Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Genesee of a Soul

One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak.” (G.K. Chesterton) 

God on the Greyhound 

It was a late night in December 2010, I was aboard a Greyhound bus from Toronto to Buffalo, NY to catch a red eye flight to Boston, to then return home for Christmas driving a U-Haul rental truck with a man I had met on YouTube that spring. This may sound like some segue into a romantic comedy and perhaps it is fitting that way. In hindsight everything has a way of appearing more pruned, calm, and collected. There is a certain liberated clarity we can look upon the past with and enter into it not in a spirit of dwelling, but of immense gratitude. It becomes then a classroom for us of a school we have already graduated from yet perpetually an eternal student of. 

The past lives with us; not as a weight, but as a reminder of where we have come from and helps us to define our present purpose. It keeps us humble. Everything with any value tends to work out that way. As a phoenix arises from ashes, we too are invited, by remaining attentive, to arise from our own ash and interior desolation. 

I did not fully recognize the weight of my own ashes until I was given the grace to see just how much darkness surrounded me. Though this sounds poetically similar to the lyrics of Amazing Grace, I must in fact acknowledge that this is a truth I have lived. Any pattern or likeness to another's journey of being captivated and transformed through faith by the loving embrace of God is reflective of a fundamental truth; of God's tireless pursuit of us all and our human ignorance to flee the authenticity of where and to Whom we most belong. 

 I don't seek to convert anyone or impose values and beliefs. The last thing I seek to do in this is offend anyone. If it convicts you it is the work of God's grace. If it angers you, what a blessing, and if it moves you, in that I'm pleased. 

Anyway, Back on the bus.

 I was a bit apprehensive about riding a Greyhound, I'm not one usually filled with fear but just recently in Canada a man had beheaded someone aboard a Greyhound bus, so my usual gazing out the window and peacefully nodding off was out of the question. I was definitely wide eyed and attentive to everyone and every movement. I wasn't without comfort though. I had a met a young girl and her brother prior to boarding. She asked to sit with me. She was very polite and pleasant. She was extremely modest in her dress and delicate, wearing a skirt that was floor length, but not frumpy. She radiated a beauty I couldn't describe, but was drawn to in curiosity. She spoke with prudent chattiness and I could feel my fear aboard the bus begin to dissipate in the light of my new pleasant companion. We grazed over the formalities of initial conversation before things became far more imbued with great meaning. I peered over toward her brother who was seated across the aisle and just behind us. It was night so most the bus was in darkness, some asleep, and based on the sounds coming from the back of the bus, some were drinking their way through the night. Her brother had the light on above his head and I could see that he was reading. In the dim bus light I noticed he was also wearing a Roman Collar, and peering down to his reading material I could see he was immersed contemplatively in reading the Bible. Peace overcame me at once. I humbly asked the young girl if he was a priest, and she softly shared that he was studying to be one and in the seminary. This intrigued me. She then said that she was also discerning Religious life herself, but was still high school aged so had some time before the community she was feeling called to would be open to her more seriously.

It is amazing how God works. Sometimes in the most intricate subtle ways and other times He makes Himself very apparent, but He is always at work. God showed up on the Greyhound that night and I was all ears. Four months earlier I had begun an honest stumbling toward the Catholic faith. I was Baptized and Confirmed as Catholic but lived most of my young adolescent and adult life in the shadow of a pre-converted Augustine, (more on that later)... I'm not really  one for labels and find the term conversion to be used far too loosely, (and yet not taken seriously enough) but I had in many ways experienced what I can only refer to as the beginning of a radical transformation. 

The tone of our conversation became much more relaxed. I asked her where she was going. She told me that her and her brother were heading to a retreat to pray with monks and be in silence. As much as I was converted this idea was alarming, yet made me curious. “Real monks?" I questioned. "Where is this place?" She then rambled on about waking to pray at 2:00am and walking to the Church with a flashlight in the dark of night to join the monks in their Vigils. She assured me she would be walking even in the cold of December, even through the winter snow of Upstate New York (which can be quite unforgiving). 

Our time together was cutting short. The Buffalo airport was in sight and I was getting ready to depart. She told me she was going to a place called Genesee. She scribbled down her email, and contact information, I did the same, and we prepared to part ways. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Merton Conference Memory '13

It seems I will be writing about Fr. John Eudes for a bit. It would probably bother him to no end.

 In sorting through some of the memories and things from the past years I came across a piece of writing from a kind gentleman named Max, who I met at the Merton conference in Connecticut.

