Today is "maintenance day" for it is both First Friday and the Twelfth Annual World Day of Prayer - the final one before the new millennium. It would seem to make sense to reinforce this day, and everyday of the year from here on, by activating what the Blessed Virgin Mary has been repeating for two centuries - "Pray! Pray! Pray!". So far, folks, we haven't kicked the prayer mode into high gear. We're still sputtering along in first gear, some even in reverse, and are having a mighty tough time making the steep grade that seems to get tougher each year. The potholes of immorality and apathy seem to widen and the ruts in the road get deeper each day. Some even are running out of gas, failing to refuel at their neighborhood service parish where they can get a complete tune-up through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.
The additives inherent in these sacramental fuelants enable us to run smooth and straight; the steering is much steadier, and the brake pedal works instantly when we come upon the obstacles of temptation that could cause a collision with God if we are not driving correctly. Just as an automobile needs regular check-ups and maintenance to help it run smoothly, so also our souls need constant care to prevent breakdowns; to see that everything is running smoothly and the engine is purring on all cylinders. The transmission can't hum if it is tainted by sin...especially mortal sin. All systems shut down. Venial sin, as Sister Mary Lucy Astuto addresses in her column today, causes rust and the bolts to loosen which makes it harder to avoid the sudden turns and adverse conditions that occur with temptations. We must check the fluid levels often by being conscious of the elements and climate. If we maintain our vehicular souls in a climate of grace and virtue, we can be assured all systems are go and even though we have manual transmissions through Original Sin, putting it into automatic transmission is simple if we forego our own egos and stubborn self-will and turn them over to the Divine Will.
While the Sacraments and Sanctifying Grace are the mainframe of support, the virtues are the drive shaft that keeps us aligned with the Almighty. His Holy Church is the steering mechanism that enables us to go forward toward our ultimate destination. We achieve a valid driver's license through the Sacrament of Baptism which makes us eligible to get behind the wheel in our journey toward our Heavenly destination. The brake shoes, pads, discs and drums are built solidly on the Ten Commandments; the radiator runs hot or cold depending on our observance of the Theological Virtues which are the cooling system. The spark plugs of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit keep the motor humming quietly and confidently without missing the graces; the teachings, dogmas and doctrines of the Church are the battery, alternator and generator that power the ability to know God's Will. The fan belts rev up our zeal and reverence for all that the Father and the Divine Son have deigned. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the catalytic converter that helps eliminate the pollutants of sin and vice by clearing the exhaust with weekly, if not daily observance of this greatest of devotions. Man's free will is the ignition; if he is not willing to start, he will stand idle. The necessary lubrication fluids and additives provided by the Magisterium and hierarchy of the Church help keep the ship of the soul in top running condition. Prayers are the valves, gaskets, filters, fuses, hoses, cables and wires - all accessories that help everything run more cohesively.
That is why Our Lady beseeches us to "Pray!" because this communication with God helps our souls run more smoothly, assuring that the entire soul vehicle is fully aware of danger signs when they arise because of preventative maintenance. So often, through distractions of the world, we neglect this necessary check-up and keep right on motorin' oblivious that the engine is running hot, that the battery is mischarging, fuel sparse, the plugs missing badly, fluid levels dangerously low, and the tires way out of balance. Then we wonder what went wrong when the brakes don't work and the air bag of reconciliation fails to remind us that we're in big trouble as the soul is crunched in a collision with sin. It can be fatal and the soul totaled if it is mortal sin. That is the last thing anyone wants. But it can happen if we don't heed the warning lights and signs. No matter who we are or how we live, day-in and day-out road wear and tear can cause problems if we dont' tend to the danger signs immediately.
