Tag Archives: work

Wise as Doves

by Howard Hain

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Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9


Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.


The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


 

Walking Into Heaven

by Howard Hain
Rembrandt_-_The_Philosopher_in_Meditation

Rembrandt, “Philosopher in Meditation”, 1632, (Musée du Louvre)


Dream big.

Think small.

Step by step.

Real growth is incremental.

Reaching toward a glory beyond our reckoning.


 

 

Bozza Imperfetta (imperfect sketch)

by Howard Hain

 

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Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome). “Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child.” 1525–30. Drawing, black and red chalk, white gouache, brush and brown wash. Casa Buonarroti, Florence


I know almost nothing.

What I do know leads me up the ladder of not understanding.

To my perch upon the Cross.

Within the heart of my child Jesus.


 

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Museum Wall Card for Work Above, from: Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from November 13, 2017 through February 12, 2018.

Daily Grind

by Howard Hain

 

rembrandt-two-women-teaching-a-child-to-walk-ca-1635-37-red-chalk-on-gray-paper.jpg

Rembrandt, “Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk”, ca. 1635-37 (red chalk on gray paper)

 

This day might perhaps be the most boring day of our life.

It might look a lot like yesterday.

A lot like last Friday.

A lot like last November.

Routine.

Monotony.

The daily grind.

Another peppercorn held in the mill.

Waiting its turn to be ground into dust.

Sprinkled on a paper plate.

Consumed by a ravenous world.

Never to be seen again.

Never to see the light of day.

Or perhaps we’re wrong.

Perhaps we’re chunks of crystal.

Salt from a dead sea.

Clear.

A tinge of pink.

When the light hits right.

To be sprinkled.

To preserve what’s sacred.

To give life.

Perhaps we are the salt of the earth.

Perhaps this day we shall meet some pepper.

Perhaps we’ll let God have His way.

Giving taste to what seems to so many just another day.


 

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

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

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Young Mother Sewing

by Howard Hain

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Mary Cassatte, “Young Mother Sewing” 1900, (The Met)

 

A living faith works. It is always active, especially when we are docile to the Spirit.

When we walk by faith we see, we hear, we speak what God intends, especially when we are blind to the cares and anxieties of the world.

Small children are wonderfully active, superbly passive, and at times they seem completely blind, fantastically blind. They are alive. They see. They hear. They speak. They watch. They feel.

Mother Church calls all of us home, even when she is silent. She is always at work. She watches us even when her eyes are busy with the business of the day.

She sews. We just need to obey. To trust. To allow ourselves the freedom to lay across her lap.

In the short description upon the little museum card hanging beneath the painting shown above, God has planted great instruction. The work is by American impressionist Mary Cassatt.

According to the card, about the year 1890 “Cassatt redirected her art toward women caring for children and children alone—themes that reflected her affection for her nieces and nephews and the prevailing cultural interest in child rearing.” And then, after informing us that for this particular painting Cassatt “enlisted two unrelated models to enact the roles of mother and child”, the card completes its little catechesis by blessing us with a precious little anecdote and quote:

Louisine Havemeyer, who purchased it in 1901, remarked on its truthfulness: “Look at that little child that has just thrown herself against her mother’s knee, regardless of the result and oblivious to the fact that she could disturb ‘her mamma.’ And she is quite right, she does not disturb her mother. Mamma simply draws back a bit and continues to sew.”

God are we blessed. So blessed to have such a mother. All of us. Maybe give her a call today. Better yet, perhaps even stop by. She’d love that. She’d love to see your face. You’re always on her mind and in her heart. She lives in the closest church you can find, any building that truly houses her Son.

If she seems a little occupied with the “cooking and cleaning”, with all “the business of life”, don’t let that stop you or cut your visit short. No, throw yourself against your “mother’s knee regardless of the result and oblivious to the fact” that you could disturb your “mamma.”

It most certainly does not.

“Mamma simply draws back a bit and continues to sew.”


