Monthly Archives: September 2017

Friday Thoughts: Pure Faith

by Howard Hain

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“God won’t let His power flow through someone who demands clarity.”

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“The Crucified One” (H. Hain, 2006)


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Faith. Pure Faith.

 


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain   http://www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

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Mission

By Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel ( LK 9; 1-6) our Lord sends the apostles out on their own to do His work, a kind of practice run for what will await them for the rest of their lives :

“ Jesus summoned the twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, ‘ Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.’ Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”

In the previous chapter our Lord has performed miracles filled with awesome power. So when Jesus places such incredible trust in His “twelve” and sends them out to carry out His ministry, they have enough confidence in His “power and authority” to just go out and do it. Perhaps the most important factor in their “empowerment” was that they were to “take nothing for the journey”. They were to go in a state of total humility and poverty. They probably knew instinctively that they had no special ability to do miracles or convert anyone, except for the power of God that would work through them.
Every day I feel the summoning of my Lord to go out and be an instrument of His salvation. Frankly, I often do not have the confidence in myself nor the stamina to do the work of His Kingdom. And yet, I am compelled to try.
The Lord sends me out there to cast out demons, specially starting with my own. So I praise God as much as possible, specially in those moments of self-doubt, for “ The Glory of God lives in the praises of His people.” Such Glory is usually strong enough to drive out spirits of negativity, infirmity, anger, despair.
As for curing diseases, all I can do is have confidence in the goodness of God. This Sunday my wife and I visited our 87 year old friend who lives in a nursing home. She was feeling terrible. That morning she had such low blood sugar that she almost had to be sent to the hospital. All we did was listen to her patiently as she described her ordeal. As time went on she became more animated. She felt better. We were having a good time. God is wonderful ! She has a wooden cross on the wall with the word Rejoice written on it. Amen to that.
Whenever anyone opens for us the door of their hearts, or even their home, we enter in and stay there until it’s time to leave. It is great to make new friends. In the end we become “equals”, receiving as much as we give. It is a humbling experience.
As for those who do not welcome us, well, we give them their space. The dust that we leave behind is the gold dust of our prayers, and sometimes, we have to leave behind the unnecessary soil of our useless resentment. Rejection is not easy.
As for proclaiming the good news, the Lord has blessed me with His living presence often enough in prayer, so that my faith takes me through the surprisingly dry spells. He is the Divine Salesman, and He has sealed the deal for me, and recruited me to boot! I have never taken a course in Theology, although I have read a number of wonderful spiritual books, specially the New Testament. But I also find the example of so many wonderful, holy people (so many, praise God !), the greatest source of God’s message in my life. I pray to be like them. I write for this blog because I am so full of gratitude for Fr. Victor, for his light in my life. Yes, he is a father figure to me. I love him, what can I say?
In the end, I have practically “nothing for the journey “, nothing fancy or impressive that I can offer. But I occasionally feel a Joy that is too much to keep to myself. It overflows. It comes from the knowledge that God loves me immensely, but no more than anyone around me. So I try to tell everyone, often without words : “ I love you. I am at your service. What can I do for you?”
Here are some quotes from St Theresa of Calcutta, a great apostle of the Lord. I just feel like sharing them:
“ Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Here’s a tougher one : “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
Here is good way to start: “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: A Delicate Nose

by Howard Hain

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In near darkness silhouettes take hold.

So delicate. Features so fragile.

How can such a perfect little nose exist in such a world?

A world of flying soccer balls.

My hardened features cringe at the thought.

Her delicate little nose and a direct encounter.

A soccer ball, an elbow, another child’s brow…my God, how could such beauty absorb any such kind of blow?

And yet it has, seven years and counting.

Time and again the playground gives what it’s got.

Close encounters and direct hits, this night that little nose as delicate as ever.

The chaos, the screams, the various forms of laughter…they too for the time being stand silent.

Before such a sight.

A simply beautiful child sleeps.

A father smiles.

Such beauty is surely painful.

Innocence is everything.

My Lord and my God.

Thank You.

A beautiful child sleeps.

A father wipes away a tear.


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Morning Thoughts: God’s Wealth

by Howard Hain

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Then they handed him the Roman coin.

He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”

They replied, “Caesar’s.”

At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

—Matthew 22:19-21

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What has value? What has true, lasting value?

And how do we distinguish between arbitrary and absolute value?

Good questions. Meaningful questions. Questions with great relevance since the first moment of man, and questions still very much relevant today—maybe more so than ever before—as cultures become increasingly pluralistic, governments increasingly complex, and economies, natural resources, and “manpower” increasingly intertwined and qualitatively and quantitatively obscure.

And perhaps nothing better expresses this uncertainty than the incredibly difficult task of evaluating the meaning of money—something that for so long has been so generally accepted—but now a question our present day begs us to ask anew.

What then is the role of currency within our ever-increasing global complexity?

Does “currency” still mean what it meant in its most basic form: A medium of exchange, generally accepted, and possessing integrity with regard to accurately representing the goods, services, and/or resources involved in an exchange?

Complex times, complex questions. I’m sure polished academics, investors, and politicians have complex answers—if they’d even recognize such a naive question in the first place.

Though I have a hunch that if we ask the common man and woman—those who are the actual “human resources” bundled together, broken apart, and tossed back and forth like various sizes of sacks of potatoes—we’d hear a common concern.

