When I last posted on October the 18th I sincerely expected to be posting at least a few times a week – however as the ancient saying goes: Man proposes, God disposes! While from time to time over the past two weeks I have made notes, the time to actually compose something coherent simply was not there! I volunteer at a soup kitchen, where the numbers of men, women and children coming for food and clothing doubled in the spring and doubled again this fall, so besides the normal times I am there, twice I was called in to help some more – and Jesus present needing attention in the poor is always more important than any plan of mine! Also a family member was in a car crash, she was not physically hurt but that event meant Jesus in a woman, a wife and mother, Jesus in her children, Jesus in her husband wanted me away from my plans and present with Him. So a week went by! Then I was laid low for the weekend with a severe cold – and like most men would rather have a broken bone than be felled by a wee virus – but sometimes Jesus wants us to just let go and be still, sometimes using the Pauline goad of a wee virus. Come Monday I was well enough to return to the soup kitchen – no worries I’d be back in the poustinia Tuesday and would have time to write then – except Jesus in the person of the Volunteer Coordinator stopped me as I was leaving Monday evening and asked my help Tuesday. No worries, Wednesday in poustinia in silence, solitude, writing would be fine. Except Wednesday there was a family member needing help, Thursday it was hours in line for the H1N1 vaccine and the brain was too mushy to write and Friday was an early morning drive to the next town to help another family member and when I got back I slept! Ah, but I knew as I feel asleep Saturday, Our Lady’s day – yep she would make sure I had the silence, solitude, time to get ‘my’ writing done. Well here we are Saturday evening! I was awakened early this morning with a long distance phone call from a priest from one diocese asking if I could find a canonist for a priest from yet another diocese and so the day unfolded, phone calls from various priests and lay people with one pain or need or another . Sometimes alone in prayer in the poustinia I weep – the tears are most prevalent when I sense in my heart the pain of the priesthood, of the women and children in Darfur, the pain of some person who has just phoned, or what I read in their letters or emails. Sometimes I weep because of a bout of the pts-syndrome is triggered and fear gnaws at me. Then I must abandon such weeping for it can become a whirlpool of self-pity which is contrary to living in the wonderful gift and mystery of priesthood. The Fathers of the Desert have taken a Greek notion and ‘baptized’ it into a powerful understanding about Jesus, about gifts from the Holy Spirit, about tears. Pronounced and written in the common alphabet as: Penthos, originally the name of the ancient pagan spirit of mourning and lamentation but, as with so many things from ancient worlds and cultures, the Baptized Fathers discovered a grain of truth in the ancient mythology through a Gospel understanding, a lectio divina upon the weeping of Christ. Some of the Fathers referred to the gift of penthos, the gift of tears, as a second baptism. When the tears flow from self pity or a sense of having lost or been denied something, from a type of un-availed grief, common among those who have no understanding of, belief or trust in the Resurrection, they are limited and rather self-directed. When tears flow TRULY as gift of the Holy Spirit then they are in union with the tears of Christ – true the aforementioned mere human triggers may be used to get them going by the Holy Spirit but the transformation becomes a weeping, a penthos of personal contrition/compunction, a weeping in union with Christ, a co-mingling of our tears with His for the conversion and salvation of the whole human family. At La Salette Our Lady revealed her penthos. Mostly when people are interviewed for news reports about abuse of children or some murder, soldiers being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or when we see reports about abortion, epidemics, floods, fires, famine – mostly people are angry, want what they call justice, which usually is code for revenge. Anger has become prevalent. Anger at God, Church, Priesthood, government, banks, family members. Anger is the blame game usually. Anger is loud, public, frequently out of control, and usually all about self. It seems we have forgotten how to weep, or perhaps we are afraid to weep, for penthos is silent, hidden, neither of my doing nor in my control. It is gift – a wee bit for myself, but like all gifts from the Holy Spirit the major portion is for others. Penthos is a salted fire of tears, a grace, a blessing, a gift of intimacy with Christ. Towards the end of his epic film on the passion Mel Gibson has the camera with fish-eye lens, it seems, pull way, way, way up above the scene of the three crosses until it is almost as if we are observing from outer space when suddenly we are rushing ever faster back down until there is a single teardrop landing on the earth. The Father’s penthos?
I truly believed when I posted the announcment last spring I was on the road to real recovery from a bout of despression and the resurgence of the post-traumatic-syndrome from which I have, and do suffer as a result of the false accusation.
It has been a long struggle since then, however as always Jesus is with us, for as Hebrews reminds us He is the one who has been first tested in all things by which we are tested[cf. Heb.4:14-16].
You will note a couple of changes here: First the image of Our Blessed Mother, known as Protection. In this Year of the Priest, with the priesthood suffering so, more than ever we priests need Her protection.
Second the addition at the top of a quotation attributed to Pope Leo XIII which was sent to me by a suffering priest who found it on a web site: www.penitents.org
With your prayerful help dear friends this is not merely a return but a new beginning.