A Suffering Servant

Evangelical Christian Chuck Colson’s take on Mother Teresa, from Breakpoint:

For the first time in more than 30 years, Mother Teresa graces the cover of Time magazine. But unlike the 1975 cover that hailed her as a living saint, this week’s cover titillatingly trumpets, “The Secret Life of Mother Teresa.” The subtitle declares, “Newly published letters reveal a beloved icon’s 50-year crisis of faith.” NBC led the TV pack with serious questions about her faith.

Those letters, written by Mother Teresa over more than 60 years, form a new book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. So what do these letters really reveal? Newsflash: One of the great saints of the 20th century had doubts. At times, she even doubted the existence of God. Imagine that!

Now, to put this in perspective, imagine that for 60 years you waded knee-deep in the gutters of Calcutta to tend to the outcast and the dying. In the midst of unspeakable squalor and human suffering, might you at times not doubt God?

Here’s more news: Mother Teresa struggled with depression. When you wrestle with the devil surrounded by human misery, you might have good cause to be depressed! I know from the years I have spent ministering in prisons. There are many times that you question, “Where’s God?” To be depressed in such situations simply makes you human. To carry on through the depression reveals the hand of God.

Not surprisingly, Mother Teresa’s letters are red meat for the media. And atheists like Christopher Hitchens could not resist ridiculing her dark night of the soul. “She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person,” Hitchens told Time. “Her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith [which] could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself.” Hitchens even compared her to the old communists who realized their lives were meaningless after the Soviet Union collapsed. What rubbish!

And meaningless is the last word you would think of to describe Mother Teresa. To help the poorest of the poor die with dignity was the greatest example of faith, particularly while you are suffering yourself, with doubts and with pain and with depression.

She continued to do the toughest job anyone could possibly do. And she did it to her dying day. Why? As she wrote to her spiritual advisor, she submitted to God. “I accept,” she wrote, “not in my feelings—but with my will, the Will of God—I accept His will.” I came to that realization in my own dark night of the soul a couple of years ago when two of my three kids had cancer.

The very essence of faith, you see, is believing even in the absence of evidence. And it is the only way we can know Christ. We can conclude rationally that God exists, that His Word is true, and that He has revealed Himself. But without that leap of faith, we will never know God personally or accept His will in Christ.

So what do the letters of Mother Teresa reveal? For one, they reveal the true cost of discipleship. To follow Christ is to embrace suffering and the Cross. And, at times, to say with Jesus, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”

Certainly Mother Teresa took on the suffering of the world just as her Lord had done. And she demonstrated a kind of faith that few ever experience. But hers is a faith that will be a lasting witness to the world—when Christopher Hitchens and the media critics are long forgotten.

Vatican Place Complimentary Holy Water on Flights!

Wow! Most stories on this are reporting the pilgrims not being able to bring Lourdes water on board with them, but the real story is that in this day of no perks on flights is what the Vatican is doing!

From Africa-Reuters.com:

The real miracle would have been getting it past airport security.

Inspectors at Tarbes-Lourdes airport in France refused to give their blessing to holy water that passengers tried to bring on board the Vatican’s new pilgrim flights this week, saying it was a security threat just like any other liquid.

The water, which is said to have miraculous healing powers, came from a sacred grotto where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared in 1858.

Passenger Paola Saluzzi told Corriere della Sera newspaper she was carrying the water in eight small plastic bottles “in the shape of the little Madonna”. But it was not allowed on board.

“If they gave preference to the water from Lourdes it would be an (irregularity) that would not guarantee the proper procedure,” she acknowledged.

But the Vatican had foreseen such an eventuality and placed a small complimentary bottle of holy water on the seat of each pilgrim to drink on board, Saluzzi said.

Russian Patriarch Lauds Benedict’s Motu Proprio

Says that if the Orthodox had not held on to their traditions, they never would have survived the persecutions…interesting, from Interfax Religion:

Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia has greeted the recent decree of Pope Benedict XVI providing more freedom to celebrate the ancient Latin Mass.

The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that provides more freedom to use the pre-Vatican II Missal ‘is a positive fact,’ Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia said to comment on the Roman Catholic Church reintroducing her ancient liturgical form.

‘We strongly adhere to the tradition. Without being faithful to her liturgy the Russian Orthodox Church would have failed to survive persecutions in 1920s and 1930s,’ the Russian primate told the Italian daily Il Giornale a few days ago after celebration liturgy in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

The patriarch opined that the pope’s decision might contribute to establishing closer links with the Orthodox Churches, the daily said.

The Patriarch also hints at what is necessary for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, again from Interfax:

“Pope Benedict has said on many occasions that he wants to promote dialogue and cooperation with the Orthodox Churches, and this is a positive occurrence,” Alexy II said in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

A meeting with the pope must be thoroughly prepared, he said.

