Let not your imperfections discourage you; your God does not despise you because you are imperfect and infirm. On the contrary, he loves you because you desire to cure your ills. He will come to your assistance and make you more perfect than you would have dared to hope, and adorned by his Hand, your beauty will be unequalled, like his own goodness.
Louis de Blois OSB (1506–1566)
Goodness is essentially diffusive, it attracts, it gives itself to vivify us and to enrich us spiritually. This is especially true of the radiating goodness of God and of His Christ. In Communion, the Saviour draws us and gives Himself, not only to humanity in general, but to each one of us if we wish it, and in an ever more intimate manner if we are faithful.
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1877–1964)
It’s nice to hear stories about how the saints interacted with one another. Sometimes they do so as friends, sometimes as colleagues (in agreement or in disagreement), sometimes indeed as superiors and inferiors in life or in the work of God. One example of the latter is Saint Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorists, and Saint Gerard, one of the first lay brothers in that congregation.
While under investigation for a crime he did not commit (and while being unjustly punished for it), Saint Gerard lived in the same house as his order’s founder. When walking along the corridor, they once ran into one another. Gerard paused and then said to Saint Alphonsus, his rector: “Your face is like the face of an angel. Every time I see it, I am consoled.”
(We can smile upon hearing this, I think!)
All in all this is rather the same thing they said of Saint Stephen, the first martyr: “And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). This inspires love in some, hatred in others. For Saint Gerard seeing Saint Alphonsus, he loved the holiness; for those who looked on Saint Stephen, they were agitated and fearful in their hearts. But no matter whether are hearts are disposed to love the good or to hate it, what we have, at the core, is the very transfiguration of the body – the taking up of the flesh deeper into the human spirit, animated more and more by the Holy Spirit.
Regular readers may be familiar with the fact that this blog seems to ignore most issues in world politics, Catholic politics, world news, Catholic news, and so on. I don’t think this is unintentional. But at the same time, I have difficulty explaining what that intention is.
I have always had a problem with major sources of news, and I honestly can’t understand why people, especially Christians, would soak up such sources of information. I have difficulty explaining why I feel this way. It’s instinctual. It’s not that I think people should be uninformed. Rather, I tend to think people should be informed – but so much of our “news” isn’t informative; it’s propaganda, or it’s negative, misinformative, and disinformative.
Yet I see Catholics swallowing it in by the truck load. The blogosphere is full of it. (Just how many Catholic bloggers identify as conservative, for example? How many Catholic bloggers speak ill of other human beings instead of targeting manners to change policies and change, with actual charity united to justice, hearts?)
I really don’t understand why it’s appealing to listen to the gossip about celebrities and to hotly debate which political evil is lesser. What does that have to do with the Gospel? Now, I don’t mean that the Gospel is “otherworldly” and is entirely separate form the affairs of this world. Quite the contrary. The Gospel says everything for this world. But what I don’t get is why the framing of information as pro-ThisParty and anti-ThatParty (and so on) has any appeal to the contemplative Catholic – or, for that matter, any Catholic who aims to contemplate the Lord, whether contemplative yet or not.
I found a lovely passage about this in an address given by Blessed Titus Brandsma (1881–1942) to a Catholic journalists’ association in the Netherlands. Even though a Carmelite and thus devoted primarily to contemplation, Titus himself had spent a lot of time in informal journalism; in fact, he died, at the hands of the Nazis, for his efforts in journalism and education. Here’s what Blessed Titus says:
As Catholic journalists we must consistently keep in the foreground that which is positive and constructive. For us that is the only way – since it is the divinely willed way – to serve the Catholic cause. In the second place, we Catholic journalists must hold high the virtue of love. That too is the will of our good Lord. That love must come through in the tone we strike, the irenic [peacemaking] tone of the Catholic press.
That is what political responsibility of journalists and information-providers was for Titus Brandsma. And he was resisting the Nazis. It gives pause to think. Why are we eating up news that fills us with suspicion, hate, anger, and destructive emotions? Do we really think we face any greater enemies that Blessed Titus? If so, do we want to tell that to Christ at our judgment? If not, then we should take the words of this martyr to heart: “[W]e must consistently keep in the foreground that which is positive and constructive. For us that is the only way – since it is the divinely willed way – to serve the Catholic cause.” All our words must be irenic, that is, must make peace. If not, they do not serve the cause of the Gospel. They can become weapons of the real enemy, who is not flesh and bone. Keep focused on the positive, the constructive, the irenic.
Of course, this perspective is not totally surprising. We could have guessed it. Usually when we realize something true “on our own,” we find it later in Scripture. It pops out and meets us as we read the Word of God, and we say, “Yes, of course; thank you.” In this case, perhaps it’s all rather as Saint Paul saw it:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8).
If we wish to think of God – who is truth, honour, justice, purity, excellence, and goodness themselves – then we must make an effort to extend that into every nook and cranny of our lives, including (but not limited to) our information-gathering and our opinion-forming about our lives and the world at large. If we don’t make such an effort, how can we expect God to come and visit us? He surely will come. We don’t have to do much (for we are weak). But we must intend it. We really must – even as regards positive, constructive, irenic focus in news, information-gathering, and opinion-forming.