Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memento mori

Sometimes, while lying in bed, I meditate on death, my own death. It is not really an intentional act, it kind of comes upon me unbidden, especially when I wake up on those mornings and still feel really tired. What I see and feel are pretty explicit and not fanciful in the least. It used to bother and disturb me, but I have come to see that confronting my own mortality is necessary. In fact, I was listening to an interview with a journalist a year or so back. He traveled the world in order talk to people he had met and who struck him as being happy. I remember one man in Germany who said that he thought in order to be happy one needs to spend a few minutes each day remembering death. Each time we go to sleep is a little death and each morning a resurrection, a miracle in the form of the gift of another day, which is a grace.

In accordance with the fact that I will die someday, I must continue to die daily to myself, in the way my baptism and diaconal ordination bid me do.

Last night I attended the ordination of two deacons for our diocese. The Gospel reading had Jesus saying, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life" (St. John 12:24-25).

In his homily Bishop Wester said something that comforted me. In talking about how diaconal service is self-emptying, he said the deacon must forgo many pleasures and give up aspirations in order to serve. I needed very much to hear these words because I have been feeling a bit discouraged. It helps even more to hear them spoken by my bishop. These words also help me deal with my expectations about service and return on investment. Ministry does not operate according to the principles of market exchange. In the end, it is not the point of diaconal ministry for me get anything at all. Besides, if I have Christ I have everything. By the grace and mystery of God, I have Christ. Why me? I have no idea, except perhaps that God saw that if he can accomplish his work through me, given my weaknesses and limitations, his glory would shine through. After all, as the apostle wrote, "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" ( 2 Cor. 4:7). A point of serious Christian maturity is reached when you realize that you are Christ's presence in and for the world and that his light shines through the places you are broken.

Let's think about Mass in concrete terms. We receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he is in us, so to speak. After this we are sent forth, but sent forth to be his presence. Something mysterious happens when we grasp this- Christ's presence is more readily discerned in the people and circumstances we experience.

I am posting an early traditio by Jars of Clay, their song Jealous Kind. I love this song and album very much. When I bought it several years ago, as I am wont to do, I listened to it in order to absorb it.

While I am on the subject of gifts, I did not know until yesterday that America magazine, the premiere Catholic periodical in this country, because this year is their centennial year, is giving away free access to all on-line content during May and June. This is truly a great gift. I urge you to avail yourselves. Registration is required, but can be done very quickly. I have subscribed for quite a few years now and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.


  1. Just so you know, you have been a huge help, a good friend, and a great influence to me. You mention not having a 'return on investment'....and I apologize if I misunderstand what you mean by this.... but I wonder how many lives you have touched that you are unaware of.
    I remember something that happened years ago that really opened my eyes to my moms influence on others. She was a teacher all her career and after retiring a former student came to our door. She had grown up and had a career. She took the time to travel and let my mom know just what an affect she had had on her life so far. I thought it was awesome of her to do that, and it really touched my mom. I think your return may be much greater than you may realize!

  2. Well friend, you are in my prayers.

    And, I ditto what David said. :)