Max was a recent convert to Catholicism , he knew of Fr, I never really understood how, but while Fr and I were walking about the grounds of Sacred Heart University many  would flock to him and sit with him. I realized that Max had a lot of love for father.

Anyway , we hung out and prayed a lot, gathered in a small group. And on one particular morning prior to Mass we were gathered together and realized we were nearly late for a Mass Fr was to be presiding!  In any event, the rush of it all resulted in me having to help this elderly monk get ready.

Max , unbeknownst to me sat observing (quite beautifully, I came to learn)

When I returned home , he had emailed me this description.

It is sitting with me differently now that Fr. Has passed and I'm grateful for it. The moment itself didn't strike me while in it as this powerful, but it is something amazing to bear witness to how the simplest things communicate something beyond us and have a capacity to be as a grace for another.

"His face browned and creased with time, revealing German and Irish stock that had moved to Kentucky generations ago, He interrupts the conversation: “I need to get to Mass.” She helps gather his things. Her midnight hair falls softly off her shoulder as she reaches to hand the monk his cane.

We begin, unsure of the best way to the chapel, past the green lawns, the deep purple blossoms. His steps are careful, but impatient.

Entering the side of the chapel, John Eudes hurries into the sacristy. We help with the vestments: he is not a tall man; the alb is too long. She finds a shorter one. The monk slips into the alb, pulling his Trappist hood out fully. The alb is the proper length, but the black scapular makes the collar sit too tight. She unsnaps the top button. We find a cincture to pull sides of the alb together, but it still falls apart at the unsnapped neck.

Catherine is concerned. She fusses over him. There are layers upon layers of tenderness. She chides him for being scruffy and disheveled. Her hazel eyes flash. He laughs, somewhat embarrassed by the attention: “only a woman would pay attention to this kind of detail.” Her gentle fingers straighten the collar, delivering a blessing to the priest. He is her teacher. She is his daughter. But this is not complex: loving kindness.Spiritus Sanctus. His gentleness meets hers. The young woman is radiant; the monk beams. The light shines from within. It fills the room.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

On suffering by C.C.

I wrote this for a family a while ago going through a tremendous ordeal. It returned to me today again. 
May it be of comfort.

Lord, may what You send to us in this suffering have us know the love of Your Cross and nearness. It's weight upon us is always heaviest in the places we love the most, this instructs us in Your love and teaches us somehow; the suffering in union with You, even in the obscurity of pain that it unfolds with , You promise us Your nearness.

It is true that You give grace to Your children at their time of suffering that is unknown to us all,until the weight of the Cross is felt upon us.
You supply our need with comfort and consolation unfathomable.

Even as we must grieve and appear to grow weary, we are never without Your sustenance , for we remain most Yours, and You, ours.
Even if our gaze toward Heaven trembles , even if we do not understand, all of Heaven bends to greet us.

You provide for all Your children, always. Help us always to know these ways, give us the clarity of grace we need so to endure what comes.
And in this witness of another's Cross we can be stirred to an empathy, to a charity and love that helps us serve You, that helps us become a hand of brief consolation,a humble aid of grace, while ever being mindful of our nothingness and the "Vale of tears" we too walk .

Keep us ever weighted by Your Cross so to be most exalted in Your love alone,
And help us Lord to comfort another in their time of sorrow and anguish , that our shared union in love with You may bring them the comfort of Your presence, and help us to grow in the knowledge of Your closeness all of our days.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Desolation in Edmonton by: C.C.

The aching of Your nearness is the tragedy of feeling You gone. You live in me uninvited,  Sweet Visitor, I've neglected Your welcome. Crushed my spirit with Your majesty Then released it into the shackles of your freedom Freely bound, lovingly harnessed, an untamed heart deadened and alive again at your touch Since You , I roam from tomb to the third day  Painful hope , desert of despair , narrowest of ways .. burning in worship  Flamed in grace Consumed by Love . I remain Yours ,but how You're mine weaves into the places and spaces that I tend to forget this belonging Shattering every truth I thought of You ,
wisdoms born from my empty designs,
life formed from the clay of my own mind  My highest thoughts proved worthless by Your  observations in me  You have searched me without warrant I was long surrendered before you forced entry . was inevitable I'd let You crush me  Disarm me of myself I've consented to Your building of me  Yet, you work in darkness  Hidden designs blocks made of materials I can't name But beg of me to trust the unseen builder Secured in the work that I am of His To You I offer this messy glory This praise I make with screams of silence The lingering of Your nearness in this absence.

