Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 16, 2020

precious words, in silence heard…

I’m very happy to say that these past several weeks of “social distancing,” sheltering in place,” radical isolation in the attempt to confine to as few people as possible, this new coronavirus, has borne good fruit in me.  Much human-to human interaction has been shut off; much communal prayer and worship and adoration has been shut off; the Holy Sacraments of the Church have been highly restricted – but much precious “desert time” has been offered (and some has been received, profitably).  

The Eucharist has been shut off, but that Bread from Heaven the Word of God, has not: He remains faithful; He remains true; He remains closer than breath and heart-beat; He remains stronger than doubts and fears; He remains.  And His Holy Spirit, sent as promised, needs silence and solitude, quiet and attention for His still small voice to be heard.

One thing I am hearing more clearly now than ever: The Church, our Holy Church, is as a whole deeply, deeply in need of renewal – revival.  As the world becomes more divided, darker, more dangerous to all of us, the Church is needed more and more to be Christ in this world!  Our Lord sent His Church to be His witness to His Life!  Yet how mixed our witness has become.  Our witness to others, to the world, has become mixed because our hearts are mixed – our loves are mixed.  

Our minds are confused by mixtures of the ways and values of this passing world, mixed in with the teachings – the Truth – of Christ and His Church.  We in His Church have embraced two loves that do not mix together; we have sought to hold hands with the world with one hand while holding the hand of Christ in the other,  That does not work.  As the Lord taught,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
(Mt 6:24)

Without explaining or describing how, exactly, carnal loves have led to this crisis in the Church, let me simply name the symptoms of our spiritual infirmity.  The sickness is a disease of the heart: a heart in contradiction, a divided heart, a half-hearted love for God and His Church, fellowship with God at his Table one moment, and eating, drinking, cheering with a godless world the next moment.  And it seems we have become so accustomed to this insanity that it seems “normal.”  We insist, “I’m not a bad person!  I’m not a murderer, after all!  I’m a Catholic!”

So the sickness is heart disease; it presents itself these days in our religious life having three main deficiencies :

  1. Lack of true, sincere, heart-felt devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary, knowing her intrinsic place and part in true Christian Faith.
  2. Lack of fervent reverence for, knowledge of, and devotion to the Word of God, Holy Scripture.  “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (St. Jerome)
  3. Lack of the living, active, acknowledged Presence of the Holy Spirit in prayer, in works, in faith, in life.

These are not the only problems in the Church – but these three essentials to Catholic Faith are noticeably weakened in our Church, and we are suffering because of it. In our time, in the Church of today, all three are neglected or minimized, by some they are abandoned, by some rejected or replaced – or observed only with superficial, shallow and merely formal regard. This ought not to be.  Truth – God! – deserves more from us all.

Now frankly, there are people who see “no problem” in anything I have spoken of so far.  Loving God and the things of this world? No problem.  Serving God and Mammon?  No problem.  Offering God half, when He commands All Your Heart?  No problem – I’m a good person; have a nice day!  It is the mixture of mediocrity with sanctity, among the members of His One Church, that produces mixed messages to the world: the message, foremost, that lukewarmness toward God is acceptable to Him, and they are O.K. – No Problem.

God says otherwise:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.
(Rev. 3:14 – 19)

The three deficiencies I listed – interior, spiritual poverties or vacancies – are all interconnected.  To become strengthened in one will effect, improve, grow the others.  All three are essential, intrinsic to a vibrant Catholic Faith.  I plan to write more on this “triad” of right devotion to the Holy Spirit, to Mary and to Holy Scripture, but for now I’ll close with an encouragement to look to our Mother in Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary.  How we need her, in the Church today!  How neglected and dishonored – mistreated – she has been!  In the noises, rush and busyness of mere externals, we have focused on evangelizing others while neglecting the cries of our own hearts within, for what is due and needful first.

I’ll close for now with a portion of a beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ (1844 -1889): The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,…
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race…
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareth in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn…

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin…
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

[This shortened part of the poem is found on the blog “Teilhard de Chardin” (https://teilhard.com/2013/05/07/mothers-day-prayers/); the full poem is found on https://www.bartleby.com/122/37.html]


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for sharing the fruit of your silence! Your “precious words, in silence heard” needed to be expressed as you have shared them. By God’s Grace, may we take to heart what you have written.

    “Lack of true, sincere, heart-felt devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary,” is the most tragic deficiency you rightly listed first! How incredible to see this decline! How can we forget Mary’s importance in God’s Plan for all?

    If we look at the second and third deficiencies we may understand more. If disordered self-love is exalted so we neither listen to or obey God’s Word, then the Holy Spirit sent at Pentecost, to bring the Church into the fullness of Truth is ignored and Mary becomes irrelevant to many who have lost their roots.

    Thanks for planning to write more.

  2. Oh Thomas, thank you so much!! I’m reminded of the Lord’s Prayer, where it says, …Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven…What a glorious day it would be if God’s will could be done on Earth. Everyone’s heart focused on God alone. Mother Mary being loved and shown respect. I can’t wait for more of this blog.

    • Dearest Susan,

      Thanks for your reply and heartfelt desire to see God’s Will done on earth as it is in heaven — surely in heaven all is done in love and if we focus on the Heart of Jesus as Mary did on Calvary, we begin to learn how we can grow in holiness. May the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and Son to bring the Church into all truth fill our hearts with the fire of His Love!

  3. During this time of confinement due to the virus, I find myself making so much time for prayer. I thought I was a good Catholic but now realize how much I lacked in my faith by putting too much time on the things of the world rather than the things of God and Mary. The Church and so many seem to be praying the rosary more right now because we are in trouble. Just as we always seemed to go to our earthly mothers when we have a problem, we go to Mary our heavenly mother when tragedy affects our world. She is our path to Jesus. When this terrible time passes, I hope we still continue to make more time for prayer & don’t forget the rosary and realize how Mary is always there for us. May we always show her the respect & love she deserves.

    • Dear Janet,

      Thanks so much for your reply, which encourages us all to “find time” to pray, during this time of pressure to stay home.

      I agree with you: we can put so much time into things of the world we can forget Jesus’ words: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10)

      Mary the sister of Martha truly listened at the feet of Jesus. Mary our Mother truly listened all her life to God in all Jesus said and did. Jesus gave Mary to all of us as she stood beneath His Cross. If we obey His Words: “Behold your Mother” we will find in her our path to Him. We will indeed have the one thing truly needed – union with Him!

      By the power of His Holy Spirit, Mary our Mother lived the Truth she heard. Please let us continue to pray the Rosary, with attention and devotion and especially for all those in most need of God’s Mercy.


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