“It must not be merely an occasion for a few photos or for an appearance before TV cameras. It must strengthen ties between our two Churches,” Alexy II said.

“Even now, some of the Catholic bishops and missionaries see Russia as a territory of missionary activities. But Russia, Holy Rus, which has been permeated with faith for centuries and the Orthodox Church, guarded with God’s blessing, is not a place for missionary activities,” he said.

Alexy II said that it is the first issue to be settled before organizing a meeting.

The second one is the activities of the Greek Catholics Church. “We are concerned about the Uniates as a phenomenon and we can see this tendency even in the regions where it was not common – in eastern Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and even in Russia,” the patriarch said.

“When these issues are settled an opportunity will emerge for a meeting, and it will have sense then,” Alexy II said.

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

From the Office of Readings (St. Bede, Homily):

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptising, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptised in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptise the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Letters Reveal Mother Teresa’s Heroic Spiritual Struggle

From Catholic World News:

Cardinal Julian Herranz, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (the Vatican’s top canon-law body), told the Italian daily La Repubblica that Mother Teresa clearly suffered through the “dark night of the soul,” like many other great saints.

The book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light includes letters that Mother Teresa sent to her confessors and spiritual directors over a period of years, recounting her internal struggles and her sense of aridity in prayer.

The frank content of the letters– describing the spiritual struggles of a woman who is revered worldwide as a saint– has prompted some secular media outlets to question whether Mother Teresa had lost her faith in God. But any such interpretation of the work is profoundly mistaken, Church leaders agree.

Cardinal Herranz noted that leading mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross wrote extensively about the “dark night of the soul.” Their spiritual trials reflect the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said. They should be recognized, the Spanish cardinal added, as “a test of greatness of faith.”

Culture of Death Watch: Wrong Twin Aborted

And Salmone said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist”… 

You probably haven’t heard about this. A woman in Italy was pregnant with twins. Prenatal testing revealed one of the twins had Down’s Syndrome. So the distraught couple decided to abort that twin. The doctor messed up and aborted the healthy child and shortly afterwards aborted the Down’s Syndrome child. Let the law suits begin, but as the Vatican points out this very public Italian case brings to light the horrors of modern medicine, from The Times Online:

The mother, who has a small son, said that her life had been ruined. “Neither my husband nor I can sleep at night,” she told the Corriere della Sera, which first reported the blunder. She said that the happiness she and her husband had experienced when they learnt that she was expecting twins had been transformed into heartbreak.

Her husband said that they were “truly desperate over this terrible mistake” and were consulting family lawyers.

The episode has been seized upon by Catholics campaigning to have the abortion law repealed. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said: “No one has the right to suppress another life and take the place of God for any motive whatever.” The paper said that selective abortion amounted to eugenics, stemming from “a culture of perfection”. The Association of Catholic Doctors said that selective abortion was “the fruit of an egoistic culture”, while Luca Volontè, a Christian Democrat politician, said that the Milan mistake amounted to infanticide.

Feast of St. Augustine

From the Office of Readings (Augustine, Confessions):

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.
O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.
Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
 but I outside, seeking there for you,
 and upon the shapely things you have made
 I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
 those things which would have no being,
 were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
 you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
 you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
 I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
 you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

A Monk Visits a Parish Church

And is shocked at what he finds. There is much in this post by Father Mark that deserves wide distribution and reflection. Because ultimately what it reveals is a loss of sense of why we go to Mass at all–and unfortunately the ones who “plan” liturgies are often the most clueless, giving such platitudes as “we are building community.” I’ve got news for you–Mass isn’t about what “we” do but what has and is being done to us not by liturgical organizers but by God.

The Mother Teresa book (mentioned in the post below) points out the real temptation that enters into the life of every person who sets out to follow Christ. Mother Teresa’s sanctity is evident because she was not overcome by those temptations, most of us aren’t so saintly and when the doubt and darkness creep in we seek to take charge and run the show ourselves. This is the great disaster that most of us have to put up with on a weekly basis when someone comes to a microphone and starts giving us instructions on what it is we are going to do today at Mass.

 God gathers us to Himself–God brings us into communion with Himself, our active participation in the Mass is all about saying “Yes” to God and being aware of our inability to say “yes” with our whole being.

Father Mark’s reflections:

1) The loss of any notion of sacred space. I think this is directly related to the removal of the Communion Rail or other effective delineation of the sanctuary of the church. Time to rally ’round the rood screen again! The Tractarians were right.

2) Mass “facing the people.” This, more than anything else, undermined and continues to undermine the faithful’s experience of the Mass as a Sacrifice offered to God in adoration, propitiation, thanksgiving, and supplication. The altar has become the big desk of the clerical CEO behind it: The Presider. It has become a stage prop for the “performing priest,” complete with The Microphone.

