Life & Death

Posted by: zealoussheep

Sometimes, I am tempted to think that the world, societies, and cultures are caught in a downward spiral toward darkness and destruction. I look around and wonder if my fellow human beings are taking care to cultivate Life in their souls or are they hurtling towards death. On a whim as I began to type this, I pulled up the Patheos Catholic Channel and clicked on one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth Scalia, and one of her most recent posts confirmed that my temptation toward this line of thought is not held in isolation.

[We are in] a unique ‘time’ of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence… the ugly landscape [is] all around us; the one we have wanted to pretend was neither so vast nor so damaged and fragile.

Let me be clear, in no way do I disagree with The Anchoress. But concurrent to this line of thought, sometimes I carve out for myself silence, privacy and time to think. And I find that in those moments—especially if I’m in a hammock in the backyard—I am overwhelmed by how much LIFE is exploding around me. Untold numbers of crickets chirping, the insects are prolific, trees are taking root and climbing… Since the very beginning life has sprung forth from the earth, and continues even in the harshest conditions. At a much faster rate than the downward death spiral of my thoughts, life is bursting from every crevice.

Perspective is a funny thing.

It took living abroad and studying philosophy to jar my mind out of the doldrums of my previously monotonous life, characterized by the somewhat glazed staring that catches only the biggest action and has lost sight of all the details. Suddenly I was paying attention in great detail to the world around me, and it awakened in me a deeply buried sense of wonder. Since those days, I overwhelm my companions with loud exclamations of joy over the perfect iridescent rainbow of colors that reflects of the wings of insects or the soft bright green burst of brand new pine needles in the spring. I am amazed at creation and creatures.

RL4ZQL5Z8L1H9HZR5HAHIH1H8H2ZQLBHGHPZGH1H8HCH8H2ZMHCH7HDHIHDHQLEZ5HZR8HAH4HDH7H3HGL3HUHRR2Hgettinggreen

There are about 950,000 species of insects on earth.
300,000 species of plants.
1.2 million species of invertebrates.
We really have no idea how many species of animals exist on Earth and some 10,000 species of animals are discovered each year. Projections for the total number of species on Earth range from 2 million to 50 million.
Until very recently, our galaxy, the Milky Way was thought to be part of a cluster of 2,000 galaxies in Virgo. Recent research has shown that the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars are actually part of something 100 times bigger: a supercluster of galaxies astronomers have named Laniakea, which means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian. Laniakea is 520 million light-years across and astronomers say the supercluster is as massive as 100 million billion suns.

292886

It is a big, big world out there. And it is full of vibrancy and life.

A couple of years before I was born Mount St. Helen erupted in the most deadly volcanic explosion in U.S. history. The destruction was beyond comprehension and the President said the damaged landscape was more desolate than the surface of the moon. In all, Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which were a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A devastating death-blow.

More than 30 years have passed since the blast. Peter Frenzen is a scientist who studies the blast zone. He says,

“One of things that we’ve learned here at Mount St. Helens is that things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy to our eye are in fact the critical ingredients of the next thriving ecosystem.”

Out of the devastation has come incomprehensible richness and Mt. St. Helen is literally teeming with life.

20_pyroclastic_flows_intro2

I think we can learn a lot from the world around us. As far as plants and animals go, we are literally immersed in life in vast and innumerable quantities. The soul of a Christian at baptism is drenched, immersed, inundated with divine life that cannot be compared to the 50 million possible species on earth or the 520 million light years’ wide supercluster of galaxies we live in. We are beyond soaked in life. And when darkness and death seem to crash in on every side, we know that we have the Death-Conquerer, Jesus himself dwelling in our souls. He is able even from the rocks to raise up children. And as centuries of Christianity have shown, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And like Mount St. Helens and the Saints who have gone before, it still remains the case that life blooms in deserts and things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy and broken beyond repair to our finite eyes, can in fact be the very thing that tills and nourishes the soil for revival, restoration and renewal in the hearts of men longing for their God.

Prisoner 16670

kolbe

In 1941 a Polish priest was arrested at his friary. The Nazis noticed his German name and offered to let him go. Wishing to be with his native people, the priest insisted on going with all the others who were arrested. After a brief stop in one of the smaller concentration camps, he was transferred to Auschwitz, where he was given the number 16670.

