Saints and Rebels

He who is his own master is a scholar under a fool.
–-St. Bernard

Like us, over the last year you have no doubt heard and read much about today’s anniversary, celebrated around the world, marking Martin Luther’s revolt from the Catholic Church.  What many celebrate is actually a sad anniversary for Catholics – and not just Catholics, but all souls, for what is hailed as “a revival not seen since apostolic times” was actually, as Warren Carroll called it in his history series, “the cleaving of Christendom”. On the Cross, a spear pierced Our Lord’s Heart.  In the Protestant Revolt, a huge piece of Our Lord’s Heart was ripped away, and instead of saving blood and cleansing water, five million souls poured out.  It was a wound that Our Lady herself had to repair, when, 16 years later, she appeared to St. Juan Diego and brought nine million souls into union with Christ and His Church. The word obedience  comes from Latin obaudire, to listen.  Mary, who pondered all these things in her heart, is a model of prayer and listening, for prayer and reflection are how we best listen to God who comes, not in the fire or the earthquake, but in a gentle whisper, a still, small voice.  Our Lady, who, in her docility and obedience to God, became the Mother of the Messiah, she who then stood at the foot of the Cross, fully consenting to the Crucifixion of her Son for the salvation of the world, is an icon of obedience.  St Irenaeus tell us that the obedience of Mary untied the knot of disobedience tied by Eve (Eva in Latin).  Or as one old English hymn puts it: Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva! (News! News! “Ave” has been made from “Eve”).  

Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His. If obedience is lacking, even prayer cannot be pleasing to God.
– St. Thomas Aquinas

The anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolution against the Church is juxtaposed with the feast of All Saints tomorrow.  The obedience of the saints, those known and unknown, is what united them to God.  The virtue of obedience, so loved and practiced by the saints, is scoffed at in our post-Enlightenment culture. Jesus said “My food is to do the Will of My Father.”  If obedience to the Father was His sustenance, we can be sustained by nothing less.

Obedience is mission: “I have come into this world to do the will of my Father, who has sent me.” Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue there is no good; where good is wanting, there is no love, there is no God; where God is not, there is no Heaven.
–St. Padre Pio

Obedience is the harder path – dying to self-will is the ultimate sacrifice each man can make.  Obedience requires humility, the idea that I am not the master of the universe, the idea that I can be wrong.  When Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed, “Not my will but Thine be done” as He was faced with all the sufferings to come, He was strengthened by obedience.  Even in the extreme agony and fear of that moment, fear powerful enough to cause Him to sweat blood, He said yes to the Will of His Father. When faced with any difficulties, we can share in His strength when we fall on the strong supporting arms of obedience, as the saints did before us.

I often thought my constitution would never endure the work I had to do, (but) the Lord said to me: “Daughter, obedience gives strength.”
–-St. Teresa of Avila

Obedience is not only for religious and priests who have taken a vow, it is for every member of the Church.  Lucifer’s rebellion against God’s plan of salvation, his refusal to serve the Only Begotten Son born of the Virgin Mary, resulted in his expulsion from heaven, a third of the angels being cast down with him to earth.  Martin Luther’s rebellion against the Church resulted in millions of souls being dragged away from the bosom of Christ.  That fracture in the unity of Christ’s Body is still happening today, attested to by the thousands of denominations which have splintered off from Lutheranism since its founding.  The Kingdom of God is built by obedience to the Father’s Will.  It brings life, it brings fruitfulness, it brings joy.  Follow the path first walked by Our Lord will bear these fruits, and many more besides. Like the saints, all of us who are called to holiness can respond with eagerness and joy to this task.  Lucifer’s rebellion, and all those who follow in his footsteps, tear at the Kingdom of God by pride, disobedience, and rebellion.  These are the tools he used to tempt our first parents, for which they lost paradise and we inherited original sin and concupiscence.  The pattern of the saints, as modeled by Our Lord, is to embrace littleness and trust in our Heavenly Father, to give generously and completely of ourselves, whatever our vocation.  If the Kingdom of Heaven is built of Divine Love and the self-less love which brings union, then it was rebellion, pride and disunity that made hell.

