Are you listening to me?

You withheld sleep from my eyes.
I was troubled, I could not speak.
I thought of the days of long ago
and remembered the years long past.
At night I mused within my heart.
I pondered and my spirit questioned. (Psalm 77:5-7)

I was sitting with my wife recently after work, sharing with her some things that I had been agonizing over recently. Specific regrets from the past.

Without any hesitation, she spoke with a prophet’s clarion voice:

Are you listening to me? God’s permissive will is always for His greater glory and the sanctification of our children. Stop wallowing in regret and trust that He can do more with your imperfections and failures than you could ever imagine. God doesn’t deal with the man you say you wish you’d been. Just the real one. If you’d just let go, give it up to Him and move on, then He can do His thing. But if you’re going to get stuck in regret, that’s your deal. And look, what are your other options? Okay? It’s time for dinner.

Yeah, that.

She said what I already know: The mystery of God’s permissive will, the cross and resurrection, the “o happy fault” of Adam, St. Paul’s “power is made perfect in weakness.” All of these were there firmly lodged in my cerebral lock-box, conceptually precise ideas. But in this particular matter, my inner struggles remained sealed off from truth, from God, from my heart. But she, Tear in my Heart, effectively tore head down into my heart. I knew that grace had been given in that moment when I felt a liberating release within. Hope.

I love to think, write and teach theology, but my wife again and again makes it real and alive for me. She does — is — theology with piercing blue eyes, passionate love and lipstick on.

After she finished speaking she got up from her chair to take the chicken out of the oven. I managed to get up off the ground when it was time to eat.

And I slept well that night.

A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. (Proverbs 31:11)

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O Gift

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Neal family Christmas photo 2015

In honor of today’s Gospel, I would like to share a poem I wrote for my wife and first posted here in 2012.

In that Gospel, Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” The Church’s teaching on the vocation of a married couple is unambiguous: Whether your spouse is a difficult unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:17) or you are both saint-aspirants (Eph 5:21ff), your primary path to intimate union with God in Christ is found in and through loving your spouse and — from that center — loving any children God may have gifted you with. St. John Paul says in Familiaris Consortio:

Christian marriage is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church. By celebrating it, Christian spouses profess their gratitude to God for the sublime gift bestowed on them of being able to live in their married and family lives the very love of God for people and that of the Lord Jesus for the Church, His bride.

Every little or large act of love in sacramental marriage and family possesses the whole power of the world-transfiguring divine liturgy, as your covenant bond extends the Cross and Resurrection of Christ into the nooks and crannies of that portion of the history God has entrusted to your influence.

And Pope Francis most recently said in Amoris Laetitia:

Those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union.

I believe this is one of the most profound statements on marriage and family life ever made by the Magisterium. This is the “nuptial mysticism” appropriate to the vast majority of Christians. Let’s develop a new spiritual literature that unfolds these depths! May this be the century of canonized saint-couples who found their mystical perfection in the imperfect tangles of domestic life and amid the vibrant passion, mundane routines and varigated colors of till-death marital love.

To all of you married men and women, look today at your spouse’s face — on your children’s faces — and see your royal Way into the abyss of Trinitarian life and love.

To my wife, Gift

O Gift overflowing, poured lavish grace
God-art etched in your lovely face,
for you are His constant gaze on me:
May I the same for you always be!

O Gift held reverently in my trembling hand
you are a thousand callings, myriad sand
beckoning my love be faithful and true;
for to love God best, I must first love you.

O Gift of royal service, my only Crown
for you I daily live to lay my life down
as once for all did our greatest King
whose Passion – pray! — my life can sing.

O Gift stolen down from heaven’s immortal Fire
for you my heart burns with deathless desire,
as you drench my world in melodies sweet
singing into my winter’s cold a lover’s heat.

O Gift, the Father’s daughter entrusted to my care
with you may I never once risk or even dare
to seek God apart from your joy-giving face
or fail to make our love His dwelling place.
Amen.

Never to make a change

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The fifth: In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad, with whose counsels we cannot take a course to decide rightly. — St. Ignatius of Loyola

I have found over the years that the majority of bad decisions I have made were made in the midst of “desolation” – confusion, fear, depression, anxiety. It’s so incredibly tempting to shift course when darkness comes, because when you find yourself in a state of desolation there arises deep within an almost compulsive need to break free from its grip and seek immediate relief. In that frame of mind you easily succumb to the fantasy that everything will be better if you just change direction.

