Archive for April, 2009


Happy Third Week of Easter! Thanks be to God that He really did rise from the dead, enabling us, too, to really rise from the death of sin and later even the bodily death that is the result of sin! Sometimes we forget that what we celebrate Mass is real and of unspeakable importance, not symbols placed before us for an hour on Sundays.

This post is the fruit of my lectio divina (here is an excellent book on the saintly practice of the prayerful reading of holy texts that I will be reviewing on the blog when I finish it) from today and from this weekend during some personal time in the beautiful St. Brigid Church in Hanford, CA.

In Ephesians 4: 1-16 (the first reading of this past Saturday’s Office of Readings), St. Paul gives us an idea of how to realize Easter in our own lives — to do what we need to do to be what we want to be.

What do we want to be?

Attain … to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Or, as the breviary has it, simply the “full stature” of Christ — to be fully integrated with Him.

[G]row up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

As one of the saints put it, He became human so that we could become Divine! (This is obviously not meant in the sense of being made “gods,” but as being united with God Himself by His Power.)

So, what do we need to do?

[L]ead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

Specifically, we are called to humility, bearing with each other in peaceful unity.

How are we to do this?

[G]race was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Through Christ’s gift — given in the Resurrection — we can be humble and live in peace together, eventually fully united with each other in Christ. What more could we ever want?!

But, we must live and do — not merely wish, think or even feel — in order to achieve this Divine life!

In my own day-to-day life, this has proved particularly challenging. I find myself avoiding doing in order think. To combat this, I have come-up with yet another system/plan/rule (as I have done regularly since high school, with little success), this one formatted on the “hours” of the Divine Office, and organized around regular and special tasks related to the people and responsibilities that are most important to me. I’ve tried to keep it focused and simple, but given past experience and the present situation (wife, caring for four children under the age of four and three cats, in a home), I know that there will be many days that my reality will not remotely resemble this rule. (If the rule works reasonably well, then I’ll blog on it.)

What’s most important now is how to move past these apparent “failures.” As we learn in the classic Abandonment to Divine Providence, we encounter God in the “sacrament of the present moment.” We find Him not necessarily in doing what we plan for His glory each day, but in doing what He wills in each moment, in following His “will of good pleasure.” We are reminded that too much of a good thing (study, rest, even lectio divina!) is not only not a good thing, but is actually a bad thing because it is keeping us from following God’s “will of good pleasure” in that moment! It is keeping us from God!

After a “failure,” then, what must be done is to return to the present moment where Our Lord is, and prayerfully proceed with what He has willed for this moment. This may not be what I planned, or even what I want right now, but it is what He wants. Therefore, I want it because I want to be united with Him!

It is also worth noting that human perfection is not necessary for holiness, for unity with God. Human failure can still mean supernatural success — holiness. In fact, we understand more clearly with contrast. Light is defined by darkness, and a wave by the trough that follows it and precedes the next one. Similarly, success can be seen more clearly in contrast with failure.

Finally, for those of us who are blessed to be parents, we should be mindful that our approach to daily life — how we use our time, how we respond to our failures, etc. — marks a path for our children, too. I heard it said once that “kid does not mean ‘stupid.'” They observe us, sometimes more clearly than we see ourselves. We need to show them and explain to them how Christians live safely in a world that is not ours. (An excellent guide for this is the classic Rule of St. Benedict, available with commentary useful for parents, in Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Listen My Son.)

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Though I inexplicably feel like I’ve joined the “dark side,” like most other bloggers out there, I’ve set myself up on Twitter. For the moment, I’m Tweeting in the blog’s sidebar as a quick way to update without having to make a stand-alone blog post. We’ll see if this works…

If you would like to join my little part of the craze, it’s at www.twitter.com/kristennj.

I’ve also decided to avoid the labor of actually updating the blog (and avoid some icky household tasks, too, mea culpa!) by adding some new elements to the sidebar. You like?

The Stay-at-Home Parent group I posted about here now has its Forum. Please join us!

(cross-posted on the Benedictine Spirituality Forum)

I thought some brief Benedictine reflections on anger might be timely as we enter Holy Week and honor Our Lord’s meekness and forgiveness of those who took His life and abandoned Him.

Quote:
22You are not to act in anger
23or nurse a grudge.

