Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wisdom from… [29 Apr]

CATHERINE OF SIENA (1347–1380): The parchment has been torn up

Let our hearts and souls burst with love! Let them be quick to serve and stand in awe of the good, gentle Jesus! For the devil was holding on to us as his own property, as slaves and prisoners, and Jesus rescued us. He assumed responsibility for us, paid our debt, and then tore up the bond. When did he assume responsibility for us? When he assumed our humanity and became a servant.

Ah, but that alone would not have been enough if he had not also paid the debt we had contracted. And when was that paid? When he gave up his life on the wood of the most holy cross to give us back the life of grace we had lost. O sweetest, boundless charity! You destroyed the bond by which the devil held us, and tore it up on the wood of the most holy cross! That bond was written on nothing less than lambskin, the skin of the spotless Lamb. He inscribed us on himself and then tore up the lambskin! So let our souls find strength in knowing that the parchment our bond was written on has been torn up, and our opponent and adversary can never again demand to have us back.

So let us run to embrace virtue with true holy desire, remembering the gentle Lamb, who in such blazing love shed his life's blood.
(Letter 24, from The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, Suzanne Noffke, O.P., volume 1, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1988, 93.)

St. Catherine served the people of Siena with her good works and the Church at large with her peacemaking.

ST AUGUSTINE: Possessed by the Lord

Please understand: the resurrection of the body will be an end without end. The body will die no more, will experience no more sufferings, no more hunger and thirst, and no more afflictions. Neither will it become aged or ill. We shall be possessed by the Lord––his inheritance, and he will be ours.
-- Sermon 213, 9

Prayer. I have lifted up my soul to you, O Lord, as if I carried a jug to a fountain. Fill me, then, since I have lifted up my soul to you.
-- Commentary on Psalm 142, 15


So long as we tackle all our troubles ourselves, we shall be always worried and tired, and Our Lord will leave us to our own devices; but when we leave everything to Him, He will look after all our troubles Himself. The interest that God will have for us will be in proportion to the degree that we abandon ourselves to Him. I am not just speaking of temporal things, but also of spiritual ones. The Lord Himself taught this same truth to His beloved Saint Catherine of Siena: "Always think about me, my daughter, and I will think about you." Oh, how happy are those loving souls who know how to observe this rule, thinking only about the Lord, faithfully keeping themselves in His presence, listening to what He has to say to their hearts, obeying His divine inspiration and attractions, and not living or aspiring for anything but to please Him.
(Sermons 71; O. X, p. 300)

So much for the old pseudo-Bible verse that "God helps those who help themselves"! In fact, God helps those who find themselves helpless and, as it were, help themselves to His grace. Those can help themselves whom God helps. Our merit is not proportional to our effort, but to our desire, not proportionate to what we do, but to how radically and consistently we find our identity in the inheritance Christ offers us.


WHEN a man says that democracy is false because most people are stupid, there are several courses which the philosopher may pursue. The most obvious is to hit him smartly and with precision on the exact tip of the nose. But if you have scruples (moral or physical) about this course, you may proceed to employ Reason, which in this case has all the savage solidity of a blow with the fist. It is stupid to say that "most people" are stupid. It is like saying "most people are tall," when it is obvious that "tall" can only mean taller than most people. It is absurd to denounce the majority of mankind as below the average of mankind.

Should the man have been hammered on the nose and brained with logic, and should he still remain cold, a third course opens: lead him by the hand (himself half-willing) towards some sunlit and yet secret meadow and ask him who made the names of the common wild flowers. They were ordinary people, so far as any one knows, who gave to one flower the name of the Star of Bethlehem and to another and much commoner flower the tremendous title of the Eye of Day. If you cling to the snobbish notion that common people are prosaic, ask any common person for the local names of the flowers, names which vary not only from county to county, but even from dale to dale.

* * *

But, curiously enough, the case is much stronger than this. It will be said that this poetry is peculiar to the country populace, and that the dim democracies of our modern towns at least have lost it. For some extraordinary reason they have not lost it. Ordinary London slang is full of witty things said by nobody in particular. The creed of our cruel cities is not so sane and just as the creed of the old countryside; but the people are just as clever in giving names to their sins in the city as in giving names to their joys in the wilderness. One could not better sum up Christianity than by calling a small white insignificant flower 'The Star of Bethlehem.' But then again one could not better sum up the philosophy deduced from Darwinism than in the one verbal picture of 'having your monkey up.'
('Daily News.')

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