Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Crucifix: Luck Charm or Sacramental

The Catholic Faith is a sacramental life where everything and every thing is offered back to God as a sacrament of praise and thanksgiving. The profane is made sacred when it is recognized as a gift from God to draw our hearts and minds upward beyond the fray of the human condition. The Puritan mindset, a misguided fallout of the Protestant Movement's dissembling from the Catholic (Universal) Christian Faith, trends toward removing the practice of our faith in God from the beauty and goodness of his Creation. 

The Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Faith marry Truth, Beauty and Goodness to our daily practice of our Faith. When considered in this light, one can appreciate our attention to every movement in the Mass and every devotional practice in our living. One such example is our veneration of the Crucifix. Misunderstood by those on the outside looking in partly due to the misunderstandings about how Catholics practice their Christian Faith.  The familiar misunderstanding that we were once led to believe goes something like this: Catholics don't celebrate the resurrection, they think Christ sacrifice stopped at the Cross. That accusation is befuddling to us now as Catholic Christians because it couldn't be further from the truth of Catholic Christianity.

Sacramentals such as a Crucifix, Icon, statues of Mary, Joseph and the Saints, Holy Water and sacramental devotional practices such as praying the Rosary, pilgrimages, Eucharistic Adoration, making the Sign of the Cross are all intended to guide our lives as beloved sons and daughters as we grow into our Christian identity. They remind us of our created identity, our family Name, our ancestry, our inheritance...  As we live our Sacramental Faith--every thing turns our hearts and minds upward to the ever-present reality of eternity where our true identity lies.  Our Creator knows the heart of man and how easily our gaze is inward rather than upward. Living our Catholic Faith aligns our wandering hearts and minds, our prodigal proclivities--amending our lives for the glory of God.

Consider this: We have a framed photograph of Mom Keith in the last years of her life. A moment captured that embodies her entire life: She is carrying a tray of her homemade rolls to the family table where she happily gathered her family and many others with her love and acceptance of everyone. Mother was mercy, generosity and hospitality wrapped in a diseased body. We loved her for many reasons but it is her mercy, generosity and hospitality that we venerate (honor/remember) not her diseased body. She is now fully alive and more real than she ever was in this life--a mystery so profound and beyond human understanding, but true nevertheless.  When I (Lois) look at that photograph there is a prayer that I breathe with her for my own life. "Mother, pray with me to our God that I may embody the mercy, generosity and hospitality that you lived so well."

Consider this: The Crucifix above the sanctuary, the Crucifix we have on the walls of our home or carry in our pockets or wear around our neck are all images that should cause us to pause and contemplate our Christian identity.  The Crucifix is in a much larger reality what a photograph can be to a daughter or son who venerates the memory of a mother or father who were an inspiration in their life.

What could be inspired in us if we would only pause throughout each day to contemplate Christ's sacrifice for us remembered in the Crucifix? What would happen in our heart and mind if we fully embraced this Sacred Tradition using the prayers of the Saints who have gone before us? What could happen in our world if we attended to our Christian identity as much as we attend to the things that don't matter?

Beloved Jesus Crucified,
I offer you my heart.
I am sorry that it is broken.
It is the result, not of a soldier's lance, like yours,
but of my neglect of it--
not taking seriously my need for happiness, for true happiness.
I ignored my heart by my selfishness,
my vanity
my resistance,
my "knowing better,"
my arrogance,
my fear,
my doubt,
my distraction,
my egoism,
my presumption,
my fascination with the ephemeral--pleasures that could never satisfy.
I let myself be infatuated with lesser things,
false hopes,
my willful ideas,
whims and imaginary worlds of my own making.
It broke when I broke from you and went astray.
And I am sorry.
I need to come back again.
Your outstretched arms are so much like the widespread welcome of the forgiving father open to the repentant prodigal son.
I come before your crucifix just like him:
poor in my foolishness,
laughable in my shame,
a beggar,
repugnant by every measure except yours.
Without your crucifix, where would I turn in my misery,
so abject, the prey of despair?
Bereft, beaten down, lacerated by my self-seeking,
I dare approach your ravaged image on the cross because
it reminds me of me.
But you are sinless.
Your self-offering takes away my sin.
As I gaze upon you crucified
may I see the love that moved you to sacrifice everything for me.
For my heart is made for you alone.
Your hands and your feet are held fast by nails
to teach me how much I need pain and suffering in my life
to be purified, set free, and saved from myself.
Your side-pierced, opened, and exposing your Sacred Heart--
calls to me as the place where I am to dwell.
The gift of your cross separates me
from everything that separates me from you.
O, let my heart be converted by looking upon you whom my sins have pierced.
--Father Peter John Cameron

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Being the Light of the World

The Divine Office readings during this season of Ordinary Time of the Liturgical calendar has directed our minds toward the stuff of life that we can see, touch, feel, smell. Our Creator God breathes life into his creation so that his creation can breathe sanctifying life into our souls.  Seeds, dust, wheat, oil, salt, water, light....All sacramental offerings (beacons) for us to inspire our journey in holiness and toward wholeness. Sacred Scripture is full of accounts where the ordinary was made extraordinary in revealing the depth of God's love for us.   

Today's readings guide our prayer through Psalm 8, Genesis 1, I Kings 17, Psalm 4 and Matthew 5.  Creation... oil and flour....salt....light. All for one purpose, that everyone in our corner of the world will see our good deeds and glorify our Heavenly Father.

Light--what a lovely thing that is, which we are told we are.  It enables people to see things distinctly and as what they are....
It warms, it heals, it penetrates, it gives life, it gives color and beauty to everything that it touches. It is the light of the sun that renews the earth; it was the light of a star that proclaimed Christ's birth.
It is light that guides ships to safety through deep seas, light that welcomes us from far off from the window of home...
It is in the home, where we are over-familiar with the simplicities that ought to lift our heart and mind to God, and where suffering, because it is our own or, worse still, our children's, is hard to see in the sense of glory, or to welcome, even though it may start the world healing...
Those who are one with Christ, who do see with his vision and insight, look at everything from the point of view of our heavenly Father, not only because he is omnipotent-that would not move pigmy men-but because his love for us, rightly understood, is the only real and lasting source of our delight, the only thing that can reconcile us to our suffering, and the only thing that can overcome the fears and the gnawing anxiety which beset us.
                                      --Caryll Houselander (British mystic, poet, and spiritual teacher)

Light of the World, you are our light and our salvation, our stronghold. Save us from our own anxieties and fears with your penetrating conviction and your merciful chastising so that your perfect Light would be seen through our imperfect love for others.

Light of the World, our minds are often darkened by prejudice, assumption, resentment, anger, fear, and unforgiveness.  Forgive us for choosing to live by the dimness of our own light.  Flood our hearts and minds with your Light so that your countenance shines in us and through us.

Light of the World, inflame us, burn away the sins that beset us. Purify us: spotless, brilliant, pure reflections of your Light.

Light of the World, illuminate our hearts so that we may see others how you see them--beloved children of God.