More on Failure
I guess the topic of failure is not done with me yet. Given how great I am at failing, it's nice to know I'm in good company every once in a while.
After writing The Importance of Sharing Failure, and posting the status update to Facebook, I've gotten some really great feedback. As such, I've been thinking more about it and wanted to again point out that the mirage of perfection that we see online, in magazines, and on television is just that - a mirage.
The only perfection we can hope to attain is that eternal reward of union with Christ in Heaven. That is the perfection we should be running towards. What does a thigh gap have on eternal life? Do the numbers 36-24-36 mean anything in the light of Divinity? Or is it the bulging biceps that will somehow overshadow the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross?
We all fail. It's part of our frail human natures. Even the greatest saints among us have fallen.
St. Paul spoke of the thorn in his side. He never named the sin that caused him to falter, but he understood the importance of sharing his faults so that others may benefit.
St. Augustine. Oh bless him... St. Augustine is proof that there's a chance for me yet.
Even St. Peter, himself, failed his best friend, Jesus - THREE TIMES.
We all will fail. The difference between St. Peter and Judas is that St. Peter sought forgiveness. He recognized his failing, and he sought forgiveness.
We are not perfect, folks. How lucky we are that God forgives! And yes, this ties in nicely with all the Pope Francis talk about Confession.
Run to Him. Recognize your failing as a stepping stone towards sainthood. We will all falter at some point. However, it only becomes failure if you give up and do not seek forgiveness. So long as you're still alive, you know God hasn't given up on you. Why should you give up on yourself if He hasn't?
Recognize your failings and rectify them so they become beacons of Christ's mercy. What better place to do that than in the Confessional wherein Christ wraps His arms around you and pulls you to His Sacred Heart. The absolution you hear is simply the vocalization of His beating Heart serenading you with unconditional love and boundless mercy.
I love this meme.
I have little doubt all of you are well aware, but in case you're not, today is a great day to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy. It's also a great day to pray St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer.
Jesus, in a vision, assured her those who pray this prayer devoutly help release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it's said. 1,000 souls. It's the very first prayer I teach to my class each year, and I usually assign - as homework - that they teach it to their families. They feel like little superheros (as well they should, because again... 1,000 people get saved each and every time you pray to God in this manner)!
These souls return our kindness by being some of our biggest intercessors in Heaven. I call on them constantly in times of trouble. They are our brother and sisters who root for us from beyond. So return the favor of their prayers with some of your own. We will very likely need the same one day.
For more information about Purgatory and the blessed souls who temporarily reside there, I suggest this wonderful selection of blurbs - it's one of my favorites!
So aside from the Prayer of St. Gertrude and the Divine Mercy chaplet, do you folks have any particular ways to commemorate the Feast of Holy Souls?
Plenary Indulgence Alert!
Sacred Heart statue at my parish
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Plenary indulgences for all! If public recitation is not an option for you, partial indulgences are at the ready.
Please don't let this opportunity pass you by! Spread it to all your friends. We could use a little absolution of our temporal punishments.
How merciful is Our Lord! How fathomless the depths of His infinite Love!
Submerse yourself in His Sacred Heart. Find peace and rest within His Arms.
For the requisite prayers, gain access here! Don't forget to share with friends and family!
On Free Will and Evil
This entire entry stems from a thread regarding the "creation of evil" and free will. I wanted to post it here as well because I think it's a great conversation!
God grants us Free Will
God is the Supreme Author of creation... all things visible and invisible. Our creed states as much. However, does this mean He created evil as well?
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God created the angels before humanity. Angels are purely spiritual beings that were also granted the grace of free will. We are taught through tradition that one third of these angels utilized their free will in opposition to the Divine Will of God (His Divine Will being Supreme Goodness). As a result, these angels were cast away from His Divine Presence (since to be united to God is to be united with His Will - which is Love above all else).
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
Eden was a physical realm that was in perfect union with the Will of God - Adam and Eve included. Genesis states as much when it writes of Adam "walking blameless before God." Adam's will was united to that of God's Divine Will, and there was peace. Eve, too, lived in union with God's Will. Until, that is, she meets up with a pesky little snake.