”All that is done by obedience is meritorious . . . It is obedience, which, by the light of Faith, puts self-will to death, and causes the obedient man to despise his own will and throw himself into the arms of his superior . . . Placed in the bark of obedience, he passes happily through the stormy sea of this life, in peace of soul and tranquility of heart. Obedience and faith disperse darkness; he is strong because he has no longer any weakness or fears, for self-will, which is the cause of inordinate fear and weakness, has been destroyed.”
–Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

The two-thousand year history of the Church is filled with characters, saints and sinners, those we honor, and those we’d rather forget.  Since the time the Apostles were first called by Jesus there have been rebels and betrayers sitting alongside the faithful in the Church, just look at his chosen twelve and we find Judas.  The Church is divine; Her members are not.  And so there is always the constant expansion and contraction, the tendency to excess and the need for reform.  St. Francis of Assisi is often contrasted with Martin Luther.  He reformed the Church from within, in obedience and without tearing apart the Bride of Christ.  His deep prayer and union with God made his efforts so fruitful they set the world alight with love and devotion at a difficult time in the Church’s history.  And there are so many others who also sought to heal the sores they saw festering within the Church, healing them with the balm of obedience and holiness, with austerity and prayer, not by hacking at the limbs of Christ’s Bride in rebellion and disobedience.  Had Martin Luther reformed authentically, from within the Church, rather than rebelling against Her, we might be celebrating him as another saint, along with St. Boniface, St. Clare of Montefalco, St Rita of Cascia, and the many other saints and blessed of the Augustinian family.

He who follows his own ideas in opposition to the direction of his superiors needs no devil to tempt him, for he is a devil to himself.
–Saint John Climacus

Free will is the greatest gift God has given to mankind, the gift to choose whether we will serve God or self with our thoughts, words and actions.  It is this gift which makes our love authentic, for without the freedom to choose to act in love we would be no more than slaves of God, loving Him without choice. The panoply of saints shows us how every life is unique, and every path laid before our feet by God is unique.  Some saints loved God faithfully from an early age, some not till the end of their lives.  Some saints retained their baptismal innocence all their lives, and some were mired in the darkest of sin before their conversion.  The truth is that all of them, just like us, were faced at every moment with the opportunity to choose for God or for self, to serve God and build His Kingdom, or to tear it down through pride and selfishness.  What separates us from the saints is not the choices they were faced with, for they are the same choices we face each day, but the choices they made.  May each of the saints, those known to us and those we will only meet in heaven, pray for us, that like them, we, too, may one day behold God face to face in the Eternal Day.

The Archangels

The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whom we celebrate today, adore and serve God, and help us poor sinners. It’s rather awe-inspiring to think that these pure spirits, so far beyond us in intelligence and capabilities, deign to serve, help and protect us, who are so much lower than them in the order of nature.  In the Old Testament when an angel would appear to help or instruct one of God’s faithful, they were struck with fear, falling on their face at the awful majesty of God’s Messenger.  Today when we hear stories of angelic encounters they are often described as beautiful or handsome in an otherworldly way, and exuding strength and power unlike that of mere men.

Yesterday we came across this article, which recounts some fascinating stories of people in grave danger who were rescued by what they believe were angels. And why not?  Sometimes the explanation which makes the most sense is the one that is supernatural.  And we’ve all heard first-hand from friends or relatives who have had some experience with angel-like helpers who mysteriously show up at just the right moment.  In fact, at the end of the article linked above is Deacon Bill’s account of an experience he and Mother Angelica had in Italy with a car full of angels!  Sr. Grace Marie was one of the sisters there when the mysterious and handsome strangers arrived on the scene to help, and she agrees that they were most certainly angels.

And, as the article also points out, there are fallen angels, who want to lead us away from God just as much as the faithful angels want to lead us to God.  All of us, members of the Church Militant, must be very aware of the fact that we are in a battle zone, and the battle is for our souls.  God gives us all the helps we need, the Sacraments, sacramentals, and our heavenly protectors the angels and saints, but we must put those gifts, helps, and graces to good use.  It’s no good having the finest armor if you’re not willing to put it on and wear it.

For me, the hymns and chants of the Eastern and Orthodox Churches convey the strength and power of the angels in a very moving way.  This is one hymn to St. Michael chanted in the Byzantine style.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the words, but even without knowing the words, the chant alone conveys something of the power and strength of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts.  Obviously we are especially devoted to him since he is the patron of our monastery, and even though today we celebrate Sts. Gabriel and Raphael, too, we do give him extra attention.  And the world needs devotion to him so much right now, devotion to him and Our Lady.  Whenever we meet people who ask about our monastery, they are always excited to hear that it is dedicated to Saint Michael.  It seems everyone understands the important role he plays in our lives.  I came across this on an Orthodox website: We invoke Saint Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.  I thought it especially timely considering the precarious situation our nation faces, with many fomenting violence and hatred so openly now, and promising to unleash a new wave of violence and “resistance” in November.