3) Holy Communion in the hand. I see it every time I offer Mass in a parish church: the casual approach prevails. If one receives the Holy Mysteries like ordinary bread and a sip of ordinary wine, one begins rather sooner than later, will-nilly, to think of them as mere bread and wine.

cantorganist.jpg

4) No bells. Instead of ringing a sacristy bell to announce the beginning of Mass, the organist leaned into His Microphone and said, “Let us stand to greet Father Kirby.” Sorry. That is not what the Entrance Procession is about. It is a humble, joyful, and orderly movement into the Holy Place, a crossing-over from chronos (worldly, stressful, clocked time) to kairos (the heavenly, tranquil, timeless moment of God), an entering into the adorable presence of the God who is like a consuming fire, a making-ready for the inbreaking of the Kingdom of Heaven. A bell says it better.

Same thing during the Eucharistic Prayer. People need to be warned of the imminence of the most sacred moment of the Mass, even when the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon) is prayed aloud and in the vernacular. A bell does the job quite nicely. And another thing: saying the whole Eucharistic Prayer aloud and in the vernacular does not automatically guarantee “full, conscious, and actual participation” in the Holy Sacrifice. Silence, on the other hand, at least for certain parts of the Eucharistic Prayer, effectively opens a door onto the Holy Mysteries.

4) Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Alas, they are not extraordinary. They are ubiquitous and, I think, superfluous. Does expediting the distribution of Holy Communion really constitute grave necessity? In the church where I offered Mass last Saturday there were four Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, all of whom were women. Three were wearing casual slacks and one was showing cleavage. They could have been serving lemonade at the parish garden party. It was frightfully inappropriate.

Could there not be properly instituted acolytes for the service of the Holy Mysteries where such are needed? These would be adult men — few in number — suitably vested in amice, alb, and cincture and, most of all, schooled in reverence, attention, and devotion, and carefully trained for the service of the sacred liturgy.

This brings up yet another issue? Where have all the men gone? At last Saturday’s Mass, the four Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, the Server, and one Lector were all women. I am not a misogynist. But honestly, this situation does nothing to foster priestly vocations.

5) The Music. Dare I call it that? Oh, the music! Show-tuney, trite, tired, and sickeningly sentimental with the organist/crooner singing into His Microphone. Might we not try singing the Mass itself: the Ordinary and the Propers? More than anything else celebrants must begin taking their sacerdotal obligations seriously by learning to cantillate the dialogical parts of the Mass, the orations, the Preface Dialogue and Preface, and the other elements that belong uniquely to them as priests.

I am not a gloomy person by nature, but last Saturday’s Mass left me very sad indeed. “For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?” (Lk 23:31).

Even Christ Experienced Darkness says Cardinal

Cardinal Herranz compares the darkness experienced by Mother Teresa (related in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light) to what Christ experienced in his  agony in the  Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. From Catholic Online:

Vatican officials said a new book detailing Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s long “crisis of faith” illustrates her spiritual strength in the face of doubt.

“This is a figure who had moments of uncertainty and discouragement, experiencing the classic dark night that God gives to chosen people in order to forge them on the road to holiness,” said Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, a member of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

“These moments of crisis felt by great saints are normal and in line with the church’s tradition,” Cardinal Herranz said Aug. 26. Even Christ experienced a similar spiritual trial in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, he said.

Such moments of “weakness” are in fact “the proof of the greatness of faith of Blessed Mother Teresa and take nothing away from her holiness,” he said.

Cardinal Herranz, who spoke in an interview with the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, said the progress of Mother Teresa’s sainthood cause would not be affected by the letters published in the book.

My Illustrious Baseball Career

Now recorded online.

Praying the Our Father

Realizing that all Christian prayer is “through Christ” and “in Christ” try this. Find a crucifix and pray the Our Father while gazing at it, realizing with each word that you speak that you are praying “through Christ”–I think you’ll find that it helps you first of all to say the words with real meaning and secondly it’ll give you much pause to think about your own life in relation to how you pray this prayer.

RIP

Édouard Cardinal Gagnon died on Saturday in Montreal.