 

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

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

www.twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Met Museum. Mary Cassatt, “Young Mother Sewing”, 1900

 

To Preach

by Howard Hain

 

Saint Bruno, Houdon

Saint Bruno (c. 1033-1101), Founder of the Carthusians, Statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1767)

 

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“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority…”

—Acts 1:7


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If the Lord returns this very second, well then, are not “…the ends of the earth” where we currently stand?

May we pray for the mercy and grace that we ourselves be truly converted to Christ, for if all the world were to focus on that, then all the world would be set “on fire”.

To truly “preach” the Gospel is to be truly transfigured. For it is the power of His glory, in us, around us, despite us, that brings others to Christ.

A single man standing absolutely still—but who has Christ truly within him—brings more healing and peace to all the world than an army of men continually running around the globe glorifying themselves in His Most Sacred Name.

For redemption is always by His power, for His glory, and within His Kingdom. It is HIS Church.

May we approach Him in our absolute nothingness, for that is all we truly possess.

Men come and go, keep your eyes on Christ.

The world turns, the Cross stands still.


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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

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

Friday Thoughts: Uneasy Mercy

by Howard Hain

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Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…

—Luke 2:34


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When we are truly merciful, or at least sincerely try to be merciful—to see others and their deeds through the eyes of the Ever-Loving Eternal Father—there often is an unholy fear that takes place. This fear is not the fear of God. This fear is not from God.

No, the fear of God—the good and righteous “fear of the Lord”—a gift of the Holy Spirit—is not the fear to which I am referring. Let us make that perfectly clear. Absolutely not. That fear—the good and righteous “fear of the Lord”—is a great grace and is actually what prompts us to be merciful toward others in the first place.

The fear that I am referencing is superficial, like all fear other than the only fear we should ever have, “the fear of the Lord.” Whether this superficial fear comes from the world, from our own weak flesh, or from Satan, is not very important. For what we need to know and always remember is that this superficial fear is not of or from God.

It is the fear of being accused. Accused of condoning. For when we see others with true mercy we no longer merely look at their acts, no matter how sinful they may be. No, we see first and foremost a person. More so, we see a child. A child who is frightened. A child who is running a high fever. And no one with any heart at all, even if it be a calloused and somewhat hardened heart, wants to punish a frightened or feverish child.

No, no matter our maternal or paternal instinct, or lack thereof, the truly human instinct is to hug. To help. To hold. To heal. To alleviate the fear and burning pain.

But without God’s grace we too often, almost always in terms of statistical significance, do not see a child.

We only see a person who has harmed our world, our society, our way of life, our order, our peace.

We only see a person who—no matter how indirectly his or her actions might affect us—has harmed us and our families personally, and we along with the rest of the mob want justice.

A conflict takes place.

God’s perspective versus the world’s. A frightened and sick child versus a criminal who must be punished. Mercy versus justice.

But the conflict isn’t real. God not only loves justice too, God is Justice. And he sent His Only Begotten Son as expiation for the great injustice of mankind. Our kind. Our sin.

For God to only see the need for punishment is for God to deny His Only Begotten Son. That is not going to happen.

So the next time you feel the desire to be merciful—the need to be merciful—even toward the most “obvious” and “blatant” sinner do not give into the temptation. The temptation to fear. The fear that you are in some way condoning the sinful action because you are refusing to demand immediate and absolute punishment, a punishment that “fits the crime.”

No, say the Lord’s Prayer.

You are on God’s side. God is being merciful through you. And no matter how intimidated you may feel, be “firm and steadfast” in God’s love and mercy.

For you too love justice. You too love Jesus. And Jesus is Justice.

Jesus is Living and Breathing Justice.

And it is through this very person, The Person of Jesus, that “mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:11)

Praise be to God.


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Morning Thoughts: One Good Influence

by Howard Hain

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Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

—Psalm 90:12


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Sometimes I feel I have no identity at all. I am at each new successive moment the current culmination of the influences upon me.

I don’t know if this statement is true or not, or if it has any truth attached to it at all—or if perhaps it is merely some kind of “existential” temptation. But just in case there is something to it—something worth paying attention to—I should probably then also ask this very real and relevant question:

What influences are upon me?

If I don’t begin my list with “THE WORD”, then something is certainly not right.

Something is clearly out of order.

