Category: Nonfiction (Page 3 of 3)

The Necessity of the Resurrection

An interesting exchange took place at my family’s devotions the other evening. Like many Catholics, we pray the Divine Mercy Novena from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday. This year, however, a long-held concern of my father’s and mine came to a head: namely, the incongruity of repeating “for the sake of His sorrowful Passion” 450 times during the height of the Easter celebration. Thus, we decided to insert the words “and His glorious Resurrection” to help us maintain the spirit of the season. It proved a helpful practice, I think; I for one intend to keep it up until Pentecost. One of my siblings, however, voiced an objection: how could we pray for mercy “for the sake of . . . His glorious Resurrection,” when it was the Cross that paid for our sins? In fact, said sibling opined, it would have been more of a sacrifice if Christ had died knowing that He would not subsequently rise in glory.

Responses to this came quickly to mind; my first thought was of the words of the liturgy: “Dying You destroyed our death; rising You restored our life.” Of course, the Church has always taught that the Resurrection is an essential part of the whole Paschal Mystery. Still, other Catholics seem to have assumptions like my above-mentioned sibling’s, even if they never consciously spell out their thoughts. The way we tend to speak and think about our Lord’s death and Resurrection sometimes implies that the former is really what brought about our redemption, while the latter is important to give the story a happy ending . . . but what does it directly have to do with salvation?

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Almighty God and His Hobbit Missionary

Since salvation history began, God’s way with souls—and His sense of humor—have not changed. He has always chosen the most seemingly unfit to accomplish His plan, from Moses, who pleaded that he was too “slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10) to be God’s messenger, to St. Faustina Kowalska, who had no money, education or power, but was sent to bring the Divine Mercy message to the world. Most people are never called to do anything so great, but even in less significant cases, God often manifests His power through apparently unfit instruments. One such case was my spring break mission trip to Cuzco, Peru, during my sophomore year at Christendom College. The Holy Spirit moved in me, despite my many natural aversions to the experience, and used me on the trip to show His love.

When my parents first learned that I wanted to go on a mission trip, they were pleased but surprised, and with good reason. Whatever words might be used to describe me, “adventurous” would hardly be high on the list. It might not quite be true that I “never did anything unexpected or had any adventures,” but I might be compared to a hobbit, one of the little people who inhabit J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I like a routine, familiar places and people, and a reasonable predictability in life. A year earlier, making the transition from home life to college had been a slow and excruciating process. How could I now elect to trade a visit home for a week in South America?

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Your Temperament: A Gift from God

When Gerard Manley Hopkins praised God for all the “dappled things” that fill the world with glorious variety, he could have included human personalities in his list. People have extremely diverse gifts, inclinations, interests and approaches to life. Common remarks highlight these distinctive qualities: “She sure is perky!” “I can’t believe how calm he is!” “How do you get so much done so quickly?” Like the colors of the rainbow, species of plants and animals, and diverse national cultures, this variety among characters renders the world more beautiful and complete.

Although each person is unique, one may reasonably seek to summarize human personalities into general “types” in order to understand them better. One method of summary is the four temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Such a classifying system can be a help to understanding oneself or others. When used without care, however, it can also contribute to the danger of stereotyping or oversimplifying the temperaments. Some of the four words listed above are too often used in a derogatory way, as if they necessarily had negative connotations. I have met people who say that they hate their own temperament or wish that it were different.

If you are one of those people, be reassured: not only is your temperament not a bad thing, but it has potential for great good. Your personality is simply part of the person that God made you, along with, e.g., your blood type, your skin color, and the pitch of your voice. God created your temperament for a specific purpose in His plan for you—and, yes, for all creation. In mankind’s fallen state, each temperament has its particular risks, but when trained and used properly, each can glorify God and serve other people in a way that the others cannot.

The confusion may have arisen in part from the origin of the four words. The “humors,” or bodily fluids, were once thought to determine people’s moods. Thus, a person might be “choleric” at one time and “phlegmatic” at another, depending on whether he had more choler or phlegm in him at the moment. I do not know when the names of these physical states became designations for different temperaments, but since they did, each of these words has at least two meanings. A mood and a personality are not the same, nor is someone of a given temperament always in the corresponding mood. Moods come and go, while a personality, as has been stated, is lasting and essential.

Having said all this, let’s consider each of the four temperaments in turn, iterate and respond to some popular misconceptions about them, and ponder each one’s benefits and pitfalls. Each person is different, of course; but some broad generalizations, regarded as such, can still safely apply. In setting these forth, I do not pretend to be an expert on personalities or human psychology. I am simply speaking from my own experience. I know sweet and lovable people of each of these temperaments, and you probably do as well.

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