Knowing

“To know God is to know self. The more we grow in the knowledge of God, the deeper our knowledge of self, and if we would attain to any knowledge of God, there must be some knowledge of self. To have no knowledge of God is to walk in darkness, to have no absolute standard by which to gauge and measure yourself. ” –  Basil W. Maturin (“Christian Self-Mastery”)

What is a friend? A friend is someone we can put some level of trust in. Someone with whom we share our joys, sorrows and confidence. Each in the relationship grows to know the other better than he knows himself. And in that knowledge of the other, he becomes aware of that which he knew not of himself.

I had dinner with two very close friends some years ago. As was regularly the case, the time shared was enjoyable. As the evening was coming to a close and we awaited the bill to arrive, one friend asked if we should get together to watch a football game that weekend. I had been experiencing new weakness due to post polio symptoms and knew the climb up the stairs to his apartment, which was not a problem to negotiate in the past, now presented an impossible task. I hesitated to commit, searching for an excuse to avoid the event. My friend as much surmised the reason behind my reluctance. He tried to reassure me that there would be ample help to get me up the stairs. Yet I persisted in my decline of the invitation. To my surprise, he left money for his portion of the bill before it arrived and after expressing his displeasure in my decision abruptly left. His response took me quite by surprise. The next day I received a call and an apology from him regarding his behavior. He was hurt in the thought that I did not think enough of our friendship to accept such a well-meaning gesture of help so that I could be a part of the gathering. I then accepted not only his apology but also his offer of help from the prior night. I, with the help of my friends, attended that event and others to follow.

I gained some self-knowledge as a result of that confrontation. I became aware that the reluctance to accept the assistance was due, in part, to a discomfort with, and fear of, my ever-growing loss of independence. An independence that I strove to secure for years in my struggle with polio. Becoming even more apparent, was the pride that motivated the reluctance to accept that help. A pride that was hindering my growth, through the challenge of change, that was being brought about by the new weakness. That knowledge which existed between two friends provided an opportunity for one to gain a deeper knowledge of self, revealing a vice that was not so readily apparent and needed correcting. Our bias toward ourselves often blinds us to inconsistencies which we soon find have been quite deep-seated; hindering growth of self-knowledge.

On the feast of St. Nicholas ( in 1273), Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was named the Angelic Doctor by the Catholic Church, was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the Summa Theologica unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) strong disapproval he replied, “The end of my labors has come. I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.” Saint Thomas Aquinas died three months later while on his way to the ecumenical council of Lyons.

St. Thomas Aquinas, as all saints, was as devoted in his pursuit of God, as God is in His pursuit of us. Through his writings, teaching, celebration of Mass and spiritual warfare encountered in defense of Holy Mother Church, Thomas has procured  a knowledge of God, that only one who had given his life to could. The more he knew of God, the more he knew of himself. We cannot know ourselves in-depth through self-analysis, because of our prejudice toward ourselves. God, however, possesses no such prejudice. And in knowing Him in the light of His perfect truth, what becomes apparent, is how unknowingly contradictory we have been in contrast to Him. Our growing self-knowledge establishes our task of conformity to God’s image through reconciliation and amending. Saint Thomas Aquinas confirms this in his cessation of writing. He realized that his writing could only reveal so much and no more. His incompleteness became self-evident when assessed in the illuminating light of God, through Christ, whom he came to know so well.

In knowing God we are guided to the deepest levels of our souls, where no earthy knowing friend can lead. And, there, uproot those discrepancies that keep us from rising to the highest level. The light of God reveals to each of us, who seek Him, the source of those disconcerting stirring specters, unbeknownst to us, that hopefully can be dispelled before they stain our souls with such vices the likes of which were found on the picture of Dorian Gray.

Knowing God is like examining a painting by the penetrating rays of the sun, rather than the dim light of a candle. One reveals the most imperceptible flaws, while the other, only those easily discernible blemishes. He allows us to see ourselves truthfully and completely, no matter what that vision may be. And only then can we begin to advance in self-knowledge, spiritual growth and a closer friendship with God.

I can now presume that those who condemned Our Lord to death in not knowing Him, were equally unknowing of themselves. This presumption very likely is the reason why, while in the throes of crucifixion, Christ offered the following divinely merciful plea on their behalf and ours:

“Father forgive them,  for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34

 

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Christ’s Church Will Survive

It is no surprise that a recent Pew Poll of adults has shown a near 8% decline of Christianity in America between 2007-2014. With Catholic numbers alone showing a 3.1% drop. In applying common sense, one has to note a curious correlation between the verifiable state of American societal decline and the Pew findings. Secular relativism has viewed Christ’s Church as a solely institutional ideal born of the subjective views of men, rather than the omnipotent idea of the living God.

History has recorded the Church’s ebbs and flows. It’s ebbs are found in scandals created by its custodians’ own making, or by attacks from outside heresies. On the other hand, the flows are seen in the early Church’s establishment of the first hospitals and universities, promoting and preserving the sculpture and art of the Renaissance greats, and historically has often been a patron of science. The Church’s influence, as has just been shown, has played a most significant role in the formation of Western society. Yet after 2000 years, despite the challenges to the Church’s existence; She still stands.

The Church asks much because it offers everything; and it is as alive as is its founder. G.K. Chesterton best affirms these two points, in the order in which they appear, by saying: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” And, “The Church has survived its own death, because it had a God who knew His way out of the grave.”

It is quite ironic that the findings of the Pew Poll should in truth validate Christianity; simply by the poll’s practice of one of the Church’s main doctrines: “free will.” The 35,000 choices tallied in the poll is an act of free will. And through free will we can either do what we should or what we want. Eventually, we all make our own beds; don’t we?

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Father’s Day Tribute-Remembering Dad

Alan A. Malizia: Contagious Optimism! Co-Author:

A Father’s Day reprise. Happy Father’s Day to all.

Originally posted on CROSSROADS-Right Choices:

“But the Common Man does not in the least want to found a sect. He is much more likely, for instance, to want to found a family.” – G.K. Chesterton

Anthony Malizia, was born on September 14, 1911 in Settefrati, Italy. Settefrati, is located in the mountains of the Province of Frosinone; in the Italian region Lazio, about 120km east of Rome and about 40km east of Frozinone.

My father emigrated, from Italy, to the United States, as a young man – entering the country, by way of Ellis Island, N.Y. He was sponsored by a cousin, and fulfilled his dream by becoming  a U.S. citizen. His name is one of so many, who shared that common dream, that is forever engraved, on “The American Immigrant Wall Of Honor,” at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

In 1940, he would marry my mother, Antoinette, who was, herself, a resident of New York City. They would move to, and live…

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Something Strong Inside

Something Strong Inside.

A re-post from Contagious Optimism, April 11, 2012.

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Grace

 “Sanctifying Grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.” – CCC 2023

So grace then is an unmerited gift from God. It’s purpose is to heal our souls of sin and to return us to holiness. In addition, grace will help to turn us from those enticements which would be harmful before they take hold. The principle of “use it or lose it,” applies well with grace.

Suppose you were to receive a set of weights as a gift from a concerned, loving and well-meaning friend. You didn’t ask for them, but accepted the gift none the less. The purpose of weights is to increase strength and physical well-being. A wonderful gift from one who wishes all the best for you; Is it not? But what benefit is gained if the set is left in the box in which it came? Only by using the weights regularly will those health benefits be realized. The same is true of grace. It can be a tremendous source of healing and strength. But, what is required of weights to be effective is also required of grace. We must do some heavy lifting. Grace left unattended is wasted.

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” – 2 Corinthians 6:1

Through the continued application of grace:

Those who are home-bound and bedridden will be consoled.                                                     Those who suffer from diseases that devastate the body will be granted strength and hope.                                                                                                                                                               Those with disabling handicaps will find forbearance.                                                                 Those lost in addictions will find their way out.                                                                               Those whose marriages are besieged will be sustained.                                                                 Those families that are broken will be made whole…

Through God’s gift of grace, all the burdens of body, mind and spirit will be made light, all obstacles traversed and every wrong righted.

God allows the many daunting challenges that we face in life, yet sends us the grace needed to overcome or hold firm. As the Jewel plant-the antidote for poison ivy-is found growing near poison ivy, so, too, does the appropriate grace accompany those daunting challenges. We need but make a sustained use of that grace to endure all trials, to persevere in faith and to ensure that God’s promises will be fulfilled. Each moment that passes in grace is a step away from the beckoning calls of harmful ways and valueless despair; until they are so far removed that they can no longer be heard, nor hold us captive. The power of grace grows stronger, exponentially, so long as we faithfully embrace it.

Grace can be freeing. As the weightlifter is freed from his weakness by becoming stronger, so too is grace freeing. However, in being free of something, we become free for something; preferably, some greater good. The weightlifter’s greater good is his improved strength. A greater good that we are now open to after grace has aided in severing the ties to sin is found  in virtue. No greater virtue can one achieve other than through a relationship with Christ. Christ’s love, for all who choose to believe in Him, is the greatest good. For by His love He has endured  far more than we must. And has kept His promise that He would never leave us fearful orphans, by sending His saving grace powered by the Holy Spirit.

“I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10

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PENTECOST – Convincing Illumination

d068cbfeaf8c40be2c7c223643e6f883“A man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.” – G.K. Chesterton

A  Jewish scholar who became a Christian and who knew the Old Testament very well and all of the traditions of the Jews, said that at the time of Christ the rabbis had gathered together 456 prophesies concerning the messiah, the Christ, the conqueror of evil who was to be born and to enter into a new covenant with mankind. Suppose the chances of any one prophesy being fulfilled by accident, say the place where he would be born, was one in a hundred. Then, if two prophesies were fulfilled, the chances would be one in a thousand. If three prophesies were to coincide in Christ, that would be one in ten thousand. If  four, one in a hundred thousand. If five, one in a million. Now if all of these prophesies were fulfilled in Christ, what would be the chance of them all concurring at the appointed moment, not only in place but also in time, as was foretold by the prophet Daniel? Take a pencil and write on a sheet of paper the numeral 1, and draw a line beneath it. Under the line write 84, and after 84, if you have time, write 126 zeros. That is the chance of all of the prophesies of Christ being fulfilled. It runs into millions and millions, trillions and trillions. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (“Through The Year With Fulton Sheen”)

“When  the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”- Acts 2: 1-4

Jesus promised that after His Ascension He would send the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to His Apostles. And along with the arrival of the Holy Spirit came an illuminating and complete understanding of Jesus. (In the words of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: “Just as the Son has revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit reveals the Son.”) In another dramatic fashion, that understanding also descended upon Saul, a persecutor of Christians. To coin a phrase: He was blinded by the light; literally, while on his way to Damascus. When He recovered from this life changing experience, at the hand of his savior, Saul’s sight was restored beyond the physical. For it was now Paul, not Saul, who emerged from the traumatic but transfiguring event. Essentially, Christ having heard the cries for mercy from His followers rescued them from the merciless Saul by sending the merciful Paul. The persecutor of Christians is now the protector of Christ’s Church.

The Apostles of Christ were like Saul; not sharing in his hatred, but in his doubt. Saint Thomas, alone, was proof of that. He would not believe in the Resurrection unless He was satisfied with physical validation. For Thomas, seeing was believing. The Apostles never truly understood the significance of the Resurrection. If they had understood, they would have been at the tomb awaiting what Jesus had promised. Yet their doubt scattered them and sent them into hiding. Even though Jesus appeared to them and, as well, to many others on a number of occasions after His Resurrection, the apostles still tended to their profession as fishermen. Only when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost was their understanding of the Resurrection complete, and their doubt vanquished. So convinced were they then, that they feared not even death in spreading the Good News of Christ and through an immeasurable faith worked wonders in His name.

The Jewish scholar was a doubter too. I wager that his original purpose in the study of the Old Testament and Jewish traditions was not to prove but disprove Christ’s true nature. But, as scientists of various disciplines will attest; many theories are proven true by the failed attempts to prove them false. This Jewish scholar, influenced by the common sense of first principles, could not help but come to the reasonable conclusion that Jesus is who He claimed to be; the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. So convinced was he by his findings, that he, too, took up his cross and followed Christ.

Whether knocked from a horse by a blinding light, or having one’s heart enkindled by the perfect love of the Holy Spirit, or persuaded by common sense reason, many have come to divine understanding. Those who permit themselves to be overshadowed by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity are blessed, for they will find what they have been seeking their entire lives; the way, the truth and the life.

For in knowing Christ, who is all-encompassing, we know not one truth, but all truth. Therein is well placed our conviction. 

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SCARS: Evidence Of Healing

Agca visits Saint John Paul II's grave and leaves white roses.

