Category: Meditations


I shudder to think where I’d be if I hadn’t been given the grace by God — with my folks, may God richly bless them, of course! — of being raised Catholic. If Catholicism were not true, believing in it would be far, far worse than treating a fairy tale as real; it would be utter destruction — absolutely nothing would make sense, from suffering to math (but, I repeat myself, for I have never really “gotten” math! ); it would be the most devastating cheat ever devised.

“Catholicism is true, yet most people and even many Catholics don’t believe all the truths of Catholicism. So for me my real answer is Because of grace and that Catholicism is true.”

“… To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred. …”

If we really took to heart this prayer (given in its entirety below) — particularly this fragment of it — it could change our lives; it could help to keep us off of the endless (futile?) quest to drug — perhaps even to heal — the wounds life inevitably inflicts on us and brings to mind, and onto our real journey Home.

Of course, St. Thomas (the long-imprisoned-and-finally-martyred true friend of Henry VIII) was referring to the patriarch Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45), not St. Joseph the foster-father of Jesus. What does he mean? Perhaps, he means that if we were always to live surrounded by comfort and the support of family and friends, earthly as we are, we would feel no need of seeking what truly matters — the Kingdom of God — or union with Him and its attendant guidance, consolation, etc. We would have little reason to long for our true Home in Heaven and every reason to want to stay here below as long as we can. We then might not reach Home at all at the end of our days! St. Thomas’ prayer is not a natural way of thinking at all; it is supernatural!

I also think that you can tell a lot about a person by his prayers. Here, we see that St. Thomas More was grounded in the ultimate reality — God — and that he was a humble, courageous man:

Give me Thy grace, good Lord
to set the world at nought;

To set my mind fast upon Thee,
and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;

To be content to be solitary,
not to long for worldly company;

Little by little utterly to cast off the world,
and rid my mind of all the business thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
but that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me unpleasant;

Gladly to be thinking of thee,
piteously to call for thy help;

To lean unto the comfort of thee,
busily to labor to love You;

To know my own vileness and wretchedness,
to be humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed,
for the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
to be joyful of tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
to bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing in remembrance,
to have ever before my eye my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
to foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
to have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;

For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks,
to buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain conversations,
to eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary to cut off,
of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss as nothing
for the winning of Christ;

To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

Give me the grace so to spend my life,
that when the day of my death shall come,

though I may feel pain in my body,
I may feel comfort in soul;

and with faithful hope in thy mercy,
in due love towards thee
and charity towards the world,

I may, through thy grace,
part hence into thy glory.
Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us.

P.S. I originally came across this prayer in a gem of a prayerbook: Fr. Hardon’s Catholic Prayer Book. Hardon, of course, was a Jesuit. His book also includes some maxims of St. Ignatius (the founder of the Jesuits), one of which is:

If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.

P.P.S. I’ve been on quite a prayerbook kick lately. Here’s another excellent one, available for free online (as are several of Fr. Lasance’s books): With God.

As the self-declared religious, political, and moral enemies of the Faith and or Christians become more hateful and violent towards us (examples could be multiplied almost to infinity), leaving aside any pretense of respect or even tolerance, the question becomes less theoretical and historical, and more practically-pressing:

What should a Christian’s response to persecution look like?

Though by no means a conclusive essay, here are a few conclusions I’ve come to, based on some reflection on the Scriptures and the lives of the saints. I welcome you to share yours in the combox below.

1. We are indeed called to “turn the other cheek” and be willing to “lay down [our lives] for a friend,” but we are not to sell ourselves cheaply; we do not shove our cheeks against others’ hands, or wear a sign that says “Crucify me!” We should fight to preserve our lives, our families, and our rights as fully as possible, for as long as we can. After all, if we are silenced or dead, we are unable to press the vital spiritual battle in any earthly sense.

2. In fighting to preserve our lives, our families, and our rights, we need to be careful not to put ourselves in the way of justice. In other words, if we’re writing/speaking or acting in a way that draws others’ attention almost solely to ourselves and not to, say, the Faith, or the lives of the preborn, or the defense of the family, we are doing it wrong. One way that we make this mistake is by letting ourselves get overtaken by the very natural human emotion of anger that swells when we — or our children! — are unjustly attacked. The antidote to this is supernatural: mercy, particularly the Divine Mercy devotion.

Many times, Jesus slipped-away from those seeking to kill Him because it was not yet His “hour.” St. Maximilian Kolbe published against the Nazis and suffered in a concentration camp for it, but he only put himself forth for martyrdom when necessary to save the life of a father with small children. The early Christians hid in homes and catacombs for Mass — they didn’t set-up an altar in the town square — but when the persecutors came for them, they refused to sacrifice to idols, and they prayed and shared the Faith as they were being tortured and killed for it. None of these called-down the wrath of God to smite their enemies. Jesus famously prayed on the Cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Many saints have used these exact same words on their own crosses, whatever shape they took. Many times, the very men and women who were perpetrating or encouraging the persecution were themselves converted by this example, and persecuted themselves for following it!

