Saturday, September 8, 2012

Putting It On the Line

If the misery of contemporary man is his increasing disintegration into mere bios and mere rationality, Marian piety could work against this ‘decomposition’ and help man to rediscover unity in the center, from the heart.

Mary, the Church at the Source, 36

Reflection – Happy Feast Day! Another Marian feast rolls around today, the Birth of Mary. Of course we do not know Mary’s actual birthday, and this feast simply commemorates this event, this beautiful appearance on earth of the pure one, the immaculate one who is to be God’s mother, who is to be the instrument by which God’s awesome plan is realized.

In Madonna House, as in many communities, it is also the day when we receive new applicants, new candidates beginning their period of discernment and formation for the vocation. And so at supper tonight three women will be received in a simple ceremony as ‘staff worker applicants’ to Madonna House.

This brings us to the quote from Ratzinger above. Vocation is a matter of unity in the center, from the heart. There is so much fragmentation in the world, and it takes many forms. Certainly what Ratzinger describes above is at the heart of much of it: we are merely, in secular modernity, clever apes, physical creatures bounded by the laws of the animality and biology, but with these strange intellects empowering us to ever greater feats of abstraction and invention.

In such a picture, there is no coherent realization of the human person. We simply are one or the other—‘sentient bags of meat’, in that charming phrase popular among the new atheists, or ‘artificial intelligences’ floating in a increasingly digital and cybernetic world, and increasingly part of and subsumed to that world. The Borg are coming, and you will be assimilated!

And so we have Mary. Her mind completely ordered to faith in God; her will completely ordered to obedience to God; her body completely given over to give flesh to the Word. And so the highest Reality—God Himself—and the lowest reality—the level of matter—become one. Disintegration and fragmentation give way to a depth of unity that surpasses our wildest hopes.

And so it goes with us, when we embrace the vocation God gives us. When our minds and hearts choose the path of the obedience of faith, and we put our bodies on the line by making a commitment to a way of life. This is how we enter this Marian unity of person.

And commitment is crucial in this. In our bodies we are temporal creatures, crawling along the face of history like little ants, moving from one ‘now’ to the other. In our minds we can stand apart from this movement to some degree, through memory and imagination, and so we can choose to dispose of our temporal being, our future, here and now.

And so we commit ourselves to a life. We entrust our future to God, and in this entrustment we are giving him our bodies, so that the Word can become flesh in us. This is so crucial. The deep struggle of so many young people, especially young men, to commit to any permanent way of life, while it is understandable and worthy of nothing but our compassion, is a tragic one. What is lost is immeasurable—the capacity of the person to fully bring forth in his or her flesh the word of God.

So we have Mary, and in her example, prayers, and motherly help we have a powerful advocate to help us get out of that fragmented life. So do something nice today to celebrate the feast, and pray for our new applicants, and all who God is calling to follow Him in consecrated life of any kind.


  1. Father Denis,
    Happy Feast!
    God does, indeed, have a plan for each of us!
    But, I do not think all the plans are the same...nor do they all include the same commitment to a particular mandate. Look at Catherine married, single parent, married again and then celibate.
    All that God asks is that we allow him to love us and then love him and each other in the same way.
    I do not understand your view... But bless you anyhow...

    1. Yes, life does have its twists and turns, and Catherine is Exhibit A of that... but what I'm talking about is the all too common (trust me!) reality of young people truly frozen and unable to make any commitment. Catherine never held back from any commitment - marriage, motherhood, lay apostolate. etc...
      Of course all our lives are different and God's plans vary for all of us... but I will insist that life commitment of some kind is the norm for a committed Christian witness in the world.


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