Once upon a time God wrote on a wall for a pagan king. “MENE TEKEL PERES.” It may be good to recall the interpretation of those words: “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians” (Dn 5:26–28). Today, on the walls of every nation, one can see and read the anger of God. The anger of God is really his mercy. But he is angry at us for shoving him away, for throwing him out of our world, for flaunting his laws. His anger is falling now upon us in many ways, national disasters of all kinds.
His anger also reveals us to ourselves. We see how much we kill, how much we hate, how much we are willing to batter others just to get our own way. We step on the heads of others just to climb a little higher ourselves. One night many years ago, realizing that prayer was needed, I entered my past. (I go to my past in order to discern the future.) Out of my past came the remembrance of the poustinia (a Russian word for desert). I wrote a book about it. Poustinias have now spread all over the world. I hope they continue to do so. A poustinia is not a house of prayer, it is just a spot—a cabin, a room—where people can go to be alone for a day or so. If you wish to know more about it, I suggest you read my book.
I wrote Poustinia to call people to the desert of prayer where they can face themselves and experience a change of heart. In the poustinia, kenosis (the Greek word for “emptying”) takes place, a stripping of oneself, a burying of the “I.” In the poustinia we begin to live more for the other as Christ taught us, loving in depth both those who love us and those who hate us. “Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.”
Night followed night, vigil followed vigil. I began to understand that Christ was seeking the disintegration, not of the Church, which will survive, but of secularism, of paganism, of the hedonism which at this present moment dominates the world. I began to understand that prayer is needed to counteract the spread of atheism which is slowly creeping over so much of the world.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Fragments of My Life
Reflection – Well, I’m back from Cana, and I see that at least some people managed to find their way to the blog while I had it on auto-pilot this past week. We’re coming to the end of this long essay of Catherine’s on the Church and her passionate love for it. We see here that really it broadens out from the Church to be a love for the whole world, and a deep concern for the state of the world. And I believe it is like that for everyone: the more deeply we love the Church, the deeper our love for all humanity grows, for the Church is simply the human race, restored by God to communion and life.
To say that Catherine was concerned about the state of the world would be putting it a bit mildly. In the same period that she wrote this article, she often spoke of what she called the ‘catastrophe’ – her sense of an impending disaster coming upon the world turned away from God. Throughout the 1970s her public talks and writings were filled with almost apocalyptic imagery and intensity.
Well, lots of people are like that, and most of them are kooks, to put it bluntly. Catherine was different, I think (obviously, since I joined her community in the 1980s!). She was different because her response was not to stockpile guns or food or bottled water, or to get caught up in trying to figure out exactly who was going to do what to whom to precipitate the crisis on exactly what date. Gnostic obsession about the future and cold-hearted survivalism have no part of Catherine’s or Madonna House’s approach to these questions.
Rather, we hold that we are living in very serious times. There is a great turning away from God in our days, a great choice to walk down a very bad path, a path of selfishness and unfettered mastery of the world. And the choice humanity has made to walk down this bad path will take us to a bad place, civilizationally, unless we repent.
But our response is to delve as deeply as we can into faith, hope, and love. To turn to God with renewed and ever-growing prayer. To seek to live for and in God. To have no other recourse, no other desire, no other plan, really, for our lives. Catherine gave us a blueprint for how to live as a Christian in dangerous difficult times, and I believe it is THE blueprint, the only real way to move through the days and years we are heading into. And the fullness of that blueprint is what she is going to present here on the blog tomorrow. See you then.