Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fruit in due season

"He who delights in the law of the Lord
is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season."
Psalm 1


From this morning's second reading at Vigils:

This world is a scene of conflict between good and evil. The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good cannot conquer, except by suffering. Good men seem to fail; their cause triumphs, but their own overthrow is the price paid for the success of their cause. When was it that this conflict, and this character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled? So it was in the beginning.
 
And from the way in which St. Paul speaks on the subject we may infer that it is ever so to be: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Or, as he says, after referring to the history of Isaac and Ishmael, “As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” And indeed we see this fulfilled in its measure before our eyes even at this day. Hence our Savior, to console all who suffer for his sake, graciously says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
 
In many, very many ways you may be called upon to bear the ill-usage of the world, or to withstand its attempts to draw you from God; but you must be firm, and you must not be surprised that they should be made. You must consider that it is your very calling to bear and to withstand. This is what you offer to God as a sort of return for his great mercies to you. Did not Christ go through much more for you than you can possibly be called upon to undergo for him? Did he bear the bitter cross who was sinless, and do you, who are at best so sinful, scruple to bear such poor trials and petty inconveniences?
 
When we are brought into temptation of any kind, we should lift up our hearts to God. We should say to him, “Good Lord, deliver us.” Our Lord, when he was going away, promised to his disciples a comforter instead of himself; that was God the Holy Spirit, who is still among us (though we see him not), as Christ was with the apostles. He has come in order to enlighten us, to guide us in the right way, and in the end to bring us to Christ in heaven. And he came down, as his name “Comforter” shows, especially to stand by, and comfort, and strengthen those who are in any trouble, particularly trouble from irreligious men. The disciples, when Christ went, had to go through much trouble, and therefore he comforted them by the coming of the holy and eternal Spirit, the third person in the Blessed Trinity.“These things I have spoken unto you,” he says, “that in me you might have peace; in the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

-- Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Believing, belonging, building

“Use your most holy faith as your foundation
and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit.”

Jude 1:20



Sunday, August 26, 2012
21th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B


Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

Love is not a feeling. It certainly involves feelings, but ultimately it must go much deeper. More than anything else, love is a decision. True love is not always pleasant or easy, but it is always fulfilling because in demanding total giving of self, paradoxically it delivers genuine self-realization. It is other-directed, but self-discovering, in that order. Love is a manifestation of the self-giving of the God of Love, who exhaled his own divine breath of life into us, and later, in the person of Christ, exhaled his last human breath to give us eternal life despite all our wrongdoing and ingratitude.
 
Faith is similar. It is not a feeling, though at times it may involve feelings. Ultimately, it is a commitment: “To believe is to commit one’s whole life, not because one is sure of oneself, but because one is sure of the other” (Days of the Lord, Vol. 5, p.195). It doesn’t mean seeing or knowing everything, but believing in the One who does, and who leads us just as the ancient Israelites were led out of slavery and across the desert to the Promised Land. Faith, like love, is a relationship of trust that seeks the good that is not always self-evident. Faith is, as the celebrated declaration in the Letter to the Hebrews says, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Culminating with the Incarnation, God gradually manifested himself on Earth (the manna in the desert, Jesus’ feeding of 5,000 people with a few barley loves, the Eucharist, etc.). He became one with our human nature, but sometimes (likely most times) all we can see is the earthly reality. That’s OK. Faith asks us nevertheless to trust in the divine presence of self-giving in our relationship with God and with one another—to believe in what is said because of who has said it: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35); “This is my beloved son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

Faith is a free choice to profess one’s belonging to One greater than oneself, to regularly renew our individual and collective commitment of belonging to God. The ancient Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, did this upon entering the Promised Land, and we do this at every Eucharist under the leadership of Jesus (Joshua and Jesus are different forms of the same name in Hebrew).

Today’s readings, each in their own way, revolve around the idea of commitment, and as Christians, we do well to meditate on what that truly means in terms of our relationship with God and with one another. How has God manifested himself to us? What does it mean for us today? The readings today offer some worthy points of reflection in this regard. Among them:

Decide today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Do you also want to leave?” John 6:67.

