DAILY CATHOLIC   TUESDAY   March 2, 1999   vol. 10, no. 42

CATHOLIC PewPOINT

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Maybe that's what is meant by "lonely at the top!"

          "Mountains" would seem to be the watchword today. The reason we say this is for several reason. Having spent nearly three years in the verdant, low and picturesque serene Ozark Mountains in Bella Vista, Arkansas, we remember today is the anniversary when the Territory of Arkansas was first organized back in 1819 and no one knew who Bill Clinton was back then. That, by the way, is the last mention of the president in this editorial today, so those few who think we get too political at times can rest easier.

          But the memory of the plateaued Ozarks pales in comparison to the announcement yesterday that a mountain was moved when his Holiness Pope John Paul II removed the biggest obstacle to Mother Teresa's inevitable canonization by waiving the five-year rule that stipulates one must be dead for five years before the process can begin toward sanctity. See NEWS & VIEWS. It follows with what we predicted in our editorial of September 15, 1997:

           Mother doesnít want us to write about her or elevate her on a pedestal; she wants us to live what she advocated, not because it came from her, but because it originates from Jesus, Who she saw in every soul she touched; just as another great woman - His Blessed Mother - has been beseeching all of us to do through her messages at Medjugorje and elsewhere. Yet, weíre not satisfied with the little things. We donít have the patience to go one step at a time, to live the messages daily, to fit each act of charity, each sacrifice, each prayer into the seemingly laborious daily task of striving to live Godís Will. As Mother proved, it is only through the little things that we are able to see the entire panorama of His Plan for us. Mother saw it and for her labors she is being touted as a saint even before the taps die. The Church, as she should, is very cautious but we strongly believe popular sentiment will sway the powers that be. One of the procedures for canonization is to provide a "devil's advocate" - one who will look for all faults and problems to filter out those not worthy of such an honor.

            As this editor is typing Mother's funeral is just coming to a conclusion. As the commentators ramble on it strikes us that the process of devil's advocate is already being put into action via the secular media who are taking every pot-shot they can at Mother and her Order. But at every turn, they meet a humble, non-chalant, charitable response that leaves them speechless and even more frustrated they can't find any "dirt" on Mother or the 4000 sisters who comprise her wondrous Missionaries of Charity. Pumping Sister Nirmala, Mother's successor as Superior General, they find the same determination in this Hindu-born nun with a high degree of humility and total confidence. The media hound the sisters with questions of "how will the Order survive without Mother?" and Sister Nirmala politely, but assuredly states: "God will provide." Oh, it's beautiful the way the secular media are stumbling and bumbling all over themselves. At this rate Mother should be a saint before the millennium. We do know there is a groundswell of support not just from the people, but also the bishops and cardinals. In fact, many clerics have already gone on record as saying they would like the Holy Father to expedite the process. They point to the fact that in the early Church canonization was effected by vox populi - the voice of the people. If ever the voice of the people has been heard regarding a holy woman in the Church, it is now and it is Mother Teresa. Yes, it is an unusual request but we live in unusual times and she was an unusual woman - especially in relationship to today's lifestyles and values. In the long storied history of the saints, we doubt many dedicated themselves and their work so wholeheartedly as did Mother. Her accomplishments rival the famous founder of the Franciscans Saint Francis of Assisi for sheer numbers and total commitment.

            Like her patron saint, she always did the ordinary things in extraordinary ways. On Mission Sunday John Paul II will officially proclaim Saint Therese the Little Flower a Doctor of the Church, the third female saint to be given such an honor. Like St. Therese, Mother was not an intellectual, but her wisdom in the little things she did and said speaks volumes. We may have to wait another century for Mother Teresa to be declared a Doctor of the Church, but itís not too early to begin the process for canonization of this modern-day saint who gained global renown for being simple and loving, for living and doing Godís Will. That is what sanctity is all about. Thereís a possibility the Pope is thinking about issuing a Motu proprio edict, which is a process of bypassing the beatification process, and declare the venerable Padre Pio a saint. Why not make it a dynamic duo by including Mother Teresa? We doubt anyone would object. While we wait for this glorious event, we need to live what she preached by example.

          It took some time, but this is one occasion we're happy to say "we told you so!" There are many other anniversaries today that remind us of "mountains." For instance, it was on this day nine years ago that we put down the final payment on our pending pilgrimage to Medjugorje in May 1990 for a week that would ultimately change our lives forever. Medjugorje, as you know, is the mountain village where the Blessed Virgin Mary has reportedly been appearing for nearly eighteen years to six young visionaries, though now it is only a few left who still see her and all are grown adults. It was on a mountain in Bosnia on June 24, 1981 when Our Lady first appeared to the children on Apparition Hill across from Mount Krizevac. Though Apparition Hill isn't necessarily a mountain, those who've climbed it might beg to differ! Our Lady seems to have a special hankering for mountains since she has appeared in numerous mountain territories - the steepest that comes to mind being La Salette.