Feast of Saint Monica

From the Office of Readings (Saint Augustine, Confessions):

Because the day when she was to leave this life was drawing near – a day known to you, though we were ignorant of it – she and I happened to be alone, through (as I believe) the mysterious workings of your will. We stood leaning against a window which looked out on a garden within the house where we were staying, at Ostia on the Tiber; for there, far from the crowds, we were recruiting our strength after the long journey, in order to prepare ourselves for our voyage overseas. We were alone, conferring very intimately. Forgetting what lay in the past, and stretching out to what was ahead, we enquired between ourselves, in the light of present truth, into what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor human heart conceived it. And yet, with the mouth of our hearts wide open we panted thirstily for the celestial streams of your fountain, the fount of life which is with you.
This was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. Yet you know, O Lord, how on that very day, amid this talk of ours that seemed to make the world with all its charms grow cheap, she said, “For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything that this life holds. What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”
What I replied I cannot clearly remember, because just about that time – five days later, or not much more – she took to her bed with fever. One day during her illness she lapsed into unconsciousness and for a short time was unaware of her surroundings. We all came running, but she quickly returned to her senses, and, gazing at me and my brother as we stood there, she asked in puzzlement, “Where was I?”
We were bewildered with grief, but she looked keenly at us and said, “You are to bury your mother here”. I was silent, holding back my tears, but my brother said something about his hope that she would not die far from home but in her own country, for that would be a happier way. On hearing this she looked anxious and her eyes rebuked him for thinking so; then she turned her gaze from him to me and said, “What silly talk!” Shortly afterwards, addressing us both, she said, “Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be”. Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could muster, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.

Mother Teresa Chose the “Better Part”

From Our Sunday Visitor:

Many people were blessed to be friends or colleagues of Mother Teresa, who had a permanent impact on their lives. Our Sunday Visitor asked two of these fortunate people to reflect upon what made this simple sister so special.

It has been 10 years since Mother Teresa went home to God. Her beatification in October 2003 placed her one miracle away from canonization.

As with any saint, there is a danger of turning Mother Teresa into a plastic statue and adorning her with ethereal glow. In my 12 years of association and friendship with Mother, what impressed me most was her beautiful humanity.

Mother Teresa first of all was a mother. She had an extraordinary maternal love. She listened intently to you as if you were her only child. She cared about your best interests and sometimes told you things you didn’t want to hear.

She didn’t judge. Mother used to say, “If you judge people, then you have no time to love them.” She was thoughtful and considerate and, like many mothers, she was never too busy for the little things.

I remember one morning in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1989. I had attended early morning Mass with Mother at her contemplative sisters’ house where she was staying. I rushed out after Mass to go and run the errands she had given me.

I raced to the Missionaries of Charity truck and was about to pull out when I saw a commotion at the door — Mother had come outside and was gesturing for me.

I hastily parked the truck and ran to see what she wanted. To my utter surprise, she had come out with great urgency to give me a peanut butter sandwich and a banana so that I had something for breakfast. That’s what mothers — and saints — do.

Narrow is the Way

 An excellent homily (although its not one) from the Pope on today’s Gospel–from his Angelus message. What is the passport that’ll get you into heaven?

From Papa Ratzinger Forum:

Today’s liturgy proposes to us a statement of Christ which is illuminating but at the same time disconcerting. During his last journey towards Jerusalem, someone asked him: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Jesus answers: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Lk 13, 23-24).

What does this ‘narrow gate’ mean? Why will many not succeed in entering it? Is it perhaps reserved only to a few elect? In effect, we can well see that this has always been the reasoning by Jesus’s interlocutors: there has always been the temptation to interpret religious practice as a source of privileges or security.

In fact, Christ’s message is exactly the opposite: everyone can enter life, but for everyone the gate is ‘narrow’. No one is privileged. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is ‘narrow’ because it is demanding, it requires commitment, abnegation, a mortification of our own ego.

Once again, as in the past few Sundays, the Gospel invites us to consider the future which awaits us and for which we should prepare during our pilgrimage on earth.

Salvation, which Jesus effected through his death and resurrection, is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites all of us to the banquet of immortal life. But on one and the same condition: that we must try to follow and imitate him, taking upon ourselves, as he did, our own Cross, and dedicating our life to the service of our brothers.

Therefore, this condition for entering into celestial life is singular but universal. On the final day, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel, we are not going to be judged on the basis of presumed privileges but according to our works.

So the ‘workers of evil’ will find themselves excluded, while those who did good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifices, will be welcomed. Nor will it suffice to declare ourselves ‘friends’ of Christ, alleging false merits: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you have taught in our squares” (Lk 13,26).

True friendship with Christ is expressed in how we live: it is expressed with goodness of heart, with humility, kindness and mercy, love for justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation.

This, we might say, is the ‘identity card’ that qualifies us as authentic ‘friends’ of Christ. This is the ‘passport’ that will allow us to enter into eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we wish ourselves to pass through the narrow gate, we should learn to be small, that is, humble of heart like Jesus. Like Mary, his mother and ours. It was she, first among all, who followed the way of the Cross behind her Son, and was assumed to the glory of heaven, as we remembered several days ago.

The Christian people invoke Mary as Ianua Caeli, gate of heaven. Let us ask her to guide us in our daily choices along the way which will lead us to the ‘gate of Heaven.’

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