In the Gospel, of course, Peter gives the perfect response: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

As we know, Peter, first and foremost among the apostles and the rock upon which the Church is built, did not always live that response perfectly—even after this conversation in John’s Gospel. That should give us all hope. By the grace and mercy of God, to paraphrase St. Anthony the Great, each day we begin again, deciding whom we will serve.

Let us each day choose to taste and see that the Lord is good, and commit to building up one another in the love of Christ.
 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"From the mouths of infants..."

My nephew Evan (2 months) with one of his first smiles.

"One filled
with joy
preaches
without
preaching."

Blessed Mother Teresa


Big blue eyes! (Yes, I'm a proud uncle...)
 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The way of Wisdom


Blessed is the one who devotes himself
to the study of the wisdom of God.
His care is to seek the Lord, his Maker,
to petition the Most High,
to open his lips in prayer,
to ask pardon for his sins.

Then, if it pleases the Almighty,
he will be filled with the spirit of understanding;
He will pour forth his words of wisdom
and in prayer give thanks to the Lord,
who will direct his knowledge and counsel,
as he meditates on his mysteries.

He will show the wisdom of what he has learned,
and glory in the way of God's promise.

Sirach 39:1, 6-8

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Redeeming the time

“Now is an acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.”

2Corinthians 6:2 (cf. Isaiah 49:8)


Sunday, August 19, 2012
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B


Proverbs 9:1-6
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says in John 14:6. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in today’s Gospel, he says: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

Thus the Eucharistic theme central to the Sunday Mass readings for the last several weeks culminates with Jesus’ firm teaching today that “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life …”

Eating and drinking each day, several times a day, sustains life for our mortal bodies. If we don’t eat or get proper nourishment, we die. And even if we do eat properly, we still eventually die. By contrast, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” And so Jesus reasserts the connection between time and eternity that had been splintered in the Garden of Eden. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that led to death gives way to eating from the Tree of Life so that we “may have life and have it abundantly,” as Jesus says (John 10:10). Since by the first act, to our detriment we chose earthly food over heavenly food, the Son of God gives his flesh for the life of the world on the Cross—heavenly food under the species of earthly food. God became man so that man might become God, to share eternal life with his Creator—beginning right now in our earthly lives. In this way, the full purpose of the Incarnation is revealed. “As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ,” as St. Paul says (1Corinthians 15:22).

In other words, in Christ, Eternal Divinity redeems human time. God becomes part of it, and it a part of him, to point it toward heaven. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes our spiritual food in the form of earthly bread and wine, so that we who are broken may be made whole and then, in turn, share ourselves for the life of the world. It is the principal means by which Christ dwells among us—as the mystical Body of Christ.

This is why in today’s second reading St. Paul tells the Ephesians to make “the most of the opportunity” (5:16). Here is one instance where the New American Bible translation loses something. Translations such as the Douay-Rheims and King James Version have “redeeming the time.” Those words add another dimension of understanding. In this sense, to “redeem” means to purchase something (or someone) in order to remove the object or person from current circumstances and offer freedom. In this way, Christ redeems us from sin, purchasing our freedom from slavery to corruption, with his own life-giving life. And “time” here means not “We have plenty of time before dinner,” but rather, “It’s time for dinner!” It means now, a point in time, the moment of decision, a window of opportunity that will quickly close. It means the train leaves the station at 7:30 a.m., and if you’re not it, you don’t get to where you’d like to go.

The entire sentence in the passage from Ephesians is this: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity (or, "redeeming the time"), because the days are evil.” The last phrase, “because the days are evil,” is the key to it all. With our own lives, nourished and sustained by Christ who gave his life for the world, we are to live accordingly and thereby purchase the current moment from the grip of evil. “Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord,” St. Paul continues.

So “making the most of the opportunity” means much more than living life to the fullest and grabbing all the gusto one can muster. It means striving to do God’s will at every turn, at each and every moment. “Redeeming the time,” St. Augustine says, “means sacrificing, when the need arises, present interests in favor of eternal ones, thereby purchasing eternity with the coin of time.”

It means that as Eucharistic people, we must rescue our everyday lives from the pattern that has been set by that bite of food in the Garden of Eden. We, as Christ, must transform the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which our parents brazenly dared to snatch equality with God, into the Tree of Life, from which Christ feeds the world .
  
It is a matter of life and death, and there is no time to waste.


“The eyes of all creatures look to you, O Lord,
and you give them their food in due time.”

