On the Consecrated Life, Again
At times in the Church, throughout the trials and tribulations of political interference with the life of the monasteries and convents, such as in the Protestant persecution under Elizabeth I and the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, the religious orders gave witness through martyrdom. Those who read this blog and others, as well as reading Catholic websites, know of the great strength given to the Church by the likes of St. Margaret Clitherow and the French Carmelites.
There is another type of martyrdom, that of the green or white martyr, a person who suffers for the Faith but is not killed. Green or white martyrs are the who have suffered for the sake of the Church and the Papacy. One thinks of those martyrs who died in prisons or concentration camps, or who died at home, suffering in pain and trials for the sake of the Church.
In many ways, those who consecrate their lives to God, making solemn promises or vows for the sake of the Kingdom, are martyrs in the green and white way, giving their lives to God and suffering unseen. The Desert Fathers and the Desert Mothers were unseen, and the power of their witness have come down to us almost, in some cases, 2000 years after their witness in the Sinai, or other hostile places.
Now, the great desert is the City, the City of Man, which excludes on purpose, God and His Church. How many unbaptised people and “nons,” those who subscribe to no religion, live in the urban areas of the West? This is the area of evangelisation needed in 2018. Recently, I had to go out of my way, as I had to travel on a Saturday, to avoid the huge gay pride parade in the capitol here. Most of the thousands who attended and took part in the parade are most likely not baptised, unchurched, and ignorant of the ways of God and Christ.
Those who pray in the City can earnestly intercede for those who are now, the “lost generation” of souls. Those unseen desert mothers who have consecrated themselves to God need not be obvious, but are aware, in a way contemplative orders cannot be, of the huge spiritual vacuum and spiritual warfare, which surrounds the urban convents and monasteries. Speaking recently with a sister of one of the newer orders which do evangelisation, I added to a conversation about the great need for intercessory prayer unseen, unnoticed in the City. This city life is the modern wasteland, as T. S. Eliot so clearly shown in his memorable poem.
In one section, the poet writes,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowing over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
The poem exudes despair of the City, where there is no life, no real relationships, no connections to reality. Eliot’s poignant lines on those walking to work in the morning over one of the many bridges leading into London and especially the City, reminds us that most people create a bubble world of sensual delights, or the pursuit of money, or the pursuit of fame, in order to combat the real loneliness which is a mark of isolation. Now, this existential isolation can happen in small towns, medium sized towns and cities, not just in huge conurbations such as London, New York or Los Angeles. Isolation is the greatest form of poverty, Mother Teresa of Calcutta told those listening to her when she visited Manchester, noting that the poverty of isolation in Great Britain was worse than the poverty of her people she rescued from the dirty streets of one of the poorest cities of the world, Calcutta. She upset the authorities in Great Britain by telling the British that the poverty of being ignored, that poverty experienced by the old, the infirm, the poorest of the poor, was worse that the poverty of the dying men and women her order brought into the houses of the dying for a dignified death.
We are called to evangelise, not to make a moat, fill it with water and put a crocodile in the water. We are not to pull up the drawbridge and ignore the suffering masses who have been undone by death.
Consecrated individuals can combat this type of poverty by sharing it and praying through it on a daily basis—hence the idea of Holy Poverty, which frees up those who need to concentrate of God, on Divine Truths, on intercessory prayer. Without being involved in the lives directly of those who are suffering, being contemplatives and not active in the ministries of the Church, although some consecrated women are, those who give their lives to prayer and penance, accepting and choosing mortifications daily, cause a breach in the front lines of spiritual warfare.
And, yet, the Church of 2018, has forgotten the charism of the consecrated virgin, widow, woman, and man. Without such prayer power, action either cannot happen, or it is merely egotism and not the real work of the Church.
Consecrated life is demanding is a quite, unseen way. In the City of Man, which will turn again soon with vengeance against the City of God, these consecrated desert mothers can reach out and give spiritual direction to whoever comes into their path, and prayer support for priests and nuns, bishops and families.
Such a simple lifestyle, hidden, like the little mustard seed, but full of special graces because of the protection of the vows, can create ripples in the spiritual rivers which flow through the City, unseen, yet alive.
Those Catholics who think they should retire to the country and set up households separate from the City have forgotten the original call of the Church, which was a call to urban areas and the desert. This movement, called the Benedictine Option, is, in my opinion, may be valid, but faulty. If one wants to raise children in an isolated place, yet teach them how to deal with evangelising the world, one must not shelter them too much. Otherwise, like the Irish, they will never become adults in the Faith and not be able to stand up against the world, the flesh and the devil.
We are not to abandon those people who are the lost generations of the cities.
A desert is anyplace where the amenities of life are gone, and life is brutal. Yet, in the desert, God blesses those who are brave enough to die to self to find Him in the hollows, dry valleys, sandy roads of almost uninhabitable places.
Mary of Egypt managed to live a long time eating very little, praying much. Her companion was a lion, which guarded her, as depicted in icons.
Mary was not running away from evil, but confronting it, in herself and in those who came to her for prayer and advice.
There is a reference to Mary of Egypt in Mahler’s 8th Symphony.
MAGNA PECCATRIX, MULIER SAMARITANA, MARIA AEGYPTIACA
Die du großen Sünderinnen You, who does not deny you presence
deine Nähe nicht verweigerst, to women who have sinned greatly,
und ein büßendes Gewinnen and raise them up, through their
in die Ewigkeiten steigerst: penitence, to eternity:
gönn’ auch dieser guten Seele, grant also to this good soul,
die sich einmal nur vergessen, who forgot herself just once,
die nicht ahnte, daß sie fehle not suspecting that she erred,
dein Verzeihen angemessen! your just pardon!
Mortification and reparation are part of the life of the consecrated person. Hence comes power in prayer, and the development of the virtues, not only for one’s self, but for the Church.
It is important to remember that we shall soon be entering into a time when there are no masses, no sacraments, no religious orders, few priests, no churches, no Catholic schools.
Is this not the time for hidden cells of praying men and women, in the world but not of it, dedicating themselves to God for the continuation and strengthening of the Faith.
If you are a religious person who cannot seem to find the right place in the usual orders in which to live out your serious commitment to God, think about the consecrated life.
If you want to read more about Mary of Egypt, here is a short but good article…https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/04/21-interesting-facts-about-st-mary-of.html
Bye for now, Supertradmum
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,