Agca visits Saint John Paul II’s grave and leaves white roses. (2014)

Pope John Paul II visits his would-be assassin, in prison.

Pope John Paul II visits his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison. (1983)

In the movie “Jaws” there is a scene aboard Quint’s boat, the Orca, in which Quint and Hooper, over a few drinks, are comparing their various scars while awaiting their next encounter with the Great White. Chief Brody, for the moment enjoys the comic game of one-upmanship between the two men of the sea as a respite from their dangerous mission. Each scar is accompanied by a story. And isn’t that true of us all.

While playing with friends, as a young boy, I lost my balance and fell. Not too unusual for those who are young and rambunctious. Yet unusual in that I wore leg braces and crutches as a result of polio. As I fell I was unable to free myself from my crutch which supported me at the forearm. With the crutch tip wedged in the ground and upright I dangled briefly, but long enough for the edge of the metal forearm support to gouge into my flesh. The mishap did not require a hospital emergency room visit. When ice along with Mercurochrome and a bandage suffices, there is no need for such attention. After the wound had healed I was left with a scar that is visible to this day. And as was the case with Quint and Hooper, I was left with a story to tell. I must rightly say, if the scar no longer existed neither would this tale.

Scars confirm that a healing process has that taken place. Scars can result from a number of intentional or unintentional incidents, but are not limited to the physical. Hearts, minds and souls can be wounded as well. These wound types cannot be seen by the naked eye, but none the less are in need of healing. And will also leave behind scars with stories that are often as well guarded as that of a good poker hand.

Scar tissue often remains visible, although healing is complete, as evidence to a significant trauma occurrence. The body possesses the ability to heal some wounds without outside intervention. Antibodies fight infections as blood cells join to seal the wound. Again, we can recall certain injuries because scar tissue remains to remind us. However, memory of the events that had caused minor cuts, bruises and abrasions will eventually fade, as do their fully healed scars.

Forgiveness is the healing process of interior wounds; of heart, mind and soul. And as it is true of the body; the heart, mind and soul can, too, be wounded by others or ourselves. Residual scar tissue can be as evident here as it is with the body. The presence of this particular scar tissue is validated by an imbalance or discord  in our natures. We just may not seem like ourselves; resembling someone who is ill or injured. Negative effects on the unseen self are as real as those of the seen. Forgiveness, given or received, heals. Scar tissue of this sort will remain only if we choose to follow our inclination to hold the offensive wound inflicted upon us against others or ourselves.

“But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we are healed.”-Isaiah 53: 5

Christ, after His resurrection, still possessed the scars of crucifixion. The same scars demanded to be seen by Thomas to convince him from his doubt. Christ’s scars represent a healing of monumental proportion as proof that forgiveness powered by love heals all wounds; even that of the entire world. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen points to another valuable purpose in those visible scars of Christ when he says: “Christ will intercede for us in seeking God’s mercy by showing God His scars and saying; see how much I love them.”

God’s forgiveness is like a vast ocean. Can anyone retrieve the same water from a cup after pouring it into the ocean. Of course not. That is what God’s forgiveness is like. And in being irretrievable our trespass is not just forgiven but also forgotten.

Man’s capacity to forgive when compared to God’s is not vast but minute. The scars that often remain are a testament to the not a yet completed quest of perfecting ourselves in His will. No matter the effort made, one cannot forget completely; especially when the offense carried out cuts deep. But, God does give us the ability to make it seem as though we have forgotten such grievous acts against us. That ability is in our choosing. Our choosing to stay our hand, sheath our sword and bite our tongue. It is a difficult choice because it is the right choice. A choice that stems from a selfless act of the will. An act that counters ill will with good will. The same act of will that not only allowed Christ to withstand the demands of the cross, but to embrace them triumphantly. Each of us can choose not to continually hold a harm done to us over the head of the one we say we have forgiven. And both parties will be the better for it. For, often, the shoe is found on the other foot.

When we stand before God, in the only just judgement of our lives, He will notice any remaining scar tissue, which is seen by Him as an imperfection. But may, by His divine mercy, not hold it against us. This is possible, because even though God knows that we have sinned against another, He will take into account that the one we have offended has, also, chosen not to hold it against us.

The measure of mercy that we show to others will be in like measure shown to us .

 

 

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