I can’t believe I missed it.
A 54-day novena for our nation. It ends on October 7 with the Rosary Coast-to-Coast. Which means it started before I learned of either.
But that’s okay. You don’t have to do the novena to do say the Rosary.
Just show up at any of the Rosary stations around the area at 3:00 on October 7. I’m helping organize one location at the Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka/Pacific area. It’s a beautiful location full of amazing grottos and shrines. (Directions below.) (Read more and find directions here.)
But there are many other locations:
Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka/Pacific, MO
St. Paul Catholic Church in Fenton, MO
St. Clare of Assisi Church in Chesterfield, MO
Susson Park Pavilion, St. Louis, MO
St. David Church in Arnold, MO
St. Francis of Assisi on Telegraph Rd.
St. Mary of Victories on 3rd Street, St. Louis, MO
St. Angela Merici in Florissant
Blessed Sacrament in Belleville, IL
St. Mary’s in Belleville, IL
Sts. Peter and Paul in Waterloo, IL
For the full map, click here and scroll down to Rosary Locations map
America is Crumbling Faster Than We Can Patch It #
You probably saw the horrible fiasco that took place in Washington, DC yesterday. It was humiliating and maddening.
One party exploited a very troubled woman to keep a Catholic off the Supreme Court. Like it’s the 1920s.
Many of us tried for years to restore some sense of decency, justice, and responsibility to government. But every improvement we helped bring about drove our internal enemies to greater depths of indecency and destruction.
I realize, now, that America is out of control and “beyond our poor ability to add or detract,” to borrow a Lincoln line.
Only God can save us now.
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves, Right? #
I’m not so sure anymore. And I’m not sure that cliche leads people to do the right thing.
I’m sure the leaders of Enron had that cliche emblazoned on their $10-each business cards.
In fact, the cliche isn’t in the Bible. Nor does the Church teach it. Instead, the Church teaches something far more humbling. That our job is to cooperate with God’s plan.
If I’m seeking God’s help by helping myself, I’m presuming that God will change is plan based on what he sees me doing with fervor. Which explains why people pray for their team to win sports events.
But it makes no sense.
God doesn’t help those who help themselves.
God wants us to cooperate with his plan.
At the wedding at Cana, the Virgin Mother pointed to Jesus, her son, and told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She didn’t say, “Do whatever you want and he’ll give you a hand.”
We’re not in charge. He is.
That’s No Excuse for Inaction #
Being human is hard.
We’re not supposed to do what we feel like doing. We’re not supposed to follow our passions. We’re not going to change God’s plan into ours.
But we’re not allowed to sit idly by, either.
We’re commanded to cooperate with God’s plan.
How do we know what God’s plan is?
Well, it’s in the Bible.
It comes down to two commandments. (Not recommendations. Commandments.) They are:
Love God above all things, with our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls. 2. Love our neighbor as ourselves.
God further delineated these two commandments twice.
First, he gave Moses two tablets containing Ten Commandments. Tablet A had four commandments about loving God. Tablet B had six commandments about loving our neighbor. That was the first delineation.
Next, Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapter 5. It starts with the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. —Matthew 5:3-12
And Jesus didn’t stop there. He gave us more clues to the plan.
Don’t lose your savor, your essence
Let others see God’s plan through your good works
Obey the Commandments and help others to do the same
Unjustified anger at another is akin to murder
Calling your neighbor a fool puts you in danger of going to hell
Settle your differences with your neighbor before attempting to settle your debts with God
Lust is akin to adultery
Marriage is for life
Turn the other cheek
Give more than what’s asked or demanded of you
Love your enemies
Don’t show off your charity. God knows what you’ve done
Say the Our Father
Fast, but don’t blog about it (like I do)
Don’t build wealth on earth at the expense of treasures in heaven
Don’t look at filth or you will be filled with filth
And the big one: don’t worry. Trust God instead
Leave the judging of others to God or God will use your measure against you
Ask God for what is good and he will provide, like any good father
Follow the narrow path of righteousness, not the wide path of popularity
Prayer without doing God’s will won’t save you
Cooperating with God’s plan is a sign of wisdom. Devising your own plan will end in tears
Why I’m Cooling on Political Action #
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might look at that list and say, “Gee, Bill. You’ve pretty much trademarked the opposite of every one of those commandments.”
