I am firmly of the opinion that true humility comes in the moment when you stop whining about the size of your cross because you suddenly find yourself floored under the weight of the cross of another, and you both realize together in a gloriously gut-wrenching moment that Christ carried the weight of both already with Him to Calvary.
The Litany of Humility has pretty much become infamous among Catholics for being one of those prayers that gives you exactly what you ask for in exactly the way you don’t want to receive it. You know, like when you pray for patience in the morning and immediately spill your coffee as you get in your car, get stuck in traffic on your way to work, have to deal with that one guy who just won’t shut up on your shift talking about some anime show you’ve never heard of (but now know its entire cast of characters, plot, subplot, and existential significance), and come home to find your front lawn TP’d by the neighborhood kids…and it just started raining. You learn patience fast…or else completely break down.
So when I started praying for humility this Lent, I already had my teeth gritted and body braced, waiting for a little disaster.
…I’m still waiting.
The past few weeks have been less of a living awkward-fest and more of a self-discovery. Time after time, God has placed events and people in my life trying to tell me to love myself.
See, the thing is, I’m not particularly a fan of myself. I’m your typical perfectionist, and in the last few weeks, I’ve been particularly scrupulous for various reasons, and generally just tense and upset and frustrated. And I think this is exactly what God is trying to help me not to do. He’s trying to teach me real humility.
Because humility isn’t just knowing your weakness and smallness. It’s knowing how much God loves you, at every single moment. It’s less about stopping yourself from seeking approval and more about being so secure in God’s love that you just don’t need that approval. It’s seeing yourself for who you are before God: a beloved child. Weak and small, yes, but so remarkably precious. It’s letting yourself be loved with the perfect love that casts out all fear, all frustration, all scrupulosity.
Funny how our greatest pride, sometimes, is thinking that we’ve managed to create a mess so big in ourselves that God can’t possibly overlook it. Funny how we swell ourselves up so much in our self-pity and self-loathing.
Funny how God simply turns us to the cross and says, “I already knew you would do these things, would end up here after all these mistakes, and I still did this for you. Any reason left not to let me love you?”
Well, brothers and sisters, is there?
I fell again.
These clumsy bones marching under a wobbly head just collapsed, throwing me headlong into the same old snake-pit. The fight was just too much, and I found myself having to fight a new fight with the voices that tell me I’ll never be good enough, that this battle with myself just isn’t worth fighting.
Of course I’ll get back up again and keep walking; I seem to be finding my footing a little more, and this new way of walking is starting to undo old muscle memory. But somehow I always seem to fall again.
And still you’re asking me to be humble?
How much lower can I get than the dirt beneath my feet?
But then that’s not humility. That’s stupidity. An old, old stupidity that’s settled into my flesh and still hasn’t completely washed out, and just keeps dragging me back down.
And it seems like I forget that. I get a few paces away from my last fall and get so caught up in making my feet walk the way I want and forcing my body to obey that I forget to lean on the hand that helped me back up in the first place.
So, Lord, this time, don’t let me forget that I just fell.
But don’t let me forget that you’re right next to me, either.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart…
This Lent, something I’m really trying to work on is humility. And I just want to share things as I go, based on the prayer I’m praying everyday: the Litany of Humility.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe part of it is a selfish or prideful desire to be noticed, I suppose. But I’d like to believe I’m not entirely stuck in the mire of my ego and sinful desires, and that somewhere in this is a noble desire. So we’ll see how this goes together, brothers and sisters, if that’s OK with you.
When I was first introduced to this prayer my freshman year, I was told that it was a good prayer both for the more egotistical types and for people who were insecure (I fit more into the second category, although I’m finding out they’re not mutually exclusive). I prayed it for about two weeks and then just stopped. I just felt like I couldn’t keep up such an intense prayer. How could I honestly ask God to deliver me from things that I craved with my whole heart, like love and acceptance? How could I ask Him to take away things that I had yet to truly experience in my life? And what was so bad about them anyway?
But now, things are different. I am loved, and I am accepted, by so many beautiful people. And still my heart reverts to seeking and craving more and more of it. My heart and mind are so hell-bent on it that I’ll do anything to get it, even when I already have it so authentically and fully without trying. It’s as if part of me still doesn’t believe it’s possible, part of me still just wants to be picked up and held until I know beyond a doubt that I can stop searching, stop grasping.
So now I desperately need to pray this prayer.
I need to be delivered of this false humility that’s built up inside me like a cancer, to be truly humbled, where I recognize my own weakness and frailty, and yet feel truly secure in the love of my God.
