Friday, August 15, 2014

"She is our model and our hope"

Our Lady was assumed into Heaven in body and soul at the end of the course of her earthly life. "A great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve star." It is an incredible mystery. We have no relics of the body of the Blessed Virgin, few second-class relics from the clothes that she wore, and of course no third-class relics, since there was no body of hers to touch. It should be noted that one relic that is venerated is her belt, which came to the Apostle Thomas at the time of her Assumption. (I can't find the blog post where I first read about that...but the gist is that it rather mirrors the behavior of the Apostles at the Resurrection!).

Father Ray Blake writes:
She already enjoys the fullness of what we hope for at the 'consummation of the ages'. Our hope is what we say in our funeral rites, 'In my flesh I shall see God', 'I shall behold him face to face'... If we are truly Christian we need to have a Chris-tlike devotion to His Blessed Mother. It needs to be founded not on the saccharine, touchy-feelingness of much modern 'charismatic' devotion but on basic Christian teaching of death, judgement, heaven and hell and on above all a true understanding of what Christ has accomplished for us, especially by His Saving Death and Glorious Resurrection, for what Mary enjoys now is what we are called to enjoy after the Consummation of the Ages, when God's Holy Will is accomplished, for She is our model and our hope, and the fulfillment of God's will.
Liturgically this is reflected in the chant. Prior to 1950 and also since 1974 with the revised Graduale Romanum the Introit of the day is Gaudeamus, a composed chant, i.e. one of the few that is not from Scripture.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino diem festum celebrantes in honorem beatae Mariae Virginis,
de cujus Assumptione gaudent Angeliet collaudant Archangeli Filium Dei. Let us all rejoice in the Lord celebrating the feast in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in whose assumption the angels rejoice, while the Archangels praise the Son of God.

It's  a very simple chant. Strikingly, the more important the feast, the simpler the chant. The Introit iSuscempimus Deus for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (reassigned to the 14th Sunday per annum ) which begins with the same melody and is in the same mode, mode I. But there is much more ornamentation along the way. The ending is quite melismatic, which is appropriate since it should be sung when the celebrant approaches the altar for the prayers at the foot of the altar.

Of course there are more notes (and interpretive marks-"signs") for the important words in Gaudeamus. For instance, Assumptione is emphasized since it is the feast celebrated. But the chant moves along more quickly, and it sounds as it should be more quickly. When Suscepimus Deus is sung quickly, it sounds like one does the text an injustice. But that is the opposite case for the Gaudeamus.

The reality of death, judgment, Heaven and Hell, the Incarnation of the Logos for the redemption of the world is above human comprehension. We can understand it with the aid of the Holy Spirit, but its entirety escapes us. We see this in the Gospel tones; the long and melismatic Alleluias are followed by a very simple chant for the text. Chanting by the way elevates the Word, showing its true dignity as the revelation of God's very self so that we might be with Him in the Trinity, living eternally.

 For what it is worth, Pope Pius XII didn't really have to change the propers and readings after his dogmatic declaration of the Assumption in 1950. I'm not sure why they lacked mention of Revelation 12:1 beforehand (I feel a medieval history paper on that verse, the doctrine, and Marian devotion in medieval liturgy and piety), but the future changes really don't make much sense as far as emphasizing the dogma goes, nor do the chants work as well. And why must the Psalm verse be Cantate dominio? Its use did not need to be expanded! That is not to say that Signum magnum isn't beautiful, for it is, but that Gaudeamus has a special place in my heart

Here is the chant sung according to the markings presented in the Einsideln manuscripts.


For another musical treat, here is the setting of the Ave Maris Stella by Hans Leo Hassler.


Let us celebrate the life of Our Lady and its conclusion, striving to follow her heart, so that we might come ever closer to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, her son eternally begotten of the Father and incarnate temporally for the redemption of the world. Let us fly to her, our mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope who intercedes for us as Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix before her Son sitting at the Father's right hand so that we might come to love God for God is love and whoever is in love remains in God and God in him.

Monday, August 4, 2014

LMS Video on Worship Ad Orientem

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has released another video on a liturgical topic. Dr. Joseph Shaw, the chairman of the LMS, discusses worship towards the east, or ad orientem, which is the traditional posture for Christian worship for well over a millennium and a half. Perhaps I'm going out on a limb, but the importance of facing east (and of the priest and the congregation facing the same direction in ideal circumstances) is so ingrained in both the West and the East that the practice probably has roots in the apostolic liturgical practices handed down to the apostolic Fathers, e.g. St. Polycarp and their successors and so on and so forth.

The eschatological dimension is perhaps the most important. The Christian people await the coming of the Lord at the end of time and also the consecration to come upon the altar during that same celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Indeed, the Fathers believed that the Lord would come again at the end of time during the celebration of the Eucharist. It is awaiting the Resurrected Lord, a true celebration of the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ our Lord and God.

It also places the role of the priest into context. The true and eternal high priest is Jesus Christ, our Lord, who gave the perfect sacrifice to the Father upon the Cross, and He instituted the Eucharist on the day before He was to suffer upon that same cross, handing over his Body and Blood for our salvation and so that He might truly remain always with us and so that we might eat the Bread of Life and receive eternal life. Only by the sanctifying Spirit does the priest at the altar offer the same pure victim, the same holy victim, the same spotless victim.

At the same time, he truly offers himself upon the altar, for the Lord said to "do this in memory of me." It would seem that the Mass only makes sense if the priest is acting as the second Christ, "doing this" as He commanded His Apostles.

The true form of Christian worship is that of sacrifice and thanksgiving. Joseph Ratzinger explains this fantastically well in Introduction to Christianity. I would read that alongside The Spirit of the Liturgy.


The eschatological dimension to the Mass of all ages is rather counter-intuitive, considering the narrative promoted by those who support the liturgical reforms of Pope Paul VI. They say the Mass is more centered on the entirety of the Paschal Mystery, rather than simply the Crucifixion. Well, the point might be taken that the collects have a broader dimension, but there is something to be said for asking God for effects in the here and now in our struggles, our travails, our sins as we look right at this moment towards eternity (and remember that grace and redemption is in the fullness of time...otherwise the Cross could have no saving merits for us today), especially in the Holy Mass, which is but on the edge of the beatific vision. The usus antiquior is also more centered on the entirety of the Paschal Mystery in the peculiarities that developed with a rich symbolism attached. One can find symbolism in the gestures in the Mass and on several levels, and they correspond to the Paschal Mystery (including the individual events of the Passion). One that boggles the mind of the reformers is the seeming irrationality of the blessing following the dismissal. I'm not an expert, so I can't tell you how long the Ite, Missa est has preceded the blessing, but I think it should be left alone...and not only because my gut tells me it was not a late mistake. The symbolism is stripped away in the usus recentior with the reversal of the rituals. In the older rite, it is seen as Our Lord sending out the disciples to go forth, and baptize all the nations, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit before He ascended to the right hand of the Father. The blessing by the priest is the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And of course, the Last Gospel is the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles on that holy day. Because of a desire for simplicity driven by a hyper-rationality, all of that was stripped away.

There is another element to worship towards the east which runs counter to the popular way of thinking. The priest is properly clericalized by supporters of this practice (my biggest peeve with this video is that it fails to mention that one can and ought to celebrate the Novus Ordo this way), and indeed, of the traditional Roman liturgy. He is acting in persona Christi. He offers prayer at the head of and for the congregation, and indeed, as a fellow Christian. Yes, he is set aside as a priest in the line of Melchizedek to offer sacrifice, but he is still a sinner in need of grace and the blessings of the Lord. On the other hand, it is often impossible to escape the closed circle of worship which improperly clericalizes the priest when the Mass is said facing the people. He is at the center of attention, whether he relishes in it or not.

