I cannot mistrust the grace of God

Sir Thomas More and his Daughter 1844, exhibited 1844 John Rogers Herbert 1810-1890 Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world.  Nothing can come but what God wills.  And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.            -St. Thomas More

Today’s feast of the martyrs Saints John Fisher and Thomas More was the perfect day to have Padre Martin Scott join us on the radio.  His religious community, Siervos de la Divina Misericordia, is dedicated to the Divine Mercy, and he spoke with us today about learning to love God and trust in His mercy and forgiveness by being merciful and forgiving ourselves. It was a great show, and we encourage you to listen here on iTunes.  We never tire of talking with Padre!

As we talked about in the beginning of the show, this second reading from today’s Office of Readings (for today’s optional feast), is a beautiful lesson in trust, taken from a letter St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter Meg from prison. (The English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454)

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness.  His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience.  God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty.  In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest.  I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God.  Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear.  I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help.  And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby!  Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost.  I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him.  And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice.  But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world.  Nothing can come but what God wills.  And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us

Trust Amidst the Storm

Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning by Lorenzo Veneziano, 1370Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 14:22-33)

No sooner had Peter cried out to Jesus in desperation and terror than Jesus reaches down to save him. Whatever the translation might be – immediately, instantly, at once, at that very moment – Jesus straightaway responds to Peter. He doesn’t hesitate.
He reaches down and grasps Peter’s hand, holding on to His flailing and terror-stricken disciple.  Peter, in his utter helplessness and fear, suddenly feels the strong hand of his Lord on him, pulling him out of the churning waves. As Jesus pulls him out of those waves He reproaches him, “…O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Perhaps the greatest hurt we can cause our Lord is to doubt Him, to be fearful and not believe He can, or will, save us.  Jesus walks into the storms of our lives, which we encounter from time to time, to rescue us and bring us His peace.  But He waits for us to recognize our own fear and helplessness, to turn to Him, to cry out to Him, to trust Him. If we do, His response will always be swift, and sure. He will grasp us, pull us to Himself, and never let us go.

Captive

The chant below (see bottom of post) is the Benedictus antiphon from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.  I wanted to share it, not because of the chant itself, which is beautifully sung, but because the words really struck me when I saw them last night:  Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying:  Whom I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast.

Hold him fast.  There are different ways we can hold God.  When I hear these words I think of clinging to God, an act of faith, made out of desperation sometimes, but grasping Him firmly because He is your last and only hope.  We can hold God like a lover, like a life-preserver, like a friend.  But here we see another way to hold him, which has nothing to do with love or devotion: we can hold him fast like a hostage.  Our weak faith, our lack of trust in God, our obstinacy in getting our own way, all these tempt us to hold God prisoner.  If I can just get a good grip on Him, I’ll get him to see things my way.  But we can’t control God or bend Him to our will; it’s fruitless and destructive.

Rather than holding God captive there is a better way: we can let our souls be held captive by Him; to become captivated by His insatiable and enduring love for us – the Love that sustains all other loves, and which led Him to submit Himself to the grasp of sinners.

Tonight, after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, our Lord will go to the Mount of Olives to meet Judas, and each of us will accompany Him as His Passion begins.  He who holds all creation in the palm of His hand willingly gives Himself into the hands of wicked men.  As the deepest mysteries of our salvation begin to unfold, let us comfort and console Our Lord by giving ourselves over to Him completely, by letting Him hold us fast.

Post-Partisan Depression?

A week ago yesterday we spent the day with the only person who can save our country, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  We, like so many of you, had high hopes for the election.  But as we learned later that night, the American electorate has chosen a different road for our future.  Surprisingly, we don’t feel as depressed by this as one would expect – as we ourselves even expected.  This is not to discount the difficulties and sufferings we will all have to endure now, there is no doubt that all Americans are going to go through some very hard times in the future.  But we still have hope because, as dark as things may look, God is still in control, He loves us, and He has the power to turn this disaster into something great.  He specializes in that, actually.  If you don’t believe it, just look at a Crucifix.

Our hope lies in God, our trust is in God.  We weren’t looking for an earthly savior (and we certainly did not get one) but we must trust God.  No matter who had won the election we would still be facing an increasingly secular, anti-Christian culture.

Christopher Dawson said every age is an age of crisis for the Church.  How are we to face the crisis of this age? With hope, with faith, with charity.  It is not our calling to sit back, self-satisfied, in a time of peace and prosperity for the Church.  The culture of death opens its mouth wider and wider each day to swallow beauty, truth, dignity, and life.  Fighting the beast with Truth and Life isn’t just one option, it’s our only option.  Our lives and hearts must be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ and His Church.  This requires a daily, even hourly, re-orienting of ourselves toward Him.

Catholics should be good students of history.  Though persecution hasn’t been as savage in America as in other countries, we cannot expect to be exempt from that forever.  The important thing is to prepare ourselves to defend the Faith, even when it’s uncomfortable and unpopular, and to strengthen ourselves spiritually, being faithful in the small things so that, by God’s grace, when the big things come our way we will stand firmly with Christ and His Church.

No prayer is ever wasted, even when things don’t turn out in ways that seem best to us.  God’s ears are never closed to our petitions, and we won’t stop petitioning Him for our country and our religious freedom.  Now is the time to pray for an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The culture of death can’t be voted away, we must conquer it one heart at a time, beginning with our own.

God is always good.  And not only is He always good, but He is always God, all the time, despite our temptation to operate as though He is on vacation or has more important matters to tend to.  He is the Lord of every situation we face.  On Sundays, solemnities and feast days, as part of the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray the Te Deum, a hymn of praise to God that reminds us of the reasons for our hope.  It closes with a responsory which boldly claims:  In you, Lord, is our hope:/and we shall never hope in vain.  Truly, because our hope lies in the Eternal One, we can hold fast to it always. 

Vote. Pray. Trust.

We took advantage of early voting last week.  On Friday we each cast our vote for life and liberty.  Here we are leaving the polling place.

During our travels to and from Reno we had the opportunity to talk to many people from different walks of life, not all Catholic, who all said they have deep sense of peace about the elections and a strong hope.  We came home from that trip very encouraged.  God is in control.  No matter what happens, we must keep that foremost in our minds and hearts.  As one friend of ours often says, God is very good at turning straw into gold.

Today we are manning (nunning?) adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Atonement.  We have cast our votes, now the most important thing that we can do is pray.  And having the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a public chapel, rather than our home chapel, was very important to us, and to Fr. Phillips as well, so that others could have an opportunity to make a visit to Our Lord.

Wherever you are today, even if you can only spare five minutes, try to make a visit to Our Lord and ask Him to pour out His grace and mercy on our nation.  Adoration may not be available where you live, but Jesus is just as glad to see you, whether He is hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance for adoration.

May God bless America!