Ignatius’ counsel is clear: do not to change course on well-discerned decisions you have made previously until the storms of confusion pass and you have a restored sense of peace and clarity within which you can think clearly. A healthy human spirit and/or the Holy Spirit produce a sense of inner freedom and peace, while an unhealthy human spirit and/or an Evil spirit conjure a sense of inner compulsion and turmoil.

So many bad decisions can be avoided by keeping firm to this Rule.

I thought of all this when I heard Phillip Phillips’ song Home the other day. The refrain captures the spirit of Rule Five wonderfully. The last lines of the refrain remind us that in the midst of our desolation, when we feel lost and homeless, we need to seek out those safe spaces in our lives that are our “homes,” where peace, trust, hope and all the fruits of the Spirit abide. There we can think aright and can become aware of the fact that God never leaves us alone. Indeed, He who descended into hell can make even the darkest places in our life, those places from which we would rather flee, our “home.”

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble—it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Here’s the song:

The Duty to Smile

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Repost 2014

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” — Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

Here’s some advice I got many years ago from my grandfather, purveyor of wisdom and writer of handwritten letters to his young grandson:

…One of the most important things you will do every day of your life is leave the world a better place than you found it. If you can say at the end of each day you lightened someone’s burden, you can say more than most. Our world has come to worship the Ego, the unholy trinity of me, my and mine. “I” is the new Tower of Babel. But you have to be better, Tommy. Take the road less traveled … You’ll always have reasons to complain or be bitter. Save those for God or a trusted friend. Don’t poison the air. Be known as “that man who lifts you up” and not as “that man who brings you down.” … Cynics take pleasure in dashing others’ hope to medicate their own misery and despair, for misery does love company. But the wise man takes pleasure in helping others exit the Cave of shadows to find hope … To make the world better you don’t have to feel like making it better. Just do better. You’ll get it back a hundredfold … Helping others find their way you possess a wealth far surpassing self-esteem. You possess self-respect …

When I recently read this article on the Jewish Talmud by Dennis Prager, I found the resonance remarkable…

As the Talmud tells us, “It is not the thought that counts, but the deed.”

This is truly a Jewish idea. I first realized this many years ago when a non-Jewish middle-aged caller to my radio show sorrowfully related to me that he thought he was a terrible son. He explained that for the previous 10 years he had been the sole financial and emotional support of his ailing mother — and sometimes, he confided to me, the burden was so heavy that he wished she would finally succumb to her illnesses.

When I told him that I thought he was one of the most wonderful sons I had ever had the honor of speaking to, he thought I was mocking him. He couldn’t believe that I was serious. But I was. I explained to him that it is completely irrelevant what he sometimes feels or wishes. What matters is how beautifully he has acted toward his mother all these years.

This should be the guiding principle of our views on virtually every subject.

The self-esteem movement has largely been a moral and emotional disaster. It was produced by people who, among other mistaken ideas, believed that feelings were more important than actions. Thus, no matter how little children may accomplish, they are still to be rewarded with medals, trophies, lavish praise, etc. The result is that they deem how they feel about themselves as being of greater importance than how they act.

In a math competition with students from other industrialized democracies, American students came in last. But they came in first in self-esteem about their knowledge of math. And the prominent criminologist and professor of psychology, Roy Baumeister, has often noted that no group has higher self-esteem than violent criminals.

The Torah commands us to tithe our income. Neither the Torah nor later Judaism ever cared whether our heart is in it. We are commanded to give whether or not we feel like giving. Tzedakah — which is translated as “charity,” but it is in fact the feminine form of “justice” — helps the needy. And people who are in need prefer to receive $100 from one who feels religiously obligated to give, rather than than $5 from one whose heart prompts him to give $5.

In decades of lecturing, writing and broadcasting on the subject of happiness, my two central premises have come from this Jewish teaching that behavior is what matters most. The first premise is that if we act happy, we are far more likely to feel happy. The second is that we all owe everyone in our lives not to inflict our unhappy feelings on them. With few exceptions, no matter how we feel, we have a moral obligation to act with a happy disposition.

For whatever reason, this is the song that comes to mind now — below the video are the lyrics:

Here under heaven’s eyes
Down under paradise
Sometimes it seems like we’re so small
Here on the shores that reach into infinity

How could we matter much at all?
Would it be enough
If each of us would give our love?

