Author: Sarah

Can We Be Recognized As Christians?

Originally published at Homiletic & Pastoral Review

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Christ thus established love as the essential identifying mark of those who belong to Him. Love reveals the Christian; conversely, if we don’t love one another, we will not be recognized as His disciples.

It is on this point, then, that we must especially examine our consciences. Do we love one another? How would we know?

Our fallen nature and the world around us have never made love easy, but perhaps, trite as it may sound, the difficulties are especially great in our own time. It’s often observed that we live in an age marked by division, bitterness, and anger. As the children of the Church live in the world, exposed to all its foibles, we find division, bitterness, and anger among Catholics as well — e.g. between those who incline politically to the “right” or to the “left,” or those with contrasting positions on the Second Vatican Council or the Latin Mass. When they grow strong enough, such conflicts can tear apart families, parishes, and others of our communities. That scenario is not, alas, a mere hypothesis on my part.

Obviously this disunity among Catholics is a grave evil; but how to respond to it calls for more consideration. It has been pointed out, wisely, that as children of the same Mother Church, members of one Mystical Body, we share a common Faith, which provides us with a comprehensive, unifying worldview that, in one way or another, encompasses all good causes; this Faith ought to be more central, more fundamental, to us than any of the issues that divide us. This theme deserves extensive reflection, but my focus here is along different lines. Here I aim to explore how we, as mature Catholics, ought to respond when we find ourselves differing about issues that matter to us (and about which, presumably, the Church allows her children to form their own opinions).

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Discouragement

Sometimes when the rain pounds hard

And the sky hangs heavy above,

I sink down by the side of the road,

Rest my bleeding feet

And let the rain run over me.

I don’t want to go on,

But there’s no way to go back

And no point turning aside.

So I lie on the soft, damp earth,

Absorb its stillness.

I wait for the blood to wash off my feet.

Slowly the rain softens,

A kind wind stirs.

Slowly life breathes back into my limbs,

I don’t know how.

On the horizon, past the rain clouds,

Appears a crack of light.

I fix it as my mark,

Straighten myself and move on.

 

Keep Easter in Eastertide

Originally published at Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Happy Easter! Christ is risen, alleluia!

Does this time still feel like Easter? Hopefully Sunday Mass, at least, still does. Yet outside of that weekly hour, how often do we remember what season we are in? Many Catholics have prepared fervently for this holy time during the six weeks of Lent, giving up their favorite foods or activities, adding various solemn devotions, finding ways to help the needy and suffering. On the other hand, once the Easter season arrives, it often ends up neglected. After Divine Mercy Sunday, it’s easy to forget that a holy season is still going on.

To some degree, this imbalance is understandable. The need for Lenten penance, for a season of cleansing and purification, is obvious enough; our souls need Lent much as our bodies need medicine or exercise. On the other hand, the Easter season, a time of celebration — is that as spiritually necessary for us?

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Christian Joy and Human Sadness

Originally published at Homiletic & Pastoral Review

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). This and other exhortations in Scripture have shaped Christian tradition with the understanding that joy is meant to be part of our life. It’s traditionally counted among the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22, CCC #1832). Spiritual writers have often commented on its importance, including Pope Benedict XVI, who called it “a fundamental distinguishing characteristic of Christians.”(1.) Indeed, since Christ Himself prayed “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13), we might infer that joy is part of what He wills to give us.

But what does this joy mean in practice? What is it like, and how does it relate to times of suffering? Some homilies on Christian joy, no doubt preached with good intentions, can give the impression that if we pray, have faith, and generally keep a proper disposition toward God, we will always be serene and cheerful and radiate our happiness to the world. An otherwise lovely hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” reasons along these lines:

If our love were but more simple,

We should take Him at His word,

And our lives would be all sunshine

In the sweetness of our Lord.

If we don’t sense intuitively that this is asking too much of human nature, we’re likely to find out by experience. Even the most upbeat of personalities feel sadness at times, and not everyone is made with an upbeat personality. The idea that a Christian’s life must “be all sunshine” can also lead to insensitive treatment of the suffering; it would be callous to tell someone overwhelmed with grief, anxiety, illness, etc. that if they would only pray and have faith, everything would be fine.

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To Those I Knew

We’re told this life is like a storied mountain.

We’ve seen mountains steeped in mist.

In mist things emerge and fade,

shift and metamorphose.

Each scene of our climb is yielded

only for a minute.

And even we ourselves are not what we were,

nor what we will be.

It’s easy to grieve what’s left behind,

easy to fear what comes ahead,

lonely in this pocket in the mist.

Still one thing stays fixed —

a light-speck burning at the peak,

burning beyond the mist,

burning at the trail’s end.

It tells us the trail has an end.

There, from the summit,

we look for a different view.

There, in the light,

the climber can see the trail below

as he never saw it then.

There all the scattered things are brought together.

The mists obscure the burning speck,

yet can’t quench it,

can’t bar us from desiring it.

Hope is the end of the trail,

the summit where air is clear.

Hope is the light burning above the mist.

See you there.

