All who have embarked on true contrition and penance for the sins they have committed, and are firmly resolved not to [repeat those sins] in the future, but to persevere constantly in that pursuit of virtues which they have now begun, all these become sharers in this holy and eternal sacrifice.
– from a commentary on the psalms by St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr
Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
Lent was going so well -or at least I thought it was. I had been finding such silence, such peace, such (I thought) charity and fellowship and largeness of heart toward humanity in my sense of “holy detachment!”
I should have known better.
I don’t know if I’d succumbed to a feeling of pride, thinking that I had crossed some vast spiritual plain and gained in all-wisdom. I hope I did not. I think I did not. But I will allow that perhaps I had begun to feel like I was advancing – that I was making real strides in prayer and contemplation; that my mind was expanding and growing, and tralala, wasn’t Lizzie the very thing, then?
And then, as I have all my life, I allowed my passions to overwhelm me; I allowed my anger to rule me, and for more than a moment.
I understand pretty well how illusory are all the ways of power and victory and the comings and goings of a day, and yet I got all caught up in it. And in being caught up, I went too far for my own comfort, and my conscience has been unsettled, ever since.
I’d like to believe my conscience would be pricked, no matter what, but the prickling was certainly helped along by the fact that, since reading this book, I have been trying to incorporate the Jesuit practice of Examen in my nightly prayer:
It is a means of inviting God, thanking God with savor, identifying your failings, asking forgiveness and finally making a conscious resolution with the help of His grace. It is, literally, bringing everything to God, every day, and picking through it all, to make sure nothing valuable is lost.
So, in my Examen, I brought this anger and frustration into my prayer. I said to the Lord:
“I’m sorry…I basically vomited on my keyboard and called it a post. In doing so, I opened myself up in a way that allowed nothing good in. In my excesses, I gave scandal to Your Holy Name and brought discredit to my own argument. More importantly, I allowed my passion to come between me and you.”
I think my anger at Nancy Pelosi’s using a Saint as a political prop was quite legitimate, and in fact I am still angry and offended by it. I am still disgusted by what I referred to (and still believe is) Pelosi’s “upside-down thinking.” But I over-vented. And I kind of knew I was over venting, as I acknowledged at the time:
I am mindful of the fact that I too am a Catholic who -in my own way- can and do bring scandal to others. I understand that in my rage right now, I am probably “scandalizing” someone who thinks I should be “more tolerant of an opposing view” so I don’t particularly believe I am called to inventory the soul of another.
My anger got the best of me,. I had too much fun writing dis-edifying words that can always be applied to my own self. Pelosi is a grotesque. But I am too. She is a glammed-up guttersnipe. But I’m also a guttersnipe, and not even a glammed-up one. Pelosi is pathetic. So am I. She deserves my sympathy and my compassion and my prayer.
I hope I can have yours.
So, here I am, again, back at the beginning. As Anthony Bloom reminds us in his wonderful book, Beginning to Pray we are all beginners. We are all still learning. Some of us -suffering from thickness and sickness- need to learn them over and over again.
And as the equally wonderful Fr. Simon Tugwell taught us yesterday:
What we experience as an appetite for sin is a sick appetite which has mistaken its object. In moments of despondency we may perhaps look around and think that we should be much happier if we gave up trying to be good, if we could enjoy all the vices of the world around us. But that is only a fantasy. The desire for goodness is really a much more robust desire than any alleged desire for evil. . . We must be content to grow slowly toward goodness, taking, if need be, a long to time convalesce. Most of us, maybe, will still be barely at the beginning of our recovery even when we die. But that is better than killing ourselves pretending to be healthy. . .
I want to be good. I am, still, too often and after all this time later, a bad, bad, Lizzie.
And of course, Jesus has been gently correcting me, too. At mass today, reading John 8, he leaned over and said to me, “. . . I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.”
And I said. “I know. I’m sorry. I don’t want to judge, either. I want to be more like you, and less like me.”
And Jesus said, “yeah, work on that, why don’t you? There’s grace in Confession, you know.”
Earlier today a reader wrote asking my opinion as to whether she should go to confession over her feelings toward Pelosi and the whole congress. I wrote:
Yes. Go to confession. I am going to confession, too, for that piece I wrote on Pelosi.
We may well be justified in our feelings, but our giving into our anger and disgust is separating us from the peace of Christ. And when that happens, when we are separate from him, we are open to anything.
As I wrote a while back,
I’ve heard Catholics and non-Catholics talk about “Catholic guilt” and I’ve never understood it. I understand a Catholic conscience, which is one that is aware enough to be bothered by wrongdoing and by sin and wishes to be delivered of it, but I’m not sure what Catholic “guilt” is, because my own experience with Confession is that it expiates guilt.
So, I’ll be hitting the confessional after mass tomorrow morning. Once again, I will sigh and give that look to Fr. Dyspeptic and say, “I’m failing in love. Again.” And I’ll spill it all.
And when I step out of the confessional, I will be freed of this burden I’ve been carrying. And as Chesterton said, I will be “five minutes old” and in a state of grace.
Until my next inevitable failure to love; my next fall.
We’re heading into Palm Sunday and then Holy Week, and I think for the next 14 days I’m going to sit on Bad Lizzie (and that’s a serious threat) and her political obsessions, and keep the focus on Christ, and on matters of the spirit, as much as possible.
Unless, you know, Washington just gets all up in my face and I have to smack back a little. . . but with restraint.
But I’ll try to remember to guard my soul over any poll.
Really, I should never have allowed myself to get lost in all the political dreck and dross. I know that there is nothing to be afraid of, after all.
And here is a slightly different perspective, but along the same lines.
March 1st to Confession