I need to look to Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, and beg Him to hear my voice. That’s all I really want, anyway: to know that I’m being heard, that the little cries my heart makes silently throughout the day don’t just pass into the void or get lost in the cacophony in my head; that someone, the Great Someone Who looks into my heart and loves me, hears me even when I don’t think about Him.
Jesus, You Who humbled yourself to know our life and flesh and the burden of sin, who humbly accepted even death on a cross for love of me…
Recall the day the Tree of Life was shorn
of verdant life and pierced by iron nails,
when darkness, groaning, veiled the dying morn
while stones took up the trembling and wails.
Recall the day when earth and sky screamed out,
“Creator scorned, O creatures!, whence thy hope?”
Remember blood of God-Made-Man, the shout
of stone-cold tomb, salvation’s envelope.
Recall, recall, sweet soul, how blood gave birth
to sons and daughters from a granite womb,
Creation’s moans now sprung from fruitful girth
while souls by flood are washed into the tomb;
once more recall: as old life’s morning dies,
creation new from sepulchre will rise.
There’s a concept in metaphysics related to time, that there are different types of time. There’s objective, of course, the measure of change that we use clocks to observe. There’s subjective time, which is our perception of that change (you know, like how a 30-minute crash course on sexual harassment feels like it’s never going to end). There’s also spiritual time, which is when we are unaware of the passage of time because we are pulled by God out of our normal experience of time (aka ecstasy). There’s one other type of time, which I want to focus on: metaphysical time.
This kind of time presupposes that things are made with ends, that they grow and change with a purpose towards a natural end. It is the measure of the distance between where a being is metaphysically and its metaphysical end. Remarkable thing about metaphysical time, most things just progress naturally towards their natural ends unhindered unless stinted or interrupted by outside forces. We’re like that to an extent ourselves, but there is a major difference.
We have the power, throughout our lives, to derail that growth towards our ultimate end: Heaven.
So why am I writing about this on New Year’s Eve?
All over the world, people are celebrating the beginning of the New Year with (drinking, drugs, sex, other ridiculous stuff, and) resolutions. In a quiet way, people are looking at the past year and, while they are remembering the good memories, they are also seeing the things in themselves they don’t like, the choices they made that have derailed them. Their response? Resolutions, promises to make new choices, choices to put themselves “back on track”, heading towards their good and happiness.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands what this end is, this good, this ultimate happiness. Not everyone is able to see all the things in themselves that are stinting that metaphysical growth in themselves. And many look at how far they’ve jumped the tracks and simply give up on trying to find their way back to the straight and narrow.
But that’s the remarkable thing about redemption: IT HAPPENS.
We just celebrated the Incarnation of Christ, His coming into our world. He came specifically to redeem mankind, to undo what all mankind throughout history has done and win graces to save and constantly renew us. Again and again these graces are offered new to us in the sacramental life of the Church. What an incredible blessing!
So now that this year is coming to a close, I just want to sit in gratitude for the fact that Mama Troll in Frozen was wrong when she said, “We’re not saying you can change him, ‘cuz people don’t really change. We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange…” Love does, in fact, transform, not just draw out. Love intimately and powerfully works in the person, shaping them. Love can work even the most distant, hardened, or shattered heart into a masterpiece of grace.
I’ve discovered that in my own life this past year. It’s been an intense year of growth, coming to terms with the fact that massive changes needed to happen in my life. and by God’s grace, I’ve grown to a point where depression and anxiety, which I have struggled with for years, is now almost nonexistent, and I have the hope and courage to continue to work at cooperating with the transforming grace of God in my heart, rooting out old habits and mental frameworks that have stinted my metaphysical and spiritual growth for so long.
So first of all, thank you to everyone who has stuck with me and believed in me, and been living witnesses of the love of Christ to me. I love you so much.
Second of all, take courage! The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it! Let the coming year be a transformative one. Trust in the Lord; He can and will transform and renew your heart.
Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless you and yours abundantly.
In solemn awe the seraphim cry “Gloria” on high,
as hosts join in rejoicing at sight:
the New Creation’s dawn is come, salvation’s morn is nigh,
and breaks upon a cold December night.
The light of Love, on wings of grace, stoops into time and place,
the Word speaks in a tiny infant’s cry,
and God, so inexpressible, now takes a human face,
content within the Virgin’s arms to lie.
The hearts of men with labor pains once wracked now moan no more,
for Christ is come to take away our sin.
Let Mary and the Spirit make a manger and a door,
that Christ in you be born anew. Amen.
