Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Why I Will Never Despair"

I usually don't pay much attention to what's trending at Twitter, but today I thought it would be fun to jump on a bandwagon. The hashtag #Forward2012 featured a lot of political stuff (my guess is the Obama campaign, or something, is responsible for promoting it). I don't have much of a stomach for politics. My thoughts immediately turned to Psalm 146:3, which is (approximately) what I tweeted with the trending hashtag: "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save."

Mark Shea alludes to this passage a lot when he talks politics and government. It's always a tonic to see those words when I'm at his blog. And if Elizabeth Scalia doesn't actually cite it, she frequently aligns with it in the tone of her posts. She consciously refuses to get bogged down by the political-cultural morass of an election year, entrusting with hope the process, and its results, to God.

Today, as the Anchoress shared a little witticism about last night's Democratic National Convention, she gives an example of this.
God’s ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts, and we do well to remember that, every day, in every situation. God’s view is the longview, which we are not privy to.
Which is precisely why I will never despair; even if it all “goes wrong” I will never entertain the notion that God’s hand has gone missing in anything, or that a greater purpose than we can imagine is behind so much that confounds us. And because I will not entertain that notion, I will never fall into the trap of thinking that our own efforts, alone, will be the ultimate solution to anything.
It is very easy for me to fall into that trap, or rather to the trap that because it depends on our efforts, all is doomed. Which is why I like to read Mark and Lizzie; they remind me to pray, which is probably the most necessary and effective thing I can do.

And then she gives us something to reflection on, concerning the tense issue of religious freedom in our country these days.  It may seem rather less than hopeful, although Christians know better if they come at it the right way: the 16 Martyrs of the Carmel of Compiegne during the French Revolution, executed for their fidelity to their vocations. 
The silence was broken only by the singing of the sisters as they chanted the hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus." One by one, the sisters made their way to the guillotine, youngest to oldest, each sister pausing to kneel before the Prioress, asking "Permission to die Mother." To which the Mother Superior responded, "Go, my daughter." The state had ordered their deaths, but their final act of obedience was not to the state, but to their mother in religious life.

The Mother Superior was the last to be killed.


The revolutionary government of France fell ten days after the execution of the sisters.
Read it all.

Jesus said, "Do not resist an evil person," and he himself was the lamb led to slaughter, opening not his mouth against it. These sisters obeyed and imitated their savior, their eyes so fixed on God that they seemed to have hardly even a glance to spare at their own oppression. It is wondrous to me that in their surrender to evil, they were instrumental in bringing it down--just like Jesus. What a profound mystery the Cross is!

I wonder if any of the Carmelite martyrs trembled in their hearts at the sight of the guillotine. I do not imagine that every martyr-saint passed from this life to the next in total serenity. Surely many feared death--they just trusted God more. This is the witness we are called to be in this world, and the confidence God asks of us. Even if I am never called to a literal, bodily death, I can make myself a living sacrifice by being faithful to the Church, and to what she teaches, and eschewing fear and anxiety, even in the face of real threats.

St. Catherine of Siena said, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." These sisters inspire me to see that I can transform the world just by living out the life to which I am called, and trusting God's hand in everything.

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