Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Well of Grace

Sometimes I have thoughts that I should really write down. Sometimes writing them down helps them expand. Sometimes they keep expanding in real-time as I write them down. Seems I should start a blog, in the unlikely event that there should be some merit in others reading my thoughts. I'm usually not very good at keeping regularity with this sort of thing, so to anyone who might care to read, consider yourself informed of my attention deficit disorder.

Also, I am Catholic. Specifically, I am a member of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. My blogs will reflect that. Anti-Catholic diatribe in the comments will either be soundly refuted by logic and Scripture, or deleted outright if it's profane - as will all other instances of profanity.

Oh, and the previous few blog posts here were just something I did when I came out with my album Awakening. In the unlikely event you have heard my music (or even - gasp! - have the album), you might find it edifying or interesting to see the story behind those songs. That's what those posts are. In any case, the fact that I wrote a quick spurt of posts a year and a half ago and haven't posted anything since is a standing testament to the aforementioned ADD.

In the immortal words of the prophet Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that." But now, on to less pressing matters:

The Well of Grace

A few weeks ago, I happened to wander into a non-denominational life group meeting, and the members invited me to stay and check it out, so I did. I was a member of a similar group for around 2 1/2 years in college, so I was comfortable with the format. The leader, Tommy, talked about the need for a Sabbath in our lives, a set-apart time each week where we just rest and pray - sometimes, we have to force ourselves not to work on the Sabbath, because we're so psychotically work-oriented. (That's a topic to save for another time, though.)

We went around the circle, each sharing what our Sabbath every week looked like, and what we could do to solidly, practically commit ourselves to reserving time for God during the week, and during each day.

Now, right here, I have to stop and say that sometimes, talking with groups of Protestants about religious things, I feel awkward in saying what's on my mind - particularly because what's on my mind is usually something written by a saint. I never know how the reaction will turn out, but I usually just face the awkwardness and say it anyway. I'm not the most ecumenical person in the world, but I won't apologize for that.

Anyway, the time came for me to speak my piece, and I talked a bit about St. Josemaria Escriva, how he'd already written about this whole Sabbath thing. I shared some of his poignant and powerful insights with the group. They seemed to be rather impressed with how well this guy I was talking about understood the idea of living a life of prayer. (I think I might have neglected to mention he was a priest.) 

Pictured: Total baller.
Then, I began to describe how my own life falls so far short of that saintly objective, but in doing so, I happened to use some turn of phrase I'd picked up somewhere that caught the interest of the whole group. I think what I said was something to the effect of, "I need to force myself to keep returning and drawing from that well of grace."

The reaction to that phrase was palpable. Pretty much everyone in the group made some kind of audible gasp or sigh or murmur of affirmation, and Tommy actually interjected, "Wow. Well of grace. That's beautiful. That's some really beautiful imagery."

"Well of grace?" Hadn't these people heard that phrase before? I was sure that was a common thing I'd heard, you know, around somewhere. I didn't even know where I really got it from - it's a phrase to me just like "shooting the breeze" or "head over heels" or "jive turkey," something you just kind of absorb during the course of your life.
"Jive turkey" may have been a bad example.
I've been thinking about it ever since, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm pretty sure the concept of "drawing from the well of grace" comes from the writing of some saint or other. I don't know who, or why I feel like that's the case, but I think that's where I got it. Seems like something St. Augustine or maybe St. Francis of Assisi would have said. Anyway, the point is, for the second time that night every non-Catholic in the room was taken aback by the beauty of a statement from a saint. They were edified on one hand by the simple, practical, blue-collar usefulness of St. Josemaria Escriva, and awestruck on the other hand by the beauty of... well, some more poetic saint or other. It didn't matter that they weren't Catholic, that they don't believe in papal infallibility or the Eucharist - they were impacted by the insights of men who DID believe in those things, who dedicated their lives to those things.

It is no coincidence, either, that these words hit home in these Protestants' hearts, in the same way they penetrate deep into our own hearts as Catholics. The saints are, by definition, men and women who dedicated their entire lives to seeking out and following Truth. They sought out answers to the mysteries of life, becoming more and more in touch with that ultimate, objective Reality which is God Himself. When you spend your entire life getting in touch with Reality Itself, it is no surprise, then, that your writings and teachings show themselves to be very real, very practical, very sharp, cutting through the trappings and tangles of falsehood and confusion, hacking their way through the jungle to that mysterious temple of clarity and truth. It is no surprise that your statements punch holes in the walls of lesser men's hearts and bring them to terms with Truth.

St. Ignatius of Loyola. The guy under his left foot is a heretic.

The saints are also, by definition, men and women who dedicated their entire lives to seeking out and following Beauty. They sought out that Ultimate Beauty which gave all created things their own measure of beauty, that painfully, achingly beautiful Light of whom all other beauty is merely a dim reflection on a dusty mirror. When you spend your entire life getting in touch with Beauty Itself, it is no surprise, then, that your writings and teachings show themselves to be a beautiful and deep ocean, inhabited by splendors and glories that become more and more transcendent (and more and more terrifying) the deeper one sinks. It is no surprise that your reports of what you have found there on the ocean floor stop men in their tracks, bringing them to their knees in awe of Beauty.

As Catholics, we have a beautiful, powerful tool at our disposal in the saints. The saints are a sword against apostasy, a shield against falsehood, and a solid pair of boots for walking one's way to the gates of heaven. Because they have found the actual Truth, they are the ones we must ask to show us how to get there ourselves. They have been There, they have seen It, and they are more than willing to show us the way. The secret of the saints is not so much that they condemned falsehood, but rather that they embraced truth, and because truth is objective, their teachings and writings strike home in every heart, whatever degree of the truth that heart may have embraced.

We really ought to read more of the saints.

If you wish to read some saintly writings but don't know where to start, I recommend any and all of the following as a good, easy place to start:
Come Be My Light - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
The Way - St. Josemaria Escriva
Confessions - St. Augustine
Story of a Soul - St. Therese of Lisieux

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