Like sand on a mountain
Rain on a fountain
Shade on a shadow
A breeze in this tornado

Just do what you can
Clap with one hand
And shine all your light in the sun
We live to learn to love

Oh, mercy from above
Amazing grace, like rain comes falling down
We sing our hearts to you
Our song of gratitude

The voice of every soul
How sweet the sound
We can only trust
All our prayers will all add up

Like sand on a mountain
Rain on a fountain
Shade on a shadow
A breeze in this tornado

Just do what you can
Clap with one hand
And shine all your light in the sun
Would it be enough

If each of us would give our love?
Like sand on a mountain
Rain on a fountain
Shade on a shadow
A breeze in this tornado

Just do what you can
Clap with one hand
And shine all your light in the sun

Mysticism of being

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Lake Pontchartrain, 4/16/16

I sat by the lake the other day and pulled up a chair to watch the waves breach the rocky barrier and flood the upslope of the levee. There was a strong east-northeast wind throughout the night that had made the water pile up along the west and southwest sides of the lake.

There’s something about waves that mesmerize. The rhythm, the sounds, the spray that dampens you.

No one was out. No bikers, no walkers.

Someone, a lifelong resident, recently said to me that he wondered how I found beauty in this muddy lake. I wondered back how he could not.

I grew up in love with the shores and shoals of Rhode Island. Narragansett Bay, Galilee, Point Judith, Wickford, Block Island, the Harbor of Refuge. And as a child I was in love with a murky pond and narrow stream near my home. I learned to love bodies of water, no matter their size or color. To me, they teemed with mirco and macro mysteries.

I got to thinking as I sat and watched the waves and felt the wind, thinking about my personal quest to find beauty everywhere. My success ebbs and flows, but there is an insight I shared here in 2014 that I’d like to revisit again.

Years ago as I was writing my dissertation I came across a text from 14th century Dominican theologian Meister Eckhart. I wish I still had it. He spoke about beginning every act of thanksgiving to God not with this or that benefit or pleasing feature of nature and grace, but with the very act of existence itself. Be grateful first that anything is at all. Here is a reflection I wrote on his words, including at the end words I love from the preface to the Sanctus in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

Eckhart said if we could allow our minds
to encompass the magnitude
and sheer gratuity of being,
of our existence,
and wrap our hearts around
the fact that God,
unconstrained by necessity,
chose to spring creation
out of non-existence into being,
our thanksgiving would remain inexhaustible,
without further need or reason of justification.
And gratitude for this or that, for specificities,
would always be a surfeit, an overflow
from that primal act of eucharistic adoration:
“Something rather than nothing!”
But even beyond this all-sufficing beginning,
moving to “this or that,” toward “specificity” in my thanks,
of these there could be no end:
“Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand” (Ps 139:18).
And yet, catch my breath,
God has added to our existence infinitely “More” —
Beyond raising our world into being, with its excessive splendor,
He has raised up in Christ a new creation into well-being,
with a super-excessive, immortal splendor.
How can I keep from singing?
Should it not be, then, out of justice,
love and unfettered joy
that thanks should in each moment
threaten to overtake all our speech?
At the end of Mass, when told to Go
we say, Thanks be to God,
establishing a right-syntax for life
until we return again
to give thanks:
For Thou art God ineffable,
inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible,
ever-existing and eternally the same,
Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit.
Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being,
and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again,
and didst not cease to do all things
until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven
and hadst endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come.
For all these things we give thanks to Thee,
and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit;
for all things of which we know and of which we know not,
whether manifest or unseen…

I created a little prayer the day I read Eckhart’s text that borrowed its first words from the Jewish Passover litany, the Dayenu. “It would have been enough for us, O Lord, had you called us into being if only for but one day, one hour, one moment; to share in your I AM, to be for a time, born of your eternity; to receive along with all creation the gift of being-with-you, joining her hymn of ceaseless praise: Bless the Lord! By no claim of justice I am, so may I live in open handed thanksgiving from every moment henceforth I continue to be. Amen.”

Glory to Thee for calling me into being

Tout est grâce. Grace is everywhere. Look:

“See how the flowers of the field grow” (Matt 6:28)

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“We got to talking about the beauty of this world of God’s, and about its great mystery. For each blade of grass, each little bug, ant, golden bee, knows its way amazingly; being without reason, they witness to the divine mystery, they ceaselessly enact it.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Some of the most beautiful things worth having in your life come wrapped in a crown of thorns.”
Shannon L. Alder

As I was taking a walk a few weeks ago by the lake, I happened on this lonely thistle topped with an equally lonely, but busily plundering bumblebee.

I sat down next to it for a time and thought about the stark contrast between the delicate beauty of the soft lavender flowers and the harsh texture of the green leafy tower that seemed to be guarding those blooms with a fearsome array of thorns.

