"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Tuesday 7 November 2017


, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet,
 for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3. 5

God's Grandeur 
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. 
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; 
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil 
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? 
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; 
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil 
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. 

And for all this, nature is never spent; 
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 
And though the last lights off the black West went 
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — 
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 

    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Every so often in our lives, there are moments when we are challenged to trust in God and move outside our comfortable present circumstances and move into an unknown and possibly bleak future.  We are asked to say  ‘No’ to what we are presently enjoying and ‘Yes’ to something that could be cold and empty: we are invited to walk on water.   After thirty six wonderful years in Peru, the inevitable is about to happen and, at the age of eighty, I shall be moving back to my own monastery at Belmont: for the first time, a move without a job to look forward to.  The worst thing that could happen, it seems to me, is a life among the older members, dreaming nostalgically of Peru, living in the past instead of the present where God is. At such moments, it pays to renew our confidence in and our dedication to Divine Providence. This does not remove the uncertainties of life, nor does it invite us to take refuge in irresponsibility: rather it places our uncertainties into the context of faith and challenges us to look beyond appearances into the divine presence underlying them. A person of faith sees and believes, said St Francis, a person without faith just sees. 

Let us begin our examination of Divine Providence with a look at the present moment. Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote of what he called the 'sacrament of the present moment':

All creatures are living in the hand of God; the senses perceive only the action of the creature, but faith sees the action of God in everything - faith believes that Jesus Christ is alive in everything and operates throughout the whole course of the centuries; faith believes that the briefest moment and the tiniest atom contain a portion of Christ's hidden life and his mysterious action.  The action of creatures is a veil concealing the profound mysteries of the divine action.   Jesus Christ after his resurrection took his disciples by surprise in his apparitions, he presented himself to them under appearances which disguised him; and as soon as he had revealed himself, he disappeared.  This very same Jesus, always living and active, still takes by surprise souls whose faith is not sufficiently pure and penetrating.
There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.”   “The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation."  “(5) If we wish to be united to God we should value all the operations of his grace, but we should cling only to the duties of the present moment.”

...The present moment is always full of infinite treasure, it contains far more than you have the capacity to hold.   Faith is the measure; what you find in the present moment will be according to the measure of your faith.   Love is also the measure: the more your heart loves, the more it desires, and the more it desires the more it finds.  The will of God presents itself at each instant like an immense ocean which the desire of your heart cannot empty, although it will receive of that ocean the measure to which it can expand itself by faith, confidence and love.   The whole of the created universe cannot fill your heart which has a greater capacity than everything else that is not God.  The mountains that afright your eyes are tiny as atoms to the heart.   The divine will is an abyss, the opening of which is the present moment.

“If the work of our sanctification presents, apparently, the most insurmountable difficulties, it is because we do not know how to form a just idea of it. In reality, sanctity can be reduced to one single practice, fidelity to the duties appointed by God. Now, this fidelity is equally within each one's power whether in its active practice, or passive exercise. The active practice of fidelity consists in accomplishing the duties which devolve upon us whether imposed by the general laws of God and of the Church, or by the particular state that we may have embraced. Its passive exercise consists in the loving acceptance of all that God sends us at each moment.” “O my God! how much I long to be the missionary of Your holy will, and to teach all men that there is nothing easier, more attainable, more within reach, and in the power of everyone, than sanctity. How I wish that I could make them understand that just as the good and the bad thief had the same things to do and to suffer; so also two persons, one of whom is worldly and the other leading an interior and wholly spiritual life have, neither of them, anything different to do or to suffer; but that one is sanctified and attains eternal happiness by submission to Your holy will in those very things by which the other is damned because he does them to please himself, or endures them with reluctance and rebellion. This proves that it is only the heart that is different. Oh! all you that read this, it will cost you no more than to do what you are doing, to suffer what you are suffering, only act and suffer in a holy manner. It is the heart that must be changed. When I say heart, I mean will. Sanctity, then, consists in willing all that God wills for us. Yes! sanctity of heart is a simple “fiat,” a conformity of will with the will of God. What could be easier, and who could refuse to love a will so kind and so good? Let us love it then, and this love alone will make everything in us divine.”   "
“It is certain that God always gives what is necessary to those souls who fear Him. The gifts He bestows on them are not always the most apparent to the senses, nor the most agreeable, nor the most sought after, but the most necessary and solid; all the more so, usually, in being less felt and more mortifying to self-love; for that which helps us most powerfully to live to God is what best enables us to die to self.” “The high road to all perfection is pointed out in the "Our Father." "Fiat voluntas tua." Say this with your lips as well as you can; and still more perfectly in your heart, and be assured that, with this interior disposition nothing is wanting to you, nor ever will be. Learn by this to find repose in no matter what difficulties and troubles, because all will come right when God pleases, and according to our desires, if He should will it so, or permit it.” 
“To achieve the height of holiness, people must realize that all they count as trivial and worthless is what can make them holy.”   “If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.”   “There is not a single person who cannot easily reach the highest degree of perfection by performing every duty, no matter how commonplace, with eager love.” 
“We must be active in all that the present moment demands of us, but in everything else remain passive and abandoned and do nothing but peacefully wait for the promptings of God.”
“We should run too great a risk of losing everything by our vain imaginations if God were to give us, at once, all the perfection we desired. The inordinate love of our own excellence would carry us to as high a flight as Lucifer, but only like him, to fall into the abyss of pride. God, who knows our weakness in this respect, allows us to grovel like worms in the mud of our imperfections, until He finds us capable of being raised without feeling any foolish self-satisfaction, or any contempt of others.” 
If all this is true, then the secular world which functions entirely independently of God its Creator, is a myth.   Those who accept it as a fact can be atheists who believe science and religion are opposed, or they can be those who believe that the world and God are so mutually exclusive that the only way that God can act in the world is by suspending the world's physical laws by working a miracle.
G.K.Chesterton on miracles
While miracles are of the utmost importance in any debate between these two groups, atheists and a certain type of charismatic because their belief systems depend on the existence or non-existence of miracles, we can be relaxed before any report of miracles because, while we know they happen, really and basically, God is just as much involved in ordinary, everyday events as he is in miracles. Those who believe that God only communicates to us through apparitions and miracles rather than through the ordinary "common or garden" present moment are spiritually blind and deaf.  Most of us have these disabilities at least some of the time.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us to keep alert with our lamps lit, ready for the coming of the bridegroom; that we should be awake like someone waiting for a thief to enter our house, as ready to serve God like an unjust steward looking for ways to serve his own interests.   How many present moments we miss because our faith is asleep and we look around with the eyes of an unbeliever, oblivious to God's presence warning, inviting or challenging us, or letting us see his reflection in the beauty of things.