Psalm 145:15

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Appearances

"We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;
what can be seen is temporary; what cannot be seen is eternal."

2 Corinthians 4:18


Sunday, August 12, 2012
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B


1Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51


Appearances can indeed deceive. Reality is often disguised, requiring a depth of perception beyond ordinary means. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day, seeming to cross from one end of the sky to the other. We know that's not really true, despite all appearances. The sun is stationary. The revolution of the Earth, which in turn orbits the sun, makes it seem as though the sun is moving. In reality, the Earth is moving.

Scientific knowledge helps us understand the universe which we see and live in. The knowledge of faith helps us enter into the mystery of the spiritual reality that underlies and infuses the universe which we see and live in. For Catholics, of course, there is no greater mystery than that of the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith. In the Eucharist, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the species of ordinary bread and wine. What we see is not all we get. And we get more than we could ever imagine.

This Sunday's Mass readings carry forward the eucharistic themes that have been unfolding for us the last few weeks in the Scripture passages of the Liturgy of the Word. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah is sustained and strengthened for his journey by food and drink provided by God. In the Gospel, Jesus tells a skeptical crowd: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

In between, we hear from St. Paul, who conveys to us the true meaning of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: "All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us." In other words, we receive Christ to become Christs. If we are what we eat, as the saying goes, we must become what, in faith, we receive in the Eucharist, as St. Augustine said: "You are the mystery that is placed on the Lord's table. You receive the mystery that is yourself. To that which you are, you will respond."

Those who confronted Jesus in today's Gospel, murmuring about his claims of being "the bread that came down from heaven," had not yet opened their hearts to receive the knowledge of faith and see the spiritual reality of what he was saying. Their focus was only on what they could see with their own eyes. "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" They saw only the species in front of them, not the Presence. Appearance deceived them.

People of that time, incidentally, also believed the sun revolved around the Earth. Humanity still had a lot to learn on many different levels. We still do.

In that light, a suitable companion text to meditate on, along with this Sunday's Mass readings, is Mysterium Fidei, Pope Paul VI's 1965 Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist. Below is an excerpt (you can read the encyclical in its entirety here.)

I particularly like the quotation from St. Ambrose at the end of the excerpt.
If the sacred liturgy holds first place in the life of the Church, then the Eucharistic Mystery stands at the heart and center of the liturgy, since it is the font of life that cleanses us and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for God and to be united to each other by the closest ties of love…By means of the Mystery of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out on Calvary is re-enacted in wonderful fashion and is constantly recalled, and its salvific power is applied to the forgiving of the sins we commit each day.

While Eucharistic symbolism is well suited to helping us understand the effect that is proper to this Sacrament—the unity of the Mystical Body—still it does not indicate or explain what it is that makes this Sacrament different from all the others. For the constant teaching that the Catholic Church has passed on, … the very words that Christ used when He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, all require us to profess that “the Eucharist is the flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins and which the Father in His loving kindness raised again.” To these words of St. Ignatius, we may well add those which Theodore of Mopsuestia, who is a faithful witness to the faith of the Church on this point, addressed to the people: “The Lord did not say: This is symbol of my body, and this is a symbol of my blood, but rather: This is my body and my blood. He teaches us not to look to the nature of what lies before us and is perceived by the senses, because the giving of thanks and the words spoken over it have changed it into flesh and blood.”

The Council of Trent, basing itself on this faith of the Church, “openly and sincerely professes that after the consecration of the bread and wine, Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is really, truly and substantially contained in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the outward appearances of sensible things.” And so Our Savior is present in His humanity not only in His natural manner of existence at the right hand of the Father, but also at the same time in the sacrament of the Eucharist “in a manner of existing that we can hardly express in words but that our minds, illumined by faith, can come to see as possible to God and that we must most firmly believe.”

To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation. As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food; but they take on this new signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new “reality” which we can rightly call ontological. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before, but something completely different; and not just in the estimation of Church belief but in reality, since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical “reality,” corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.

