I appreciate this selection from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbered entry 1823. The reminder of what Jesus teaches us as recorded by the Apostle John in his Gospel, helps me all the more each time I am reminded of the great commandment to love.
"Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own 'to the end,' he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.' And again: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'"
The more I have pondered the events of the past few days, the more I recognize that I at least "feel" as if I've lost some "niceness" over time and as result of some life circumstances and encounters. I have always been a very "nice" person, capable of and exuding much love. However, I feel beaten back, and my reactions have been not-so-nice, or at least that is my realistic view of my thoughts and feelings, even of some responses.
It seems as if a person can get so ground down that the usual "filters" are not intact.
For example, I developed a kind of dread of the purported couple who would be calling to bring Holy Communion. That dread derived from past encounters and even the conversation with the parish administrator a couple days ago. (That the couple has not called and likely will not, is not unexpected on my part, of course, but the conversation with the parish woman stirred my thoughts and feelings afresh.)
There is a certain, unfiltered reaction that gets set into motion when I converse with those who have been not-so-nice, and this includes when they think they are being nice. And my unfiltered reaction is not-so-nice, or at least to me it is not pleasant, not at the spiritual level that is within and without when I am being led and sustained by the Lord.
Rather, the other day I spoke and listened, and listened and commented, and the more I spoke the more information I gained that became even more outrageously not nice. I said things true enough but in unfiltered light would be perceived very much as not nice.
What the woman said is all very fine and well in details for a book I will be writing if I even live through this phase and episode of my existence in exile. And the more details and instances of documentation of words, reactions, and treatment by Catholics to modern day Catholic mystics in this society and culture of the Western Church (and perhaps with some historical context of past treatment of mystics)--the more concrete examples, the better.
However, in information and data gathering, case study style, the more I must detach from the process and especially from the information. The more I hear and experience as being the subject of case study in point, the more shocking to my thoughts. The shock shudders and shutters the soul. How sad and pathetic to realize the facts do not reveal much substantive improvement over the years and centuries regarding the topic: Catholics' treatment of Catholic mystics.
Upon waking this morning, the thought was on the mind: Catholic, but not Christian.
Well, that thought, sentiment, and/or reality can be an affliction of any of us in any Christian sect or denomination or rite within the Roman Catholic Church, or within the Orthodox Christian Church. In other religions, it could be termed slightly otherwise. We human beings are none of us perfect, and often enough we are not even that nice.
I had an urge which the Lord quickly quelled by some soul-checks as well as a phone call from the adult daughter who needed to discuss a teaching moment in parenting of their young son. The urge I had was to call and leave a message on the parish priest's emergency line (for there is no other means of leaving him a direct message), and that it would be that I wish we could just start over.
My experiment of being honest and simply explaining what the ecstasy in Mass is, a simple phenomenon even if kind of rare, I'm told by priests, a bishop and his consulting bishops--the honest approach did not work out well at all. People judge all the more, became more wary, fearful, and critical, shunning, unaccepting, and overall not nice.
I thought if we could start over and lie, and say I have narcolepsy, the situation would work out better. As is said, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; and Catholics and perhaps any group of church-goers or otherwise might in this case handle fiction better than truth. Many live in fictionalized views of ourselves, anyway. Or, if we take the filters off, we can say we live in self-deception often enough.
The parish administrator was deceiving herself with her transparent and silly blathering about her son's basketball schedule, convinced, it would seem, that I'd think he did not ever have 20 minutes to help carry drywall with his younger brother. That fiction to her evidently seemed better than to simply say, "We are wary of you, think you are a nut-case, hysteric, [or could use less blunt terms], and don't want our sons to help you, not at any dollar price."
But my daughter laughed at my notion, and said of course people want to try deception rather than such honesty; and I think it is because we want to keep up the fiction that we are very nice people, indeed. Instead, we reveal ourselves as not nice, not living the law of God's love, and also as silly and unconvincing blatherers. And that, then, can turn off those who want honesty in relationships and who hope for the ideal of truth, especially in a religious context, especially in Christianity in which truth is a major tenet of faith.
So it is that rather than attempting any re-do of what I had attempted in honesty about why I seem asleep or dead in Mass, that it is a mystical ecstasy and not to be concerned--nothing to worry about. Somehow I thought people could just move on and relate otherwise normally with me who am normal as any of us are normal. Just a mystic, and that is as normal as those who are not but who might be diabetic or homosexual or bipolar or autistic or narcoleptic.
Somehow, the supernatural involved (although I think there is spiritual involved in all, but spiritual is perhaps slightly different from supernatural but not by much) causes especially Catholics to be undone to a point of not nice.
