Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saints and Sinners

It's almost November, but never too late?

Back a couple years, reading a book by Father Benedict Groeschel, I encountered his unqualified enthusiasm for Blessed Angela of Foligno and his judgment concerning the nature of her contribution to Church Reform. Such seeds planted, they eventually bear fruit, in me at least, in a curiosity which grows and knows no particular rest. Hence, nearly two years back I added a collection of her mystical writings entitled "Divine Consolation" to my Kindle library and began reading on and off. I am grateful for the direct exposure to the writings of this great woman, also because she is as unflinching as anyone I have ever read in her embrace of the Cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What I really like about Angela is that she seems less gushy or amorous than other mystics I have attempted to grasp, even if the chapter of her writings on visions remains for the most part inaccessible to my sympathies. The first chapters or books, as they are called, before the visions, however, are mighty and a real challenge to all of us who, alas falling short of evidencing heroic virtue, are not quite ready to be declared blessed, let alone saints for universal emulation. I am still working through the book of her consolations but with November already near and, with it, our duty to pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory during that month, I wanted to quote her.

Lots of folks today give the impression of indifference when it comes to the topic of heaven and hell as it applies both to those who precede them in death and to them personally. Our world seems neither to seek God nor to fear Him. An indication of this, sadly, is that people are not troubled enough to pray for the dead, that is to be concerned in terms of the eternal salvation of others and for that matter of themselves, especially in terms of confession of sin, sincere repentance and firm purpose of amendment. The overall decline in Mass offerings for the repose of the souls of loved ones is a concrete indication of what might be classed ignorance of duty, but no doubt stemming from tepidity.

Over 700 years separate us in time from Blessed Angela of Foligno, but not only is her focus on the Passion and Death of Jesus timeless, but once we get over the shock of her radical approach, I think we find ourselves looking at a woman who could just as well have been born in our time. If you read her with an open mind, she will draw you beyond the a priori exclusions typical of our day which keep us from trembling before the Eternal Judge or seeking before all others the Face of the Beloved Bridegroom. So far, the following passage expresses for me the quintessence of what is to be gleaned in terms of consolation from our faith, if properly grounded. We must remember that the road to perdition is wide and many follow it; the path to life and light is less traveled; it is the way of the Cross.

"Upon the fourth day of the great week I was meditating with grief upon the death of the Son of God, striving to empty my mind of all other things in order that my soul might be the more absorbed in this Passion and Death. Being, therefore, wholly occupied with the endeavor and desire to cast out every other matter from my mind in order that I might the more speedily and completely think only on this, I heard the divine voice saying within my soul, “My love for you was no deceit.” This word was as shocks of mortal pain to my soul, for the eyes of my mind were instantly opened, and I saw that what He said was very true. I saw the working and effect of that delight; I saw all that the Son of God had done for the sake of this love, and I saw what Christ Crucified had borne in life and in death for the sake of this deep and unspeakable love. This is the reason why I understood that it was indeed true that His love for me had been no deceit or jest, but love most perfect and profound. Then I perceived just the opposite in myself, that is to say, I knew that I loved Him deceitfully and not truly. For this reason I suffered such mortal pain and intolerable grief that I thought I was about to die." [Divine Consolation (Great Christian Mystical Writings), Bl. Angelina of Foligno, English translation: Bro. Smith SGS – Kindle Highlight Loc. 2725-33.]

Many things might separate me from the love of Christ, but essentially Angela says it rightly when she experiences "mortal pain and intolerable grief" over recognizing that she had loved her Lord "deceitfully and not truly". You might say that our world, either you or I, tend to "flat-line it", no heartbeat, if you will, non-responsive as we are to the wondrous Savior Who gave His life for us upon the Cross.

I wish everyone were moved by the "Dies Irae", moved personally to sincere and profound repentance, moved to beg the Lord to spare us and all our family and friends from the fires of hell, and through His abundant mercy to hasten the purification and take unto Himself the souls of the departed in Purgatory. Bl. Angela of Foligno may help you comprehend the love of Christ Crucified for you and for me, "love most perfect and profound"; she may, please God, open our eyes to the knowledge that we have "loved Him deceitfully and not truly"; she may ask God for a share in which she suffered, namely "such mortal pain and intolerable grief"... cause really of her consolation and unshakable joy.


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