Sometimes I wonder if because of tragedy we are drawn to tragedy. Mary, the thirtheenth child lost twelve sibling and her parents. Moved to Egypt by her uncle, and at twelve, when a servant failed to convert her from Christianity, he slit her throat and dumped her body, leaving her for dead. She survived, aided she said by an apparition of Mary. She abandoned her uncle's home and worked as a domestic. I would think that by this point, at such a young age, most of us would let our lives be ruled by tragedy.
By 24 she entered the Carmelites and began to be surrounded by many supernatural experience from fighting off demonic possession for 40 days, receiving the stigmata, levitatation, prophecy, finally dying of gangrene following an injury received during the construction of a Bethlehem monastery.
Tragedy and daily difficulties seemed to followe her about her whole life, yet they seemed to have no negative effect on her attitude to God, and if anything heightened it.
It is logical that she would be drawn to the Crucifiction but, in a triumph over worldly wisdom, she was drawn to it for its redemptive power.
Mary pray that we can view our tragedies and dailly struggles into blessings and joy.
Here in the peace of the Lord reposes Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, professed religious of the white veil. A soul of singular graces, she was conspicuous for her humility, her obedience and her charity. Jesus, the sole love of her heart called her to Himself in the 33rd year of her age and the 12th year of her religious life at Bethlehem, 26 August 1878.
-- Inscribed on her tombstone
I know that today is the feast of St. Monica but I thought that this poem fragment fit well with her and Augustine's relationship, as well as Augustine's with God.
Mother Monica pray for all of us children of Eve.
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter. 5
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, 10
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’ 15
Now of that long pursuit 155
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
‘And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! 160
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited— 165
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me? 170
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: 175
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 180
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’
-- Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven
Though yesterday was her feast, I decided to combine Monica with her probably better known son and celebrate them both together. They are so inextricably linked for without the love, patience, and prayer of Monica, Augustine would have been lost to us, and we would at best place him as a minor player in the ranks of the heretics and at worst have forgotten him like so many others who denied the truth in favor of their own limited or selfish beliefs.
Feel free to switch today and yesterday if you desire.
We often forget the role of mothers in the salvation of there sons, as we often dismiss Mary's role in our salvation. May we remember the efforts of those who have brought us fully to God and may we speak the same words as Augustine:
Where did I find you in order to make your acquaintance in the first place? You could not have been in my memory before I learned to know you. Where then could I have found you in order to learn of you, if not in yourself, far above me? “Place” has here no meaning: further away from you or toward you we may travel, but place there is none. O Truth, you hold sovereign sway over all who turn to you for counsel, and to all of them you respond at the same time, however diverse their pleas. Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong – I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace. When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labor for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter for joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day. This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy....On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.
― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
What did John know and when did he know it?
What motivated him? Was he in a position, as the son of a religious official, to see corruption or misuse of power? Was he affected by insincerity or hypocrisy? Was he impressed by the holiness of his father and those around him? What drove him out into the desert to practice the priestly role of his family?
Was his relationship with Jesus greater than his responsibilities to the priesthood? Was he affected by discussions with Jesus about how to live?
The Scriptures are mute on such things, but I wonder about them all the same. What we do know is that when Jesus is around John, John defers to him immediately. One assumes that his "yes" echoes Mary's "let it be done" and Joseph's silent obedience, and that his response and preaching reflected his relationship with and commitment to the truth that is Jesus.
R. (1) You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
R. You have searched me and you know me, Lord.
-- Psalm 139:1-3, 4-6
I celebrate Ghebre Michael today but also mention fellow monastic Fiacre, whom many may not recognize as the garden statue they thought was Francis.
...after we had suffered and been insolently treated...
we drew courage through our God
to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle.
Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives,
nor did it work through deception.
But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel,
that is how we speak,
not as trying to please men,
but rather God, who judges our hearts.
Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know,
or with a pretext for greed–God is witness–
nor did we seek praise from men,
either from you or from others,
although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ.
Rather, we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.
-- 1 Thessalonians 2:2-8
PRAYER FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN VIEW OF THE FORTHCOMING
SYNOD OF BISHOPS 2018:
»Young people, faith and vocational discernment«
Lord Jesus, in journeying towards the Synod, your Church turns her attention to all the young people of the world. We pray that they might boldly take charge of their lives, aim for the most beautiful and profound things of life and always keep their hearts unencumbered. Accompanied by wise and generous guides, help them respond to the call you make to each of them, to realize a proper plan of life and achieve happiness.
Keep their hearts open to dreaming great dreams and make them concerned for the good of others. Like the Beloved Disciple, may they stand at the foot of the Cross, to receive your Mother as a gift from you. May they be witnesses to your Resurrection and be aware that you are at their side as they joyously proclaim you as Lord. Amen.