As Lent ends, we strive to embody devotion, love, and self-sacrifice, signs of light and peace everywhere we pass, such that we become as grains that in dying give birth a hundredfold.
There’s a saying that religion is what you have left when the Holy Spirit leaves. It’s obviously a cynical remark, and an exaggeration: practiced well, and from the heart, nothing leads to deeper, richer spirituality than the proper devout practice of religion (see, Catholicism).
But the point is well taken: Too often, religion is approached so mechanically or begrudgingly that the Holy Spirit is not in evidence.
There’s a disconnect between the person — the congregation, even a diocese — and the supernatural.
Often it’s caused by intellectual pretension — those who, as it says in Scripture, practice the form of religion but not the Spirit thereof.
This is because they substitute the rules and traditions and interests of Man for those of the Lord Jesus. Take a look at the pews and, too often, their emptiness since the 1960s. This emptiness is also in souls.
Why has the Holy Spirit been left out so often, including by our clerics? Why is there a breach between religion and the mystical — such that anything mystical is almost automatically dismissed as gullibility and superstition?
In a word, the problem is “modernism” — which by its very definition pits the intellect against the spirit and often bears umbrage toward any claim of the supernatural: anything it can’t control. Such is our hubris!
“Pray and fight against temptation and all the evil plans that the devil offers you through modernism,” the Virgin has said (in this case, Medjugorje).
There it is, in a few short words.
And while, no doubt, private revelations can be deceptive and even dangerous — good reason for a certain level of Church caution — no wonder, with the dominance of modernism, that apparitions and miracles and prophecy in general have such a hard time, even healing and exorcism. Modernism is anti-miraculous. It is empirical. It wants only physical cause for physical effect (which of course Christ proved wrong through His Life and especially upon resurrection).
In fact there are even messages from Mary that say things such as, “Many hearts have shut themselves to Grace and become deaf to my call” and “I am with [humanity] so long because you are on the wrong path.”
Is there really anything so wrong with modernism? What about visible representations of it, in religious things such as abstract art? How about modernistic architecture?
There are certainly exceptions — abstract, “modern” art that can evoke spirituality in certain instances, as perhaps can the strange new forms of architecture.
But for the most part they present a disjointed, distorted, and disorienting rendition of what is on earth and beyond it and thus cause a rupture with Grace.
Maybe it’s simply a matter of taste. For some, a great work it may be, while for others the depiction does little to enhance devotion; it doesn’t bring them anywhere near Calvary. (Can we really use it during the Stations of the Cross?)
The view from here: for the main part, modernism is arid; it has vacancy because it centers on man; it is popular among those who extol the achievements of humans (including artwork) and not the wonders of Him; it is living for this world and only this world and trying to have the most “toys” and intellectual exhibition in the end.
“Every man naturally desires knowledge,” wrote Thomas a Kempis. “But what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars.
“Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.”
It’s the result, the push against the spiritual, as Mother Angelica of television renown once told us, of shepherds who don’t pray enough and thus don’t believe enough.
Prayer and fasting lift blinders for us all (and we are all blind at various junctures, none of us without fault).
“With the Cross in your hands pray that evil will not use and conquer you,” says Mary — at an (“alleged”) apparition.
The real Cross. The real Crucifix.
“Open yourselves to prayer until it becomes a joy for you,” she has said.
“Sin is pulling you toward worldly things and I have come to lead you to holiness and things of God, but you are struggling and spending your energies on the battle between good and evil that is in you.
Therefore pray, pray, pray, until prayer becomes a joy for you and you will walk the simple path toward God.”
“Dear children, I desire to thank you from my heart,” said Mary, “for your Lenten renunciations.”
“Prayer works miracles in you and through you.”
“Speak less and work more on your personal conversion.”
We drown in technology.
“Only in prayer will you be close to myself and my Son, and you will see that in your heart a desire for Heaven will be born. Joy will begin to rule in your heart.”
She warned that the world is “further from God every day” and at the devil’s behest “destroys everything that is beautiful and good in the souls of each of you.”
Many have heard her call, she has said, but there are an “enormous number” who have been deaf to it; in this camp are often those who have strayed into modernism, and intellection: human knowledge over true and holy inspiration.
Prayer and fasting transcend the world. They bring us to what we touch in viewing Michelangelo, as opposed to de Koonis.
“Put Sacred Scripture in a visible place in your home and read it. In this way, you will come to know prayer with the heart and your thoughts will be on God,” says Mary. “You forget that you are passing like a flower in the field, which is visible from afar but disappears in a moment. Yearn for eternal life. Little children, leave a sign of goodness and love wherever you pass and God will bless you with an abundance of His blessings. I desire for each of you to fall in love with eternal life, which is your future.” Invest in God and you never lose “interest.”
As Pope Francis said during his recent trip to Mexico, “Prayer enlarges our heart and prepares it to receive God’s gifts. Prayer illumines our eyes to be able to see others the way God sees them, to love as God loves.”
Hygiene of the soul brings clarity to the eye. Few things cleanse as does fasting. With prayer and fasting, said the Blessed Mother, we can fend off “every attack from Satan.” It is a time, these last days of Lent, to clean ourselves up.
Find riches in following His Way of the Cross, instead of the way of the world; there is wealth in poverty while earthly wealth is empty.
Those who are poor of this earth in terms of ego (a good poverty indeed) find their riches in Heaven, while the egoist with cash sees a treasure that lasts only during the time on this earth; everything material is a cinder, an ash, in the making; wealth turns to dust. So does the body.
No matter how we dress — and for that matter, no matter how and what we paint — we are all and always naked before God.
[resources: The God of Miracles]
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