Once again, the thoughts are turned toward a choice to be made. To remain in the temporal law, and that can include the attitudes and concerns of the temporal aspects of the Catholic Church, or to allow the mind, heart, soul--and in many ways, also the body--toward that which is above, toward "the kingdom of heaven".
And this, of course, is very much within us, within our bodies, minds, hearts, and our very souls. This is the "tabernacle within", the innermost place where we may remain in Christ and where He "abides" in us and asks us to "abide in Him."
And here we have The Catechism of the Catholic Church pointing out to us what Jesus teaches us in the Gospels and what the Living Word of God in the fullness of Scriptures, sets forth for us. We are to think of that which is above, to turn to God, to exist in His Love, and to live out God's Law of Love.
I'm appreciating all the more (while weeding the vegetable garden area of the hermitage property) the Beatitudes. My pondering the first two of the Beatitudes (blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn) did not unearth any conscious insights, but while considering them, all the same, a phone call interrupted my contemplation.
The caller brought up a priest who wants nothing to do with a special celebration commemorating the anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, nor did he present the full Scripture readings at the Easter Vigil Mass. He skipped some; but later he was given an "out" for he needed new reading glasses. Yet, this priest has not proven to be a spiritual guide, a fully-plugged in cleric and has shown more interest in wanting the rectory renovated to his liking.
The question was asked of me, "Do you think the parish [of the caller] is one of those outposts in which ineffective and issue-plagued priests are sent?"
Thus surfaced my recent thoughts about just how many very holy priests there are in any given country in any given century. I shared with the caller how Teresa of Avila sought a holy priest or more--brilliant, devout, desirous of leading souls spiritually and with the ability to do so, and ones who loved God above all else. So it was she found John of the Cross, and with another, older holy priest, she developed a cadre of priests who could guide and offer the Sacraments to her religious sisters in the growing communities St. Teresa was founding.
She was adamant that she did not want her sisters to have the awful encounters and experiences with inept and incompetent priests she'd had growing up and in her earlier years of religious life.
So I pointed out to the caller that it is refreshing to know that a saint was so direct and honest in the assessment of her times and the state of the Church then. And it is best to be realistic now, as well.
Take St. John Vianney, for example. He was considered a dull and dud-priest so was sent to an "outpost" parish in France. He is an exception, of course. He was brilliant in his own right, for he loved God above all things and loved the Living Word, and lived out his love of Christ in union with Him, and poured himself out with Christ to the parishioners and the many people who came to Ars, France, having heard of this priest with a gifted soul.
All the saintly souls I can think of, in the Church--in consecrated life be it eremite, religious, holy orders, priest, or laity--or of those I've read: they are few. Jesus did say the path to the kingdom of God is narrow and few are they who are on it. And that by our humanly choices--for we can choose to fill the narrow path if we want. It does not have to be sparsely trod, after all.
Yet this requires our own decisions and desires. We can be like St. Teresa and those like her who see the reality, unsavory and pathetic as it might be, but who then choose to not be distracted by the woeful issues and state of affairs in the Church (of which we all are the Body), and to remedy the situation at least within our own little spheres, beginning with our own souls and spiritual lives.
So is it worth it to be distracted at Easter Vigil by noting the laxity and liturgical goofs of the priest? Is it worth it to focus on what is not occurring in the parish, or not having the Sacraments properly administered, or that the priest is more interested in getting a lovelier place to live, or that he does not have a devotion to the Virgin Mary?
Where does all that lead our own thoughts, feelings, and spirit?
Not toward union with God, I submit. For I have been distracted a'plenty over the 22 years of being a Catholic. I noticed the many ills and liturgical outrages, was scandalized repeatedly by this or that in the temporal Catholic world of Church and those of us who call ourselves Catholic and Christian. I was distracted by these and grieved by the issues and the troubles and by the priests and religious who were not living the lives that I had read about.
And again, where did that lead my own thoughts, feelings, and spirit? It led to perpetual upset and increased scrutiny of others, of Mass, of the Sacraments. It led to always feeling as if I had to always be on the alert and to walk through life in the Church like one treacherously stepping through a field of land mines.
So I urged the caller, a dear spiritual friend, that rather we should follow the lead of the likes of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John Vianney, Bruno the Carthusian, Mother Teresa and so many others. While they were few in the full context of populations of Catholic Christians over the centuries--they did something about it beyond being distracted, upset, and complaining.
And we, too, if we want to live God's law and to follow and remain in Christ's love: we must take responsibility in our daily lives, and simply do something about it.
This spiritual friend knows, and I reminded, of the years I've spent foolishly allow my being waylaid and distracted, upset, frustrated, or indignant like a self-righteous legalist--by the issues, scandals, lack, and the numerous liturgical or otherwise missteps and grievances of the temporal Church and us human people in her.
Yes, do something about it! And this does not mean do something about this or that liturgical abuse or priests who are not fully plugged into their vocation, or those who are more interested in Canon Laws than the Law of God, or whatever the distraction or present peeve may be.
Do something about it! Turn to Christ, remain in His Love, learn the Gospel Law, partake of all that is available to us through so many marvelous means, yes, within the Church of which Jesus is the Head and we are the Body.
I pointed out to my friend that if a priest is not providing spiritual guidance, or whose own issues are keeping him from celebrating Mass or various Sacraments properly, to get entangled and distracted by all that is not setting our own souls on the narrow path nor our sights on the kingdom of heaven.
We do have the greatest of all in Jesus Christ and the Living Word of God--we can refer to and steep ourselves in the Law of the Gospel. We have the best of human spiritual directors, priests, religious superiors, and holy Christians who have made it in life and death to union with God. They have left their writings, examples, and life experiences and guidance for us. Read all about it!
And here, so simply stated in a few sections of The Catechism, we are reminded that in Jesus' beatitudes, written down in the Gospel of Matthew, we have yet another teaching of Jesus in which the law of charity by "elevating and orienting" those of us open to accepting the new law, to the kingdom of heaven.
Today once the spinal headache is simmered down, hopefully so, I will continue pondering, while weeding and maybe even doing some seed-planting, Jesus' Beatitudes. I'm just focusing on the first portions, not what will be the gift as a result. Blessed are the meek.... Who are the meek and what is meekness? How is Christ meek; how did He live and teach meekness when on earth? Who of the holy followers of Christ have been meek, or those alive and meek in this time period, and in what ways were or are they meek?
And then, of course, I will pray for meekness. In Christ, if in His Love, surely there is meekness, for He is meek and humble of heart.
The following is from Section 1967 of The Catechism:
"The Law of the Gospel 'fulfills,' refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection. In the Beatitudes, the New law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the 'kingdom of heaven." It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith--the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of the Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom."