Rediscover Catholicism: Quotes (#1-21)

I’m re-reading Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism” and am finding the author to be very quotable.  So here are 21 quotes for your enjoyment:

  1. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.  There are sixty-seven million Catholics in America — that’s at least fifteen million more people than it takes to elect an American president.
  2. Every single day the Catholic Church feeds, houses, and clothes more people, takes care of more sick people, visits more prisoners, and educates more people than any other institution on the face of the earth could ever hope to.
  3. The very essence of health care and caring for the sick emerged through the Church, through the religious orders, in direct response to the value and dignity that the Gospel assigns to each and every human life.
  4. Prior to the Church’s introduction of education for the common man, education was reserved only for the nobility.  Almost the entire Western world is educated today because of the Church’s pioneering role in universal education.
  5. In the United States alone the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at the cost of ten billion dollars a year to parents and parishes.
  6. The Catholic education system alone saves American taxpayers eighteen billion dollars a year.
  7. The Catholic Church has a nonprofit hospital system comprising of 637 hospitals, which treat one in five patients in the United States every day.
  8. Our contribution on a local, national and global scale remains phenomenal even in spite of our faults, inefficiencies, and recent scandals, and yet the Church is despised by millions of ordinary Americans, while most Catholics want to crawl under the table when people start talking about the Church in a social setting.
  9. We have forgotten our story and as a result we allow the anti-Catholic segments of the media to distort our story on a daily basis.
  10. This year Catholic Charities will provide 2.2 million free meals to the hungry and the needy of Chicago.  We don’t ask them if they are Catholic — we just ask them if they are hungry.  Rediscover Catholicism.
  11. There is nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be fixed by what is right with Catholicism.
  12. We gravitate toward what is manageable, rather than imagining what is possible.
  13. If you had an ancient treasure map, would you throw it away just because it was old?
  14. Most of us know good, intelligent people, contributing members of our communities, who won’t have anything to do with Christianity. … Did the hypocrisy of individual church members or leaders obscure their experience of God?
  15. Our siblings, parents, and children are sending us this message, as are our friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  They are saying, whispering, crying out, “Don’t tell me — show me!”
  16. In reference to the well-known fact that Gandhi read from the New Testament every day and often quoted the Christian Scriptures, a reporter once asked him why he had never become a Christian.  He answered, “If I had ever met one, I would have become one.”
  17. We spend much of our time fixated on secondary questions (usually related to controversial and sensational issues) and every little time exploring the primary questions about our brief stay here on earth.
  18. [The three dominant philosophies of our time:] (1) Individualism: “What’s in it for me?”; (2) Hedonism: “If it feels good, do it!”; (3) Minimalism: “What is the least I can do?”
  19. The false and adolescent notion is that freedom is the opportunity to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, without the interference of any other person or party.
  20. Hedonism is not an expression of freedom; it is a passport to enslavement by a thousand cravings and addictions.  And in the end it produces not pleasure, but despair.
  21. Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity.

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 2

I would like to continue sharing Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s reflection on Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, which now focuses on the meaning of finding the Apostles asleep.  I pray that it will help you in your reflections during Lent.

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In between the sins of the past which He pulled upon His soul as if they were His own, and the sins of the future which made Him wonder about the usefulness of His death — Quae utilitas in sanguine meo — was the horror of the present.

He found the Apostles asleep three times.  Men who were worried about the struggle against the powers of darkness could not sleep — but these men slept.  No wonder, then, with the accumulated guilt of all the ages clinging to Him as a pestilence, His bodily nature gave way.  As a father in agony will pay the debt of a wayward son, He now sensed guilt to such an extent that it forced Blood from His Body, Blood which fell like crimson beads upon the olive roots of Gethsemane, making the first Rosary of Redemption.  It was not bodily pain that was causing a soul’s agony; but full sorrow for rebellion against God that was creating bodily pain.  It has been observed of old that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best.  Here the best spices flowed when there was no whip, no nail, and no wound.  Without a lance, but through the sheer voluntariness of Christ’s suffering, the Blood flowed freely.

