“Their blood confesses Christ”

“The blood of Christians is a testimony that cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.

Pope Francis

Prayer for Persecuted Christians

Father Robert Barron requests:

“The news of 21 Coptic Christians mercilessly slaughtered this past weekend reminds us that age of the martyrs is not a time long ago, but right now. Let us pray today for all those suffering religious persecution, and particularly for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.

“Pope Francis eloquently said that ‘the blood of Christians is a testimony that cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.’

“Let us join in prayer with our Holy Father and in communion with all Christians who are persecuted, especially those who live and profess their faith under the threat of violence and death.”

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“Thank You” to the Person who made this

Yesterday’s post at the 54-Day Rosary novena site (for Day 4) gave a quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas that, the instant I read it, brought me to tears. It expresses exactly how I’ve always felt, in my heart, toward God.

To love God is something greater than to know Him.

– Saint Thomas Aquinas

I mentioned in a previous post how when I was a very young child I would sit quietly in church, gazing at the stained glass window, and just loving God. I had no concept of God, I knew nothing of God, and yet I knew I loved Him. I feel exactly the same now. I’m coming in to all of this new, with barely any concept of God except some half-formed (half-baked?) ideas which I’ve accumulated over the years, which I figure I might as well discard.

But I still have the enormous love and gratitude toward God, and I think that’s what has led me to this point. I felt so completely dissatisfied with any spiritual practice that did not include God. Any spiritual system that doesn’t acknowledge God feels empty. Because who do you thank for all this? For this incredible, beautiful creation, and for one’s own being?

Sunset from our porch

Sunset from our porch

I immediately recognized this feeling when I heard an interesting point being made in one of Father Robert Barron’s videos. I’ll quote the section here, but I highly recommend that you click on over and listen to the whole video. The part I’m quoting begins at the 4:55 mark.

…The argument from contingency: It’s a fancy way of saying that the world as we know it exists, but doesn’t have to exist. You and I are here, but we don’t have to be here, there’s nothing necessary about our being. And it’s true — the world as we know it is fleeting, it’s passing. Therefore we have to go outside the world, to God, God who does exist through himself, and who therefore grounds and creates the whole of the world that we know.

Relatedly, Dorothy Day, when she was in the process of coming to the Church (she was going through a process of conversion), she had a child. And one day when she was on the porch of her house and she was holding her child, she said, “I felt a gratitude that was so enormous that I knew it would correspond to nothing in this world.” There was nothing, nobody in this world she could possibly thank that would correspond to the gratitude she was feeling.

That’s it; that’s exactly it. What she was sensing was God. This world, myself, my child, none of it has to be here, yet it’s here. And the proper response is “Thank You” to the Person who made this.

I hope to spend the rest of my life doing just that — thanking God for His blessings. I feel as though I’ve wasted half my life wandering around like a “Prodigal Daughter”, when I could have been “home” in my Father’s house this whole time… So I want to make up for it by spending my days in prayer (as constant as I can make it!)

As much of it as possible: prayers of praise and gratitude and love of God.

Pondering Faith

“[Faith is] the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Faith is one of the topics for this week’s RCIA meeting (Faith/Prayer and Journaling). Once again, I turned to Fr. Robert Barron for insight. I find his easygoing, “just sitting around chatting” videos quite approachable, and at the same time challenging and, for a newbie like me, packed with information.

In the above linked video, he compares the Catholic idea of faith in God (i.e. employing one’s reason and then taking the step of faith) to how people normally interact with others. If we find someone interesting, we may decide to study him, observe him from afar, ask mutual friends about him, do a little research into who he is… but all that will only take us so far. To really get to know him, we must finally actually approach the person, let him speak, and learn from the person himself who he is, his thoughts and feelings, his wishes. Only then can we really know the person, can that person reveal things that we never could have learned from an objective, analytical inquiry.

Then you have to decide if you’re going to believe what the person has revealed to you once you’ve let him speak. Do you trust that person? And that final step is the step of faith.

This analogy is apt because, as Fr. Barron points out, the claim of the Bible is that God is a Person (the supreme Person) who has chosen to speak, to reveal himself to mankind.

We can’t know the heart of God until God decides to speak. At which point I have to say, ‘Okay, do I trust Him or not?’ What’s faith? Faith, for us, is that moment of trust, when I say, ‘Yes. I accept the truth of the God who speaks.’

Fr. Barron

So, this is the “intellect assenting to a Divine truth” in the Aquinas quote above. And this assent is “owing to the movement of the will”, a decision to trust and accept God’s Word, his voice speaking to us.

But what about that last bit, “which is itself moved by the grace of God”? To further Fr. Barron’s analogy a bit, this grace would be God moving first. In the analogy above, the person makes the first move by becoming interested in the other party, and doing some research on him, before finally approaching him and letting him speak. But in our relationship with God, we show interest in learning about God and approaching him due to his grace moving in us, prompting us, kind of nudging us.

Does that negate our free will? I don’t think so, because certainly a person can ignore the prompting and nudging, and I guess eventually (sadly) it’ll stop…

We can choose to respond as if our free will is a seed or a stone. We can allow God’s grace to open us to his call, to nourish us like water and sunlight and fertile soil, or we can harden ourselves so that nothing he says or does can entire in.

Faith

But what astonishes me is that God would choose to speak to mankind at all, reveal himself at all. Why? Amazing. That something so huge, beyond comprehension, as the Creator would also choose to be personal, to actually speak to each one of us, to love us. And yet still remain so completely Other, beyond everything we know. So very strange and beautiful…

Seized by Beauty

Strangely, humorously, throughout my atheist and Buddhist years some of my absolute favorite music to listen to was my collection of Mahalia Jackson albums. I have quite a few, and I would cycle through them as often as once a month. Any fan of Mahalia Jackson knows that all she sang was spirituals. And I would sing along, quite exuberantly. (Still do!)

 

Take a listen, and I’m sure you’ll see why I’m such a big fan:

 

 

Then, toward the end of my study and practice of Buddhism, when I felt my heart changing but had no idea that I was moving toward becoming a Christian, I became interested in the beautiful, old Christian a cappella music, such as “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”, or like this one that I was so thrilled to discover:

 

 

Well, thing is, one can’t go around singing songs like these, or listening to such beautiful expressions of worship, without being affected. I’d be singing along with Mahalia and be so incredibly happy. Or I’d sing along with “The milde lomb isprad o rode” (or try to, anyway) and be moved almost to tears. (Makes it hard to sing… 🙂

 

As Father Robert Barron argues, Beauty is perhaps one of the most effective means of calling people to the truth, to Jesus. He quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar:

 

“The beautiful seizes you, it changes you, and then it calls you and sends you.”

 

I loved singing hymns even when not a Christian, and now I love singing with all my heart and mind and voice engaged, not just the subconscious…