Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From April 10th, 2011 Bulletin)

Musings of a Dessert Father

I can’t pretend to call myself a desert father. They are holy and ascetical in the practice of mortification. I’m more of a dessert father; I have trouble passing a good donut. But holiness is not out of reach for us who are weak. In fact, recognition of weakness is a requisite for an honest relationship with God. So there is a good place to begin. Are you weak (and can admit it)? Then there is hope.

As I write this, I’m still in the high desert at Marymount Hermitage. It’s a stunning vista here of melting snow in forested mountains and rolling sagebrush. The clouds and rain are visible for twenty miles distant as spring begins to make itself known here in Mesa, Idaho. Delicate buttercups begin to show themselves after a long winter’s hibernation. Robins begin to declare an end to it, ready or not. Geese fly every which way confused by the indecisiveness of the weather. We had snow yesterday.

Silence, nature and prayer begin to have their effect on me. I found myself weeping over a simple statement by Antonio Rosmini this morning, “I, who understand, feel, and I, who feel, understand.” Right now, I’m trying to understand what was so moving about this little truth, but maybe it’s not a little truth at all. Maybe it’s a big truth about humanity. The quote is actually Denis Cleary commenting on Rosmini’s writings on the human person, and what makes each of us unique (from Antonio Rosmini: Introduction to His Life and Teaching). Blessed Rosmini (beatified in 2005) was trying to respond to modern philosophies that either erred on the side of ‘all we know is feeling’ (that which our senses detect), or oppositely that ‘all we know is thought’ (that which we sense is unreliable). Rosmini unites them in describing a human person as that place where the two, thinking and feeling, are united.

In solitude one can begin to experience and appreciate little statements, or dried sagebrush, or inquisitive magpies with greater clarity and magnitude. By application, this speaks too of the magnificence of one human being, breathing, sensing, feeling, thinking and desiring. You are unique. There has never been a ‘you’ or an ‘I’ like this one, ever until now, and never will be another. You are unique. Dare I say it again? The preciousness of a human person, made in the image of God, is extraordinary. This is why we must respect and reverence each and every one of us, regardless of opinions or persuasions or even goodness or wickedness. Each human person is unique.

I have the day off again except for Mass, which is hardly a chore. We had planned to look at The Spiritual Doctrine of Elizabeth of the Trinity together, but that will wait until Friday when I hope to be feeling better. My nose had started to run as I got to the airport Monday morning and my head filled with congestion. I was whining about this internally on Tuesday, with a tremendous headache to go with it. Why come out here and be sick? Is this some cruel sport from God? Doesn’t He know better? Where is His sense of timing? I could be making so much progress in the spiritual life if I was healthy, I thought. In sharing these profound thoughts with the most High, I received no direct answer. My head was spinning anyway from this cold, or flu, or whatever. I could hear nothing but my own snuffling.

Then, as if already planned, I picked up Abandonment to Divine Providence from the Hermitage library. I had read it before and remembered its refreshingly simple premises about surrendering oneself in the present moment. I was desiring a God who could reach into my weakness and suffering and sickness and bring some value to this moment which seemed less than ideal. Here is what de Caussade had to say:

In reality, holiness consists of one thing only, complete loyalty to God’s will.

Perfection is neither more nor less than the soul’s faithful co-operation with God.

Our only satisfaction must be to live in the present moment as if there were nothing to expect beyond it.

You are seeking for secret ways of belonging to God, but there is only one: making use of whatever he offers you.

God truly helps us however much we may feel we have lost his support.

The more God takes from the abandoned soul, the more is he really giving it…the more he strips us of natural things, the more he showers us with supernatural gifts.

There’s more of course; I can only recommend reading this one. I continue to pray for the parish as I write this. I look forward to being with you soon and will be when you are reading this. As I finish this article, my head has cleared and the geese seem more sure of themselves.

From the desert,
Fr Ed

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