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
This was the first time humanity said "No" to the Divine Will. The second time was when Adam came along and accepted Eve's sin into the family line. In allowing himself (as head of creation) to sully humanity by not only accepting this sin, but taking part in it, Adam solidified our downfall. Now that both of our parents (Adam and Eve) have sullied themselves with the stain of sin, all subsequent generations would feel the smudge on our natures. This is original sin. It's not an actual "sin" that newborns are held accountable for. It's the tendency towards sin that we have inherited from our ancestors. Much like the child of an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself, the children of sinners are more likely to sin. We are children of Adam and Eve. The tendency has been passed from generation to generation, and with the exception of Our Lady, all of humanity has been marred by the stain of this original "No" to Divine Will... this original misuse of free will.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
That is what our lives on Earth are all about. We are learning to love. We are learning to consistently choose good over evil. We are learning to trust the Will of God and allow ourselves to take part in His plans for Divine Providence. THAT is the meaning of our earthly lives.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
Christ as Judge
God is mercifully patient, this is true. However, He is Divine Justice as well, and this Justice is not simply meant to punish - it is meant to protect and nurture those who wish to remain true to His Divine Will.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
Prayer Request: Miscarriage
Two women received heartbreaking news today regarding the miscarriage of their unborn children. Please keep them (and their husbands) in your prayers.
Even though their beautiful children did not make it past the bonds of the womb, they made these women mothers. Their tiny heartbeats - their tiny feet - their very souls manifested a significant and unalterable mark on the hearts of these women. They are forever changed because once you become a mother, you remain a mother. Once you open yourself up to accepting a life hand-crafted by the Father, you ever carry a piece of that life within yourself.
May these two mothers find comfort in the fact that their blessed little saints are now acting as their personal intercessors before the Throne of God. May they enjoy the Beatific Vision from the lap of Our Lady, and may their parents feel the comforting embrace of Christ.
Motherhood, as Dymphna put it, is forever. Special thanks to her for sharing this artwork.
Special thanks, too, go out to a woman named Dominique. She shared this reflection that I promptly fell in love with.
My Lord, the baby is dead!
Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?
“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.
You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”
I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity. -- Mother Angelica
I found this through Spirit Daily this morning. It's taking all the charity I have within me not to start spewing horrible, nasty things about this pea-brain of an "artist."
He claims he made popsicles using the Blood of Christ after a priest "inadvertently" blessed it during a Mass.
For the record, a priest cannot "inadvertently" bless anything. He either does or he doesn't. The corporal isn't just there to act as a napkin to catch fallen particles. It's also a boundary for items that need to be included for consecration.
So in order for this fool to obtain the Precious Blood, he'd've had to do one of two things:
1) Sneak a cruet of wine onto the corporal (which is direct center of the altar) in the middle of Mass (since the priest opens and places it after the Liturgy of the Word), then somehow steal it away before Communion without ever being detected.
2) Steal the consecrated wine through taking a chalice that's being used during Communion (which would create some sort of commotion, I'd assume), or accepting the Precious Blood via Communion and instead of ingesting, commit an even greater sacrilege by spitting the now consecrated wine into a vial or some other container for later use.
It's not like he could hold his little bottle of wine under his pew during a Mass and have it consecrated (which is what he stupidly thinks he did). It's not like he could drive by a chapel and suddenly the wine in his cooler becomes Christ's Blood.
Seriously - how foolish does he expect people to be???
Apparently exactly as foolish as they are. This article ran on CNN and he's planning to sell them during NY's Design Week. Disgusting.
May God have mercy on us. We have no idea how tragic we are unto ourselves.
The Angel of Death and Children
A few months ago, as my class and I were discussing the 10 plagues God sent to force the pharaoh to give the Israelites their freedom, the topic of the Angel of Death came up. This same discussion ended up finding its way into my inbox this morning from a friend of mine who is trying to decide if Catholicism is right for him.
The tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborns, was a punishment doled out specifically by the Angel of Death. My class had a really hard time wrapping their heads around the image of the angel pictured in the book. He was wielding a sickle (much like the one pictured), and left a trail of death and lamentation in his wake. Not one of the kids could believe that God would intentionally "murder" children like that.
I had to reel them back in for a bit. I explained that God never "murders" anyone. The picture they saw wasn't a recreation of that night... it was an artist's choice of symbols and images to tell a story. In the book, we saw a mighty angel holding a sickle. Around him were crying mothers and lifeless children. The artist chose these things for a reason.
First, the Angel of Death didn't bring God's punishment to the firstborns... punishment was meant for those left behind who would feel the pain on an emotional level (considering that months of physical punishment did nothing to deter them).