St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, in a clear statement on the Eucharistic conversion, has this to say: “Let us be assured that this is not what nature formed but what the blessing has consecrated; and there is greater power in the blessing and in nature, since nature itself is changed through the blessing.” To confirm the truth of this mystery, he recounts many of the miracles described in the Sacred Scriptures, including Christ's birth of the Virgin Mary, and then he turns his mind to the work of creation, concluding this way: “Surely the word of Christ, who could make something that did not exist out of nothing, can change things that do exist into something they were not before. For it is no less extraordinary to give new natures to things than it is to change nature.”
-- Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei


"Now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I will know fully,
even as I am fully known."

1Corinthians 13:12


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Involved in salvation

"There is a vocation
for suffering with Christ,
and through it the possibility
of being involved in his salvation.
Christ continues to live
and suffer in his members.
The suffering experienced
through union with the Lord
is his suffering, and is a fruitful part
of the great plan of salvation."

Edith Stein (St. Benedicta of the Cross)
1891-1942


Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) was a German-born Jew who in her teens lost faith in God and embraced atheism. She went on to become an accomplished philosopher, scholar, and teacher. Later undergoing a conversion, she was profoundly moved by reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, and was baptized Catholic in 1922. When academic pursuits were no longer possible for her under the Nazi regime, she was granted her longtime wish of joining the Carmelite order in Cologne in 1933, taking the name Teresa, Blessed of the Cross.

In 1939, she was smuggled into the Netherlands as the anti-Semitism of the Nazis erupted into World War II. However, she and her sister Rosa, who had also converted and had joined the Carmelites with her in the Netherlands, could not escape the grasp of the expanding Nazi regime, which distrusted all Jewish-born Christians, particularly intellectuals. Edith and Rosa were arrested by the Gestapo Aug. 2, 1942, and along with many other Jews, were taken by cattle car to Auschwitz. A week later, on Aug. 9, 1942, they were among those killed by the Nazis in the gas chamber at Auschwitz.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonized by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1998. Read more about her life here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grace in the wilderness

"Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when
your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful."
St. Josemaria Escriva

From Princess Stand in the Rain

Have faith.

We hear that statement often enough, but what does it really mean? Today's Mass readings (Jeremiah 31:1-7; Matthew 15:21-28) offer some sure-footed guidance.

In the first reading, God promises to restore and rebuild ancient Israel after the Babylonian exile, to deliver them from captivity and make them joyful and fruitful again in their own land. As we know, God kept that promise. Still, the period of difficulty that the Israelites endured served a purpose--it led them to turn their hearts toward God, to pray for deliverance with trust in God's providence, with humility, and with perseverance. That's faith--and the exile experience helped sharpen its focus.

Jeremiah alludes to the experience of the exiles' ancestors, who were led by Moses out of slavery in Egypt toward the Promised Land. They spent 40 years journeying through the desert, an experience God used to test and sharpen their faith. Ultimately, it is Jesus--the new Moses--who fulfills the promise of deliverance and entry into the Promised Land of the Heavenly Kingdom.

United with Christ, we too have our deserts to cross, our exile experiences to endure, therefore providing the opportunity for faith to be tested and purified. As you will recall, before he began his ministry, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. He persevered, sustained by the Father who sent him.

It's not something we like to hear, but Scripture's consistent message is that the fallen human condition necessarily involves hardship, failure, and suffering. And yet, there is something about such universal experiences that prompt us deep within to cry out to God in a way we likely would rarely consider if life were always a bed of roses. The good news is that God joins us in the briar patch, so to speak, to lead us out. Yes, he could remove the briar patch from our path altogether, but he won't. To do that, he would have to over-ride humanity's greatest God-given attribute--the free will which we as a race so often misdirect and thereby create the conditions under which so many suffer. Instead, in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God takes on our human flesh, allows himself to be pierced by the very same thorns that wound us, and says, "Follow me. I am with you always." In this way, the very effects of sin are transformed by God into the means of redemption.

Along the way, he provides something we cannot see or feel--the grace that fuels faith, trust, humility, and perseverance. When we turn to God in the midst of our own exiles and desert journeys, we discover, as St. Paul says, that "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). In today's first reading (from the New American Bible), we are told that the exiles "have found favor in the desert" (Jeremiah 31:2). I prefer the translation from the Revised Standard Version: "found grace in the wilderness." In the wilderness of hardship, failure, and suffering, God's people find the grace to sustain them along the journey to the promised land.