          We assume the Infinity has a special affinity for mountains. Consider that God beckoned Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to impart the Ten Commandments. And it was at Mount Tabor, which shadows Nazareth to the west, that Our Lord was transfigured. The gospel this past Sunday brought home an interesting point about this regarding the Transfiguration. Jesus chose a mountain to exhibit His Divinity when He was joined by Moses and Elijah and lifted into the air; and He chose a mountain to exhibit His humanity while praying on Mount Olivet in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Mount Tabor Christ shone in all His Godliness as He levitated above the three Apostles Peter, John and James, projecting the inevitable truth to His Divinity. On Mount Olivet Our Lord showed His human nature. He wept bitter tears of blood for the burden was so great and because the sins of mankind from Adam to today were so overwhelming. It was a chalice He might have reconsidered except He was setting the example for what all those, who would come after Him, must also do: subject our wills to the Father. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest." That passage is from Matthew 26: 39. It is also recorded in Mark 14: 36 and Luke 22: 41. You might wonder why the three Evangelists all include this but the fourth, the beloved John does not. That's very simple. John was asleep. As were Peter and James. Those same three were on Mount Tabor and on Mount Olivet and both times they slept through it! Yet, those three, handchosen by Jesus, would go on to be the most functional of His Apostles, but not before many trials - from betrayal to fear - would test their persistence and loyalty. Only John stood by His Blessed Mother and the Holy Women at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, another mountain of sorts. Once the Holy Spirit descended on them on Pentecost Sunday, they became "mountain men" - rising above all others to do heroic deeds to ultimately attain the highest peaks of Heaven.

          Another great "mountain man" was Saint Francis of Assisi who grew up in Assisi in the Umbrian Mountains and often took refuge there, as did Saint Benedict at Subiaco centuries before the gentle Franciscan. Some of the greatest monasteries are built on mountains from Monte Casino to Mont Michel, not to mention countless famous shrines and churches all over the globe from the Alps to the Pyrenees, from the Apennines to the Dinaric range, from the Balkans to the Caucasus range, from the Rockies to the Andes, from the Filipino Mountains to the Great Dividing Range in Australia.

          Two "mountains of holiness" and Catholicity were also born on this date - Gioacchino Vincenzo Pecci in the mountainous hills south of Rome in 1810 and Eugenio Maria Guiseppe Giovanni Pacelli on the hill above the Vatican in 1876. You might know them better as Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XII, who, along with our present Holy Father Pope John Paul II, Pope Saint Pius X and Pope Pius IX are considered mountains of strength, fortitude, virtue and holiness in these last two centuries of the millennium. To add to the elevation, Pius XII was also elevated to the Papal Throne on this date in 1939. He faced a mountainous task with World War II just as Pius X had to deal with World War I, Leo XIII with the coming evils of communism and socialism, and Pius IX with the Italian conquest of the Papal States. Today John Paul II faces not only the mountainous task of taming a world out of control and on the brink of World War III, but an even greater evil - the culture of death manifested in abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment and a growing immorality that plunges the soul of mankind into a thicker darkness than ever before. If they were not all "mountain men" and prepared spiritually for the insurmountable tasks encountered, they would have stumbled into the abyss of failure. But because they all have firmly staked their spiritual pegs in the firm rock of the Church, they were and are able to climb ever higher and conquer the lofty heights of sanctity. But, like Jesus, they too were and are very, very human, having wept and still shedding agonizing tears over those who have turned their backs on God and His Church. They realized, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the spiritual exhilaration of reaching the apex of God's love here on earth but they also realized their conquest could not be complete without sharing it with the rest of mankind.

          But so few there are to share His glory. Could it be the light air above makes man dizzy and unable to concentrate on the goal? Could it be that the imposing cliffs of sanctity seem unsurmountable? Could it be because we have grown lazy in the valley of our own comfort zones that we have no inclination to tackle the grueling climb? Sadly so few are willing to brave the elements and storms of the world, the flesh and the devil; sadly so few are willing to pack their crosses on the way up. For though each individual cross can be heavy, like an essential mountain-climber's backpack, it is a necessary accessory that we cannot do without. Sadly, so few realize this and shed the wood in order to lighten their load, forgetting that it makes them unsteady and too light; for with the slightest gust the winds of change and apathy will sweep them away into an avalanch of sin and despair. What it boils down to is that the cross is a mandatory item of any spiritual spelunker's equipment. Without it we'll never make it to the peaks. That is the message so many saints and sinners over the centuries including Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Saint Theresa, Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Saint Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa and our current Sovereign Pontiff all convey. Afterall, they want a huge crowd with them in Heaven. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 7: 14, "How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it.", maybe that's what is meant by "lonely at the top!"

Michael Cain, editor


March 2, 1999      volume 10, no. 42
Today's Catholic PewPoint Editorial

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