Into the Hermitage or Into the Fray?

(via Prophecies of Revelation)

(via Prophecies of Revelation)

Ah, the times we live in!

I have been spending a lot of time in recent months thinking about my place in the world. I know certain things about myself now that I did not fully understand before. Perhaps this is the virtue of being introspective. Perhaps it is also the major curse of being introspective, but that is a post for a later day.

I should specify and say that I have become far more aware that I do not belong in this world. I do not know why this comes as a surprise to me. After all, the Lord of Time and Space Himself said as much:

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:19-20 NIV)

The World HATES me.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are very few people I’ve met who hate me personally (though this does happen on occasion and I’m learning how to handle not being liked). But what I have learned is that many people hate what I stand for and will do anything they can to stop me and others who share my beliefs from speaking up. Because I am a catechist, someone whose job and deepest calling is to instruct people in the glorious mysteries of the Catholic Church and to explain and uphold her teachings, I have a feeling that I am going to be running into this more and more. I am not on the front lines, but I am definitely in the battle, whether I like it or not.

It’s uncomfortable, and for an introvert like me, downright petrifying to face the fact that this is my calling. There are two logical responses to this fact, and one is WAY more tempting than the other.

My first choice is to take the man I love and the future Little Introspectives and to fortify ourselves in our own tiny, super Catholic world. We can homeschool and stop using the internet, tv, etc. We can raise them on the Great Books and never leave our little compound on the farm except to go three blocks south for Mass and maybe to go hang out with other Catholics. In short, we can unplug and disengage from the culture like Hermits United.

It'll be GREAT! (via Carol Cassara)

It’ll be GREAT! (via Carol Cassara)

That sounds awesome, right? Why fight the dragon when you can sit in your castle and watch the world burn?

Except that is not at all what we Christians are called to do. Our King explains this further:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15: 26-27 NIV)

Oh.

I use the NIV here because I love the use of the word testify. It makes me think of being called into court as the witness of some terrible crime, particularly an act of gang violence. I think of how terrifying it would be to put my life on the line to speak the truth about what I have seen and what I know. And yet, this is exactly what each and every one of us is called to do. Jesus, the Great Judge, is counting on our testimony. But not to condemn the world. Rather, he wants us to bear witness to the Truth so that the world can reap the benefits of His sacrifice. He has already granted amnesty to all who come to bathe in His Precious Blood.

But He has also given every human a choice. Because of the power of Free Will, we can choose to turn away from his love and embrace the death He died to save us from. We can march ourselves right into Hell if we want to. He won’t stop us if that is what we truly want. We are absolutely free to do whatever “feels right,” even if it means taking a lava nap.

Yet He has ordered His servants to testify, so that all may make a more informed choice. And He has called us to battle for the souls who are caught in the crossfire between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

So there is the other option. We cannot, in good conscience, hide away in our bunkers and watch everyone drown in corruption. That is not what we have been asked to do. If we truly love and serve our Master, we must fight by way of our testimony. We must fight with the greatest weapon God has given us: Love.

I say we must fight with Love because the world will fight us with Hate. We cannot fight Hate with Hate. That merely breeds more sin and anger. Hate is not of God. Hate is of Ol’ Luce and the Fallen Legion (awesome band name). And make no mistake: the other side has been so twisted by hate and fear that they will call our Love Hate even when we are simply speaking the Truth as kindly as possible. But that does not make our Love suddenly turn to Hate. Rather, it shows us that we are making progress because we are hitting nerves.

We must never back down from our battle, but we must never become hardened by it to the point that we see only sin and not the broken human soul behind it. We are to love and heal that person, not obliterate them. It is a delicate balance, but an important one.

So, once more into the breach, my friends. Let us rally, let us never falter, and let us do the work before us, walking the Destined Path towards sainthood. Let us support each other always. And let us return at the end of our fight to the shores of our home country, where our Master will be waiting with open arms and a smile that says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

-E.G. Norton

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On Evil

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the nature of evil. It’s only, well, natural that I should do so, I suppose. This time of year tends to bring out the brooding, morose side of my introspection for several reasons. While the days are slowly getting longer here in my cold Northern home, winter seems to rage on with no end in sight. And as any Michigan driver can tell you, winter is the epitome of all that is evil: cold, unforgiving, brutal, and oppressive.

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Yeah. I thought you wouldn’t buy that. There’s a deeper, more personal reason why this time of year makes me go just a little bit wonky. Shadows of bad memories tend to play through my mind in the quiet stillness of winter. It is easy to put these things aside in the hustle of summer, but when all is stillness and pure white, it is harder for me to ignore.

A year ago, I would not be writing this. A year ago, I would have been listening to those whispers in my head and letting them tell me their lies, because I did not understand their nature or how to combat them. I let them win, because I thought I was powerless, broken, and probably deserved what I got.

Those whispers in the back of my head were me. But they were also my enemy trying to pull me back into his service. Evil is sly and subtle in this way, and it is fantastic at exploiting our weaknesses. But here’s the deal: evil exploits our weaknesses because we allow it to. Because we make the decision to wallow, to listen, to believe. I have suffered in confusion and self-hatred for years because I made the choice to let evil tell me who I was rather than listening to the merciful love of the Lord of All who made me and died for me. For me!

I told you way back at the start of this blog that Free Will is mankind’s greatest power. God built us with the ability to choose which path we would follow. Satan knows this power better than we do, and loves to toy with us by telling us a critical lie: once you’ve made the choice to serve evil, there is no turning back.

He’s just bitter because that was true for him. As an angel without Grace, he only had one chance, and he chose to rebel. And in his rage and anger and infinite patheticness, he tries to surround himself with as many embittered, desperate, miserable persons as possible, so he does not have to deal with the consequences of his mistake like a grown up. He is a powerful spoiled brat throwing a perpetual temper tantrum, and he is not to be listened to because everything he says is a lie.

So why do we ever listen to him? Well, because once upon a time, our mother and father did. When they partook of the Most Expensive Fruit Salad, Adam and Eve cursed us with Original Sin. On a personal level, they cursed us with the guilt that goes along with knowing that we are a broken people… and that lovely thing we call concupiscence. We have within us a twisted dark piece that predisposes us to temptation and deliberately acts against our best interest. It is our weak point, and Satan’s ally. And it is part of every one of us.

Thanks, mom and dad.

So how do we fight this enemy, when the enemy is already within our gates, defiling our temple, and ransacking the treasure house of our soul? How can we possibly prevail against such reckless hate?

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

Good news! Great joy! We don’t have to do it alone!

God gave us allies, the angels and saints, to help us along the way. He gave us a desire to love him which is stronger than the darkness if we let it be. And most importantly, he gave us his Son, who was made flesh of our flesh, who bled and died horribly for us to free us from the eternal Death which was the final kiss of this curse. He gave us this same living flesh and blood to consume not out of a desire for us to practice ritual cannibalism, but because through this Blessed Sacrament, we are made anew. Every time you fall on your knees before God and cry “Mercy!” He is there and grants you more than you ask for. Every time you eat the flesh of the Lamb Who Was Slain But Lives and bathe in His blood, you are purified. His is not dead viscera that passes through our digestive system. It is living flesh that bonds with our flesh and makes us more Him every single time. Jesus lives within us, growing in power every time we allow him to.

And that weakness of our concupiscence? It is no longer a curse. It is an opportunity. That weakness within that Satan so loves to manipulate is strength to those who surrender it to God’s mercy. For when we look at our brokenness and place it before God, allowing the tide of mercy from the wounds of Jesus to flow over it and into our very essence, when we truly surrender to Him, knowing that alone we are like a rabbit in an alligator pit. . . it is then that we are made strong. It is then that we are made Saints. And in this way, the forces of hell truly will not overpower us.

Hey, demons. Guess what?

My Dad can beat up your dad. And my big Brother’s gonna get you.

In fact, He already has. You’ve lost. You’re beaten.

Go away.

-E.G. Norton