3. Some specific strategies that we might follow include:

+ strengthening ourselves spiritually (praying frequently and frequenting the Sacraments, studying the Scriptures/saints/spiritual writings, continuously practicing the virtues — especially humility!, connecting with others who are trying to bone-up, too, etc.).

+ doing what we can practically and legally to protect our families and our legal rights (keeping our children from those trying to take their innocence for malicious ends, having as little as possible to do with government agencies/”mandatory reporters” [doctors, teachers, social workers, etc., who often act like overzealous busybodies] and “keeping our noses clean,” being ready and able to use legal processes when our rights are violated, etc.).

+ spreading, via social networks and conversation, news of injustices and inviting even those opposed to our message to consider what they are really supporting. Are there people who have rendered themselves beyond reaching by willful ignorance and hatred? Sure. But, most people are reachable somehow, sometime! Do this across as many lines as possible (religious, political, class, race, sin-proclivity, etc.).

+ forgiving our enemies, realizing that our battle is not truly against them, but against Satan and his army of fallen angels, and praying for the ongoing conversion of all people, including ourselves.

+ asking the intercession of our fellow Christians and of the Church Triumphant in Heaven, including our Guardian Angels and the Archangels.

+ taking what is intended for evil and turning it to good. For example, if a legislator’s idea of a rip-roarin’ good time/counter-punch to a pro-life bill is to read “The V***** Monologues” on the Capitol steps (see the “hateful” link above), adults can turn-out nearby to silently pray a Rosary, holding non-graphic signs about the dignity of all human life and the help that is available to women in need.

+ having a sense of humor, especially about ourselves. One of the most famous examples is St. Lawrence, who was burned to death on gridiron. At one point, he told his torturers to turn him over because he was cooked on that side!

+ voting — and voting only for those who are worthy of office, even if that means sitting some elections out. Don’t take your party’s word for it; do your own candidate and proposition research!

+ standing our ground, with grace, when the battle is finally brought to our front doors.

As I was driving today, trying to pray and examine my conscience — while staving-off non-stop questions from my four- and five-year-old girls — into my head popped this line from the aborted wedding scene in my favorite Shakespearean play, Much Ado About Nothing:

“Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour.”

He further protests that he intends:

“Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.”

Or, as the hilarious SparkNotes “No Fear Shakespeare” translates it into modern English:

“Don’t insult a friend by giving him a beautiful orange that rots inside. She only appears honorable from the outside.”

And:

“I won’t be married. I won’t join my soul to such a proven slut.”

(Claudio, Act IV, Scene i)

I don’t usually think in Shakespeare, of course, but I just watched the excellent 1993 movie version a few nights ago.

Isn’t our reception of the Eucharist at Mass, and in a lesser way in spiritual communion, often this very sort of thing?! With whatever rot we’ve got inside of us (however we appear to others), we go to be joined to Our Lord. And — wonder of wonders — not only does He not refuse and make a scene as Claudio did, but He joins His Body and Soul to ours, over and over, if we but desire it! And, He offers to heal the rot, especially in Confession. Deo gratias!

Don’t insult a friend by giving him a beautiful orange that rots inside. She only appears honorable from the outside.

Gut check

On my (inevitable) death bed, what will I treasure and enjoy the company of more:

a lucrative and prominent career, or a game/hobby, or my time online — or a fab body — or whatever I chose to put first in my daily life

OR the people (God, family, and friends) I loved first and foremost every day?

Not every good interest can be the top priority.

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.)

(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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If I were First Lady…

An interesting post over at Inside Catholic asks what (non-controversial) cause each of us would promote if in the prominent position of First Lady/Gentleman. Here’s what I posted:

What an interesting and thought-provoking question!

It may sound “soft,” but it’s really not once you try it — and it is in fact a central part of holiness: kindness!

We could all benefit from a First Lady who promotes and displays the practice of thinking, speaking, and acting kindly toward all, most especially the most unlovable. This doesn’t mean approving of evildoing or being phony. It simply means showing respect for all others as children of God (as we all are), disagreeing without being disagreeable, and keeping silent if we can’t do this. This is the goal of a lifetime, is it not?!

Patrons of this virtue include the gentle bishop St. Francis de Sales, who converted many thousands from Calvinism to Catholicism, and Blessed Mother Teresa, who never seemed to have a bad thing to say about anyone, but who nonetheless stood for life and love.

Also, on my bookshelf in line to be read is a book by the superb Fr. Lovasik called “The Hidden Power of Kindness.” You and your children can never go wrong with a book by this late, great priest, and there are dozens for all ages!

Maybe you would enjoy thinking about the question and even posting your response?

As it is unlikely that I will be posting again before Christmas, Merry Christmas! May the Baby Jesus bless you with the spiritual gift you are most in need of, may you welcome Him fully into your life, and may His Mother be your mother, too!

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Perhaps I’m dense (or, more flatteringly, an astute Catholic 🙂 ), but I’ve never really understood why people of faith struggle with the whole “why am I here/what is the meaning of life?!” question.

It used to be (long before my CCD/Catholic school religion classes in the ’80s) that even children were taught — through the Baltimore Catechism — the answer to that question:

“to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with him in the next.”