Friday, June 7, 2019

"Feed My Shepherds" by : C.C.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”Jesus said,“Feed my lambs.”Again Jesus said,“Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”Jesus said,“Take care of my sheep.”The third time he said to him,“Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,“Do you love me?”He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said,“Feed my sheep.” 

Here Jesus approached Peter with this question after he had been fed. Practically speaking everyone is best on a full stomach, but metaphorically Jesus’s presence, and time with Him was complete nourishment, time for Peter to revisit and have greater introspection on Who this Man was that shared his company, his attentiveness, and growing affection. Peter was fed before He was asked about how he loved Christ. To me this is not accidental or even unintended. Only when we are nourished by the Lord’s love, when our priests are fed and nourished deeply before the Lord, can they offer the sheep anything to eat. The abundance they can give comes from the primacy of their undivided love for Christ. It is intended to be the most important. It is emphasized by Christ three times, yes, as reparation for Peter’s denial of Christ, but this repetitive question is the ongoing one that must face the priest daily. 

If we love Christ, and we love the Church then it is to our priests we should offer the most attentiveness of our prayer, of fasting, reverence, and of honest help, even in the spiritual sense, to help keep them fed. The job of the "lay-man" becomes utilizing their gifts and pursuit of sanctity to help the Church thrive by allowing the priest to be a better Christ. 

And in priestly formation and preparing men for the priesthood it becomes most essential too, to help deepen this experience of love of God, to uphold the inward preparation as vital to the life of the Shepherd, for only from this depth can they be fed, and can they feed perpetually. 

The witness of a reverent, holy man of God, who lives the priesthood authentically, the Priesthood of Christ, with integrity, and sacrifice, and holy love, transforms souls, and gathers the scattered in a way like no program, no app, no new series can. The tragedy of what has gone on in some seminaries is exposing a very core problem. While naturally the anger seems to be at the harm that was caused by these men, if we love Christ, and we love the Church, we would see the importance of preserving Christ’s priesthood as it was intended, not seeking to destroy it. Which seems, at moments to be what is happening in response and angst that we are currently facing. The priesthood is Christ's and it remains pure as Christ's to the measure that we keep it His.

That some live like they are their own, is not the reality of an error in Christ, but the fault of consenting to sin, the reality of superficial love of Christ. Because to one who loves much, then obedience is a sweet burden. 

“Feed My Sheep” has seemed to become the most important and the most primary. Of course, this is essential, people in the pews, people knowing Christ, bills paid, diocese’ thriving. But the sheep and flock are only as good as their Shepherd. And the Shepherd is only as good as his love for Christ. And the Church first and foremost is for salvation, and the food we need to eat is Christ. 

So as the Bishops and priests and the Church at large in North America fumble around trying to make amends for the horror caused by the evil that has seeped through the cracks, there has seemed to be little mention of upholding the priesthood of Christ. The focus is on making reparation for evil, which is undoubtedly necessary, but more emphasis on Christ and keeping the priesthood holy will lead one to help reform the deeper problem much more thoroughly. Because in looking to the priest we will arrive at the sacredness of the Eucharist, the necessity of Christ, there present! We will stare it's absence from the life of the Church in the face, and we will begin to recognize that in being obsessed with "retaining people" we have made a performance out of what is most holy. We have made a "star" out of the priest who no longer, at large, thinks looking to Christ is the deepest need, but rather it is to keep people "happy" and present. It is diluted. Slowly sin trickles in. 

Where there is lack of transforming love for Christ there is disobedience, there is moral apathy, and complete disregard for good. 

There are subtle ways we have begun to starve our priests, with an over-attentiveness to business, failing to walk with them in the early years of their vocation, closely, being sensitive to their spiritual needs and the opportunities that they must have in order to thrive and be fed, This obviously must come from them to some degree, and from their own love of God, but it is not easy, nor is it something that is always the case. The formation years expose young men to a very confined fraternity, companionship, rigor, and routine that aids balance and helps navigate things, even in the spiritual sense. Frequent opportunity for spiritual direction, confession etc. It is laid out for them, it is necessary that this continues to keep them nourished and close to the love of Christ. 

The current climate of the Church at the core exposes the starving Shepherd. We know how to get to the peripheries it seems, but do we know how to preserve the centrality of Christ in the Church? We are called, in my opinion to look deeper here. It is time to look at ongoing formation more deeply and severely. Even when we gather priests, from what I've most heard, it is always centralized on going out, building up the Church, while this is a valid part of the priestly labour, there is evidently more need to focus on the interior, the spiritual life and ordering this in the life of the priest. It is more than numbers in pews. 