Lent, therefore, is the perfect time to get that complete and thorough "Spring tune-up" at our nearest parish church "station." If we are faithful to maintaining our souls with regular spiritual check-ups, then we can be assured the warranty will last forever. But that warranty, written by God and signed by us, is only good if we keep up our part of the agreement and resolve to be responsible drivers and obey the rules of His road! It's all up to us, as the well-known classic Aamco commercial stated so succinctly, "You can pay me now, or pay me later!" We all know it makes a lot more sense to pay now, for the price later could be so steep we might simply not be able to afford it later. That is the greatest tragedy we can think of. It would be like having a car up on blocks with no way to ever go anywhere! In other words, you're stuck behind the wheel in eternal gridlock!
But there are less serious sins we humans commit called VENIAL SINS which, though they do not destroy charity in the soul, they do diminish fervor and love and hinder their development.
On occasion I hear the comment: "Oh, itís only a little sin" or "Itís just a white lie!" I would like to shout from the housetops: NO SIN IS LITTLE NOR SHOULD ANYONE THINK OF ANY SIN AS NOTHING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT!!! Sin is an OFFENSE against God. God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, Who made all things and keeps them in existence (Baltimore Catechism). God is the SUPREME BEING!!! Any offense against Him is not a LITTLE matter.
Though a million venial sins, of themselves, will not send a person to hell, habitual deliberate venial sin does decrease the soulís inclination to God. It moves the soul to look for more self-satisfaction; it causes the loss of a sense of sin and creates tepidity. Habitual and deliberate venial sins can eventually weaken the soul to commit mortal sin. Therefore, one should never think of venial sin as something insignificant or "little."
That we should not have a careless attitude regarding the committing of deliberate venial sins, St. Teresa of Avila once wrote: "Always be fearful if you do not feel sorry for the faults you commit, for even venial sin ought to fill you with sorrow to the very depths of your soul... For the love of God , take care not to commit any deliberate venial sin, even the smallest... And can anything be small if it offends God?" (Way of Perfection, 41).
But note that I said "deliberate venial sins," for there are sins we weak human beings commit through frailty and inadvertence. Even great saints fell into these indeliberate sins. That is, they tried hard to avoid sin, but often through sheer human weakness found themselves fall when an "attack" was unexpected. Remember Jesus once said: "Even the just man falls seven times a day."
God permits us to fail like that so that we come to mistrust ourselves and rely more on Him. God wishes to anchor souls in humility, the foundation of the spiritual life. Actually, we can grow in love for God from these "falls," if we quickly repent and ask Godís pardon. These failures makes us realize more and more that "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
We can be sure that indeliberate venial sins are not real offensive to God because bad will or an intent to sin is absent.
Hope you are preparing to make a good confession before Easter. I have a great examination of conscience booklet that can help you, just e-mail me at Srmarylucy@aol.com. Iíd be happy to send you one. Next week Iíll write on "imperfections!"
God bless you!
I have tested the voice which began for me today at Holy Mass, and thus I write.
Our Blessed Mother tells me that it is Thursday - Holy Thursday - and I am before the home where our blessed Lord gave us the Most Holy Eucharist. When She says this I cannot describe the love in her voice, nor the perfect adoration expressed for this great Sacrament.
I realize that I have pondered her words for some length because I am suddenly within the house that is two-stories, with narrow stairs leading up to a corridor which branches left and right. I turn right, descend two or three stairs and am within a large room - the Passover Supper - which Jesus has already consumed with His apostles.
I immediately understand that our Blessed Mother is in a separate room down the left corridor, and that there are also several other women in yet another room.
My attention is drawn instantly to† our Lord.† He has presided over the meal, but it appears to me He has eaten little, while many o the apostles have eaten heartily of the lamb.† The main table is long, very wide, and on each side another table extends down.† But these side sections are not straight, but curved, resembling a horseshoe.