“Lord…order our days in your peace…” (Eucharistic Prayer I)

———

It is worth noting that ‘days’ takes the plural form, as does ‘words’.

And let us remember that that is not what God sent.

God sent His Son. Not words.

“And the Word became flesh…”

Jesus is truly singular. So much so He is the only universal.

———

So as we receive our daily correction, and as we get ourselves back in order, let us spend time sincerely reading Sacred Scripture, and let us also remember to never mistake the words for The Word: The Living Breathing Presence of Jesus Christ. The Person. The Man. God Made Man. The Only True Being. Ultimate Reality. Ultimate Unity. Ultimate Oneness. The Guy Next Door.

For Jesus is alive.

He lives “before the foundation of the world”. He lives a few thousand years ago. He lives tomorrow. And yes, He lives today—much closer in fact to each and everyone of us—and in much less “extraordinary” circumstances than we too often are told to think.

Let us be influenced.


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With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

—2 Peter 3:8


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Thoughts Upon The Cross: Bold Humility

by Howard Hain

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We should always strive to be fully united with The Body of Christ, in both thought and prayer. To think prayerfully, and to prayerfully think.

Let us then prayerfully embrace this particular moment:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.

———

Now, let us think, prayerfully.

What is “bold humility”?

Let’s explore an answer, slow and steady.

First, like all manifestations of God’s glory, “bold humility” is a matter of transcendence.

Second, transcendence is not merely a type of balance. Balance is something else entirely. It is something less than divine. Balance is a man-made religious concept. It is practical human philosophy at work in the world, depending on and functioning within human limitation. Unlike transcendence, balance does not stem from the theological posture of divine providence, and more so, it does not rely on the acknowledged power and faithful acceptance of divine grace.

For example, with regard to the matter at hand, “bold humility” is not merely the balancing of boldness and humility—it is not a matter of being equally bold and equally humble—as if on a scale of 1-10, a score of 5 for boldness and a score 5 for humility is achieved simultaneously—adding up to 10 and at the same time keeping the “seesaw” of virtue straight and parallel to the earth lying below.

No, “bold humility”, like all Christian (and therefore preternatural) virtue is not a matter of equally limiting each natural characteristic in order to fit them all within the confines of human potential and logical limitations.

In plain language then, “bold humility” is not simply a healthy combination of two virtues, namely “boldness” and “humility”.

And most directly to the point: Christ didn’t balance. He transcended.

Then what does transcendence mean in this supernatural sense?

Well, let us rule out a few more false understandings before positing a possible positive understanding.

It will prove helpful to also establish this negation: To transcend is not merely to eliminate. Nor is it merely to deny. By transcending one does not destroy the categories it transcends. So in this particular case we can say that “bold humility” does not “eliminate” or “deny” the category of “boldness” or the category of “humility”.

Now let us begin to state positively what Jesus accomplished—for Jesus most certainly transcended.

To transcend is to rise above and beyond. It is to journey through. It is to transform.

Transcendence fulfills the “categories” it leaves below—it completely and utterly fulfills each and every virtue that man could ever conceive—and not only at the same time or simultaneously, but eternally and to a maximum degree. Transcendence is perpetual fulfillment of all “goodness” to an infinite “degree”.

Transcendence is then what we might call: Active Shalom.

It is living, breathing “Fullness”. It is “True Peace”. It is “Oneness” and the “Unity of God”—alive and constantly in motion. For to transcend is also to enter and live within the Internal Consistency of The Eternal Creator Himself.

Transcendence is the ultimate simplicity of “I AM.

It is Ipse Christus—Christ Himself—God made man, the Word made flesh, the magnificence of God brought into visible light.

And it is human redemption at work.

For the person of Jesus is just that: He is the glory of God woven into and through the very fabric of humanity—taking humanity above and beyond itself—transforming it on earth and simultaneously bringing it back with Him to the Father in heaven—as a new, glorified, and righteous form.

Jesus both lifts humanity into heaven and manifests fully God’s glory on earth.

Bold Humility” is Jesus Himself.

He alone fulfills completely both “boldness” and “humility” without ceasing.