I bet the consensus is a growing sense of separation between the real connection between “currency” and the actual “items” being evaluated and exchanged—that the “general acceptance” sees a serious disconnect—no matter how simple or straightforward the words or expressions used to describe it.

Maybe we should follow their common lead. For it just may be our common sense that best suggests the level road. Let’s then move forward by asking a simple and straightforward question: What is made by man and what is made by God?

Such a question quickly restores a humble perspective—one in which the questioner is once again seen as part of the question—viewing God as the Uncreated Creator of all creation, and viewing man as part of it, not the cause of it.

Such a question also reminds us of a comforting reality, one that helps build up our view of humanity, not devalue it: For in God’s eyes, man always has a certain, absolute value, as do animals, plants, and all the earth’s resources: air, soil, water, minerals, metals…every nook and cranny. For God made it all. And what God makes He values. And what God values He values absolutely.

On the other hand, the price we place on them—the fluctuations in “perceptive” worth—is most certainly arbitrary value—completely man-made. In fact, without man there can be no arbitrary value: No man, no human perception, therefore no arbitrary value.

It is worth noting that there seems to be nothing inherently wrong with arbitrary value. But we also know through real experience that freewill and temptation continuously battle it out. We’ve all seen firsthand how arbitrary value can be used quite negatively. It can be manipulated. It can be unjust. It can be a weapon man uses against his fellow-man.

Absolute value is not the same. It never undergoes corruption or discriminates. It never hurts life or creation.

But why do we ask these questions? Why should we wonder about such issues?

Because without big questions—the panoramic views—we ironically lose sight of the intricacies and peaceful beauty of day-to-day reality. In other words, we need philosophers. We need those who ask questions from mountain-peak perspective in order to properly value even the smallest creature within the deepest valley.

It’s about divine perspective. About wisdom: Knowing there’s One Source of all creation, and that all creation—no matter how seemingly infinite and minute its manifestation—is always a reflection of the totality and unity of the One Source.

For the enterprise of philosophy—literally the “love of wisdom”—is not narrow or shallow. It is neither micro nor macro. It is never “either-or”.

Philosophy is not a specific knowledge of a specific something. It is not a specific science encompassing a specific field or a specific mastery of a specific craft or trade. Philosophy is not even a specific art expressing itself through a specific medium.

Philosophy is a relationship. A specific relationship. A love-propelled relationship with wisdom itself. And wisdom is not merely a word existing solely of sound waves and vibrations, nor is wisdom merely a concept existing solely in man’s mind. No, wisdom is beyond words, beyond concepts, beyond ideas. Wisdom is the Ultimate Idea, the Only Concept, and the Unspeakable Word.

Wisdom is. Always. Purely. Absolutely. No starts or stops. No lines, no boundaries. It possesses no arbitrary or man-made qualities.

Wisdom is God Himself.

The philosopher is therefore a lover of God. A lover of the Incarnate Word. Of Incarnate Wisdom. The philosopher is a lover of Jesus Christ—in all His manifestations—in all His creation.

This is why we ask such questions.

True lovers never lose sight of the Beloved. We therefore must never lose sight of true worth and the source of all that has worth. We must correctly identify reality and all that is rightly extracted from it. Leaving behind the rest. For all experience runs through the philosopher’s fingers as if sifting for precious metals—knowing that even what is priceless is not yet our possession.

The philosopher is also a child of faith. And therefore a descendant of the patriarch Abraham, our father in faith, who was promised descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore. We must therefore be willing to lift up and cherish every “worthless” grain. A task we can hardly achieve. But God who created us shows us how.

The answer is quite absurd—making little logical sense—but it is certain and perfect nonetheless. We must recall Christ’s suffering. And we must partake. It is the only way. For by His Cross and Resurrection, Christ sets us free. Free to use freewill properly. Free to distinguish God’s worth from that which disordered man imposed.

And how does that translate into a more pragmatic approach, into a “practical philosophy” that helps “order our days“?

Hope tells us we must stay grounded. Our toes in the dirt. The nitty-gritty of day-to-day life filling our sensitive nose. Our arms stretched wide, unafraid of having our wind unexpectedly knocked out. And all the while, our chins slightly tilted up and away. Our eyes fixed on the Light of Creation—the One Source that burns away all artificial value.


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St. Vincent Strambi

We know the saints best when we see them as part of their time. Saints don’t withdraw from the world they live in. They engage it. The world we live in is the path we’re put on when we’re born and our companion through our lifespan. It’s the cross we carry, the calvary on which we are displayed. Our blood, mingled with the blood of Christ, must fall on it to redeem it.

I’m thinking of St. Vincent Strambi, a Passionist who lived in Italy as the 18th century gave way to the 19th century. His cross was a world convulsed by Napoleon’s dreams of conquest and the changes brought about by the Enlightenment.

Strambi had a great devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus, which for him was inspired by the sufferings he saw in the world around him.Some say over 4 million people were killed in the Napoleonic wars, military and civilians. So much innocent blood was shed then.

Strambi was part of that world; his blood was being shed too, not literally, but in the crucifying events of war, confusion, famine, sickness and change that affected his church, his community, his diocese, his country and the people he served. His devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus came mainly from his experience of his time, I think.

Father Fabiano Giorgini, a fine historian who died recently, wrote a short biography of Strambi which we’re going to translate into English. Someday I hope it will be an ebook.

I wonder, too, if a new generation of hagiographers is needed, drawn from the laity and not from religious communities who may be too prone to promote their own heros.