Tag Archives: spirituality

Speaking of living clay

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisified until it has a certain character. . . Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble; he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves. . . he will take endless trouble — and would doubtless thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

-C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

The tempest

Lorenzo Veneziano, "Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning," 1370

Lorenzo Veneziano, “Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning,” 1370

Do you love God? You walk upon the sea, and under your feet is the swelling of the world. Do you love the world? It will swallow you up. It only knows how to devour its lovers, not to carry them. . .

[R]emember to trust in Christ. And if your foot have slipped; if you totter, if some things there are which you cannot overcome, if you begin to sink, say, Lord, I perish, save me. Say, I perish, that you perish not.

-St. Augustine, excerpt from Sermon 26 on the New Testament

The pot and the kettle: or, Ubi Caritas


It has been quite a while since I’ve lived in a place where I daily feel the fact that I belong to a cultural minority. That has changed. Now when I drive along the freeway I see on the one hand a plethora of bumper stickers of the “Dog is my co-pilot” and “My karma ran over your dogma” variety, and on the other billboards with a Protestant fundamentalist flavor.

When we lived in LA, it seemed like we blended in pretty well, and on seeing me and my family, nobody turned a hair. But on coming here I saw people take in my gaggle of children and me in one glance and look away, their decision about us already made.

This didn’t sadden me. It irritated me, no end.

My mind kept rolling over familiar defensive retorts. Why do you judge me when you don’t even know me? Why do you assume that you know what I think and believe? Do you think we decided how to grow and raise our family without careful thought, blood, sweat, and tears? Why do you claim to espouse fairness and tolerance yet reject me and my family?

In response, a nagging feeling hovered in the back of my mind, which resolved itself at last into a question: Are you sure you never do the same thing to others yourself?

And the answer is, well . . sometimes, yes, I do.

A week or so ago I told my mother-in-law that we were going to a workshop at a mega church. She told me that we might expect people there to try vigorously to convert us. “But don’t worry about it,” she said. “Just be kindly, open, and loving.”

Her words struck me like a mini lightning-bolt. One should always be kindly, open, and loving, of course – sadly however, my face doesn’t generally radiate kindliness; it usually radiates preoccupation and tension.

I made the decision to follow her advice, but with everyone I meet – to not waste one second worrying about whether they might judge me, but to concentrate on being kindly, open, and loving.

Do you know what has happened? Everyone I meet is beautiful! I look at them until we make eye contact, and smile at them. Sometimes, people look surprised, but always, they smile back, and each smile reveals a unique personality that is usually hidden behind the work-a-day routine.

When I was little, and a squabble broke out among my siblings, one of the older kids would look sanctimoniously to heaven and sweetly intone, “Uuuubi caritaaaaas, est veraaaaa, est veraaaaaa, Deus tibi est, Deus tibi est” – Where true charity is, there is God. 

A tiny bit of charity goes a long way. It is revolutionary; it’s divine.

Another amazing “little” saint


That is a tau, not a “T”; sorry if that was confusing.

It is said that St. Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men . . . He only saw the image of God multiplied but never monotonous . . .from the Pope to the beggar, from the sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those burning brown eyes without being certain that Francis Bernardone was really interested in him; in his own inner individual life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was being valued and taken seriously, and not merely added to the spoils of some social policy. . .

But as St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ. Say, if you think so, that he was a lunatic loving an imaginary person; but an imaginary person, not an imaginary idea . . .To this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love affair.

Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi – two great “little” saints in one week!  And happy name day to Pope Francis!

The above is from G. K. Chesterton’s book St. Francis of Assisi.  You’ve never read it?  Oh, go read it read it read it!

Thoughts from a “little” saint

‘Remaining little’ means – to recognize one’s nothingness, to await everything from the Goodness of God, to avoid being too much troubled at our faults; finally, not to worry over amassing spiritual riches, not to be solicitous about anything . . .

My patrons and my special favorites in Heaven are those who, so to speak, stole it, such as the Holy Innocents and the Good Thief.  The great Saints won it by their works; I wish to be like the thieves and to win it by stratagem – a stratagem of love which will open its gates both to me and to poor sinners.  In the Book of Proverbs the Holy Ghost encourages me, for He says; ‘Come to me, little one, to learn subtlety.’

See, St. Therese would like ninjas!  Provided they were holy ninjas.  Happy feast of St. Therese of Lisieux.  You can download St. Therese’s Story of a Soul for free from the internet; the text is here, and an audio version is here.

To be just

This is what the Lord asks of youonly this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.

I have long loved this verse.  So simple and beautiful.  Today, as I recalled it, for the first time I thought: and so hard!

Maybe I can start with the end part, walk humbly with your God, and work backward.