Though I don’t recall ever hearing that as a girl, I do know that by the time I was in high school, I could articulate, in student-like terms, that we are on Earth to learn to love God, and that He takes us home to Heaven when we’ve mastered the skill adequately. My little ones, the eldest of whom is not yet four, are already learning an age-appropriate version of the answer in the Baltimore Catechism. Children are never too young to hear that message — and neither are searching adults. After all, to do this takes a lifetime of work!

That brings us to the beautiful Office of Readings for December 21, this time an excerpt from St. Ambrose’s commentary on the Blessed Mother’s Magnificat in Luke’s Gospel (also mentioned here):

A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.

Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if only it keeps chaste, remaining pure and free from sin, its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. In another place we read: “Magnify the Lord with me.” The Lord is magnified, not because the human voice can add anything to God, but because he is magnified within us. Christ is the image of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies that image of God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted.

By the “Word of God,” St. Ambrose is of course using a reference to Jesus from the beginning of St. John’s Gospel. (Is it any wonder that St. Ambrose was so influential in the life of another great saint, Augustine?!)

The meaning of life, then, is to “conceive and bring forth” Jesus — in a spiritual sense, to be another Mary! In order to do this, though, we must be as pure in the soul as Our Lady was in soul and body. To use her own words, we are to “magnify” the Lord; just as a dirty lens cannot properly convey to the eye what is being seen, if our souls are impure with sin, others cannot see Jesus properly through them!

We can also note the theme of godly joy which permeates this Advent season and these quotes (“be happy with [God]” and “rejoiced in God her Savior”). Though melancholics (such as I) struggle with this, we know that a sour person does not attract anyone and that, like everyone else, we must overcome the pitfalls of our natural temperament. The saints who were most effective in helping others find Our Lord were gentle, like St. Francis de Sales, and were cheerful, like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Neither was known for earthly attractiveness (nor, for that matter, was Jesus, Whom the Bible tells us was not physically notable), yet both drew even the most hardened of sinners and cynics. Why? Because it was impossible to escape the image of God they had within and were magnifying!

Dear Jesus, we beg You to help us conceive and bear You to the world, to magnify You as Your Blessed Mother did, with purity and joy! Blessed Mother, pray for us. St. Ambrose and all you saints of God, pray for us!

Many days, it is a struggle to find the time to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of Readings, but inevitably when I do, I find at least one very special point for meditation. Periodically, I’ll try to post a little Meditation on something particularly striking.

Here’s the first of these posts.

This past Sunday’s Office of Readings (for the Third Sunday of Advent) contained Isaiah 29:13-24 and a related sermon by our great St. Augustine. They lead us into an Advent meditation on humility. Of note:

Since this people draws near with words only …
And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men,
Therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion:
The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid.

When we turn deaf to Him to attend to our own priorities, Our Lord will do what He must to get our attention, even render us foolish!

Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the Lord!
Who work in the dark, saying “Who sees us, or who knows us?

All who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a man,
Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.

Our sins are never hidden from God, Who knows and understands them all. Those who use their cunning to harm others will be parted from God definitively.

Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding and those who find fault shall receive instruction.

God desires for us to worship and adore Him (which Catholics do especially in Mass and Eucharistic Adoration). When we worship and adore — when we heed Him — though we sin, He will correct us and teach us. To worship and adore — especially the Baby Jesus at Christmas — and to acknowledge our need for His correction and teaching, all take humility, such as that found in a key saint of Advent, St. John the Baptist.

St. Augustine then explains that St. John the Baptist was the “voice,” but Jesus is “the Word.”

John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning, Christ is the Word who lives forever.
Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound.

When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine. In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: “The word ought to grow, and I should diminish?” The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: “My joy is complete.”

[T]he voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offense to the word…And the question came: “Who are you then?” He replied: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.'”

To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares that he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory…He humbled himself.

The “voice” (St. John the Baptist) does what God made him to do and then quickly fades out so that “the Word” (Jesus) may remain with us. The saint’s humble life and teaching — the “wondrous fashion” of God — prepares us for Christ’s Presence, unlike Isaiah’s sinner’s cunning, which only steals from us!

===

In Advent, it is especially fitting to consider the Magnificat, Our Lady‘s humble response to St. Elizabeth, despite the fact that Our Blessed Mother was preserved by God from all sin (Luke 1:46-55, RSV-CE):

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”

We might also consider the lessons of the humilty of the shepherds who immediately came to worship the Baby Jesus, and the Magi who traveled far over much time to present valuable gifts to Our Lord. Finally, we might further explore the implications of a few contrasts: the humble faith of St. John the Baptist with the early assured doubt of John’s father, Zechariah, literally struck dumb by God for a time; or Blessed Mother, who humbly accepted God’s will to change her life, with Herod, who killed thousands of innocents to oppose God’s will and assure himself of dominance; or even the humility and honest seeking of the Magi and shepherds with the self-satisfied entertainment-seeking of the latter Herod, who assented to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine!
St. John the Baptist, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Blessed Mother, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Holy shepherds and Magi, pray for us, that we may be humble.
Dear saints and angels of God, pray for us, that we may be humble.

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