Sin is in the blood.  Every doctor knows this; even passersby can see it.  Drunkenness is in the eyes, the bloated cheek.  Avarice is written in the hands and on the mouth.  Lust is written in the eyes.  There is not a libertine, a criminal, a bigot, a pervert who does not have his hate or his envy written in every inch of his body, every hidden gateway and alley of his blood, and every cell of his brain.

Since sin is in the blood, it must be poured out.  As Our Lord willed that the shedding of the blood of goats and animals should prefigure His own atonement, so He willed further that sinful men should never again shed any blood in war or hate, but would invoke only His Precious Blood now poured out in Redemption.  Since all sin needs expiation, modern man, instead of calling on the Blood of Christ in pardon, sheds his own brother’s blood in the dirty business of war.  All this crimsoning of the earth will not be stopped until man in the full consciousness of sin begins to invoke upon himself in peace and pardon the Redemptive Blood of Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Every soul can at least dimly understand the nature of the struggle that took place on the moonlit night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Every heart knows something about it.  No one has ever come to the twenties — let alone to the forties, or the fifties, or the sixties, or the seventies of life — without reflecting with some degree of seriousness on himself and the world round about him, and without knowing the terrible tension that has been caused in his soul by sin.  Faults and follies do not efface themselves from the record of memory; sleeping tablets do not silence them; psychoanalysts cannot explain them away.  The brightness of youth may make them fade into some dim outline, but there are times of silence — on a sick bed, sleepless nights, the open seas, a moment of quiet, the innocence in the face of a child — when these sins, like spectres or phantoms, blaze their unrelenting characters of fire upon our consciences.  Their force might not have been realized in a moment of passion, but conscience is biding its time and will bear its stern uncompromising witness sometime, somewhere, and force a dread upon the soul that ought to make it cast itself back again to God.  Terrible though the agonies and tortures of a single soul be, they were only a drop in the ocean of humanity’s guilt which the Savior felt as His own in the Garden.

Finding the Apostles asleep the third time, the Savior did not ask again if they could watch one hour with Him; more awful than any reprimand was the significant permission to sleep:

Sleep and take your rest hereafter;
As I speak, the time draws near
When the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
(Matthew 26:45)

The fatigued followers were allowed to sleep on until the last moment.  Their sympathy was needed no longer; while His friends slept, His enemies plotted.

 

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 1

By tradition, Catholics reflect only on Christ’s Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent.  I wanted help to recall the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying in sorrow until he started to sweat blood.  I would like to share with you this reflection from Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his book, “Life of Christ.”

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This was the moment when Our Blessed Lord, in obedience to His Father’s will, took upon Himself the iniquities of all the world and became the sin-bearer.  He felt all the agony and torture of those who deny guilt, or sin with impunity and do no penance.  It was the prelude of the dreadful desertion which He had to endure and would pay to His Father’s justice, the debt which was due from us: to be treated as a sinner.  He was smitten as a sinner while there was no sin in Him — it was this which caused the agony, the greatest the world has ever known.

As sufferers look to the past and to the future, so the Redeemer looked to the past and to all the sins that had ever been committed; He looked also to the future, to every sin that would be committed until the crack of doom.  It was not the past beatings of pain that He drew up to the present, but rather every open act of evil and every hidden thought of shame.  The sin of Adam was there, when as the head of humanity he lost for all men the heritage of God’s grace; Cain was there, purple in the sheet of his brother’s blood; the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah were there; the forgetfulness of His own people who fell down before false gods was there; the coarseness of the pagans who had rebelled even against the natural law was there; all sins were there: sins committed in the country that made all nature blush; sins committed in the city, in the city’s fetid atmosphere of sin; sins of the young for whom the tender heart of Christ was pierced; sins of the old who should have passed the age of sinning; sins committed in the darkness, where it was thought the eyes of God could not pierce; sins committed in the light that made even the wicked shudder; sins too awful to be mentioned, sins too terrible to name: Sin, sin, sin!