It is hard to turn towards the Lord, which must be done in all Christian worship. Ratzinger suggested, and implemented in papal liturgical practice, the use of a crucifix to facilitate this in places where worshiping ad orientem could not occur for various reasons or where its meaning was obscured, such as his own church of St. Peter's Basilica, for the Pope says Mass on the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles while facing geographic east and accidentally the people. Go figure, the people who complained about the crucifix blocking the visual sight of the priest were also unable to understand or did not care this was not (certain Roman churches aside) the ideal arrangement. It was to facilitate the transition to worship ad orientem. And as I was told at the Colloquium, it is argued that we should be able to see what the priest does. Well, they have stripped out the ancient signs of the Cross and the reverences towards the Sacrament, so there really isn't much to see. Besides, there is a level on which our senses must be deprived physically for the greatest mystery is being unfolded upon the altar, and it is a supernatural one. We come to the altar in faith, knowing that we cannot understand and will not understand it all. So why should we approach the Eucharistic rites in the opposite manner (or appear to do so). Why not let faith supply for the defects of the senses?

Here's the video:


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Use of the Altar Frontal

I have mentioned St. Louis Bertrand before, which is the parish church in Louisville entrusted to the Order of Preachers. It is built in a neo-Gothic style, and the original altar is placed under a baldachin that matches the choir stalls, the secondary sanctuary rail, and the paneling across the apse. For better or worse (I leave that to your own conclusions), the church has a contemporary altar placed in front of the high altar to facilitate worship versus populum. It's made of stone or concrete, and I believe it is a mensa placed on four columns, so when there is no covering, one sees the floor going back to the high altar when looking under the table

Several years ago, Shawn Tribe wrote an excellent post at New Liturgical Movement on altar frontals, or antependia, which I borrow from liberally from here on out. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety. (He's posted several more, which you can find via Googling "New Liturgical Movement antependia" or something similar.)

The altar at SLB is usually is covered to the floor, in what we call a "Laudian style," commonly found in Anglican parishes and nowadays in Catholic parishes to cover their "table altars" (all altars are technically tables...but these are the ones that do not vary much from something made by IKEA...). If you hear me in conversation, I'll let it be known that I'm consciously avoiding terms that are overly sarcastic...anyways, I find that the cuts of these are usually done poorly. Shawn agrees. They generally are not very neat and elegant, and bizarrely, I have seen oval-shaped altar frontals made for rectangular altars. They were made with cloths with very nice and dignified patterns, so it is rather absurd that someone cut it in the incorrect shape.

Here is an example from the post. You'll notice that there is a large volume of material hanging around the edge of the altar. In Catholic practice, they are definitely conceived for usage at altars where Mass is said facing the people, and I don't think we'll ever see them used in restored or even better unmodified cathedral churches with free-standing altars such as Westminster Cathedral  in London or St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Let's not concentrate on the odd image of the cross and details like that. They happen to be ideologically connected to the usage of this style, but one could make them in other materials and with other embroidery that was not so objectionable.

I was pleased to see a Roman style frontal in use on several occasions. I apologize for the poor lighting in the church; the lights are dimmed right after Mass and the flash on my phone is poor.

whtrmfIn my opinion, it's very well done as an individual piece. This style actually would look very splendid on the altar at Guardian Angels, since Father Leger often wears silk damask Roman cut vestments from House of Hansen which have the IHS monogram in the middle and golden embroidery along the edges. The lines on this style of frontal visually blends very well with the Roman cut chasubles and their edge embroidery (not to toot my own horn, but I would definitely tell you if it didn't, since I tend to pick out the one or two details in something that clash aesthetically). Here is the picture from behind of none other than Father Zuhlsdorf modelling the vestments Father Leger has in the all the liturgical colors.

