Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let Nothing Disturb Thee

Let nothing disturb thee,
Let nothing affright thee.
All things are passing,
God never changes.
Patient endurance
Attains all things.
Who possesses God
Wants for nothing.
God alone suffices.
St Teresa of Avila

Reflection – Yesterday’s post about Therese of Lisieux has put me in a Carmelite frame of mind, and so I woke up this morning with this prayer by Teresa of Avila on my mind. It is one I often revert to; I wrote a simple musical setting for it that we do from time to time here at Mass, and it is a prayer that has thus slipped into the collective consciousness of our community.

I have been concerned for some time about the degree of ‘disturbance’ in people these days. I do not live under a rock; I do know, quite well, what is happening in the world, and pay close attention to it, as best one can. There is great violence loose in the world, a spirit of war, as one of my wise brother priests puts it here.

In the face of great evil—beheadings and the like—and of all the lesser evils we encounter as a matter of course (corrupt venal politicians, weak or worldly leaders in the Church, and other sundry nonsense), the great tendency many of us have is to Get Mad, and in that to Get Loud.

The Internet has been the great accelerant of anger and volume in our day, of course. Every one of us who has access to technology has a giant megaphone with which we can trumpet whatever is coming out of our hearts and minds. In the past, only the words of the great and powerful could extend beyond the immediate earshot of the speaker; now, these very words I am typing will be read by someone in India in less than an hour’s time (hi, you know who!).

What this means for all of us is a great responsibility. ‘To whom much has been given, much will be expected.’ If I have been ‘given’ (in the sense that I certainly didn’t invent it), the ability to instantly communicate a message to the entire world, and if I in fact know that by the end of the day a couple hundred people anyhow will have read my writings, then I have to be very careful in choosing my words.

Those who have greater readerships, have greater responsibility yet. And this is where I personally am very concerned—there is just so much anger, so much vitriol, so much name-calling and seething contempt out there. And… I’m talking about the ‘Catholic’ blogosphere here, folks.

There is so much anger and hatred and fierce contempt and violence in the world. Do we really need to pour out from our hearts our own bile and venom and disdain? How does this serve the cause of Christ and the life of the Body of Christ, the Church?

‘Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing affright thee. All things are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains all things. Who possesses God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.’ Surely this is to be the starting point for every Christian engagement in the world, isn’t it? And out of this, we can find the right words to talk about Islamic terror, police brutality, the genuinely debased and diseased nature of politics in our countries, the rampaging agendas that threaten religious and civil freedoms, and so forth.

We do have to speak about these matters, and I have, to some degree, done so on this blog. But we have to speak with mercy, with patience, with respect for those who genuinely disagree with us, with respect for the basic human dignity and God-created goodness of those who we believe to be behaving wrongly.

We must never seethe with dripping contempt and vituperous abuse and insult, name-calling and blackguarding and ranting against how very, very lousy… everyone else is.

I, Fr. Denis Lemieux, am a sinner. I am lousy. Who am I to denounce the sin of my brother or sister? But with patient endurance I wait—we all wait—on the God who never changes, and hope to possess Him, and so want nothing. And so it must be in the Christian engagement with evil in the world, or we are just one more angry, violent voice doing nothing to make anything better, and doing quite a bit to make things a lot worse.

Lots of people can spew anger into the internet. We who are Christians are the only ones who can proclaim Christ into the internet. If we don’t, nobody will, and the world will be an angrier, colder, more polarized and hate-filled place. And we will not have to look far to know who is responsible for that.

Let nothing disturb thee. Patient endurance attains all things. God alone suffices.