How? Prayer. Simple, sincere, steadfast prayer. The Canaanite woman in today's Gospel passage provides the perfect example. She cries out to Jesus with faith, trust, humility, and perseverance. She is straightforward, and she is persistent. Jesus not only grants her request, but praises this pagan woman for her faith--obviously meant as a "teaching moment" for the "chosen" people who failed to display such attributes. She prays, and is answered--not through merit, but by faith.

This is the "grace in the wilderness" of which Jeremiah speaks. May we all find such grace; it's ours for the asking, even if it's a simple, "Lord, help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). It is faith that saves, and the grace of prayer provides it. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

Our prayer, then, must coincide with the very last sentence in the Bible: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all" (Revelation 22:21) who journey through the wilderness of this life. As St. Benedict says, "may he lead us all together to everlasting life."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Seeking God


Last evening during Vespers, former Novice Anushka made his temporary profession as a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, professing vows of obedience, stability, and fidelity to the monastic way of life. In the process, he received his new name, Br. Peduru, which spells Peter in his native Sri Lanka.

The previous evening, we welcomed our two newest novices, Bradley Jensen and Matthew Sprauer, into the community. Both received their coronas and scapulars.

Read more about all three here and here.

Prayerful best wishes to Br. Peduru, Novice Bradley, and Novice Matthew. Persevere!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Bread of Life

“I will now rain down
bread from heaven for you.”
Exodus 16:4


 
X
“Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”
Ephesians 4:23


X
“The bread of God
is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world...
I am the bread of life.”
John 6:33, 35


Sunday, Aug. 3, 2012
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B


Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where is God?

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord."
Psalm 130


Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?
Arise, do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face from us
and forget our oppression and misery?
Psalm 44

All of us experience periods of spiritual dryness or desolation, times when God seems distant or absent altogether. And when we or others are suffering physically or emotionally, we are bound to cry out as did the author of the Psalms above. It is part of the human experience.

Yet, if there is no hope, why do we cry out, and to whom?

The absence of hope brings death. Hope in the midst of suffering can redeem it and restore life in ways we cannot begin to imagine. God is not distant or absent from our lives. If that were the case, we would simply cease to be.

This is a theologically rich topic. Acres of text stretching back to the Gospels and beyond have explored this mystery, so central to the Christian faith. As Christians, we believe Christ gives our suffering--even our doubts--meaning and purpose by taking on our humanity and dying on the cross, where the Second Person of the Holy Trinity himself cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22)

But it doesn't end there. Eventually, the darkness of Good Friday gives way to the light and life of Resurrection. "I am the life and the resurrection," Jesus says in John 11:25. In the words of the late Paul Claudel, a French poet, "Jesus did not come to remove suffering, or to explain it, but to fill it with his presence" (emphasis is mine). God is with us in Christ--in Word and Sacrament, and in the life of the Church, the Body of Christ. And he is with us in the very depths of our hearts, through which he breathes his life-giving Spirit. Every heartbeat testifies to God's abiding presence in our lives, which he created. And every cry coming from the depths of our hearts not only reaches him, but beats in unison with that Spirit within.

The truth of the matter is that sometimes things seem distant because they are so close. Can you appreciate a Monet with your nose pressed up against the painting? Can you see the misplaced glasses you're searching for perched atop your head? "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Corinthians 2:9).

Msgr. Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington has a nice blog reflection on all this titled, When God Seems Distant. In addition, Path of Life Publications has produced a number of Catholic Perspectives CareNotes addressing this topic in various ways, including: "Where is God in Human Suffering?", "The Healing Cross: Reflections for the Sick and Suffering," and "How Spiritual Doubt can Make Our Faith Stronger."

And, of course, the Psalms are a perfect way to pray this mystery in unison with Christ, as we do each day in the monastery. As we pray in Psalm 91 at Compline in the evening: "Since he clings to me in love, I will free him; protect him for he knows my name. When he calls I shall answer: 'I am with you.' I will save him in distress and give him glory."


Faith--is the Pierless Bridge
supporting what we see
unto the scene that we do not--
too slender for the eye.

It bears the soul as bold
as it were rocked in steel.
With arms of steel at either side--
It joins--behind the veil.

To what, could we presume
the Bridge would cease to be
to our far vacillating feet
a first necessity.
Emily Dickinson