The 100th anniversary of Fatima is fast approaching, but so is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.  The spiritual war that has been raging since the fall of the angels is visible in the war and strife that mankind has experienced throughout history.  And the last 100 years have been especially bloody.  We must continue to pray, to strive to live lives of grace and fidelity, remaining faithful to Our Lord and His Church, which isn’t an easy task and likely won’t get any easier in the near future.  But we are members of the Church Militant, we are born for battle, sealed as soldiers of Christ at our Confirmation, and if we remain steadfast and faithful He will guide us through this battle, to final victory at the close of our lives.

O Commanders of the Heavenly Host, we the unworthy beseech you, that through your entreaties you will fortify us, guarding us in the shelter of the wings of your ethereal glory, even as we fervently bow before you crying: “Deliver us from all danger, as Commanders of the Powers on high!”  -From the Orthodox Synaxis of the Archangel Michael

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission to crush the head of satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that, under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits, engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell. “Who is like unto God?” O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love. O Mother of God, send forth the holy angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe. Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us. (go here for the full prayer)

Ranch Walk

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As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.  

                                                                                             -St Joseph of Cupertino

Today was the perfect day for a long walk on the ranch!  On our calendar it was the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, an extraordinary saint known for mystical experiences which caused him to levitate often, but even more than this, he was deeply humble and joyful despite much suffering.

A compilation of some of his thoughts and sayings, which we read during the Office of Readings, yields some real gems.  Providentially, he mentions plants, fruit and birds – all of which I found on my walk.  In addition to the pomegranate I also cut a small bunch of mustang grapes – they’re pretty tart but it’s kind of exciting to nibble on “wild” food.  Still have to find out the names of all these lovely plants and flowers that populated my walk today.FullSizeRender-1

A reading from the thoughts and saying of Saint Joseph of Cupertino
(G. Pariscianti: S. Giuseppe da Cupertino alla luce dei nuovi documenti, Osimo 1963)

      The three most important things for a religious are: to love God with all his heart, to praise him continually, to be a light to others by his good example. No one intent on living a spiritual or religious life can ever reach perfection without the love of God. He who has love is rich even though he may be unaware of his riches, and he who does not have love is indeed very unfortunate. As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.

     Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession. God is therefore most pleased if man renounces his own will and places himself completely in God’s hand.

     As a fruit tree bears most fruit when it is carefully tended, so man proceeding along the way of God must always grow and advance in virtue so that he can bear the choicest fruits of sanctity, give an example of virtue to draw others and lead them safely to the way of the Lord. To bear sufferings and misfortunes patiently for the love of God must be considered a special grace which God grants to those who love him.

     As our Lord Jesus Christ endured so many bitter sufferings for our sake so God wants us also to share in his sufferings. Surely, if you are gold, tribulation will purify you of dross; if you are iron, your rust will be scoured off.

     Consider the birds of the air; they come down to the ground to get food but swiftly fly back into the air. Similarly the servants of God must stay on the earth only as long as is necessary and soar up quickly again to heaven in spirit to praise and glorify God. Note too how careful birds are not to land in muddy places and how they avoid tumbling into the dirt. In like manner men must not involve themselves in things that defile the soul but soar aloft again in spirit to glorify the Most High God by their holy deeds.

Prayer
O God, Who didst purpose to draw all things unto Thy Son when He was lifted up from the earth: mercifully grant that we, by the merits and example of Thy seraphic Confessor, Joseph, being lifted above all earthly desires, may be worthy to come unto Him: Who with Thee livest and reignest world without end.  Amen.

Father & Son

It’s kind of appropriate that Corpus Christi and Father’s Day have fallen on the same day this year.  In addition to thanking our earthly fathers for their love and care, we can also thank our Heavenly Father for giving us the gift of His Only Son.  Had He not been so immeasurably generous in sending His Son to die for our sins, not only would we not have been saved, but we would never had the joy of being joined to Christ in the intimacy of Holy Communion.  The Eucharist is deeply tied to Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection – indeed we find all three in the Holy Eucharist and at each Mass.

While our sins would have made it impossible for us to share in the life of God, Jesus Christ was sent to remove this obstacle. His death was a sacrifice for our sins. Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Through his death and resurrection, he conquered sin and death and reconciled us to God. The Eucharist is the memorial of this sacrifice. The Church gathers to remember and to re-present the sacrifice of Christ in which we share through the action of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, we are joined to Christ’s sacrifice and receive its inexhaustible benefits...The eternal high priest Jesus offers the perfect sacrifice which is his very self, not something else…Jesus’ act belongs to human history, for he is truly human and has entered into history. At the same time, however, Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; he is the eternal Son, who is not confined within time or history. His actions transcend time, which is part of creation. “Passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation” (Heb 9:11), Jesus the eternal Son of God made his act of sacrifice in the presence of his Father, who lives in eternity. Jesus’ one perfect sacrifice is thus eternally present before the Father, who eternally accepts it. This means that in the Eucharist, Jesus does not sacrifice himself again and again. Rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit his one eternal sacrifice is made present once again, re-presented, so that we may share in it.

