Tuesday, November 19, 2013


There is in an inevitable chain of causality:
Mother Teresa states it like this:
The fruit of silence is prayer
the fruit of prayer is faith
the fruit of faith is love
the fruit of love is service
the fruit of service is peace.

All of us want peace. Peace and harmony among all men and all women, all human beings everywhere--the absence of violence and disharmony, the presence of a tangible love and good. We all wish for and hope for that.
Well, in order to achieve that, you must work for that. You must live in a way of service--of giving to others, of seeking to make yourself the servant of the servants. To give to others, without thinking of yourself.
And you really can't do that very well/at all if you do not have love.
Without love, I am nothing says the Apostle Paul. Meaning that, yes, if you built an entire plumbing system, filled with clean, potable water for an entire continent, and didn't have an ounce of love flow out of you.
But also, I think Paul may mean the reverse: that building an entire plumbing system is impossible without love. Even if hidden within the action is just the tiniest, smallest spark of love.
Love must be there in some way for true service to take place. It must.
And you cannot love without faith.
Mother connects faith back to silence.

It all comes down to being silent. To learning how to shut yourself up--to learn how to quiet your heart and your mind.
It isn't so much about outer silence as about inner.
I found myself in the quietest chapel, quieter than the roaring din that invaded the MC's cozy-yet-cavernous chapel.
But my voice shook the peace of that place, roughly shaking the air with clammy echoes.
I have never yelled with the intention of shredding the atmosphere until that day.

“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you,”
Presses down upon me
At fifteen pounds per square inch,
All I get is a thin stream of it,
A finger’s width of the rope that ties me to life
As I labor like a stevedore to keep the connection.
--Mark O'Brien

With the theme song of the Wicked Witch of the West pounding in my ears, I biked up Notre Dame Avenue like the Hounds of the Baskervilles were at my heels.
I was wearing pointy black pumps and my face was folded up into a concentrated frown, so I realized at that moment I must have looked an awful lot like Almira Gulch.

Biking to campus is one of the most enjoyable activities that I have discovered in my short twenty-two years of living. [Ed. Note: this post was originally penned before the Great Bicycle Theft of 2013. RIP, Little Bike.]
You can gear up (no pun intended [okay. fine. pun most definitely intended]) for your day as you dodge the small but steady stream of commuter traffic that makes its way towards the Golden Dome. 
The morning sunshine buzzes with that noise the air makes when a really hot day is on its way. But it's still morning, so you bike along, feeling the breeze of a self-perpetuated wind.
The only thing better than biking to campus is biking back from campus.

Then, usually the evening is suspended between twilight and dusk, with one or two very forward stars who have eagerly burst into the deepening blue sky. The sunset peeks out from behind the houses on your right, joyful beacons of violet and fuchsia fire.
With each breezy pedal of the bicycle, you feel yourself slipping out of the bubble of stress and emails and duties of the day.
This was not a breezy, stress-free bike ride. This was "I am the Wicked Witch of the West" bike ride.
As the wheels rolled over and over upon one another, I felt my brain imitate their rotor-ing motion, as I thought over and over: ugh. ugh. ugh. ugh.
My Mother once told me one trait that I've inherited from her the incorrigible ability to speak my mind, and simultaneously, the incredible flexibility of planting my feet squarely in my mouth while doing so.
This is a fancy way of saying that every time I open my mouth, there is a 500% chance I will make a fool out of myself. Or bring unending shame upon my self, my family, and our whole house.
Shame upon youshame upon your big fat mouth, shame shame shame the bike wheels tsked.

One day, I vow I will learn to think before I speak. But that is not this day. 

There were people crowded en masse in a dorm chapel for Mass. This dorm chapel accommodates large numbers, but at a price.
The price is comfort and sanity.
Great, I thought. Other people. I love being around other people when I'm in a foul-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West mood.
(Thankfully, I just thought these words, and didn't actually speak them aloud. Maybe there is hope for me.)

And then Peter's words came crashing into my grumpy little mind:
Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.
Peter knelt at the feet of Christ, and cried out for his unworthiness.
Christ didn't listen, but instead showed him two small pilgrims standing in the center of the Basilica,
their necks craning around in circles as they read the seven-foot tall inscription: et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam, glistening against a background of gold.
From the heavens, Peter , President of the Open-Mouth-Insert-Foot Club, was still a rock for those below.

I don't know where we get these great ideas that The Saints were somehow super-humans, little demi-gods, when they really were just little screw-ups who fell in love with someone.

I feel like Joan of Arc may have been really difficult to talk to and get along with in general, Martha sounds like she sometimes may have had shrewish tendencies, and Benedict seems to have been obsessed with The Rules. There's a beautiful story about Benedict being a stickler for the rules and almost cutting short a conversation he was having with his sister Benedicta. Benedicta wanted to keep talking with him, and so she started crying, and as she cried, she prayed. Her prayers were heard, and the heavens started mimicking her prayers. The rainstorm continued all night, and so did her and her brother's conversation.
And Peter. 
We forget so easily what an absolute idiot Peter was. 
So many saints in the years to come would face more palpable danger than Peter, and they would do what Peter could not do--all three times he was given the chance.
They would give their life for someone they loved.
Peter knew Jesus; he had lived alongside him for three years, and yet, when asked to stand with him, Peter denied him three times. 
That is, as I often like to say, rull dumb.
I get injured if I think my sibling takes my mom side's over mine.
That sort of betrayal wounds me.
But Peter's brand of betrayal is on a whole 'nother level. 
We are too easily not-heartbroken by it.
For, like all sin, it merits our tears.
And yet.
And yet.
It is Peter who has been chosen to lead the little Baby Church for its first few decades of existence.
See, the saints, I think, just happened to fall in love with the right Someone.
And as any of you who have ever made a friend, or ever fallen in love, or ever found yourself spending gallons of oceans of time with someone, they irreplaceably shape the mold that forms your self.
Remember Nietzsche, the man famous for proclaiming that God is dead?
Malcolm Muggeridge commented on this quote in his beautiful biography of Mother Teresa:

the only way God ever could die would be if we retreated so far into our egos and our flesh. Then and only then would God be dead and the curtain would fall for ever on us and our tiny earth.

People like Peter, and Mother Teresa, and John Paul II are proof that God has not dead, rather, that human beings have maybe perhaps learned how to die to themselves and be alive in Him.

The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.
--Yasutani Roshi

1 comment:

  1. I've been waiting for this post, just because I couldn't wait for whatever the "harmacy" post was ;)