Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Every day from death awaken,
Taste of wine and bitter gall.
For every morn's another Eden,
Every sin another Fall.
Every shame another hiding,
Every grace another call.

Every breath our answer giving,
Salvation writ in moments small.
If Christ be not the Lord of these,
He is Lord of naught at all.

The Acceptable Time

This blog doesn't precisely have the largest readership. Fine. Two family members. Two or three friends. An occasional drop-by, mildly curious or misdirected or just coming to plug their own blog and leave. And – alright. Que sera, sera. All that's to be found here are the poor results of my waiting, praying, and seeking. There's no brilliant apologetics; no scintillating commentary or deep insights into the nature of faith or God. Just one quiet record of one Catholic's fumbling experience of those.

I began writing shortly after Easter, with grandiose notions but no clear idea of what the purpose would actually be; lately, I've been reading back, to see what patterns have emerged. Since Easter, I've entered into – the best I can describe it as is a time of preparation. Whatever God is calling me to, right now it's for me to step back; to say I'm not ready yet (and how!); to, through His help, be made ready. Right now, it's for me to simply wait on Christ and trust in His grace, and now and again write down aspects of that waiting. Advent as a liturgical season is over; but in another sense, my life is an ongoing Advent season.

This past year has brought me to realize, among other things, the impossibility of forcing faith - not faith as a matter of intellect, but faith as a response to God. It's as hopeless a task as forcing a flower into blossom is. All that can be done is to provide the right conditions – good soil, water, and light - and then wait. Some flowers bloom in early spring, others not until autumn. Each needs the same basic conditions; each is beautiful when it does bloom; but it remains that each has its own time.

In that it is a response to God, faith is not familiarity with a collection of doctrines, to be pulled out and referenced as circumstances warrant. Those can be learned - and should be! - but they are not the heart. At its heart, faith is an encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ; and no one else can make that encounter for you. No one else can substitute their own experience of God for your lack of such; no one else will be drawn to God for the same reasons as you; no one else will have exactly the same experience of God as you. The role of the Christian is to guide others to that encounter and make introductions, so to speak – and then, very often, to step back and out of the way.

That stepping back, in humility, is very much a part of the charism of the Missionaries of Charity. By seeking Christ in the “poorest of the poor”, they cannot help but show Him forth – in their deeds, in their joy and simplicity of heart. (Ye olde 'frozen finger on the back of the neck' is not beyond them – but from love of neighbor!) Following Mary's example, they merely and always point to Christ. Anyone drawn to Him through their example is directed to a priest; they do not directly convert anyone. It is not their place; it is not their spirituality. In that I have them to thank for much of my spiritual development of late, neither is it mine. It's as humbling as it is difficult – but for a frustrated polemicist and point-scorer like me, it is much, much the better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Coincidence? I think not!

Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, He whacks us repeatedly over the head until we get the message. These past three days, for example...and who knows what He's got planned for tomorrow...


Beginning this month, I work early on Sundays, so am cut as a server well before the restaurant closes. Around 7:00, I'm sat one last time: two middle-aged women; nice sort, just friends out for a meal. By the grace of my God-given gift of nosiness, I ask about the calendars they have lying on the table. One of the women explains that they are from a fundraising drive and flips one open to show me. The picture is of a group of African children; the quote accompanying is from Mother Teresa. I exclaim happily at that...and it goes from there. It turns out that the woman, Pam:

- Has taken a group of teens to Africa to work at an MC orphanage there, and was accompanied by a priest I know slightly through the MCs.
- Is going again with that priest, and another teen group, to Calcutta in January.
- Will keep my contact information (and I hers) against future trips.
- Will be more than happy to take my Miraculous Medal to touch to Mother's tomb.
- Is my last table of the night, so I had plenty of time to linger at the table and listen to her tales of Tanzania and adventures with Fr. Jack and the MCs.
- Wants to give me one of the calendars, if I'm also willing to accept - more than likely - the gift of her cough. She'd warned me I'd probably need to wipe down her menu...and that had only been on the table 5 minutes. The calendar was sitting there for over an hour. (Hey, take the bad with the good!)

I was cut at 7:15; I didn't leave until after 10:00. No more sleep than usual, and even less than some previous Sundays - but oh, so worth it. Meeting her; making the contact; having my "other" world intrude into the very different enviroment of my job. Nothing I planned; nothing I expected; nothing that would have happened had I not had a table open, or had the hostess decided to take them to another table.


