I wasn’t planning to write a blog post today. I have about three free hours, which is rare, and my house badly needs to be cleaned. But, I went to 7 am Mass this morning, and when I realized that today is the memorial feast of St. Peter Claver, and I read the readings for today and heard the priest’s homily…I was convicted that I need to spend this time writing. My house won’t stay clean for long anyway, and hopefully God will use this blog post to help build our 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood…which could have ETERNAL consequences for many souls!
So, St. Peter Claver lived in the 1600’s in Columbia, South America and dedicated his priesthood to ministering to slaves. At that time the slave trade was big business, and over a thousand slaves would arrive at the harbor every month. Fr. Claver would board the stinking slave ships and descend down into the filthy depths of the ship in order to care for the sick and dying and to give food and comfort as he was able. He gave them the Gospel and brought many souls to Christ.
Today’s Gospel (in the traditional readings) is the story of the Good Samaritan. You know the story. A man is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. A Pharisee and a Levite both pass him by. They actually had to cross to the other side of the road in order to do so. They didn’t want to see him. Then, a Samaritan came along. This Samaritan allowed himself to SEE the beaten man who was lying naked in his own blood. So, what did he do? Did he continue on his way in order to plan a meeting to discuss the need for security along the road? Maybe lobby for more soldiers to guard the travelers? No. You know the story. He knelt down in the bloody dirt…soiling his own garments. He took out his own wine and oil and poured it over the man’s wounds. He gathered up the limp body…struggling and straining to lift him onto his own animal and took him to the Inn, where he gave his own money for the care of this man.
Sounds pretty personal, doesn’t it? Kind of like St. Peter Claver. Imagine how PERSONAL it was as he entered those slave ships. The sights, sounds and smells that awaiting him in those dark quarters. The faces of the dead and dying and the cries of the scared and suffering. He could have spent his time praying for an end to slavery from his parish, or petitioning the government to change the laws. Instead, he made it personal.
Lately I have been struggling against bitterness that keeps trying to creep into my heart, regarding “conservative Christians” who claim to be pro-life, but who don’t seem to make it “personal“. Their hearts don’t seem to be broken…at least not broken enough to cause them go to the bloody and dirty field of baby-massacre that happens just a few miles from where we live. For them, abortion seems to be an ideology or a concept. It is more of an idea then a reality. They haven’t really allowed themselves to SEE it. They don’t realize how PERSONAL abortion really is. Every abortion happens in a very PERSONAL way to a very unique individual baby. Every time an abortionist’s sopher clamp grips onto a leg…twists it until it detaches from the body…the most invasive and personal atrocity happens. That leg belonged to that baby! God was the One who was knitting that baby together in his mother’s womb…no one else! That leg belonged to God and to the baby. How much more personal can it get?
I don’t want to be judgmental. The Lord knows, I lived my life for 45 years without ever giving a thought to the injustice of abortion. Even though I always thought abortion was wrong…I never took it personally.
I think that the only way that good people can avoid taking abortion “personally”…is by not looking at it. And when I say “looking at it“…I mean really SEEING it. I think the way that we avoid seeing the pain and suffering of others is by being focused on ourselves. This happens when we are worried about how we look to others. We may believe in God. We may even say that we love Him. But, until we have the experience of opening up the dirtiest, most shameful parts of ourselves to Him…and asking Him to clean us and heal us…we won’t know, or BE KNOWN…in an intimate, PERSONAL way. As long as we allow ourselves to pridefully believe that we are already “good enough“, and refuse to reveal our most hidden and shameful dirtiness, trusting in the Lord to clean us up…we will be too worried about putting on a good front and a good show for everyone else, and so we will not be able to see those who are hurting right in front of us. Our faith won’t be personal. It will be something external, something that we “put on”…for show…to make ourselves feel righteous. Think of St. Peter at the last supper. How embarrassing it must have been for him to have to hold out his dirty feet to the One Person whom he loved and admired most. He almost refused, saying, “Lord, you will never wash my feet!” What did the Lord say? “Unless I wash you, you can have no part in me.” I love Peter’s response…”Lord, then not just my feet…wash all of me!” I love St. Peter…his humanity and weakness that we can all relate to…and his enthusiastic abandonment that is an example for us to follow.
Two prayers help me to remember just how “personal” God’s love for me is. The most recent one is a prayer given by Jesus to Elizabeth Kindleman of Hungary. He promises to actually pray it WITH us, every time we pray it. It goes like this:
May our feet journey together; May our hands gather in unity; May our hearts beat in unison; May our souls be in harmony; May our thoughts be as one; May our ears listen to the silence together; May our glances profoundly penetrate each other; May our lips pray together to gain mercy from the Eternal Father. Amen.
The second one is the “Litany of Humility“, which I am sure most of you already know…but in case you don’t, you can read it here: Litany of Humility | EWTN
In this prayer, we are asking Jesus to deliver us from the fear of being humiliated. Once we lose that fear…or rather…once we allow ourselves to overcome that fear…and risk looking foolish in the eyes of the world...the devil loses a stronghold. Our faith becomes stronger and more personal…and we are then able to see the suffering that is happening around us. Until that happens, it is almost as if we are walking around with a bubble around us. The bubble is covered on the inside with mirrors. Everything that happens in the world around us is simply reflected back to us in our own image. We may see an evil, but all we think about is how that evil will affect us. Until we allow God to smash that bubble…by confessing our sins and abandoning our own will to God, we won’t be able to see the sufferings of others and God won’t be able to break our hearts. If this seems unattainable…no worries! As the priest said this morning in his homily…God seems to ask some very hard things of those who follow Him. We are to love those who hate us…to turn the other cheek when struck…give to those who ask…etc. From a human perspective, it is impossible. But God doesn’t ask us to do anything that He won’t give us the grace to do. He tells us to “be perfect, just as our Heavenly Father is perfect“. But we are not capable. It is God that will do the work. We can trust Him. The first step is to hold out our dirty feet to Him and say, “Lord, make me clean.”
I hope you will help us to fill our 40 Days for Life prayer vigil on the sidewalk. Come and pray. Repent and beg God’s mercy for our sin of abortion, at the place that kills over 3,000 little babies every year. Join us on September 20th at 7pm for a “Bringing Pro-Life Pittsburgh Together” kick off event which will feature local speakers and testimonies. FLYER LINKED HERE.
Also, join us on September 21st for a Kick-off Mass and candle-lit Eucharistic Procession to Planned Parenthood. FLYER LINKED HERE. Please promote these two events at your church and among your friends and family.
And please…please join us on the sidewalk from September 22nd through October 31st…anytime from 7 am to 7 pm EVERY DAY! Sign up for hours HERE, or contact Fran Morrow to sign up your church or group for a time slot at firstname.lastname@example.org …or Donna Goss to sign up as an individual at email@example.com. The schedule is not very full at this moment…which you can view HERE. We need your help!
Please, see the need. Make it personal. It’s personal for the babies and the moms and dads. It should be personal for us as well.
May God bless you,