One from Karen Beattie, discussing her unexpected, out-of-nowhere conversion to Catholicism:
One Good Friday, I watched worshippers line up in the aisle to walk up and kiss a wooden cross as a sign of reverence and love for Christ. I had never seen this before.
I saw young and old, rich and poor, black and white, people from all walks of life who were carrying who knows what kind of sorrows and burdens, make their way down the marble aisle to the cross, kneel down, and gently kiss the rough wood that symbolized Christ’s suffering. It reminded me of the end of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation,” where the main character, Mrs. Turpin, sees a vision of a “vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven…”
It was such a simple scene but it tore my soul in two. A woman sitting next to me, whom I barely knew, reached over and put her arms around me. Another woman in the pew in front of me gave me a tissue.
I continued to watch as the vast hordes of souls kissed the cross. I looked around the venerable old church, drinking in the beauty. I felt my neighbor’s arms around my shoulders. “There is love here,” I heard. “There is love here. Let it hold you tightly until you believe.”
One from Frank Weathers, looking at the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Aquinas:
And now a little story as an example,
There was an old man living in the desert who served God for so many years and he said, “Lord, let me know if I have pleased you.” He saw an angel who said to him, “You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such place.”
The old man marveled and said, “I will go off to the city to see both him and what it is that he does that surpasses all my work and toil of all these years.”
So he went to the city and asked the gardener about his way of life….
When they were getting ready to eat in the evening, the old man heard people singing in the streets, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him,
“Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?”
The man said, “I tell you, abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized.”
When he heard this the old man said, “What, then, do you think in your heart when you hear these things?”
And he replied, “That they are all going into the Kingdom.”
When he heard this, the old man marveled and said, “This is the practice which surpasses my labor of all these years.”
I’ve been through my outrage and disquiet phase years ago. Every day there was some scandal being discussed in Catholic circles that got me all bent out of shape. I can tell you from experience, there is nothing virtuous about remaining there and feeding on sources that fuel it. It doesn’t mean you give up discussing the problems, but outrage has to give way to prayer, trust in God, and learning how to win others over in a way that is most likely for them to use their God-given free will in a God-pleasing way. If you put your time in to reading Sacred Scripture, the CCC, Church Documents, the Church Fathers, the Doctors, and other saints; and serious time in Adoration and prayer, you will find that disquiet and anger abating. You will also find the kind of tools needed for evangelizing others – something hindered when you are in a chronic state of disquiet and anger. We need to purify our work online and mirror the love of Christ. That’s grace and when we make room for that by pushing out the anger and outrage, it has room to work. I find this quality in some of the greatest pro-life workers like Msgr. Philip Reilly who founded the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. You can’t be effective unless you reach a point where love for the sinner is greater than the anger you may have for the sins they commit. We don’t win others for Christ; Jesus wins them through us if we give grace a place in our hearts, but it cannot co-exist with chronic outrage, disquiet, and anger turned into hatred.
Rev. Rob Lyle, of the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, is preaching on a Sunday morning. The text is from Luke.
“Love your enemies…what is Jesus Christ talking about? He can’t mean this literally. That would be impossible. He must be speaking of some utopian idea, a fantasy…
[Y]ou can’t love people who do evil. It’s neither sensible nor practical…They’ll only do wickedness and hatefulness again. And worse, they’ll think they can get away with this wickedness and evil, because they’ll think we’re weak and afraid. What would the world come to?
But… what if Jesus wasn’t kidding? What if he wasn’t talking about some never-never land? What if he really did mean what he said two thousand years ago? What if he was thoroughly wise to the world and knew firsthand cruelty and wickedness and evil and hate…from firsthand personal experience?… And what if in spite of all that he knew, he still said love your enemies?.