This angel carried a sickle to symbolize the "harvesting" of souls. The sickle is an agricultural tool that is specifically used to remove the most desirable parts of grain. In ancient Egypt, that's exactly what the firstborns would have been considered. The souls that this angel harvested (firstborns) were the most desirable and respected family members in Egyptian times. The fact that God demanded that the souls makes the punishment that much more severe.
Finally, the crumpled, broken parents who clutched the lifeless bodies of their children were meant to evoke strong emotions - the artist wanted to REALLY hit home how devastating this plague was in its emotional severity, so he used young children to symbolize all firstborns.
Firstborn didn't just mean babies. It didn't just mean toddlers. Firstborn meant everyone from child straight on through adult. It meant everything from calf to chicken to donkey. God harvested the most revered of Egyptian lives for Himself as proof that He was God over all - even the best protected. He controlled Life and Death (not just over base nature and animals, but over humanity as well - something Pharaoh never accepted as true until this final plague).
However, my class was still having a really tough time reconciling God taking these innocent lives with their image of a pure, holy, and loving Being. This is very understandable considering we, as humans, many times see death as a horrible, evil thing (especially when it is the death of an innocent... someone who did nothing to cause or solicit an untimely end).
One student asked me, "Do you think they [the firstborns] were scared?"
I paused for a second, because I realized then that my poor class had in their minds this image of a massive weapon-wielding warrior with wings blazing a trail through Egypt slaughtering unsuspecting children. Their collective looks of horror and disbelief challenged me to break down the Angel of Death for them a bit... into one who looked a little more like this:
The Angel of Death wasn't running around slashing throats. In fact, I doubt the people who were chosen to die that night even felt pain. Though I never thought about it before, when she asked me that, I immediately pictured one of those children, soundly sleeping, engulfed in a brilliant light. The Angel of Death was present, and he showed this tiny soul something of Heaven. He gently said, "Come, little one. God is calling you home." He reached out his angelic hand and without thought or hesitation, the soul - immeasurably joyous and willing - leapt from its body and consented to be carried along to meet the Source of such radiating, all-encompassing Love.
Instead of punishment or pain, these souls were met with joy and love... comfort and beauty. The Angel of Death is not this menacing monstrosity that humans should fear. Instead, he is the herald of our Heavenly welcome - the one tasked with the joy of bringing us home after our earthly sojourn.
Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy. Not one mention of it was made in my parish. :(
The deacon gave a nice little homily that referenced the book Heaven is for Real, but nothing about Divine Mercy Sunday!
Nothing about St. Faustina and the incredible promises made by Christ to those who venerated and adored His Gift of Mercy on the Sunday after Easter!
I hope others of you had better luck than I.
However, I was still able to celebrate Christ's Mercy on my own. I participated in the worldwide novena, got myself to a confessional, and participated in the Eucharist (though I dunno if I'd go so far as to say it was a "good reception" considering I was wrangling Vincent at the time).
Anyway, I'm going to ask our pastor if we've got an image of the Divine Mercy for the parish. If not, I believe I've got a good fundraising goal for the Evangelization council. Ha!
For those of you unfamiliar with Divine Mercy, I suggest starting here. This is a relatively new Feast (but not so new that my parish wouldn't have mentioned it!). Anyway, Jesus promises a total absolution of sin and the punishments due to Divine Justice for those who observe this feast through confession and reception of the Eucharist. Considering it the plenary indulgence to end all others. Heh.
Seriously - powerful stuff and desperately needed in this day and age.
The picture itself is of Christ, His Hand raised in blessing as His Sacred Heart pours forth the Blood and water that gushed forth as His Body hung upon the Cross. When the Roman centurion lanced Him, that Blood and Water were the last blessings He imparted to us, offering every last drop of Himself for our salvation. Through His Feast of Divine Mercy, He beckons us to run to Him and steep ourselves in His Mercy. No sin is too great for His Mercy. No sin too dark that it can't be washed clean.
The gospel, of course, ties into this theme as Christ imparted Reconciliation to the Apostles. He "breathed on them" that they might receive the Holy Spirit and thus the authority to provide absolution of sins.
This reminds us of God's enduring Mercy. It is made available to us each time we humble ourselves before Him in the confessional. It is made available to us each time we accept Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It is made available to us each time we seek forgiveness from one another - and we taste the healing power of this as we, in turn, forgive.
I sincerely hope other parishes took full advantage of this great Mercy.
And if you haven't already, might I suggest St. Faustina's Diary? I cannot even begin to describe how illuminating that was! Plus, you can read it online for free!
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