The more we put ourselves into the hands of God, the more we shall experience his help.  Let me tell you a small story.  By itself to could be a mere coincidence, but it is one of many, many such stories.  At my age, they tend to accumulate.

I had been a parish priest for a wonderful seven years in a sea-side parish on the Pacific Ocean and had come back to Belmont for a sabbatical before taking up a new appointment.  However, man proposes and God disposes, and I found myself parish priest of Harrington in Cumbria because the vacancy appeared out of nowhere and I was the only monk without a job.  A couple of months into the new work, I received a call from the abbot of Belmont and went immediately to see him.  The archbishop of my diocese in Peru had written to tell the abbot that he no longer needed my services.  The abbot gave me leave to seek out a new bishop, but I became very sad.

At Belmont there was an old monk, Father Luke, who had been our first superior in Peru and was now in retirement - it comes to us all in time - a monk of great holiness whose spiritual advice I had always sought.  I told him what had happened and that the abbot had given me permission to look for a new bishop.   
"If I were you, I wouldn't do that," he said.
"Why?" I answered,"I have permission."   
"What are we monks for?" he asked, "To seek God's will rather than our own.  If God wants you back in Peru, he will make it abundantly clear.  If he doesn't, then why do you want to go?"

I agreed with his logic, decided not to look for a bishop, and returned to Harrington, pretty convinced that I would be there for a long time.

Three weeks later, I received a visit from Jean Cornfoot, a nurse who had been working with me in my last Peruvian parish, and she came to see me in Harrington.  We had a wonderful day together.  As she was leaving, she said, "I almost forgot.   Here is a Peruvian telephone address - I don't know who it is from, the person didn't say, but someone sent it to me and told me to get it to you."
The number didn't tell me anything, but I phoned the next day.  It was the Bishop of Cajamarca in Peru.
"I heard what happened.  Don't bother about what the archbishop said.  Would you come and work in my diocese?"
I phoned Father Luke who said, "That is the sign.  Go for it!" 

 Three years in Cajamarca, followed by being called back to our monastic foundation in Peru, and I have been in that community ever since, nine years as superior until a year and a half ago.

Perhaps the event most full of "coincidences" was back in the early nineties.  I was parish priest in my parish on the Pacific coast but went every month for a couple of days to our monastery.  I had arrived in time for Vespers because I had been delayed looking for my car papers - you are not allowed to drive without papers - but couldn't find them and decided to risk it.  Anyway, we were singing the psalms when five men entered the chapel waving their guns, four pistols, and an assault rifle, and yelling, "We are police and you are terrorists.  Lie face down on the floor.  The first one to move we will shoot!"