Writing a Christmas poem has become a tradition for me. I wish I had more time to put better thought and effort in, but the important thing is that it expresses what I want it to: that this Christmas can be an opportunity of great renewal, of letting Christ be born in our hearts and our lives, just as He was born in Bethlehem. He comes with redeeming love. So rejoice, even if you don’t feel happy, because we have a reason to be truly joyful all the days of our life, a reason that began with one moment, on one night, in this world. May God bless you and yours with peace, love, and joy; may you sleep peacefully in the arms of Mary, our Mother and His, and may you rise to the splendor of the dawn of Christ’s coming in the love of the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. Merry Christmas to one and all!!
So guys. Depending on what I learn in my classes on the Holy Spirit and the Nature of Love next semester, I might have found a topic for my thesis.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
OK I promise it’s more than just this cringe-worthy biblical quote, just hear me out. And tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your insights/input.
The reason I started with this quote is because I think this idea of “circumcision of the heart” is a linking factor. “Circumcision of the heart” has to do with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ. Under the Mosaic Covenant, and in fact all the way up to the New Covenant, the sign of being formally brought into the covenant was circumcision, representing the casting off of sin and one’s former way of life to live in God’s love, under His paternal care.
In the New Covenant in Christ, we are given rather a “circumcision of the heart”, an interior circumcision worked by grace in which the person is radically transformed, his sinfulness removed from him and dignity as child of God restored to him. This occurs sacramentally in Baptism first and subsequently through each Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit is particularly involved in these acts of grace; it is He Who brings the graces, which were won by Christ on the cross, to each individual soul to unite them to Christ and present them to the Father. It is also He Who first “cuts to the heart”, so to speak, concerning man’s sinfulness and need for repentance, leading him to turn in metanoia (conversion of the heart) to God’s mercy. (See John 16:8)
How does beauty play into this?
If you have yet to have been truly touched by beauty, this will make no sense to you, and I question how you are able to function as a normal human being. If you have, continue on, fortunate soul.
Think of the last really beautiful moment in your life. It can be some big moment or change in your life, a moment of healing from a past wound, a particularly beautiful piece of music or art, a breathtaking moment spent in nature, or anything else similar. These moments touch us in the deepest parts of ourselves, and have a cutting sort of sweetness, a potency that feels something like pain to the heart and yet is deliciously sweet. It’s almost as if something cuts into us and strips away a veil, a veil that hung between our deepest, truest selves and the sweet something expressed in beauty that we all crave.
Coincidence? I think not.
Perhaps beauty is a way in which the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of man, showing him both the splendor of something beyond him and humbling him as he recognizes his own incongruity, insufficiency, or brokenness. Perhaps beauty is one of the Holy Spirit’s instruments of “circumcision of the heart”, moving man to repentance and true transformative change in his life through grace given by God. Perhaps, in beauty, we see both our potential and our lacking, and we are given the courage, the incentive, which moves us to cast off what is imperfect in us. In the sacraments, the heart torn by recognition of sinfulness thanks to the Holy Spirit is healed and separated from that sinfulness by the Same Holy Spirit.
Quick stipulation: I realize that beauty isn’t the ONLY means used by the Holy Spirit to “cut to the heart”. There are moments of intense recognition which He grants when we self-reflect; I think that moments of beauty can be a starting point for these self-reflections. In fact, come to think of it, this self-reflection is where the true decision to commit and submit to the “circumcision of the heart” has to occur. I think another starting point can be moments of suffering, if approached in the right spirit and with right understanding of the mystery of suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery and the beautiful truth that is our understanding of suffering as potentially redemptive.
This is just based on classes and readings and formation so far; I have a while to go on this, obviously. Is there actually a connection here? Anything I’m missing? Did I say something heretical or inaccurate? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? If two trains leave at the same time from the same point on the moon, one with rocket boosters and one with a standard engine, which one is carrying carrier pigeons?
After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to the depth–unique in the history of the world–of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, His words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many time found expression in the Old Testament…One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union with the Father, and are born because the Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –St. JPII, Salvifici Doloris, IV 18
So far so gut-wrenching…
Brethren, there is consensus among the saints that one of the most spiritually wholesome practices is to meditate on the Passion of Christ. Many of us who look to Christ on the cross as the source of our salvation are quick indeed to remember the physical agony which he underwent; yet this was not His definitive suffering, the suffering which ultimately conquered the reign of sin and death and suffering in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, His physical pain was so beyond excruciating that none of us will ever comprehend it, because in His perfection, His senses were likely all the more sensitive to/aware of pain. Yet the most acute suffering, the suffering that encompassed the full brunt of evil and won for us salvation, was something much more incomprehensibly horrific.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each of us, at one time or another, has experienced the feeling of being separated from God. Whether due to being in the midst of suffering when He withdraws consolation for a deeper union, or due to our deliberate turning away from Him in sin, we’ve all experienced it or will experience it. And it sucks. There is nothing worse, brethren, than looking in all the places where you know God is, and yet feeling as though He isn’t there, or doesn’t care.