-From the USCCB’s The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers

So even if you have no father to send a card to today, or perhaps you do but your relationship is broken, don’t lose sight of the most important relationship you can have with a parent:  Your relationship with God the Father.  He longs for our hearts, that we might call upon Him with complete trust and confidence in every trial.  He wants to give us life in the Family that is the Holy Trinity, no matter what our family situation is here on earth.

God’s whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity, the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in this life begins with our Baptism, when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. It is strengthened and increased in Confirmation. It is nourished and deepened through our participation in the Eucharist. By eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist we become united to the person of Christ through his humanity.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56)…By being united to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are drawn up into the eternal relationship of love among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…The ultimate promise of the Gospel is that we will share in the life of the Holy Trinity. The Fathers of the Church called this participation in the divine life “divinization” (theosis). In this we see that God does not merely send us good things from on high; instead, we are brought up into the inner life of God, the communion among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the celebration of the Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) we give praise and glory to God for this sublime gift.                              -USCCB

Being adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, we sometimes describe Jesus as the Sun around which our whole universe revolves.  This is really what each soul is called to, no matter their state in life.  While no past age was perfect, and trials, struggles and sin have been present from Eden until now, past ages did have a greater love for the Holy Eucharist.  They made Him the center of their lives, as He is the center of the Church, and this Kingdom-building bore fruit that changed the course of history and set the west apart (read How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas E. Woods, for a great explanation of just what I’m talking about).

If the God who pours Himself out like a libation for our salvation is not the center of our universe, the measuring rod by which we measure all we think, do, say, and desire, then we end up with man as the center, and the result is what we have today, a society of selfishness, which puts myself and my own needs before all else.  This way of thinking is at odds with what Jesus teaches us about Himself, His Father, and the Holy Spirit.

This “sublime gift” that is the Eucharist has spurred the saints to pour out their lives and the martyrs to lay down their lives; it has inspired the composition of the most beautiful sacred music; it has driven the construction of awe-inspiring churches and cathedrals, marvelous buildings that, despite their age, still speak to us of the majesty of God.  One of these masterpieces, St. Peter’s Basilica, so overwhelmed a friend of mine that he sent a postcard saying “the fact that man could build an edifice like this is proof to me of God’s existence.”

Love of the Holy Eucharist has been the catalyst for man to create so much beauty throughout the ages, and still there is nothing we can build, sculpt, paint, or compose which even touches the splendor of this mystery:  that God is hidden beneath the veil of bread and wine; that the Eternal Word Who became Incarnate in Mary’s womb is also present in every tabernacle, silent and humble and hidden, just as He was at the Incarnation, and He wants to feed us with Himself.  May God give us the eyes of faith to see and believe.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty.
Amen.

 

Monday – The Holy Spirit

As we mentioned last week, it’s a tradition that each day of the week is dedicated to a particular devotion – and Monday is the day devoted to the Holy Spirit.

Here are some prayers to the Holy Spirit, taken from the Prayer Book of the Library of Catholic Devotion. These books were published in 1959 and aren’t currently in print, but if you can find an old copy I would encourage it. I have loved this prayer book for many years, and my family especially likes to use the prayers for the dying found in this book.

For the Grace of the Holy Ghost

Come, Holy Ghost, Sanctifier all powerful, God of love, Thou Who didst fill the Virgin Mary with grace, Thou Who didst wonderfully transform the hearts of the Apostles, Thou Who didst endow all Thy martyrs with a miraculous heroism, come and sanctify us. Illumine our minds, strengthen our wills, purify our consciences, rectify our judgments, set our hearts on fire, and preserve us from the misfortune of resisting Thine inspirations. Amen.(Indulgence of 500 days)

For a Pure Heart

May our hearts be cleansed, O Lord, by the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, and may He render them fruitful by watering them with His heavenly dew.

(Roman Missal Indulgence of 500 days)

Consecration to the holy ghost

O Holy Spirit, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always submissive to Thy heavenly inspirations and to the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory forever. Amen.
(Indulgence of 500 days)

For Light

O Holy Spirit, Spirit of truth, come into our hearts; shed the brightness of Thy light upon the nations, that they may please Thee in unity of faith.