Monday, as mentioned, I go to the Sisters'. Typical day: Mass. Cook breakfast for the men. Wash dishes. Clean. Make soup and sandwiches for the men's lunch. Wash dishes. Noon prayer. Untypical day: Noon prayer and 2:00 Adoration are conflated, and begin at 11:00. In the afternoon will be the distribution of Christmas baskets, and last-minute shopping for those same. I can help with the shopping, but I can't stay for the distribution - I need to leave before dark. The house is in East Baltimore, and also I attend a praise-and-worship meeting out in Catonsville on Monday nights. Public transit gets me there, but not quickly.

Oh - those girls I've never seen at the house before, who've come to help with the distribution? They're from Catonsville, says Sister. Maybe I can stay if they can take me part of the way, thinks I. Though - I've never seen them at the house before, but come to think of it, haven't I seen them somewhere? I have, as it turns out. At the prayer meeting. In another city. 15 miles away. They can take me, if I don't mind stopping by their house first for dinner. A family dinner: Dad, Mom, six kids, and a meal worthy of a gourmet (on a Monday night!). Okay? I don't mind if you don't! I'd almost left several hours before, I wasn't going to stay at all, but changed my mind (like I never do that...) and decided on helping as long as I could. Against any idea of mine, that turned out to be for the entire distribution.


This afternoon, I made a stop by the Adoration chapel in Towson, to make some poor attempt to turn back to God the weekend's blessings - and the tests, certainly not absent. As I'm leaving, someone calls out to me: a co-volunteer from the MC's who I'd not seen in months and did not expect to see again. Last I'd heard, she was joining a religious order in the Philippines. She still is; leaving on December 27. We went for coffee, and a very belated chance to talk and compare notes on our respective Come-and-See visits to the MCs. And a chance to wish each other well: her as she goes to enter religious life, me as I continue to haul myself towards that same goal. A difference of even a minute on the part of either of us, and it would not have happened: we'd have either missed each other, or not wanted to pull the other out of Adoration.


I think I get the idea now, God. It takes me a while, and You need to speak very slowly and raise Your voice a little...but I think I see Your point. You know what you've got planned for me. Maybe I should quit whining and worrying, and just let be....

The Raving Atheist...

...is now, officially, the Raving Theist. I've lurked on his blog on and off for years; his humor could be harsh at times, but there was - and is - always an honesty and thoughtfulness to his posts that made them well-worth the reading. May Christ, who has begun this good work in him, bring it to completion.

Gloria a Dei, et Filii, et Spiritui Sancti!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Avery Cardinal Dulles, August 24, 1918 – December 12, 2008. A truly bright star among Abraham's descendants, now entered into the eternal Light.

Blessed repose and eternal memory.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Am I not here, who am your Mother?

"Lord, You have called me."

This past Monday, December 8th, was the semiannual profession of final vows for the Missionaries of Charity, held in Washington DC. Active sisters, contemplative sisters, junior sisters, aspirants, Lay MCs, volunteers, family, shelter residents, hospice residents...they fit wonderfully into the Basilica Crypt Church where the profession Mass was held. (They didn't fit quite so well into the convent where the reception was - a good many stayed outside despite the weather.)

During the Mass, before the sisters together profess their vows, the Archbishop calls each by her religious name and she responds "Lord, you have called me."

Lord, You have called me - You have called us. And this is the response we give to Your call. These are the gifts You have given us, and this is how we will use them in Your service. Whatever the struggles of the past ten years, whatever the sacrifices, whatever the joys; all those things we can articulate and those for which there are no words - they all come down to that one reality. Christ has called. And we have answered.

Monday was also the feast of the Immaculate Conception; the conception of the one who always gave her "Yes" to God. She could have said no just as Eve did - she too had that moment of decision for God or against. She too could have sinned...she could have listened to that 'trouble' inside her and shrunk away from the angel. But instead, it was yes - "let it be unto me."

Echoing that yes is not some high calling for priests and nuns; it's for all of us, every day. Even in uncertainty, when we can't see what God is doing or why He is doing it, it's still for us to say yes; to hold to Christ and trust in His absolute goodwill towards us. He can only want our good; we have to trust in that and act on it.