This pain comes from once having had some level of union with God and then having lost it. The deeper our union with Him, the more painful the apparent or actual separation.
So what must it be like to be in complete union with God, to literally share the exact same nature, to be eternally bound in love to Him, and in the incomprehensible depth of that union, to experience through human nature utter separation from and rejection by Him?
Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of His filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering He accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as He breathes His last: “It is finished.” –Ibid.
We cannot even begin to imagine, brethren, what intense suffering it was for Christ, through His humanity, to experience, by the depth of His intimate union with the Father, separation from Him.
There is a scene in The Passion by Mel Gibson, during the crucifixion, when Christ cries out in His agony, “They don’t know…they don’t know…”, as they nail His feet into the wooden block. And He’s almost looking out through the screen, like He’s looking at you, at me. I’m going to post a link to that scene below. (Viewer discretion, this is brutal; it holds nothing back regarding the horrific brutality that was the crucifixion.) It’s about 4 minutes in. All I ask is that you watch those brief moments, let Him look into your eyes as He moans, “They don’t know”. And humble yourself. Recognize that you don’t have the beginning of an inkling of how deep, how intense, how horrific was the pain that your sins brought to Christ on the cross, wounding not only His body but the very depths of His being.
Then let it hit you that it’s you He’s praying for, that it’s you He’s dying for, that it’s you He’s loving even as you drive a nail into His feet and a wedge between Him and the Father.
And rejoice, even as you are humbled, that you are loved, that you are freed.
Enter into the mystery that is the suffering love of Christ that won for us our salvation.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to go with this particular post, I know it’s been awhile since I wrote on here so I want to try and incorporate some of my recent adventures into the message I want to put out there. That message is, in a nutshell, this: NEVER take the little things for granted.
I have struggled for a long time with relating to other men . My age, older, younger, black, white, whatever–I just really don’t connect with guys normally. Or at least with how I perceive guys to be. Conversations with other men are a struggle for me; even being around them for an extended period of time freaks me out. So when I actually make a connection with a guy, or even just hold a normal conversation with them without panicking, it’s pretty euphoric for me. Actually, poor choice of words: it’s healing. Healing for all the countless times I’ve been looked down on, ignored, or outright teased by other men.
That’s literally all it takes.
So when a guy goes a step further, and professes himself my brother, both in words and actions, it’s somewhere between terrifying and utterly exhilarating.
I could cite plenty of examples from my big or any number of my household brothers or others I have been blessed to meet the past few years, but I’d like to focus right now on my Totus Tuus teammate from this summer.
Now I’ll admit, I was incredibly hesitant at first to open up in any way to this guy. I mean this guy is seriously legit. I’d try to conjure an image of him with my words, but I’ll leave that to better writers. Suffice it to say that this young man is a man’s man, and truly a man of God. Twice as intriguing, twice as intimidating.
So when he finally took time one week and went out of his way to get me to open up, to truly get to know me, I was flabbergasted. What could he want to do with me? And what the heck was I supposed to say? How was I, who took months to let down my walls even to the best of my friends, supposed to open up to him in a matter of weeks? And yet he pushed me in my willing hesitancy, not rudely but with care and compassion. He took little moments to spend with me, pushed me to become better at the work we were doing, moved me to reverence and prayer.
It all probably seems like a pretty small endeavor from his point of view, but to me, it meant so much.
It meant that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t such a horrendously terrible person to be around after all.
So I invite you, brothers and sisters, don’t overlook the little things. The tiniest of gestures of love, respect, kindness, generosity, patience–they can change the course of a person’s life. And let yourself revel in the little acts of virtue that are done towards you or those around you. These “little things” are the seeds of rejoicing, because they are planted by children of the One Who is the source of all joy, all healing, all peace.
God bless you all as this semester begins; may you find yourself ever rejoicing in the little acts of love from God and His servants.
Lord, I know we’ve been through this before. Still, I need to ask this again: why do You even care about me, as messed up as I am?
I’m terrified, Lord. I feel cornered into a life I never wanted, half of it self-created. I’m torn apart inside by the crosses You’ve given me and the sins I’ve committed. One of these times I’m afraid You’ll stop at prodigal; You’ll be too sick of me to call me a son.