I move down the narrow stairs into the man body of the room and now I see more clearly our Lord.† His tunic is of snow-white linen and girded about His waist by a scarlet cord.† His mantle is dyed red also, not a scarlet red, but a warmer shade.† Jesus is tall, slender.† His hair is honey-colored and His beard is well-kept, and fairly full.† His cheek-bones are sunken, making His magnificent eyes of blue sparkle like twin beacons. I want to remain transfixed, gazing only at Him, for from Him comes my very life.† John, the apostle, also is transfixed upon his Lord and God, while I notice the other apostles in whispered conversations, each one looking suspiciously at one another.†† Judas Iscariot, who tonight is truly dressed as fits his rank as a man of Kerioth - one learned, of wealthy taste and Temple surroundings - mingles and whispers also with the other apostles.† But it is his eyes which give him away.† And this the other apostles are not looking at, or for.
It is our Lord who brings order and silence into the room.† The dishes from the Passover meal have been moved away from His place, and now in front of Him is a dish upon which unleavened bread rests, and a cupóa chalice.† It glistens - this chalice - because I notice that around both the base and rim are rows of precious, and semiprecious jewels.† Again, I understand that this is a gift given our Blessed Lord at this, the Last Supper.† The occasion when He, who is about to be sacrificed, gives Himself wholly, miraculously to all who possess the true faith and accept the words of Sacred Scripture.
God has blessed some people with remarkable powers of retention. It is said that Themistocles pknew by heart the names of twenty thousand citizens of Athens. History records that Cyrus knew the name of every soldier in his army. On the other hand, Aristotle held that people who have such vivid memoriees for details never have good judgment. This may be because images pile up with such rapidity as to destroy the relation between abstract ideas which are essential for judgment.
Lord Bacon and Coleridge both held that nothing that is impressed on the memory ever leaves it. This is evident in persons who in old age are brought before the scenes of their childhood, and immediately names, places and incidents come out from their storehouse of memory and the past is lived again. As old palimpsests bear the original writing under dust or new messages, so the memory retains all that we have seen and heard, said and done. Today is but the product of all our yesterdays, and our present is but the harvest of the past. The fragments of our memory are very much like islands for the moment unconnected. But it may be that they are continuous, as the solid earth itself is continuous if one did but drain off the water from the seas.
Hidden in this retentive power of memory may also be the basis of what will be our final judgment, for what is memory but an infallible autobiography? As at the end of the day the businessman takes out of the cash register a record of all the debits and the credits, so at the end of life the memory offers the basis of how we shall be judged. As Coleridge put it: "And this perchance is the dread book of judgment, in whose mysterious hieroglyphics every idle word is recorded. Yes, in the very nature of a living spirit, it may be more possible that Heaven and earth should pass away than that a single act, a single thought, should be loosened from that living chain of causes, to all those links, conscious or unconscious, the free will, our own absolute self, is coextensive and co-present."
Memory is the source of unhappiness to many people today; hence their attempts to stifle it with alchohol and drugs. What is the explanation for the vast amount of sleeping tablets sold to the American public? It has been pointed out that enough are sold to put every person in the United States to sleep twenty-two nights a year, or to put nine million to sleep three hundred and sixty-five nights a year. Undoubtedly, some of this is medically necessary for the easing of pain, but more likely most of the pills are taken in an effort to "forget" or "get away from it all." The memory has the peculiar trick of never asking our permission for anything it shoots up into consciousness; sometimes the more displeasing the ideas are, and the harder we try to forget them, the quicker and the more often they flash before our eyes. It is a psychological fact that the more the mind fears a thing, the more that fearful thing comes like a ghost out of the past to torture it. What we hate and dread we remember best, and nothing that we present to our mind can blot it out. No wonder Macbeth in desperation asked his physician: "Canst thou not...pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow; raze out the written troubles of the brain...which weigh upon the heart?" (Macbeth, Act V, Scene iii, LIne 40).
What is driving people to sleeping tablets is to some extent driving them to psychoanalytical couches - they are in flight from what is distasteful and what cannot be blotted out - and most often it is unrequited guilt. We point out these sad facts to remind those who are full of fears and anxieties that there is another remedy besides sleeping tablets, and that is consciously confronting our guilt and asking the pardon of God. Another way is to live right, so we won't have to try to forget.