Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frail and Glorious - IV

Falling In Love With God
Pedro Arrupe 1907-1991
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love 
in a quite absolute, final way. 
What you are in love with, 
what seizes your imagination, 
will affect everything. 
It will decide what will get you 
out of bed in the morning, 
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends 
what you read, who you know, 
what breaks your heart, 
and what amazes you 
with joy and gratitude. 
Fall in love, stay in love, 
and it will decide everything. ~ 
Pedro Arrupe, SJ

"The ache for God lives on in our depths. It gnaws at us and cries out to be named. If we walk back through our days...we will come upon many frail and glorious  moments - places where our poverty and our wealth touched each other. Three such moments have blessed me in particular: one from my life, one from the Scriptures, and one from a novel." (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 19)
I have got to tell you, I have had profound moments in my life, some of which I have forgotten, but to recall a scripture or a moment from a novel...I'm not there! It is in moments such as this that I do feel "frail" and small.  I stand in awe of someone else's "gloriousness" who has such recall. Still, I continue to read...

The first moment Macrina shares is about the death of her seven-year-old sister.  Macrina was ten at the time and she had just quarreled with her sister before she died, which left ten-year-old Macrina with no chance to reconcile with her sister. But, while sitting beneath a tree in their front yard, Macrina felt an overwhelming love fill her entire being.
"It was a love that made me feel strong, noble, beautiful. I would not have used those words at the time, but reflecting back on the experience, they seemed the most descriptive of the moment. That love flowed into presence. It was as though I was not alone. Someone was with me...I felt sad and strong. It was a frail and glorious moment." (Wiederkehr, p 20)
This moment, I can appreciate remembering.  I think even I, with my screwy head would remember something like this, but then Macrina continues...
"The second frail and glorious moment came when I read Paul's letter to the Philippians (4:11-14) and heard him say:
'I have learned to manage on whatever I have. I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything, anywhere; full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.'" (Ibid)
I am feeling in need of dose of help and strength....

Just when I am beginning to feel more confidence in my reading and studying....geeze.... Still, I am staying with this.  : ) Isn't there a song or something about "I shall persevere..."  On to the third frail and glorious moment Macrina recalls:
"...comes from Graham Greene's novel, The Power and the Glory. The scene is that of a preist condemned to death during a religious persecution in Mexico. The tension in his life has driven him to depend too much on alcohol during his later years.
'When he woke up it was dawn...It was the morning of his death. He crouched on the floor with the empty brandy flask in his hand trying to remember an act of contrition...He was was not the good death for which one always prayed. He caught sight of his own shadow on the cell wall...What a fool he had been to think that he was strong enough to stay when others fled. What an impossible fellow I am, he thought. I have done nothing for anybody. I might just as well have never lived.
Tears poured down his face: he was not at that moment afraid of damnation...He felt only an immense disappointment becasue he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing at all. It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage.
He felt like someone who had missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted - to be a saint.'" (Wierderkehr, p 20-21)
I think of myself as being a fairly observant person, and I am.  When participating in workshops, I am often the one who notices the individual/s who is checking out, is confused, is upset.  Others have at times depended on Sandi to be the one to "notice" what is happening beneath the words.  Yet, in this story of the priest, I think I would have read this passage and simply seen a disappointed and sad man who had screwed up and was facing the end of his life. I was humbled reading what the eyes of Macrina's heart saw and I thought of this prayer by Brandon Heath

 "At this moment the whiskey-drinking priest can see nothing in his life except his frailty. His glory is hidden from him. You and I , stepping back from the story, can see so much more. His ache for God is obvious. He wanted to be a saint! Reading this story, it is easy for me to see his frailty and his glory, his littleness and his greatness." (Ibid)
What does the eyes of
God look like?
If Macrina "easily" sees this, then I do need to pray Brandon's prayer fervently. I'm sitting here wondering who else I have "judged" without noticing their ache for God and their glory.  I am sad to admit, several faces cross my heart as I ponder that question.