So how is it You still look at me and smile? How is it you still call me your child, your beloved?
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. –Matthew 10:29-31
Many sparrows…I just imagine a huge flock of sparrows taking flight at once, filling the site with simple grace…Could I really be worth more than they?
Lord, grant me the grace to trust that even though I don’t see a way out of the corner I’m in, You love me so much that You already have a plan for me. Help me see that I’m worth enough in Your eyes to die for. Help me to see these crosses as gifts, that the life You want from me isn’t just a last-resort effort to save a soul broken beyond repair; that somehow, it’s a perfect plan stitched together with love since before I was born.
Let my prayers of joy rise like many sparrows to Your throne.
Sweet welcome to you, oh burdensome trial,
And may your sweet barbs yet tarry awhile.
An earth more fallow for growth you’ll not find,
For it’s fertilized full with the corpses of your kind.
Yes, welcome to your sanctuary and death;
Though root you take, vain is your poisonous breath.
Your pain is but passage to courage and grace
And the One ever smiling from His bloodied face.
So unsheathe your sword and sharpen your lance–
The longer I cry, the harder I dance.
You’ve homed with a Gael, and all the world knows
That the greater our sorrow, the more our joy grows.
So welcome to rebellious fires, my friend.
My strength is your solace; His freedom, your end.
I heard it said once that if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans. And really, how pretentious are we, to think that we could know what’s best for us better than the God who holds Creation in His hands and knows us better than we know ourselves?
We are not our own. And that’s OK, because we really don’t do such a good job trying to do this thing called life on our own.
It’s amazing really, when you practice a virtue you really don’t want to, and you see no reward from it, and the one thing that makes you want to do it all again is seeing a man hanging on a cross and imagine Him smiling in the midst of His pain.
Ever stop to think about how precious we are in the sight of God, that He has a plan for each and every one of us that leads to us being as happy as we can possibly be, and how far He’s willing to go to get us there? And how cool is it to round a corner that you thought would lead to your dreams, watch them fall apart, and still have a reason to hope and be joyful?
Forgive a man head-over-heels in love; it’s been awhile since I wrote here, and Christ had done so much. And the remarkable thing is that most of the work has been through me losing things rather than gaining them, and instead of feeling jipped and poor, I feel so free that those things don’t matter anymore to me.
Truly, God provides, and where His Holt Spirit is, there is freedom. To be more fully Totus Tuus, Mary, is so painfully hard at first, but so freeing once the bond is broken with those things that really just don’t matter in light of the unfathomable love and mercy of God.
In one sense, it would be incredibly easy to write an “end-of-semester” post. There’s so much I learned, so many ways in which I grew.
But in another, it’s pretty much impossible. Too much goes on in my head in one day; there’s no way to get it all out there.
It’s questionable whether there’s even a point to writing a post like that for this blog. But let me at least say this: For the first time, leaving campus was hard for me. Incredibly hard, actually. And that makes me rather happy, because it means that there was something I had there that meant enough to me that to lose it, even for a seemingly short time, was painful.
For the first time in a long time, I knew I had friends so close that they were practically family.
God works unbelievably slow sometimes, it’s true. I waited years to find friends so close as these. But it happened. God brought these amazing people into my life, and finally convinced me to pry my heart open to them. It’s difficult and painful to not be with them, and even being with them is hard sometimes, but every moment is worth it.
They’ve taught me something, too: that I can do more than just survive the storms of life and the trials I go through, I can actually thrive in them. Even if all I can manage is a smile, I’ve conquered something. I’ve had a little victory I can share with the Lord and Mama Mary. (Seriously, try sharing one of those with them sometime, you will not believe how proud they are of you!!)
And the thing is, even if we’re in the middle of a waking nightmare, the beauty of life, the immensity of God’s love, and the intoxicating preciousness of each and every person walking the face of this earth is untouched. What more reason need we to rejoice?
The sound of tears is only outdone by the shattering of hearts all around. It seems wrong in a way that today should be so beautiful, with a bright, sun-filled sky and flowers beginning to bloom everywhere. Only the leafless trees seem to understand, and even they are putting forth buds.
But they’re right, in another way.
We ought to mourn today. We ought to cry, to grieve, or to sit in silent reflection. Our hearts ought to be broken when we look at the wounds of Christ and hear His prayer for our forgiveness, when we see Mary weep as she kisses the feet of her Son, when we hear the soldier cry out in faith as his heart turns violently in His chest.
And yet, there ought to be just a whisper of a promise echoing still in our hearts, and echo that nature itself seems to speak today.
This is not the end.
It’s a beginning.