Friday, October 7, 2011

Windy Day Reflections on the Devil

The few colorful fall leaves to be found in western South Dakota were to reach their peak this week, so, in typical fashion, a strong wind picked up overnight and is expected to blow throughout the rest of the day.  So, now until the snows fly, South Dakota's foliage will best be observed in the gutters of streets.  Along with the wind, today marks the arrival of this year's celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (previously known as Our Lady of Victory) which is celebrated on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto during which an out-manned and unlikely navy, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, defeated the navy of the Ottoman Turks, thus saving European Christianity (especially in the South) yet again from the incessant threat of the spread of Islam.  Had the Turks won, they would have enjoyed an uncontested route to Italy and its surrounding environs.  Likewise, the Mass readings for this today bring us to Luke's account of Jesus' remarks about a house divided against itself.

The coincidence of all three of these events make a strong point to me.  The word diabolical, in its Greek origins, means to drive a wedge between or to separate something.  This is always the goal of the Evil One.  He desires that we would flutter scattered and without direction just as the wind blows the leaves.  He wants our defenses to be broken and to prevent us from having access to one another.  He wants us to become isolated, alone, and convinced that we have no friend, no advocate, and no place to turn.

Nature demonstrates the danger of such isolation.  The turkeys just outside my window this morning instinctively know that they are safer in a group than they are as individuals.  Cows know this.  Deer know this.  Wildebeests know this. Only humans, it seems to me, are unaware that to become isolated is to risk destruction.  

We need a Church.  We need a family.  We need the security of recognizing that we are never alone, and we are never abandoned.  A house divided cannot stand.  A man alone will likewise be destroyed. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Daily Grind

Blessed John Paul the Great wrote a beautiful encyclical about the dignity of human work.  Therein he describes how, in work, man participates with God in the process of bringing order to creation and finds meaning for himself.  All work can have this effect provided that the laborer is treated with due dignity.  Whether a ditch digger or a sultan, man can take pride in and draw dignity from his work.

My own experience has proved the late pontiff's words to be true.  There were many times, mostly as a student, when I went to bed at night tired, but having done nothing during the day.  Those moments before drifting off to sleep were filled with a certain dissatisfaction and restlessness.  By way of contrast, especially since having been ordained, there have been many nights when i have gone to sleep exhausted but content at having spent my day well.

Nights such as these have become much more common of late.  Besides the general responsibilities of priesthood and ministry, I have also agreed to teach a Church History and a Literature Course for a group of home school students, I am a sponsor for two different teenaged boys, and I am the alpha and omega of the Confirmation Program at Blessed Sacrament.  Likewise, I am helping to create and educate a parish youth commission.  In a word, I find that I am happily, gloriously, swamped.

Work, as Bl. JPII points out, however, cannot become an end unto itself.  Man was not made for the sake of work.  work exists for the sake of men.  For this reason, man must always take time for the sabbath.  He must rest, and he must acknowledge that life will continue with or without him.  The world does not depend upon the accomplishments of any single individual (aside from Christ himself).  Work should lead us back to an acknowledgement of our need for and relationship with our creator.

For these reasons, I do not feel especially guilty for having taken an extra day two weeks ago to attend the Bishop's Hunt for Seminarians (to my knowledge, we have never bagged even one seminarian), and last week to attend the first annual emergency relief Fishing Tournament.  Nor, I think, will I be especially troubled to take an extra day in the coming week to go camping with Fr. Sparks.

My work, I find, is deeply fulfilling.  In the midst of so much of it, I find myself thinking, "This is what I was made for."  One of the most satisfying parts of work, though, is this:  When one works hard, one also gets to play hard.  So, to all of your laborers out there, carry on.  Build up the Kingdom of God, and work so as to deserve a rest.  Here is a song to speed you along the way: