Several years ago I was told by a friend of mine that he really looked forward to my Friday Five post each week. He said it was a welcome reprieve from the news of the day or week. I appreciated his telling me this as I enjoyed putting them together. But over the last few years and (the more infrequent) weekly “fives” I had a more difficult time putting them together. The world seemed to be getting darker and I was having a harder time finding some light. But there is still light out there if we (me) are willing to dig a little harder to uncover it.
I’ve always tried to have an overarching “theme” to my Five…something to tie them together, however loosely that may be. It won’t take long for you to uncover this week’s theme.
— 1 —
I’ll begin with Fr. George Rutler. It’s never a bad place to start with one of his columns or books.
The cynic sneers at the notion of heroism because he thinks that there is no light to be shed in a world that is all darkness. He logically concludes from that false premise that darkness is not dark because there is no light as its contrast, and nothing matters since there is nothing other than matter. But there are heroes, and they shed light in dark times. Valor defies villainy.
As one example, Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt, a Catholic priest from a farm family in Iowa, was a chaplain at Pearl Harbor on the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941. Having been pulled out of a porthole where he had been stuck, he positioned himself for certain death in order to help crewmen to safety, blessing each one. This past month, enhanced DNA technology identified what remains of his bones. Previously his corroded chalice had been recovered along with his waterlogged Latin Breviary open to the Eighth Psalm: “Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is your name throughout all the earth!” On October 8 his remains were buried with those of his parents.
The most titanic war is the spiritual battle fought every day in each soul, even though it is commonly upstaged by the lesser fights over boundaries and politics that make the newspaper headlines. In that spiritual combat, “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it.” While no one wants to live in dark times, the Light of Christ is never brighter and more wonderfully blinding than when the nations live in shadows and human hearts are dark.
— 2 —
Love was a mystery that was sustaining me.
Love is the truth of things. Love is the mystery at the center of things.
Sometimes we need to be brought into such a deep encounter with darkness so that we can have an encounter with love.
Love called me out of darkness.
— 3 —
I remember seeing a lot of commercials advertising a new series based on the 1973 movie The Exorcist. I’ve seen or heard almost nothing since, though I’ve been more than distracted by other things. In this article that appeared in The Atlantic, a scene that was cut from the original theatrical release is mentioned that I wish had been included. I’ve begun to draft a blog on horror stories and the like that I hope to have published before All Hallows Eve. Stay tuned.
The Exorcist got audiences thinking about good, evil, and God while they were being both entertained and frightened. The core of the film is ironically contained in a scene that was cut before the film made theaters, but then was edited back into the re-release. Exhausted from the first round of exorcism, Father Merrin and Father Karras sit together on the stairs outside of Regan’s room. Downcast, Father Karras asks, “Why this girl? It makes no sense.” Father Merrin responds, “I think that the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as animal and ugly. To reject the possibility that God could love us.”
The best Catholic stories of the past didn’t offer happy endings; instead, they were defined by suffering. The Exorcist TV series arrives with the blessing and burden of being connected to one of the most successful horror films ever made. The novel, film, and show all share essential elements of Catholic storytelling: Faith is often buoyed by doubt. God and grace are mysterious, often impenetrable. Belief does not erase fear, anxiety, and pain from the world—yet belief offers a way forward into and through the dark.
Coincidentally, there is an emergency need for exorcists after surge in people dabbling in Satanism and black magic.
— 4 —
From the NCR comes this story:
Tom Upshur, co-founder (with Mike Dresdick) of the group Pro Bikers for Life and his biker buddies routinely pray and witness in front of Planned Parenthood in Manhattan or on Long Island. They’re a bunch of motorcycle guys who show up on their bikes and quietly recite the Rosary. Standing at the entrance to the abortion center, they get all kinds of surprised and curious looks. They try to reach out to the women and men heading into the clinic. Having bikers peacefully standing outside abortion facilities “makes a big difference” in counselors’ ability “to talk to the men,” whether in a sidewalk counseling situation or otherwise. Boyfriends or husbands who might never speak to a woman or an elderly man might find a pro-life biker more approachable.
“We tell them to step up to the plate and protect their child,” Upshur said. “And many guys will go into the clinic,” and walk back out after convincing their girlfriends not to go through with the abortion – often a procedure the men talked the women into in the first place. “We tell them we’re there praying for them, that there’s real help available, that we want to help them. We tell them we’ll do anything possible to help them and that it’s all completely free. We tell them ‘See your baby first! We’ll get you an ultrasound today.'”
One man Tom met revealed that he’d been part of an abortion over 30 years ago. He said, “I’ve been in pain every day since then.” “I said, ‘Your child in Heaven knows your pain, and your pain is love.’ After talking and praying, the two hugged, and the post abortive man said, “I’m free!” He thanked Upshur and gave him a biker tip: “You’ve gotta keep the shiny side up and the rubber to the road.’
I like this group, the Pro Bikers for Life. If I owned a motorcycle I’d be looking to join them. What I especially liked and wanted to point out was that last line: “You’ve gotta keep the shiny side up and the rubber to the road.” I’ve written recently about spiritual warfare and combat. From August 15 through October 7 I prayed a 54-day rosary novena that I can tell you with a direct look and a deep conviction changed my life and resulted in a miracle. Those are stories for another day. My oldest son has chosen the military life for four years and just this week returned from his six months of deployment to a not-so-great place. We are looking forward to reuniting with him at our home a week from tomorrow. I have chosen another way to do battle and it is in the spiritual realm. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I do not accept the division of sides into “liberal/conservative” or “left/right”. I believe our divisions lie in whether one believes in the supernatural or not. That is where the rubber meets the road.
During my rosary novena I read the following quote by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer taken from Exorcism and the Church Militant in which he said:
Admission into Christ’s elite fighting force begins by knowing that by your baptism you have been “commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill a most dramatic mission; it is the mission of saving souls. This mission cannot be accomplished without entering into conflict with ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’ It is not a mission for the fainthearted or for those who wish to take the wide road to heaven. It is the path of warfare, of spiritual battle.”
Whether we choose to accept it or not this is the path before us all. The darkness can seem suffocating. But not if we keep the “shiny side up”. It will not consume you if you seek the Light and do what it takes to plant yourself within it. With the exception of one day I have not stopped my daily rosary recitation since beginning on August 15. It has, for me, made all the difference.
— 5 —
To continue this theme, albeit on a much lighter note, my favorite band released their first album in sixteen years a few weeks back. I have listened to Kansas since I stumbled across their 1980 album Audio-Visions in my town library in 1982. Around that same time their single “Play the Game Tonight” was all over the radio and, after repeatedly checking out that album, I was hooked. I bought the rest of their back catalog on cassettes and albums, eventually moving to CDs, and have never stopped listening. Their new album The Prelude Implicit is a breath of fresh air, and while I downloaded it from iTunes and then burned a CD for my car, I have listened to it repeatedly ever since.
I’ve exchanged several emails with a former co-worker and good friend about the music of our youth recently. Andy and I share a lot in common when it comes to the days of youth and scraping together a few bucks for an album. It’s been a welcome trip down nostalgia road.
The first single off the album is “With This Heart”. And delightfully enough the lyrics mesh with this week’s theme. I love it when that happens.
Don’t you fear the darkness
I am here to guide you with this hand
Listen, feel the vibration
I am here to lift you with this voice…