It's obvious that this altar is much narrower than the original altar in the background and so the frontal does appear compressed. While I spoke of it working also at Guardian Angels, I don't know about it matching any vestments held by the Dominicans. If it doesn't, oh well. It is a step in the right direction. The church also possesses a frontal in black with green trim, also in the Roman style, with cloths that cover the table with the offerings. I'm not so sure about the use of black with the green trim, firstly because it's black and secondly because I never have personally liked the use of green trim on black liturgical vestments and cloths, preferring gold and silver instead. But it's nice to see the use of cloths besides the chalice veil. Should one veil this and the credence table? I don't know, but it's a start. Ideally, one should cover the altar as a sign of the presence of Christ, the tabernacle for the same reason, the Missal stand and anywhere where the Word is proclaimed (ambo or lectern, even in the usus antiquior, but only where the book is placed), and the crucifix during Passiontide. One would also use them to cover the faldstool and the prie-dieu in Pontifical liturgies (I believe the throne as well). Everything ought to match, so some work and serious money would have to be raised, but it is completely do-able. For the liturgy, with careful budgeting, fundraising, and planning, money should be no obstacle. If something is needed, the Lord will guide you to the solution.

I love the Roman frontal, with its characteristic five short lines, for lack of a better word, with the two longer vertical lines and the horizontal line. With Gothic vestments, one might go for the frontals so commonly found in churches designed by men like Sir Ninian Comper, a leading architect of the last century in England. This is from St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, an "Anglo-Catholic" parish in NYC. Ignore the fact that nothing works. It's about the style of the frontal! So please, make sure the pattern matches the vestments without clashing with the apse, and nothing excludes a Roman style frontal if it would work better, or a Gothic if using the floral vestments common to southern Germany and Austria. One sees those used at Wigratzbad by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter quite often.

An example which bridges the styles and works splendidly in its space is the frontal from Keble College at the University of Oxford (coincidentally the alma mater of a former professor of mine, where he received a master's degree in ancient philosophy). This photograph was taken by my friend Father James Bradley and shared on NLM. It's rather a shame that this is an Anglican chapel...the same ought to be said about Pusey House, and oh for heaven's sake, the entire University of Oxford! Excluding St. Benet's Hall and Campion Hall, which are very much Roman Catholic, of course.

In time, I hope that these can be adopted for use in Christ the King chapel at Franciscan University as an alternative to the Laudian frontal and other methods of dressing the altar, especially when the Mass in the usus antiquior is celebrated. That requires a great deal of money, I know, especially since our chasubles are usually Low Mass sets that do not match each other, only the pieces in individual sets. It requires a great deal of perseverance as well, since people will need to be convinced.

But on that front, I leave you with a final piece by Dom Daniel Oppenheimer, the prior of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem that was on NLM. I completely agree with him here. We veil liturgical furnishings, for "in both the eastern and western Churches the altar has been the object of artistic embellishment for the sake of increasing faith regarding its holiness." I also agree that people who attend Mass according to the 1962 Missal need more formation, even more so sometimes than those who exclusively attend the Novus Ordo Missae, to avoid polemics that are poorly sourced and to get the Church as a whole moving on the right track again. It's a wonderful piece, and I'd like to follow this post with one on a local church that I visited in June that is on a similar note to the ones Monsignor Gamber describes in the selection quoted at the end of Dom Daniel's piece.


Deus, qui humanae substantiae...

The following prayer is recited as the water is poured into the chalice. This is actually done by the subdeacon at Solemn Mass in the usus antiquior as the priest blesses the water and recites the prayer. The prayer was abridged in the new rite, with the blessing omitted. It being the Collect for Christmas Day, the revisers of the new rite simplified the second half of that prayer (leaving the first part intact as in the old prayer at the admixture of water and wine) and then split it for its usage at the Offertory...

Latin:
Deus, + qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per huius aquae et vini mysterium, eius divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Iesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus: per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English:
O God, + Who, in creating human nature, didst wonderfully dignify it, and still more wonderfully restore it, grant that, by the Mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divine nature, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our human nature, Jesus Christ our Lord, Thy Son, Who with Thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: world without end. Amen.
One immediately notices that this has an eschatological element.  Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. And so it is with creation. God created the world in a state of journeying towards perfection. It was not perfect, but it was always directed towards its perfection in the fullness of time, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs very clearly. On that note, God always creates, redeems, and sanctifies. It is part of, for lack of a better phrasing, the divine substance that is shared by each hypostases of the Blessed Trinity, though it is very clear that aspects of those three are shown in particular ways by the Father (the creation of the world), the Son (redemption of humanity), and the Holy Spirit (sanctification by grace).