For the Grace of God

O Thou plenteous source of every good and perfect gift! bestow abroad the consoling light of Thy seven-fold grace over our hearts! Yea, Spirit of love and gentleness: most humbly we implore Thine assistance! Thou knowest our faults, our failings, our necessities, the dullness of our understanding, the waywardness of our affections, the perverseness of our will. When, therefore, we neglect to practice what we know, visit us, we beseech Thee, with Thy grace; enlighten, God, our minds, rectify our desires, correct our wanderings, and pardon our omissions, so that, by Thy guidance, we may be preserved from making shipwreck of faith, and keep a good conscience, and so, at length, we may be landed in the safe haven of eternal peace. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For the Help of the Holy Ghost

We beseech Thee, O Holy Spirit, descend with Thy light and consolation into our souls; enlighten our understanding, and consecrate the hearts which Thou has sanctified as Thy temples.  O Holy Ghost, come and bring us God’s blessing and peace; console us and all the afflicted; encourage and strengthen the weak; instruct and support the wavering; arouse sinners to penance, and enkindle in their cold hearts the fire of divine love and filial confidence in Thee, that all men, in peace and joy, may thankfully praise and adore Thee, together with the Father and the Son, one God, world without end.  Amen.

God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

During this morning’s thunderstorm we lost power – right in the middle of breakfast the lights flickered and went out, and so we finished our meal by candlelight.  The rain stopped soon after, but the power stayed off for a couple more hours, so the best solution was to go outside, where there was plenty of light that required no batteries or matches.  I love to go outside after a rain – everything about the world seems more vibrant.  When the hum of our electric-centric lives gets disrupted I go outside and find that everything is still running on course.  Below are some pictures from after the rain.  I took them with a very inexpensive and simple macro lens but they offer a peek into the complex and tiny world we often overlook.  God’s grandeur indeed, reflected in the smallest things.

I was so pleased to get this on video – I wonder how heavy that water drop must seem to this little fly?

If you appreciate dewy insects, too, you might enjoy these professional pictures which are much more detailed than mine.

Death and Redemption

mary-eve-tree-life-death-1 Remember o man that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return.  These words we heard on Ash Wednesday, as our foreheads were signed with ashes, come back to mind today, as the Mass readings present the entrance of death into the paradise God had created.  We were made for life, and for deep communion with God and one another, but the disobedience of Adam and Eve opened up a chasm between God and man which could only be bridged by Our Lord’s Passion and Death.  We were not made for death, but when man’s rebellion brought death into the world, our merciful Father gave us a new path to life through the Blood of His Son.

the-hague-mmw-10-f-17-73rWe tend to shy away from thinking about death, our own death or that of our loved ones, but it is something none of us can escape.  Continuing the practice of the Romans, Christians in past ages made a point to consider the reality of death as part of their spiritual practices.  Memento Mori (remember death), was a common phrase, stamped on holy cards and carved on ivory skulls.  Meditating on the fact that we will one day stand before the throne of God to make an account of our lives gives us pause to consider the course we are on and where it will lead us.

Just yesterday my great-uncle, Milton, passed away at the hour of mercy, surrounded by prayer and family. (Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and comfort for his family.)  The grace of a happy death is a grace indeed, and one we should all pray for, but we begin that journey now, with every choice we make.  To assist and support a dying person is one of the greatest works of mercy and charity we can perform, helping them prepare for the most important moment of their entire life: the moment when they step out of time and into eternity, the moment their soul stands before God’s judgement seat.  Reading the prayers for the dying is a sobering experience.  Death often seems like such an abstract, a vague cloud hovering at the edge of our lives or in the back of our minds.  Death takes on a more definite character when I consider that I do not know the day nor the hour, but at the appointed time God, Who created me, will command my soul to His judgement seat where I will make an accounting of my life to Him.

245f0f93d70d3d8278c84bf0a0ead49b-jpgOur Lord is a just judge, but He is also merciful, and in His Church He gives us all that we need to attain eternal life – and not just eternal life, but a deep and transformative relationship with Him here and now as well.  May we take full advantage of the graces of this penitential season and re-commit ourselves to following Our Lord closely on the path of life.  We may sometimes lose our way; we may, either willfully or by mistake, take a wrong turn, but as soon as we realize that Jesus is no longer in sight we can run to confession and plunge our souls into the cleansing water of mercy and forgiveness.  Death is the fate  of all men, but it is not the end.  We make our choice now by the choices we make each day, so let us choose for God.