Verses 23 through 41 [of Chapter 4 of the Rule] are again practical advice for a strong spiritual life that is lived in our actions. In verse 25 we have the admonition never to give a hollow greeting of peace. We must be cautious with this advice because in the present time we judge the hollowness of a thing by how we feel about it. This is certainly not the intention of the Rule. Rather, the Rule is asking us to choose the good of the other, even when I feel total animosity toward the other. As Christians we are not to follow our feelings–and yet we must acknowledge them. Thus, a person must be able to acknowledge the dislike of another person, even anger towards another person, and yet still choose in Christ to act in a manner that is truly a reflection of Christ’s love for us.

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Quote:
We might also mention another antidote to persistent anger. The fourth chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict has the wonderful title “Tools for Good Works,” and in the chapter says that the way of the monk should not be the way of the world. Benedict quickly adds: “You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge.” He then, without explanation, adds a few more injunctions: do not be deceitful in your heart; never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. In that almost brusque series of “good works,” he might have given us a gem: to avoid anger, turn from the self in love, and care for others. Without saying so, Benedict links anger to self-absorption and pride; he links peace of mind to its opposites, love and concern. That strikes me as a wonderful truth even if easy to give and hard to put into play.

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Quote:
It is quite simply not good enough to keep on apologising for the sharp tongue or
the hasty word, or even to check our words before we utter them. That may well
help relations with our correspondents, and it is, of course, essential to
acknowledge and confess our wrongdoing when we recognise it, and return once
again to our loving Father, but this does not change the fact that we allow the
anger take over our hearts in the first place. It is this that is damaging. Feelings
of anger and frustration, and the nurturing of them, should not be in the same
heart that is host to Christ. The two cannot co-exist
.

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Quote:

“Bitterness, like a Gillette blade unskilfully handled in the to-and-fro of a razor fight, can do a certain amount of harm to other people, but it can do far more harm to oneself. A bitter man (or woman) may be destructive in what he (she) says, may cause mischief, may dash the hopes of those who are ready to start off with a flourish of trumpets, but he is the sufferer in the long run. Bitterness is the extension of a bad mood; it jabs continuously at other people, and all the time the blade goes deeper and deeper into oneself. It is a curious and fatal tendency on the part of human beings that they tend to work up a grievance against people whom they have treated unjustly. Discovered in a critical judgment we dig ourselves in when we should be digging ourselves out.

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Quote:
Feeling angry at life’s frustrations is a temptation of the human condition, and there is such a thing as righteous anger over one’s own sins and the sins of others. However, when this emotional sense of displeasure snowballs into antagonism, brooding resentment, the desire to sow discord, and especially the desire for vengeance, then anger is rightly called one of the seven deadly or capital sins along with pride, avarice, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1866)

As followers of Christ it is important that we discern anger as a sign of the times — to use the words of the Second Vatican Council — in order to bring His healing to the world. Jesus faced a tidal wave of human anger leading up to His crucifixion. However, He overcame this tragic state of affairs, not by returning anger for anger, but as the First Letter of Peter says: “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but He trusted to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23f)

If the triumphant Risen Christ has shown us anything, it is that patient endurance and merciful forgiveness — not anger — are the only paths to victory over evil and to the peace that this world cannot give, both for ourselves and for others.

When it comes to remedies, I cannot fail to mention the Sacrament of Penance. I once had a conversation with a psychologist about how much anger there is in people today. “Bishop,” she said, “what do you expect when so few people go to confession any more.”

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Quote:
“The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last to be totally calm when unlean winds are blowing.” (St. John Climacus)

“As water extinguishes fire, so prayer does extinguish the heat of the passions.” and “Conquer your rage with wise, rational thought. Offer it up as a sacrifice to God.” (St. John Chrysostom)

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Much to my shock, I discovered tonight that one of my favorite sites, Catholic Answers Forums, did not have a group for stay-at-home parents. Now they do.

If you’re a mom or a dad who works at home caring for your children, won’t you consider joining the group so that we can start a discussion forum (we can do this once we hit ten members) to support and bounce ideas off of each other?! Thanks!


Our latest blessing from God came into the world on March 24, a healthy and sweet baby girl: Monica Frances.

Thanks be to God!

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