 Being that God is infinite, there is no best of all possible worlds, but rather each possibility has its own possible pitfalls and challenges not present in the others. Being also that God is wise above all powers and principalities, He created this world that we inhabit. Man can reason freely and come to know things through its intelligence, including of the existence of God. Persons can give to each other freely and fully for the good of the other, that is to say, they can love. No other creature can do this, and God thus gave Man dominion over the whole of creation.

This radical ability to love also means we can turn away from God, cutting off charity in our lives through mortal sin, and this was first done by Adam and Eve in their disobedience to God's command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But we are not Protestants who hold to the doctrine of total depravity. In fact, St. Paul explicitly rejects this idea in the epistle to the Philippians, as he says, "For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things." If the natural light of reason was injured at the Fall to the extent claimed by Protestants, I am not sure how St. Paul could say this outside of an explicit sacramental context (which Protestants tend to reject anyways). And knowing of the existence of the Creator is explained so well by the Angelic Doctor in his Five Ways.

As has been said before, this does not mean we can come into communion with the divine, that is, to know God, to share in the divine life of the Trinity or to even know of the Trinity, the interior life of God? It is impossible to infer the Trinity from creation. How can this tree be made by the Father, and this tree the Son, and this tree the Holy Spirit? It also requires a great deal of intelligence and time to come to correct understandings of what can be known in nature about God. Now, I should clarify what I mean by intelligence. Reason being what it is, these things are available to know by all men by virtue of being men. It is a rather Aristotelian framework. But there are men who have deeper gifts of intelligence than others, and more importantly, the Fall has injured the mind as well as the body, so it is harder for men to come to know of God correctly.

Thus God revealed Himself in words and deeds throughout human history, most especially through the Incarnation of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, to illuminate and guide men so that all men might know of His existence in a timely fashion without the admixture of error. That would be sufficient reason for God to reveal Scripture and Tradition to us, but in His graciousness, He redirected men to our supernatural end which is life in the mystery that is the eternal exchange of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The theological term is theosis or divinization, men becoming gods (or like gods...).

A poignant feature is that by this redirection, the Lord also made provision for man's restoration in the sight of God (righteousness!) and in fact, God elevated him above the state of original righteousness. Man is better off, fantastically so, in the state of grace in the New Covenant than he was in the Garden before the Fall.

I love this prayer. It points us to the perfect union of the divine and human wills present in the divine hypostasis, known dogmatically as the hypostatic union. This allowed for a man to atone to the Father for Man's sin, as Man alone was capable of near-infinite destruction (Ratzinger summarizes St. Anselm using infinite, but I'm not so sure about that) but very incapable of creation. Hence, God had to restore Man, but only in the form of the God-man, as God Himself could not die (though of course He did suffer and die, insofar as Jesus Christ is True God and True Man...). Perhaps "The solely divine hypostasis without any recourse to being human could not die for redemption" is a way to explain it. The wine by the consecration becomes for us the Blood of Christ, the chalice of the new and eternal testament, poured out for you and for many for the redemption of sin. The Precious Blood and Water flowed from the side of Christ as a fountain of mercy for us. That is the fountain of grace, and it truly is the birth of the Church. Man now had a means to follow the Law, that is to say, by grace.

The question I leave is: How is the Incarnation connected to the Messianic types? Obviously we know of the Incarnation from prophets of the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesies the Virgin Birth, etc. But how is it connected to sacrifice, immolation, and offering as shown in the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Love, Loss, and Gain

From The Four Loves:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness…We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it. What I know about love and believe about love and giving ones heart began in this.
 First, this lines up with Ratzinger's more theological definition of Hell, which one will find in Introduction to Christianity, in the sections on "He descended into Hell" and "He will come to judge the living and the dead." And it's remarkable that both these men explain it thus. I place it in light of twentieth-century philosophy, namely existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, for whom "Hell is other people." Goodness, no. Hell is, as Steven Greydanus (of Decent Films and the National Catholic Register) puts it, "Hell is other people."