I have initiated just the beginnings of research on how the Eastern Church historically has reacted to and treated mystics. Thus far--again in cursory glance--the Eastern mystics do not seem to be mistreated, not hidden away or put in house arrest, not burned alive nor even shunned. They don't seem to have "anathema" declared nor are feared.
But, I have a long way to go in research and reading more in depth. Seems a bit naive for me to think there are people who are more Christian than Catholic or more Christian than Orthodox--no matter what branch or reformed denomination or non-denomination that evolved from the separated East and West Church.
My initial research already came upon how mystics of other cultures are treated, such as Native American mystics, Tibetan--Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Sufi mystics, et. al. Thus far I find they are treated quite decently--even looked upon with having a value in their societies and groups.
But thus far in broad reading of the Roman Catholic mystics--their lives have distinct elements of cruelty and abuse, even if for but a short time period in which others think they need to play the role, as a priest once told me he must--and call it, "the devil's advocate."
Lord, have mercy! The devil certainly does not need priests or bishops or anyone else in the name of Christianity to be his advocate. The devil does an excellent enough job with his legions of demons and those fallen humans who toddle right along in Satan's cloven-hoofed footprints.
Moreover, the Roman Catholic mystics' mistreatment by those of their own faith, has become a point of warped "proof" that if they suffer greatly as a result of being who and what they are--mystics--and even die as a result, they are all the more valid. Sometimes they survive the abuse while yet alive, but often they are then in poor health and die earlier deaths.
Or these dead mystic humans' main contribution to the Church and society ends up being that they endured the brutality of the devil's advocates, and thus are declared valid mystics, with the surviving onlookers delighting in the miracle of how they endured such ill-treatment. What's this? They were mystics after all--perhaps to be now-cherished saint trophies.
And if these mystic human beings survived for long and with enough life left in them to write, or someone to write for them, their bit of writings remain as a little gift to those who might read them. Although quite often their writings are altered by those not mystics but perhaps systematic theologians or even not, who think they need to correct what they deem improved upon by themselves....
Regardless of all that which in blunt honesty seems not so nice, I am again resolved to throw my body, mind, heart and soul into the Light of Christ's Love. I will refrain from encounters with those who are not nice as much as is humanly possible to avoid. The most crucial may be to avoid any not nice that is not nice in myself. Stay clear of not nice reactions to not nice others and occasions!
I resolve to abide in His love and to imitate His love. This means to not dally with being a Catholic-but-not-Christian. I must be Christian and let the Lord decide if other labels ought precede or follow that of being a follower and lover of Christ, and a nice follower and lover, at that.
I don't need to be, at this point of my grain-of-wheat-crushed-existence, to be distracted by emphasizing my group association. Roman Catholic Christian or Maronite Catholic Christian? Greek Orthodox Christian or Church of Nazarene Christian or First Baptist Christian? Or Byzantine Catholic Christian or Ukrainian Orthodox Christian or Coptic Catholic Christian or Evangelical Christian, etc.?
I'd better just focus on being Christian, a follower and beloved of Christ and His Living Word,. And to study and appreciate some very nice mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux who lived just following the Great Schism of the Eastern and Western Catholic Church in mid-eleventh century. Bernard's Sermons on the Song of Songs will reset my mind and heart in the proper perspective: Love of God and God's Love of His Creation.
Then, I will also go back in time to those great mystics prior to the Schism, closer to the Lord in time and place and practice. Or so this seems a wise plan as I desire instruction and inspiration regarding Christ and His Word--and how to live as a loving Christian, then, in my time and place.
I want to be nice again. Very nice. I hope to be unimpeded in niceness, by which of course I mean charity: love! I want to love again without such upsetting distractions, especially by my own slip-ups and from within my own Christian group designation. It also seems very much so that God is wanting to do some one-on-one tutorials with me in the silence of solitude, in my life of prayer and penance and praise of God.
Let love and mercy wash away any residual remnants of not-niceness from within me and all about me! Let love and mercy fill me to overflowing so that love overflows from me!
I pray to have my thoughts as those of Bernard of Clairvaux or Pseudo-Macarius or John Climacus or many others: Christ-thoughts and Christ-words, Christ-actions, Christ-life! If this means staying clear of not-nice until I have niceness infused throughout, without stink coming back seven times more powerfully not nicely, then I will see if this plan is Wisdom that will be vindicated by her works in me.
Much love to all of you from an already more nice, more loving me, this Fourth Sunday in Advent! God bless His Real Presence in us!