Once this pure, sinless mind of Our Savior had brought all of this iniquity of the past upon His soul as if it were His own, He now reached into the future.  He saw that His coming into the world with the intent to save men would intensify the hatred of some against God; He saw the betrayals of future Judases, the sins of heresy that would rend Christ’s Mystical Body; the sins of the Communists who could not drive God from the heavens but would drive His ambassadors from the earth; He saw the broken marriage vows, lies, slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies — all these crimes were thrust into His own hands, as if He had committed them.  Evil desires lay upon His heart, as if He Himself had given them birth.  Lies and schisms rested on His mind, as if He Himself had conceived them.  Blasphemies seemed to be on His lips, as if He had spoken them.  From the North, South, East, and West, the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like, He reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father.  He was, so to speak, mentally preparing Himself for the great sacrifice, laying upon His sinless soul the sins of a guilty world.  To most men, the burden of sin is as natural as the clothes they wear, but to Him the touch of that which men take so easily was the veriest agony.

My Intellectual and Spiritual Pride

As I go through Chapter 28 of Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange’s book on the interior life, I find myself horribly exposed to my intellectual and spiritual pride.  I was aware that pride was my root sin, but I did not realize how badly I suffered from it.  It’s odd: I’m disappointed with myself, but I’m also filled with joy to discover this flaw.  I want to be perfect, as Jesus is perfect; but, I know I’m not, yet.  By His grace, I was able to remove the big rocks on the field of my soul.  My intellectual and spiritual pride is hidden, like garden cutworms, potato tuberworms and other soil-dwelling pests.  Now, with the light of the Holy Spirit shining on my wounded soul, I can see how these hidden types of pride have infested the garden of my soul and blinded me from seeing these truths about myself:

  • I believe that I have through my own efforts what I have received from God
  • I believe that I have merited what I have gratuitously received
  • I attribute to myself goods I lack, (i.e. great learning, strong faith, heroic charity), when I do not possess it
  • I wish to be preferred to others and depreciate them

I felt the loving finger of God pointing at me when I read this passage:

Some finally, who are theoretically in the truth, are so satisfied to be right, so filled with their learning which has cost them so much, that their souls are, as it were, saturated with it and no longer humbly open to receive the superior light that would come from God in prayer.  Intellectual pride, even in those who are theoretically right, is a formidable obstacle to the grace of contemplation and to union with God.

I thank the Holy Spirit for the grace and consolation in knowing this fatal flaw in my soul.  How can I grow in Christian perfection with these soul-dwelling pests eating the crops planted by the Holy Spirit?  So, while I am truly disappointed with myself, I am also happy to experience this grace.  What a mercy to know that I’m still a sinner!

St. John of the Cross, pray for me.  Your words have brought me to shame:

When beginners become aware of their own fervor and diligence in their spiritual works and devotional exercises, this prosperity of theirs gives rise to secret pride — though holy things tend of their own nature to humility — because of their imperfections; and the issue is that they conceive a certain satisfaction in the contemplation of their works and of themselves.

From the same source, too, proceeds that empty eagerness which they display in speaking of the spiritual life before others, and sometimes as teachers rather than learners.  They condemn others in their heart when they see that they are not devout in their way.  Sometimes also they say it in words, showing themselves herein to be like the Pharisee, who in the act of prayer boasted of his own works and despised the publican (Luke 18:11)….  They see the mote in the eye of their brother, but not the beam which is in their own.

If you are reading this, pray for me.  Pray that I do not imitate Christ in the wrong way.  Pray that I bear with the equality of our fellow men & women, that I do no wish to impose my domination on them.  Pray that I live with them in humble submission to the divine law.

St. Francis de Sales on the Interior Life

St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

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