And by doing so He straddles two worlds—making them one. But yet He is much more than a bridge, much more than a mere mystical ladder. Jesus, if you will, is Jacob’s Ladder but built of human flesh—upon Whom not only holy angels ascend and descend between heaven and earth—but through Whom the very helix of humanity is redeemed and glorified.

———

But enough words.

For they can never capture.

Jesus is profoundly free.

The best we can hope for is a glimpse—a fleeting image of the living, breathing manifestation of “Bold Humility” in ultimate action.

It takes silence.

It involves leaving the senses and faculties behind.

It requires “spirit and truth”:

We must stare at The Cross.

We must experience—firsthand—The Crucified Christ.


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Let us then pray once more:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.


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Thoughts Upon The Cross: Act Like A Man

by Howard Hain

saint joseph, holy family.

To all men it may concern (definitely including me):

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Complaining is not strength.

It is actually quite unbecoming, to say the least.

In fact, it can easily become extremely boring.

And when it spills forth from the mouths of men who are appointed to lead, it manages to take on a whole new level of tediousness.

It becomes outright pathetic.

Of course, I am not talking about having private conversations with friends or colleagues, the kind of back and forth that can often strengthen and give great consolation. No, that falls under fellowship, under spiritual friendship. In those situations, practicing vulnerability and allowing oneself to be seen as truly struggling is actually a sign of strength.

What I am referring to are those too-often times when “leaders” openly and repeatedly complain in front of the very people they are chosen to lead and inspire—in front of the very people they are chosen to protect, guide, and encourage. Or to put it in more spiritual and pastoral terms—in terms of the “Good Shepherd” if you will—instead of feeding their sheep a sense of hope, a sense of security, and a sense of peace, the shepherds themselves cultivate and offer their flocks an atmosphere of worldly concern, a stream of ongoing despair, and a diet of downright near hysteria.

It is so embarrassing.

And the scope is broad, for appointed “leadership” comes in many forms: public officials, all kinds of employers, managers, politicians, coaches, pastors, administrators, teachers, and most certainly, and perhaps most significantly, every married man and father in the world.

God have mercy on us.

Forgive us our many failures.

Especially for us Catholic Christians, called to imitate in a special manner the Crucified Christ.

And this isn’t simply a matter of ever-changing public opinion. No, it’s a matter of being inherent in the very idea of leadership itself.

Shepherds lead, sheep follow.

Think about it, when was the last time you saw an artwork depicting a small group of little lambs carrying a full-grown living breathing Jesus?

Needless to say, never.

And in terms of practical and applied philosophy, let us then keep this significant and relative reality in mind: When it comes to real and everyday concerns, chances are that the most grueling day for most of us modern men is only as difficult as the normal, run-of-the-mill, daily employment of a mother of three—not to mention if that mother is also working full-time, single, in an abusive relationship, and/or barely speaks English—then it’s no contest—and in our current “ever-progressive” society, these conditions unfortunately too often apply.

So, if this not-so-gentle “correction” applies to you (as it most certainly applies to me) know that many are praying for us, many feel for us, many love us, many even need us, but we need to do our part:

Act like a man.

For sake of Christ.


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Let us pray:

Lord God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, we give you praise. Help us Father, help all men, all those called by You to lead. Help us to follow the only True Man, Your Only Begotten Son, Christ Jesus—our Lord and our God, and living Innocence itself. May we follow Him and Him alone, so we may be properly equipped—emotionally, physically, and spiritually—to lead those You have entrusted to our care. Make us strong and patient, courageous and persevering. Let us learn through the example of Saint Joseph the true meaning of humility, obedience, and selfless sacrificial service. Teach us to cherish silence and value greatly the grace of a truly developed interior life. Inspire us to love our wives and children with sincerity and integrity and profound gratitude. And when need be, Heavenly Father, show us how to be truly decisive, how to act with boldness in defending Your truth, and how to be utterly fearless in helping rescue those crushed by injustice and hypocrisy.

In all matters may we always do Your will and act on Your behalf—with minds made spotless, hearts made pure, and bodies kept chaste.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, in the perfect unity of the Holy Spirit, for Your endless glory.

Amen.


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