Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Scattering a thousand graces,
He passed through these groves in haste,
and looking upon them as He went,
left them, by His grace alone,
clothed in beauty
St. John of the Cross

Catholic culture is sacramental culture, a culture of beauty; a culture in which the sacred infuses the mundane and is revealed in it. Catholic culture creates a world in which anything is possible: God descends daily to be eaten in the Holiest of Sacraments, proving by His Presence that nothing can be called impossible. Catholic culture is a necessary outgrowth of Catholic faith; the faith which demands to be incorporated into daily life. Catholics who seek to stifle the daily expressions of their faith, the devotions which divide the day, the month, the year, stifle their own faith until it dies out within them and leaves only dry dusty remains.

How has Catholic culture been lost? Our culture in general, and individual Catholics in particular, have lost the true Catholic culture, or more honestly, have abandoned it for the churned up sentimentality originally marketed as “spirituality” and now distributed with reckless abandon as “modern Catholic spirituality”. It is a culture in which emotions carry the day, a culture to glorify the self, a culture in which the promises of Christ to those who would walk in His way fall on deaf ears, “for what can promises mean in an age in which every wish fulfills itself each day?” In this age man has been trained to wish for very many little things, but not for greatness. To console himself, modern man has re-invented his faith. God remains Father, but He is no longer Judge; He is Love without also being Wisdom; He is merciful, but not just. The modern man, knowing Christ only as his Brother, and not his King, feels no need to submit to Him. The fasts and rituals that once sustained him are abandoned, and having done so, he wonders why he is so empty. Catholic culture is not lost, it has been abandoned for something much easier to reach, and much less satisfying. Through disuse the leaves have grown up around it, modern man must work a bit to part the leaves, but when he does, he will discover that what he has abandoned has not grown moldy nor rotten since he left it, but is in fact, as beautiful, as satisfying as ever it was, and just within reach.

To reclaim Catholic culture, it is necessary to learn to truly live. Every Catholic knows that “not dying is not the same as being alive, and that not sleeping is still a long way from being awake. To be awake and to be alive are deeds not states;” it is necessary to do them. This is largely accomplished by choosing to live purposefully, outwardly, and passionately. Purposeful living demands that man know his purpose – Why am I here? He finds his answer in the Church. Each individual is created to know God, serve God, and to spend eternity in happy union with God; a simple answer which has a myriad of meanings, each one unique to each individual life. God is most fully known in His Church, but each man serves God in a unique way. In living purposefully, man strives throughout each day to live out his salvation in the way God has intended for him. He does this by living outwardly, “it is not good for man to be alone,” each individual is in communion with his fellow men by virtue of their shared humanity. He cannot live as an island, and by living outwardly, he does not attempt to. Every Catholic must recognize that his life is a witness for or against his faith. So many cultures have tales of toothless beggars, leapers, and weary travelers taken in, or turned away, who later were discovered to have been Christ in disguise, to remind each Catholic of his duty to see Christ in everyone. The modern as much as any other man, must be reminded that to a person, “the only proper and adequate way to relate is love,” and that this applies whether the person is in the womb, in the government, or elsewhere. In living outwardly, and living purposefully, man must also allow himself to live passionately. To live passionately means an outright rejection of the modern malaise of indifference and relativism. When one lives passionately he lives for something greater than himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up.”
Cyprian Norwid

It is a great joy to me that my apartment is beautiful! I try my best to keep it that way: a haven of bright colours, sunlit rooms, good food, great books, and joy. It helps that I have a deep and abiding love of Murphy’s oil-soap, dusting, and curries. If I had an unlimited supply of Murphy’s oil-soap, I think I would wash the floors daily, just to keep the scent in the house.

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I washed all the floors in celebration and baked strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert. I think we will have salmon this evening, with chives, garlic, pepper, paprika, lemon balm, walnuts, and lime juice; maybe wheat-berries and kale to accompany it. Salmon is an intense fish, with its beautiful pink flesh and full flavor; it seems appropriate that Magdalene’s meal have some intensity. She is a passionate Saint, though really, when I think on it, is there a saint that isn’t?

The sun is making patterns on the floor. I am sipping iced coffee and loving life. Deo gratias.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

“Our age is without passion. Everyone knows a great deal, we all know which way we ought to go and all the different ways we can go, but nobody is really willing to move.”
Soren Kierkegaard

There is a sad lack of the willingness to move all around us. I certainly have the urge to hold off committing to change as long as possible; it is so much easier to go through the planning stage again and again, to live in the future until even the future passes by and there is nothing left but wasted possibilities. It sounds so unattractive written down, but in my mind it is so soothing and pleasant: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.”

If we have passion though, and if we live our lives passionately, then there is not only a willingness to move, there is a need to move. If we have passion, our lives become defined by that “tension toward something else” which drives us. That is the life that I am striving to live, the sort of life that is active and alive, not so passive that it can be blown about by each and every change that comes along.

Last night I finally saw the movie “Bella.” It was especially beautiful to me in that the movie emphasized the necessity of passion for life. Jose and his family were so passionately committed to each other, to their culture, to their faith, and to their friends. They were a family that did not hold back love. It was such a sacramental movie, such a beautiful movie. “Truth is beautiful in itself.” the Catechism reminds us, but how often is that portrayed in contemporary art? “Bella” was a testimony to the triumph of beauty and passion.

Friday, July 18, 2008

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”
Henry David Thoreau

Raspberry season is in full swing here in New England! Last night I made raspberry walnut muffins with a recipe that was acceptable, but not outstanding, and began cooking down raspberries for preserves. They are still cooking down as I write. This evening I will go picking again. There are few summer activities more satisfying then berry-picking on breezy July evenings.

I haven’t quit settled into the fact that it is July, and the middle of July at that. Where do the days go? I am always surprised, looking back to discover that a week, a month, even a year has slid away into the past; somehow, I forget that time does not stand still until I notice how much has changed around me. “But eternity remains.” Thank goodness eternity remains.
Joy is Creative.” Ranier Maria Rilke

July is the month of the Precious Blood. In our home, the icon of Christ in the Chalice is prominent. In the icon, He sits inside a chalice, arms out – and enthusiastic welcome; “here I am!” He says. His enthusiasm is catching. I love this icon, Christ looks to me like a man playing peek-a-boo with a child, serious and joyful: Where is Jesus, here He is!