And you’d be right. I have systematically taken the Sermon on the Mount and done the opposite. Repeatedly.
I have lost my fervor for God and his Church many times and for long periods
I have failed to do good works when the opportunity (need) arose
I have broken all 10 of the Mosaic commandments, at least according to Jesus' broadened view of them
I have fomented unjustified anger at political opponents
I have called my neighbor “fool,” and worse
I have turned to God before settling differences with the people around me
I never miss a pretty woman
I have been divorced
I have practiced “an eye for an eye” far more than turning the other cheek
I have given less than what was required or asked
I have bragged about my charity and published my fasting schedule
I have neglected family, friends, God, and community to make an extra buck, which I spent on myself
I’ve gone years at a time without saying a single prayer
I’ve worried myself sick over silly things
I’ve failed to ask God for basic needs, relaying, instead, on myself (and failed trying)
I’ve sat in the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic with the cool kids on the wide path when there was clear sailing on the narrow one
I’ve used prayer as a substitute for doing the right thing * I’ve devised many of my own plans when God’s plan seemed out-of-sync with my ambition
While many of my failings had nothing to do with politics, politics tends to lead me into sin. I don’t play fair.
You might say, “Bill, did you see what Diane Feinstein just did? They don’t play fair, either.”
True. They don’t. And that’s where this gets hard.
When you look at that entire list, plus the rest of the Bible, you see how narrow the path becomes.
We’re supposed to help other people stay on the narrow path when they stray off to the wide path. But we’re supposed to be meek and humble and not judge.
We’re supposed to get angry at evil-doing without creating enemies.
We’re supposed to love enemies so much we want to spend eternity with them in heaven.
We’re supposed to help our community become righteous without being jerks about it.
My problem is, I like to take shortcuts. It feels good, in the moment, to rant at the people who, in my opinion, are doing wrong. It’s easy to follow Saul Alinsky’s advice and ridicule opponents. Easy and effective. Ridicule really works.
Yet, Jesus said flat out, “don’t do that.”
We come to believe what we say. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. If write about what a fool someone is, I will come to believe my own words. That leads to hating people, not loving them.
In another twist, Jesus turned around and called the Scribes and Pharisees vipers and hypocrites. And we’re told to imitate Christ.
I told you the path is narrow. (Actually, Jesus did.)
For me, getting all caught up in politics makes that path even narrower. I run too fast and miss a turn. I look down and walk into a tree branch. I do too much at once and trip over a stone in the path.
Prayer Is Battle and the Rosary is a Powerful Weapon #
When we say, “God helps those who help themselves,” what we’re really saying is “prayer and living the Beatitudes doesn’t help.”
I think that’s just wrong.
Political action without conscious and continuous communion with God leads us to do evil and leaves us empty even in victory.
Political action is demanding. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and, for me, a lot of emotional investment. When I’m wrapped up in politics, I don’t have time or energy for God. I make excuses. “I’m doing God’s will, so he’ll understand why I’m not going to mass, why I’m ridiculing opponents, why I’m not taking my kids to PSR, why I’m not saying the Rosary with my family.”
But I have no evidence that God agrees. In fact, I have evidence that he doesn’t.
Maybe spending more time in church and prayer will help me better see God’s particular plan for me.
When I’m praying the Rosary, I’m not ridiculing my neighbor. When I’m sitting in church, I’m not plotting someone’s political demise. When I’m reading books about saints and theology and the Rosary I’m storing up ideas and inspiration.
When I fill my spare time, not with the Drudge Report, but with prayer and contemplation of God’s will, my actions might be more aligned with God’s plan and less selfishly aligned to my own. My actions might be driven more by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and less by my desire for popularity and winning.
Besides, we know from history that the Rosary is a powerful weapon. Deployed effectively, it can win battles. Used regularly, it can win wars against evil.
Finally, maybe we should all trust that God will guide us as long as we spend a lot of time listening for his call.
I would be honored if you would join many of us for an hour of the Rosary on October 7.