Macrina writes that the eye of God beholds so much more than we are able to see in our lives at any moment. Praise God! "Always" she says, our goodness and potential loom large under God's gaze. If this is true, then why is it so difficult for me to see this goodness and potential, me, who strives to be the hands and feet of Christ in my life?
"Are we not aware that when Paul says in his letters, 'Give the saints greetings,' he is talking about the saints on earth, not the saints in heaven? This is our vocation: to be saints. The journey to holiness begins this side of heaven. The taste of heaven begins right now. How hesitant we are to claim our inheritance!" (Ibid)
Not Henry's house, just similar...
In the area I live there used to be a few "hermit" like people who lived in run down shacks.  Often, their little shack was situated on farm ground and at some point my husband began renting their land. One man in particular, Henry, ate what came from his modest garden and government seconds.  I would send left overs to him by way of my husband, but I seldom went to his home.  The man quite literally scared me...gave me the creeps.

When Henry died, his mind was gone, and he basically died alone. My husband always insisted that Henry had money, but that was hard to believe...but he did.  And what the attorneys and state didn't get, some distant cousin claimed.  Thinking of Henry, I still shake my head in disbelief, yet that is what Macrina says I do in regards to my spiritual life.
" Father Plus, whom I referred to in my introduction...has said, 'In this frail envelope of our body is enclosed a great marvel.' We have riches that we refuse to own." (Ibid)
Thomas Merton 1915-1968
Thomas Merton  agrees with Macrina.  He made loving reference to this marvel when he says:
Make ready for the Christ,
Whose smile,
like lightening,
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps,
in your paper flesh,
like dynamite.

Again, I feel so humbled as I hold the thoughts and insights of Macrina, Thomas Merton, the Apostle Paul, Pedro Arrupe... They write so easily about this glory that resides within me....and within those whom I have judged or discounted....people like Henry.

Macrina continues by saying that my/our flesh is my/our frailty.  I understand that! My flesh, especially since my last car accident has left me unable to do many of the things I enjoyed before.  It has left me physically weaker, sometimes "unstable" when I become tired, sometimes it feels as though my flesh has let me down...failed me. So this notion of my flesh being my not difficult for me to grasp.  What is a challenge is for me to accept that the "dynamite" is my splendor.
"When the two meet, a song of everlasting glory will be born in our hearts. It will be the end of mediocrity in our lives and God will weep again, for joy."(Ibid)
God will weep for me, just as
the Prodigal Father wept.
Wow.  God will weep for joy...over me.

I don't know why this image has the power to take my breath away, because I "KNOW" this! I preach this! Yet, do I honestly believe it in the depths of my heart for "me"?

How am I like the downcast and alcoholic priest who sees nothing but my frailty, missing my glory? I preach a loving God.  I preach grace within baptism.  I preach all these good things, yet I I accept it as truth for me?

A few days ago I would have responded, "Of course!" Yet, if that is true, then why do these stories and images cause me to pause....and wonder.

You are a love song
beauty set to music
You are a love song
I have chosen you. ~ Theresa Hucal

Lord, all this is so much.  I am reminded of the song by Casting Crown that asks, "Who am I...not because of what I've done, but because of who you are." God, people like Henry, the alcoholic priest...I look at them and think "what a waste" yet...I do recognize pieces of their story are my story. Lord, help me to acknowledge my gloriousness because it isn't "my" is yours.  It feels like bragging/pride to think of myself as splendor...yet it isn't me and what I is you and what you have done.  In some ways, I can see that it is my ego that refuses to acknowledge the greatness within me, because for that greatness to truly shine...I have to let go! Geeze...God, you and I have gone down this path in The Cup of Life, and here we are again!  Thank you for your patience and your love.  Thank you for second chance upon second chance.  I rejoice that my conversion is a process and is ongoing! AMEN.

Yes, this is one of my most used songs, because it speaks to my heart on so many levels.  Casting Crowns song "Who Am I?"

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


  1. My moments seem few and far between - I have not been able to carve quality space for "being", but I am resting in the seconds that I get to spend sharing in your insights of the book (The one that I have marked and written in) with hopes of sharing with you when time allows. Bless you today.

  2. "Give Me Your Eyes" What if I chose to have the eyes of God? If he really gave me his eyes, I would be forced to act. So...since He does give me the ability to "see"...what am I going to do with it? I know what I am called to do. Why is it so easy to turn our eyes away? But then..."Who am I? plays... and I know that I am loved.