Look what the Lord did with His first disciples...thousands of followers followed a few holy men, by their love, their obedience, they gathered. And so it will be with us. Or otherwise what we gather is only another form of scattered and lost sheep, under the guise of holiness with a diluted discipleship, compromising the Truth of Christ’s Church. 

“Do You love me?” 

Nothing more will suffice to live the fullness of life in Christ. Give me a poor Church an empty Church, over a Church filled to the brim empty of God.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Glorious Shadows of Your Saving by:C.C.

Bethany House - Abbey of The Genesee 2018

I taste You in fragments, the joy of You, the glory of You. 

I see You in silhouettes, the dark shadows of Your Cross, the risen joy and glory. 

Here I do not possess all of You, but in the Bread. 

Daily I come mindful of my hunger, to feel something in me of You that will not be fulfilled until my last beginning, 
never to end, 
and that day is Yours completely to determine.

Have I spent any of it as You wished for me,
as God willed for me,
as You called me?

And so here I must labour and toil accepting these brief passings of You
these ideas and notions of You
this faith instructed which You've left us to pursue. 

Still the road is darkened, 
the clarity not mine to possess, 
but if I let You possess me completely, 
how much greater will Your mercy on me be? 

Because I gladly accept this silhouette of You 
this obscure embrace of You,
this cloudy way of knowing that all of it is true.

Lord I give myself everyday to be renewed, 
and I come to Your table, this feast , this banquet , and I leave all of myself there 
that You may lead me on and make me whole, 
full of You and nothing more,
that others might see in me this shadow of You
this good of you, 
a glimpse of Your goodness,a ray of Your joy,
as I walk full of Your Light 
into the great unknown by Love. 


Saturday, November 3, 2018

"What the Hell am I here for?" by:C.C.

"I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me"(Philippians 1:18-30)

St. Paul well knew his mission. With great clarity and reverence he had pierced open the interior life by radical surrender to God's grace and deep desire to partake in His glory. His mission was one of proclaiming Christ in a manner far reaching, a mission for the good of others and the glory of God. He was given immense light to help us see.

If we remain in the flesh, aware of the goodness of eternal life, what is our purpose? 

We too have a mission to fulfill for the Lord, for the good of God, for others, and truly for the good of our own soul, not yet secured beyond, not yet radiant with the glory of the Saints before us. 

It is presumptuous of us to prematurely yearn to be Home, and not first ardently ask God sincerely, what our purpose is here, which is yet to be actualized.

I remember vividly when heaven became more real to me. Obviously I had faith that it was indeed a reality, but it was a distant one. As the reality of eternal life became more apparent to me I was flooded almost terribly with a sense of sorrow, which to me was totally missing the point. But it was from that moment, sitting in a retreat house in 2013 looking out a window sulking , that I opened my mouth with the most sincere prayer "Then, Lord, what the Hell am I here for?"

I recognized in my sentiment a disordered longing for heaven. Because it was motivated at that time with more of a desire to escape the Cross, than for union with God, and  this to me was a humble awakening. St.Paul understood and pined for heaven with a deep love for union with God, not for the love of himself or as a means to escape difficulty, but he had the honest desire to be one with God.

Faithful awareness of heaven imbues us with our purpose for toil and loving service below.We do not long for heaven to escape the world and become indifferent while here, but find inspiration to share fruits of being secured in the knowledge of the eternal, by sharing the love of Christ.

This humbling lesson was important. It was this realization that also helped me understand what my vocation was. Prior to this I had wrestled immensely with where God was calling me to serve. Ironically such a simple prayer as "What the Hell am I here for?" opened a well of clarity.

If we know of heaven, if we believe in God, if we desire union with Him, then from this our love and compassion for others naturally takes root. Loving charity is needed.

We can then see the importance of praying for all of God's children, even those who have seemed to desert themselves from all goodness. We should strive to walk with joy, letting others gently know that it is God's love that most strengthens and fulfills. 

It is love which they most need. Still, many deny Him and seek tirelessly. Often numbing themselves to the reality of their own emptiness; empty as a result of not knowing God. We deny Him too, in our failure to love. We should pray for others and not judge, for it is Our Lord Who gave us mercy. It is Christ Who dwells within;within the weakness of our humanity so that we are made most strong, by choosing to be receptive to His love for us. In various ways and roles, we are all sent forth by God in charity. With stern instruction by Him we are urged to love.

To share fruits of the knowledge of heaven, to share the goodness that is God's alone.