Someday

Someday
The mighty tower of the cross
Will shatter all the brittle shell
Of thin, dim, transient skies,
And we, uplifted on it, see at last
Blazing through the breach
The pure, clear daylight of our royal home.
.
Someday
The candlelights of hope and faith,
So long safeguarded through the windy night,
Will dim away in beatific dawn.
All those lampposts of promise and doctrine,
Knife-bright in that deep mist,
Along with roving, whirling sparks
Of deepest sweet desire,
And fleeting flashes, blinding bursts,
Of glory understood—
Yes, all will meet within the Sun,
Be shown as faint glints of the Sun,
The Light whereon our eyes were made to gaze.
.
Someday
The heavy darknesses of pain,
That all but blot the sun from transient skies,
At long last will fall back for good and all,
No gleam, no respite, but the lasting morn.
Looking back, eyes filled with day,
Then will we see them all anew,
As shadows of the Tree of Life,
Long shadows that we followed to the dawning,
The living glow whence they were cast.
.
Someday
The chasms of space and time
Will all be filled, deep gashes healed,
By outpour of divine infinity,
Nevermore to sever us.
The sundered islands of our hearts
Will join in the celestial continent,
Upon the bedrock of the Triune love.
There never can love’s starry flame
Be poisoned with earth’s fumes,
Never will we need fear its leaping light.
For all our love-lights will be taken up
Into a joyous whirling galaxy,
The dance of glory round the radiant throne.
.
Someday…
But who could tell it true?
What thought below could grasp it—
a baby’s hand might sooner grip the sea—
that breaking morn that is the very Light,
When the finite is overflowed by Infinite,
When the beloved’s united with her Lover,
Whose love, beamed on her through creation’s screen,
Now breaks on her undimmed!
.
“Someday!
What idle dreaming!” I hear the world say.
“You waste your days gazing away at far, empty space.
It’s here, it’s now that matters!”
Here, now, what shall we do?
We’re all the shipmen of this vessel-earth.
Is she to sink into a cosmic sea,
Bearing our labors below?
Or has she a port, a port for us all,
Where all our sailor-craft is bound?
.
Someday—
But when, dear Love, how long?
These swirls of misty rumors rouse my soul
To ask, oh, when will your bright day break at last?
I know—it’s true—a myriad of voices
Whisper kindly, accents all like yours:
It could begin right now.
Small though I am and frail,
Your mighty hand laid on me lifts me up
To love in labor what I’ll love in bliss,
To follow blinded as I will in light,
To learn the notes that make the living song,
To begin here, under transient skies,
The life of home.

The Coming of Gran Windstormer, Part II

View Part I

Part II: The Storm Breaking

She knew she could find her way to where the stone-spawn were. If she knew who her enemies were, she could find them. That had often been an immensely useful gift in the wars. Aia skimmed across dense mounds of treetops rocking in the wind, fields of tall grass that rippled under her, reeds by riverbanks where herons and geese glanced up at the strange human creature.

In the days when she was used to doing this, she would have done it easily and probably enjoyed it. It was not without some thrill now, but the effort quickly became a strain, and soon a painful one. Yet she forced herself to keep up at the same speed, knowing that if she reached her goal too late it would all have been for nothing. When she finally allowed herself to rest, amid some boulders near the edge of a ravine, it was because she knew, even without seeing it, that the stone-spawn were on the other side.

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The Coming of Gran Windstormer, Part I

Part I: The Storm Brewing

The day of the great change came in autumn, when the green wooded mountains were beginning to burn with golden and orange and crimson, and the apples were hanging ripe, and the sunflowers were heavy laden with black seeds, and the wind grew strong again. The wind was strong that day, heaving the branches in waves, scattering bright leaves, strewing dirt and bits of plants up from Aia’s garden.

Aia wasn’t expecting a change that day, but she was wishing for one, as she pulled weeds out of the rows of carrots and squash and beans. Fiercely she tugged at the weeds, ripping out tough, thick roots with firm jerks. Old as she was, she was more than equal to the work—though this, she thought grimly, was a poor way for her to test her strength.

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The True Amazon

Our age, in all its folly, thinks

That she who chooses hearth and home life shrinks

From fullness of adventure, of life’s glory,

That hers is but a dull, short story.

But were the truth to once be seen,

Theyd hail her as a champion, a warrior queen.

.

Her kingdom may be small, but oh, its deep,

And so wild its keepers can take but little sleep.

Day by mad day, chaos’s flooding force

Into her realm presses its course;

With patient vigil and with shrewd stratagem

That tide she finds new ways to turn or stem.

Amid the pressing jungle, for the wild things

She raises a fair dwelling, and to it brings

All things needful. This castle she looks after

Armed with her mighty weapons, love and laughter.

.

Warriors of more renown, on fields of blood,

May fight for worthy ends, and maybe do some good,

And yet there’s sorrow in a trade

That must destroy so much that God has made.

But the queen of the hearth fights not as they;

Her tactics, toils, valor are not to slay

But to bring forth life, make it thrive and grow,

To lead the Wild Things the way they ought to go.

.

And though on this dim earth no man may know nor sing

Her labors, deeds, adventures, great heart unwavering,

In courts beyond, where every story will be known,

Shall angel-minstrels tell the tale of the queen of hearth and home.

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