My mind wandered off to Jacob’s Ladder in Genesis 28:10-17. I thought about how our ascent into the Kingdom of God is littered with hard and painful thorns, and how much God’s descent into our world is littered with hard and painful thorns.

But then I looked at the bee. She was seemingly oblivious to the threatening swords encircling those blooms! Then I thought of how God, in His mercy, on occasion gives us sweet consolations in prayer that make us soar carefree above life’s tangled thickets, allowing us to drink deeply of the nectar of the Kingdom and so be fortified when He returns us again to our thistled Ladder.

It never ceases to amaze me how nature speaks. The Orthodox tradition even has prayers for bees. I can’t help myself:

O Almighty and Pre-eternal God: You hold all creation in the palm of your hands; You possess the heavens, the earth and all that is them; You compassionately grant unto all created things that which is beneficial for them.  With compunction, we pray to You,  O all-good One: As in ancient times You granted the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and as you were well-pleased to nourish Your baptizer John in the wilderness with wild honey, so now by Your good pleasure and caring for our sustenance, bless the beehives in their apiary, greatly increase the number of bees in them, preserve them by Your grace, and fill us rich with honey.   Let none of these beehives which You have fashioned be deprived of bees, but let them always be filled with honeycombs of honey.  And according to Your great benefits and invincible might, let them be shown undefeated by evils and unshaken by curses.  Rather, fenced round about by Your all-powerful might and defended by your armed host, let them always remain unharmed and in Your grasp, O Christ.  For Yours it is to be merciful and to save us, O Christ our God, and unto You do we send up glory,  honor and worship, together with Your Father and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Priestly entry into the Sacrifice

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Would you also learn from another miracle the exceeding sanctity of the priestly office? Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him, and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:— these are marvelous things, charged with terror. Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvelous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? — St. John Chrysostom

I recently received a question from a priest, and thought I would post my (expanded) answers on this Good Shepherd Sunday. Thank God for our priests and bishops! Pray for them! John Chrysostom was once presented with an unfaithful priest by an angry mob outside his Cathedral in Constantinople. Before he addressed the allegations against the cleric, he asked the crowd who, before this incident was discovered, had prayed and fasted for this man. Pray daily and fast for our priests and bishops who bear a heavy burden for us, that their love for Christ may match their mission to feed and tend His lambs.

The question:

How can priests better enter into the Sacrifice of the Mass? I will have no more than 15 minutes to devote to this important topic this time around, so brief.

My response:

1. Prepare well beforehand. Ill prepared liturgies are inevitably far more distracting. As much as possible, pray over liturgical texts ahead of time so when you come to those texts in the celebration they are already in your mind and heart as prayerful things.

2. Be aware that you are a steward of the sacrificial offerings of the lay faithful. At the Offertory we bring you everything we have gathered during the week from our faithful labors and sufferings. Receive them with love and reverence. Our sacrifice and yours are both essential to your personal spirituality, precisely because your spirituality as a priest is thoroughly liturgical and pastoral. This means your private intimacy with God is also public. The Sacrament of Orders inscribed your being with these Eucharistic words: pro vobis et pro multis, “for you and for many.” You are a man for others, no longer your own (John 21:18). Configuring you to Christ the Shepherd-priest, God has woven our lives into your identity, just as children are woven into the body and soul of their mother and father.

Your ministry outside the liturgical celebrations can really be summed up as helping us prepare our sacrifices to be offered in the Holy Sacrifice, which means within those celebrations you will find great joy in receiving our harvests for co-offering with Christ to the Father (Psalm 126:6). When we bring you our offerings of bread, wine and alms at the Offertory, what delight you will feel as you know us each by name (John 10:14). These considerations will help greatly in avoiding any thought that we, the motley crew of the faithful at Mass, are somehow a distraction from your own personal liturgical piety. Your intimacy with Jesus at Mass always includes us, the “filled out” Christ, His Body. No mystical isolation admitted into liturgy. As Fr. Tom Hopko once memorably said, paraphrasing St. John Chrysostom, in the celebration of the Eucharist the faithful are always tempted to lovingly receive Christ the Head, but spit out the members of His Body. Easy to love the Head, not so easy to love the ragtag members of His Body.