We did as we were told.  Then their leader asked who was our leader, and Father Paul stood up.  The leader beckoned him outside and, as he was walking out, our dog, a beautiful specimen, half German shepherd, half Collie, got up and followed them out.  The leader told Fr Paul to put the dog in a room and he put it through the nearest door.   The leader asked for our car's papers, but Fr Paul couldn't remember where the papers were, "In my office, I suppose."  Two of the thieves - they were not policemen - ransacked his office to no avail.  Meanwhile, others were going from room to room, putting anything of value in a sack.  They stole the money I had brought to buy paint for my church, my radio, and the money that Fr Paul was going to pay some workers.  In fact, it came to very little.

It gets dark very quickly in northern Peru, and, at 7.00pm it is pitch black.  Two of the thieves went out to their car to tell their driver why there was a delay: they couldn't find the car's papers.  It was a brand new four by four.  To their consternation, the whole village was outside men, women, and children, with stones and sticks.  A thief fired into the air to disperse the crowds and to warn the thieves within that there was trouble.

Within minutes, the rest of the thieves who were guarding us or robbing the monastery vanished, moving towards the cars.  The first thing that Fr Paul did was to rescue his dog.  Lying on top of the desk in the room where the dog had been placed were the car papers.  The thieves had searched all the rooms except that one.

Two thieves went into Father Paul's car, together with the sack of stolen goods and another sack half full of ammunition for their guns.  To understand what happened next, you will have to know how the people of the village came to learn that thieves had entered the monastery.

A little ten-year-old boy was playing near the monastery when he saw the men enter with their guns.  He ran to tell his mother, and soon little boys were running from house to house with the news.   As it happened, the men of the village were holding a meeting about half a mile away about organizing a peasant police force to catch poachers and other rural villains.   A little boy came panting into the meeting.  The message had changed in the telling, "Armed men have entered the monastery and the fathers have asked for your help!"

Much encouraged by the fact that, at their very first meeting they had a job to do, they walked toward the monastery, gathering sticks and stones as weapons and telling each other what they were going to do with the thieves.  Two of them dragged a tree trunk across the path so that the criminals would not escape.  When the two thieves came out to talk to their driver, the villagers were ready for them.

The two thieves in Father Paul's car made off at speed but came across a tree trunk that the villagers had placed there.  They tried to drive around it, but a tree root in the ground wrapped itself around something underneath the car and held it fast: they could not move in any direction.  Scared stiff, they left the two sacks in the car, put a bullet into one of the tires, and walked back towards the monastery.

Two got into the thieves' car; but, as soon as they did this, the villagers let fly with their stones, breaking the windows and stopping the engine.  In their haste, one of the thieves shot himself in the foot.  They all got into my car, one bleeding badly, and made off, collecting the two who were walking back.   They got over the tree trunk by rushing it at speed.  As I could not find my car papers when I set out, they could not sell it and left it in the street. 

Just count the coincidences!   My not being able to find my papers, Fr Paul not remembering where he had put his papers, the monastery dog being placed in the room where the car papers were, the little boy with nous, the meeting of the men of the village to form a peasant police force, the root that captured Fr Paul's car even though nothing like that has ever happened before or since: the thieves did not stand a chance!!

Ten or more years later, the little boy had become a man.  He and his partner wanted a child but none came.  They tried all sorts of treatment without success. Father Paul was going to a meeting of monastic superiors in Mexico City and promised the couple that he would pray for them at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   Because of the meeting, he could not go to the shrine until late in the week; but, when he went, he prayed for the couple to have a child.  On the very night,  back in Peru, the woman conceived for the first and last time.  She did not know that was the evening he prayed for her.  In none of these stories was there a miracle, yet God was as present and as active as in any miracle.

In the Catholic understanding of things, 
"the world is charged with the glory of God," and, as St Thomas Aquinas said, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves because all being flows from his creative Love.  Thus, as G.K.C. wrote, “The whole order of things is as outrageous as any miracle which could presume to violate it.”  The ordinary, every day, the downright small and unimportant is drenched in God and can become a source of great things without losing its everyday characteristics.  Any ground can become holy ground: all ground is made for that very purpose.  Miracles can happen anywhere; but, when they don't happen, God is just as active in ordinary circumstances.

Moreover, heaven and earth are united in the Incarnation of Christ, Our Lady, the angels, and saints are only a prayer away, and we sing "Holy, holy, holy," with them every time we go to Mass.  Do we believe in God?   Well, we eat his body and drink his blood, and we live in him and he in us.  We are his body and he uses our ordinary lives as we put ourselves at his disposition.  As  St Teresa of Avila wrote:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”  
On receiving Communion, that is what we become without any need, in normal circumstances, for the suspension of any laws of nature in a miracle.  However, if a miracle should happen, we should not be surprised.

No comments:

Search This Blog

La Virgen de Guadalupe

La Virgen de Guadalupe


My Blog List

Fr David Bird

Fr David Bird
Me on a good day

Blog Archive