Though he was rather sickly and frail, the guards gave him some of the hardest work. Still, he persevered, always trusting in the love of Jesus and Mary. One day, some men were discovered to have escaped from camp. Of course, this infuriated the camp commander, so he decided to pick ten random prisoners to starve in a bunker as a way to deter any further escape attempts. Prisoner 16670 was not chosen. The final prisoner chosen, a man by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek, begged for mercy from the guards because of his wife and children. Prisoner 16670 stepped forward, announced he was a Catholic priest, and volunteered to take the man’s spot. St. Maximilian Kolbe, who could have escaped imprisonment due to his German name, sacrificed his life so the other prisoner could have a chance to survive and return to his family! What love this priest of Jesus Christ had for God’s children!

In the bunker, there could be heard hymns sung and prayers recited to our Lord and His Mother. There were not cries of pain and anguish, but instead songs of joy and peace. St. Maximilian encouraged his fellow victims that soon they would be in Heaven with Jesus and His Mother Mary. Two weeks passed and still St. Maximilian remained alive, so the guards finally gave him a lethal injection.

As for Franciszek, he survived Auschwitz and reunited with his wife after the war (though his sons were killed). He was present at the canonization of St. Maximilian and spread the story of St. Maximilian’s heroic love as long as he lived.

Let’s strive to imitate the heroic virtue of St. Maximilian Kolbe! We will put others’ needs before our own. We will go where we can best serve the Lord and bring about His glory, even if it means a little extra suffering for us. We will encourage one another in times of extreme suffering so that we might not cry in pain and anguish, but instead sing out to the Lord in joy and peace. Perhaps we may even lay down our own lives so that others may live.

kolbe2

“For Jesus Christ, I am prepared to suffer still more.”

Be as a Bee with a Queen

 

Bee

Consider the following example, as explained by St. Francis de Sales:

Bees cannot rest as long as they have no queen. They flutter about incessantly, wandering [here and there]; there is scarcely any repose in the hive. But as soon as their queen is born, they all gather around her, and stay there, never leaving her except to go and gather their spoils at her command.

Whenever we hear (or read) examples such as this, it’s good to actually stop and put an image in our “mind’s eye” (i.e. imagine the scene) to go along with the example: before the queen is born, the hive is in pure chaos. Of course bees cannot speak or use gestures as humans can, but they still communicate in some way so operations run smoothly in the hive.  Now, those who have done any sort of project with a big group know how important it is to have someone who at least knows the “big picture” or the general process of operation. That way, the rest of the group can go to this person and ask, “What do I do next? What role do I have in this process?” Without someone leading the crew, the problem arises of having too many people who think they know what’s going on, or no one knows what’s going on. Chaos is sure to follow. Direction is essential.

Back to the example with the bees… Not having a queen bee (the one who sees the big picture and knows how to make it all unfold perfectly) leads to chaos. When the queen bee is born, all the other bees approach and wait for direction. Chaos disappears and something as delicious as honey is produced (if we’re dealing with honey bees, that is). The hive thrives under the direction of the queen bee.

Let’s now apply that to humanity. Each human – you, your brother, friend, spouse, parent, me, etc. – lives according to what he “sees” in his own life. Some see outside of their own little ‘world’ but even then the scope is pretty narrow, considering the history of the entire world. No single human person can see the entirety of the big picture. Who can? God. For God, all things are one moment. Nothing escapes His vision, whether past, present, or future. He is our proverbial “queen bee”. Yet not all of us look to Him for guidance, waiting for His command for us to go and gather our spoils. Those who avoid His command live in chaos, as though they are bees without a queen. The saints, though, do nothing without receiving His command. Each day, they sit at His feet in prayer. Sometimes they are given very particular commands: feed this person, greet that person, give away this amount of money, visit this prisoner, comfort that mourner, etc. Always they are given general commands, which will allow the hive to thrive: feed the hungry, give money to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, give shelter to the homeless, welcome the stranger, bury the dead, teach the ignorant, comfort the afflicted. Still a more general command did the saints receive from God: Be a holy priest. Be a holy nun. Be a holy husband, father. Be a holy wife, mother. Be a holy son or daughter. Be a holy disciple!

man praying in church

Prayer leads to a ‘hive’ that thrives. Prayer leads to a world that flourishes, breathes life, and produces true fruit.

Sit at the feet of God, as though you are a bee hovering around your queen. Wait for His command and then go gather your spoils for Him.

Prayer of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

 

Divine Mercy

O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands my be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor.

You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy – if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things.

– St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Most Blessed Sacrament (known mostly as St. Faustina) was a Polish nun of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She lived from 1905-1938 and is known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy. Learn more about her here. Her diary tells of her beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ. This prayer, found in the diary, is one that could be of assistance for anyone striving to reveal the great mercy of our Savior.

img_saint_faustina

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