That said, I realize “we the people” can at times be very distracting and disruptive of an artful and reverent celebration (ars celebrandi) of the Holy Sacrifice. Uncouth, unprepared, immodest, distracted, talking, sleeping. St. Augustine used to have to interrupt the liturgy to tell couples to stop making out! But is not the sheer humanity of every liturgical celebration — with all its untidy unpredictability and imprecise fallibility — somehow fitting and appropriate to the celebration of a Redemption which took place amid boorish crowds and the stench of death? Christ’s procession up the mountain to the Altar of Sacrifice was accompanied by spitting and cackles, tripping and falling, weeping and shouting, along with roadside businesses buying and selling as usual. Fr. A Nichols catches a vivid sense of the original messiness of the bloody liturgy of Golgotha: “The circumstances in which his death was embraced — the betrayal by friends, the rejection by the religious leaders, the hostility, or cynical indifference, of the men of power — all of these purely secular conditions were taken up into an act of cult, a supreme act of worship, whose hidden fruitfulness made it the central event in the history of the world.” Or think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous advice to his son who was away at university:

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.

So even when you rightly plan liturgy well and do all you can to create a spirit of order and reverence, when mishaps, annoyances or sloppy and grating dissonances happen, you should bring even (and especially) them to the Sacrifice to be “taken up into an act of cult, a supreme act of worship…” Then all things become part of the ongoing saving history of the liturgic Paschal Mystery.

3. The work of the celebrant is above all one of justice and love. What St. Paul calls the “debt of love” (Rom 13:8). As celebrant of every liturgy (from Baptism to Breviary) you fulfill a “right and just” obligation to God and the people, whom you also love. Only within the confines of obligation can one learn to love with the ferocity of fidelity, sounding love’s depths through all hardships to the very end. Any challenges or hardships associated with presiding become the perfect means of “entering the Sacrifice.” When a seminarian once said to an older priest who was lecturing in my class in Omaha, “How do you get past the difficulty of being distracted by having to keep track of a million details in the Rituals,” the priest without hesitation replied: “You don’t ever get past it. That’s your road to God. Distractions are merely the details of loving, because love is really in the details.” To say the main teloi [goals] of Holy Mass are divine glorification and human sanctification, it’s really a tautology, two sides of the same coin (1 John 4:20). If your heart is wrapped around this twofold goal of liturgy, all divergences between me-and-God and me-and-people dissolve.

At my Dad’s Orthodox parish, liturgies last 2-3 hours, are very complex affairs. I used to love going to lunch with the pastor to talk about theology. Once, when I was saying how amazed I was that he could endure such an energetic celebration for so many hours, he said to me,

Liturgy exhausts me. But I only feel I’ve really celebrated well when I leave exhausted. Liturgy comes from the Greek words laos, “people,” and ergon, “work.” As pastor I can tell you people are a lot of work. And my people work hard. But we Orthodox also call liturgy “Divine Liturgy,” because it’s really God’s work first. So when I’m gathering up into the Synaxis the work of God and of man both redeeming a fallen world, I should sweat! Just like the Master did.

4. Be aware of the cycles of consolation and desolation that will affect the experience you have of the Mass. Being faithful through the ups and downs, highs and lows, sweetness and bitterness is just part of the work of covenant love.

5. Be attentive that your failure to receive fruits from the Mass may also be reflective of issues of personal sin, sloth, dissipation, psychological issues or other life circumstances that naturally make things more arduous and present greater obstacles. Be holistic in your examen of the reason for your difficulties as a celebrant who also is meant to receive even as he gives.

6. Make reading about the liturgy, liturgical theology, feasts, scripture, etc a regular part of your spiritual fare so you can nourish a genuinely liturgical spirituality. I think of Aidan Kavanaugh’s Liturgical Theology; David Fagerberg’s Liturgical Asceticism; Pope Benedict’s Spirit of the Liturgy; Alexander Schmemann’s Introduction to Liturgical Theology; Jean Corbon’s The Wellspring of Worship; or even that fascinating look at Coptic monastic liturgical life, Journey Back to Eden by Mark Gruber. Rich fare!

7. Annie Dillard, source of innumerable quotables, has a remarkable thing to say about liturgy. Pray daily that God grants you wonder and awe and holy fear, and that He keeps you far from droning boredom, familiarity’s contempt, caustic cynicism or sterile pragmatism. Keep in mind the Acting Person you become in sacramental celebrations, the extraordinary manner in which you instantiate St. Paul’s words: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The more you surrender yourself to the Christ you become in the liturgy, the more your life outside the celebration will become a Magnum Opus of God! We faithful long for that.

Here’s Annie:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

8. In a word, be after the Heart of the Shepherd and your life will become a divine conspiracy of love: