israel, North Korea, to mention just a few, the seemingly unending news stories about droughts and famine, melting Arctic sea ice, climate change – well is it any wonder many of us get unsolicited mailings or emails from those who advocate the world is coming to an end, preceded many of them claim, and frankly seem to wish for, some catastrophe on the order of global punishment!
Yesterday I made a serious communication gaffe with my family and received several emails in response – what made matters very confusing has been a series of unusual computer glitches, and today, on a walk with an old friend we both noted a huge increase in the number of drug addicts, wrecked cars, garbage, graffiti in the area and he remarked how the city is deteriorating.
Indeed for the past several days the usual cacophony of jets and prop planes and helicopters from the airport a few blocks away, the constant banging of steel upon steel from the shunting section of the freight-yard, also just a few blocks away, has been added to by the constant wail of police, ambulance and fire engine sirens.
Stressed I became slack and inattentive and this morning, before coffee, before real brain functioning, before spending time with my face on the ground in prayer for true love, charity, discernment, vigilance, I answered those family emails in draft form, a sort of get the harrumph out before deleting and writing a real, loving, understanding reply.
Image my total embarrassment when I on email auto-pilot hit send rather than delete!
I was even more astonished when instantly I heard in my heart those powerful words from the first pope, St. Peter not only urging us to stay sober, alert, that is truly vigilant, because of the devouring nature of the evil one, but also encouraging solidarity in suffering, patient endurance for Christ Himself strengthens us. [ 1 Pt. 5:8-11 ].
Even more so if we reflect on the paragraph which precedes that admonition about vigilance we see the call to humility and to trust in Christ. [ 1 Pt. 5: 5-7 ].
Suddenly my heart understood in these critical times on the universal level I have been attentive to pray for the restoration of the whole world to Christ, so satan rarely tricks me into getting one-sided about politics or other things of the world – BUT where I had failed to be vigilant, for the evil one is not only the great deceiver but the great disturber, was on a more personal and family level and he tried very hard to wreck things.
He did manage to do some damage but Our Lady has taken me by the hand and led me to ask forgiveness and her help to be more vigilant.
So this morning I went first to prayer for tender words and then, to be honest had a strong brain starter cup of coffee {!}, after which was composed and sent to my family the email which they merit simply because they are family and we love each other and no matter the gaffes or miscommunications or outright failures towards each other love IS stronger – all that is needed is humility, that is to put them before self, to grant understanding and compassion, to admit when I am wrong – the latter I confess with my ego is tough to do.
Saying I’m sorry in and of itself often times is giving a little – begging forgiveness with a determination to change the offending behaviour, yeah that is giving a lot.
Accepting personal powerlessness in spiritual warfare and relying in all things on the strength of Christ and the help of Our Lady is to giving everything.
Yes we can fret ourselves into true fear these days of so much darkness and death around the world, so much suffering; yes we can get caught in the snares of doom and gloom and forget Christ is Risen; yes we undoubtedly, or most likely I will, have relationship problems from time to time, priests with each other or their bishop or parishioners, spouses with one another, parents with their children, yes even on the larger scale between adherents of one political party or another, nation with nation – however I cannot directly solve any of the larger problems.
I can, among my brother priests, within my own family, serving the poor, in all relationships begin again to be and remain vigilant.
The best way I know how to do that is by, even when it means admitting I am wrong and begging forgiveness, living out what the Servant of God Catherine Doherty taught: I AM THIRD. [ God first, my brother/sister next, I am third!]
Catherine also taught, and frankly this has been hard to do today for it means admitting my frailty and absolute need of Him, even in the seemingly small things like being more attentive to what another is going through, that: “In God every moment is the moment of beginning again.”
So, in this moment, in particular with family, also with the vigilance St. Peter urges!

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