Lewis and Ratzinger both went to great lengths to tell us that love is not self-sufficient, that it is utterly dependent on others.  It is about connecting to others, coming out of ourselves. Love is revealing ourselves through those connections, stripping ourselves to display all our faults and imperfections and allowing the other to accept them, so that by the grace of God we might grow in faith and hope and love, the greatest of these being love, so that, after the course of our earthly lives, we might share in the perfect love and goodness that is the life of the Holy Trinity.
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My use of the word "connect" comes from Sheldon Vanauken, the author whose memoir A Severe Mercy (originally subtitled A Pagan Love Invaded by Christ) moved me deeply when I first read it this past spring. Love might appear perfect, impenetrable, but by the very fact one has established it to be perfect, this "shining barrier" to all others must collapse. It must reveal its imperfections so that they might be stripped away, or at least recognized in the end of it all. As Lewis points out, one cannot truly lock love away, not at least until they are judged by the Almighty. Otherwise, the atheist would rid himself of doubt and would be able to place his unbelief above the belief persisting through doubt of the believer. (Again, I borrow from Ratzinger.) Otherwise, we would not suffer.

 Love is centered on sacrifice. Our Lord tells his apostles, "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." We must in time recognize that not only must we lift up our hearts and minds to the Lord, our wills must be immolated and replaced with the loving and merciful will of Our Lord. Not only must we offer them, we must immolate them. This means to destroy and replace (perhaps a calmer way to phrase it is complete conformity to the point where our will is His). It is a part of sacrifice, and of course to achieve this by frequenting the sacraments, especially that of the perfect and unbloody Sacrifice.

Ecce ancilla Domine. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. In order to become more like Christ, we must be like Our Lady throughout the course of her life, from the Annunciation to the foot of the Cross, following her son, whose will was obedient to the will of the Father, even unto death, death on a Cross! So ours as members of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ must be completely conformed to the will of the Spirit. It is as Our Lord prays in the Garden: "My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." And just as we pray admonished by His saving precepts and by divine instruction, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven...Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." I note the use of the word chalice, for it signifies the collection of the Blood offered for our redemption, the Blood that opened up grace and mercy, and to which we are washed in as our wills are cleansed, offered, and immolated.

When this happens, we realize how little we love the Lord, compared to how much we should love Him Who has been waiting in the tabernacle for twenty centuries, to paraphrase St. Josemaria Escriva. Others are placed above God, and we place barriers to them loving God. We fear God will lead them to push us out of their lives, when in truth we should rejoice that they love God more than us, and that one's love will be evermore perfected in this light.

A blogger has a fascinating set of letters from Vanauken written after his conversion to Catholicism, from where I have borrowed his point about connections. Do read A Severe Mercy. That will illuminate the points I just made.

I believe this is an adequate return to what I started on abandonment, which takes more forms than I was thinking of at the time. Indeed, that was about neglecting friends by circumstance. Now it is about loss and gain. It is also a continuation about what I wrote about the suffering of Christ. That was about impending death, when we have no longer any tangible grasp or power to influence someone's conversion, when they are at the point where we know only that he is under the mercy.

I do not believe heartbreak is always synonymous with rejection, in the sense that the person has tried one and found him or her wanting. Yes, sometimes, it is because people are immature or because people have come to not like the other person. Sometimes it is for the good of the persons involved, when it becomes clear that the Lord has other plans, other people for them laying in the shadows yet unseen. But the latter does not imply rejection on the basis of quality. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. The other is too good for the beloved one who must end things.

And then we in time will come to rest in His Merciful and Sacred Heart, sometimes, and beautifully, with the aid of another human person who has come to love us through the graces of sacrament of matrimony and through the mutual love towards one's family. Or sometimes with the grace of holy orders. But we must persevere unto the end. And by His grace alone we shall.