Beautiful Feet

At the shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni in Medan, Indonesia

In today’s readings at Mass (Latin Rite), Saint Paul tells us about those who bring good news:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Rom 10:14–15)

Now, there are two ways of reflecting on this teaching that have a contemplative angle to them: by which I mean, two ways in which the themes of contemplation are manifest.

The first concerns the missionary dimension of contemplation. The effects of contemplation overflow onto our action. In another sense, all our action is taken up into contemplation, just as Saint Hildegard teaches, in conformity with the Catholic tradition, that the body is in the soul (and not the soul in the body). So when we are sent, just going about our daily tasks, we have “beautiful feet”; in the measure that we are in Christ, even when we consciously do nothing and when we do not use our words, we have those feet that thread a path and spread Christ’s peace unconsciously.

The second angle is whether Saint Paul is talking about the progress in the spiritual journey itself. We could ask: How are they to call on one when they have not believed? – How are they to rest in the simplicity of contemplation continually, taking the action of body up into the soul where God dwells especially – and that especially in the highest parts of the soul, where all is more one? And how are they to hear without having heard? – And how are they to contemplate, if they have not meditated and built the bridges of friendships which they could, before allowing God to fix the final joints? And how are they to hear unless it is proclaimed? – And how are they to meditate unless they are taught the mysteries of faith upon which to meditate? And how are they to proclaim unless they are sent? – And how can they be taught unless there is a teacher? Saint Paul’s reflection is a reflection on the spiritual journey also. Contemplation, the personal spiritual journey: it is all encapsulated in the Church, our neighbours, those who speak and guide and lead and inspire. For there is no other normal path than this.

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Why Saints?

At the shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni in Medan, Indonesia

The saints do not need our honours and devotion. Evidently, then, our commemoration of them aids us, not them. For my part, I confess that I am inflamed with desire when I remember them: First, to enjoy their society and become their fellow citizens and companions… The saints want our company, and we disdain them! … Second, that Christ our Life should appear to us as he did to them.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

No Precept More Lovable

At the Shrine of Mary (Annai Velangkanni) in Medan, Sumatra, IndonesiaNo precept could be more lovable. For this sacrament of the altar begets love and unity. Is it not the greatest proof of divine love that Christ gives himself as food? It is as though he were saying, “I love them so much, and them me, that I want to be within them, and they want to receive me so as to be one body with me.”
Saint Albert the Great

“But Take Courage: I Have Conquered the World”

At the Shrine of Mary Velangkanni in Medan, Sumatra, IndonesiaToday in the Mass readings for the Latin Rite, we hear Jesus tell his disciples: “I have said this to you, so that in me you have have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage: I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33).

The Paschal context of this statement of Jesus’ lends itself to much depth and, consequently, many complementary (and not contradictory) understandings.

Christ was going to his death: He knows these persecutions, darknesses, and hardships.

Christ mentioned “the world”: He knows this ambivalent reality, with its good and its bad; and in all of it, he has conquered.

Christ mentioned that the Father was always with him: He is always in communion with his Father and their Spirit, and the Holy Three are always waiting to be in communion with us.

Christ was instituting the Eucharist: He is present in the sacrament of the altar, and he wills to make us (all of us) his Body.

In all this, Christ’s itinerary was Paschal: He begins with the world’s sadnesses and converts them, by some divine alchemy, into something good, something joyful, something full of more hope than we ever imagined before the trouble, danger, and unbearable darkness came. Courage and confidence in God are not ill placed. They are placed exactly where they can never fail.

Eucharistic Contemplation

At the Shrine of Mary (Annai Velangkanni) in Medan, Sumatra, IndonesiaTo ask for the grace of Christian contemplation is to ask that the bandage of pride, which still covers the eyes of the spirit, may fall away completely in order that we may be able to truly penetrate and taste the great mysteries of salvation: that of the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated by the Mass, that of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the food of our soul.
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1877–1964)

Intimate Aridity

At the shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

By means of spiritual aridity, God unites Himself intimately with the souls He loves in an especial manner… we see the milk of consolations give place to the more substantial food of afflictions; and this it is that enables them to bear the burden of the cross on their journey to Calvary’s Mount.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Delicately and Without Coercion

At the shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni in Medan, Indonesia

How should we correct others? How should we show them virtue? How should we speak to them about the truth? Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of Love, writes to his friend Saint Jane Frances de Chantal,

As much as possible, we must touch the hearts of others as do the angels: delicately and without coercion.

How is this possible? We’re not angels! No, but we are spiritual creatures, too: a bit ruder a rougher than the angels, but definitely spiritual creatures as well. The greatest power we have is spiritual. This power can always be gentle, for it is spiritual. It can even be silent and unseen, or almost silent and almost unseen; but it remains real. There are good effects that the saints call diffusive and which are a bit like contagious imprints, impressing goodness on souls by the mere presence and receptivity of souls. Although seemingly hidden, this is the most prevalent way in which we can act on the world: by the natural and humanly uncalculated diffusion of goodness, contemplation, peace, truth, love, the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

This is one of those many reasons that being contemplative in the midst of the everyday is open to us and indeed asked of us: the reason of hope to effect change in the world when all is hopeless.