St Paul’s Shrine comforts the mind, while reflecting upon the body. Father Sam, birthday yesterday, celebrating eighty-three years today, preached in his homily the importance of the body. Physicality and being alive, means more in necessity than spiritual fantasies. I am not a spirit. I am human. I cannot escape into the spiritual. The spiritual is not conceptual beyond the physical; the experiential usurps theoretical. Reality means everything. A concept I must embrace, the idea of loving my body, my personal temple, my personal gift from God. I will be held responsible and accountable for my body. God loves my body. I hated my body as an alcoholic, attempting to destroy myself, seeking negation of the physical. To properly obliterate an attachment to ego/identity is vastly different than hating myself, or living in delusion. My body is who I am, Father Sam informed me as we ate after mass. His matter of fact stating shamed me, I did not let on that such a simple fact to him was something I could not accept for years. Feeding our bodies, conversing pleasantly, I contemplated the idea of loving my body and all the abuse I have heaped upon my body. I considered all the people who must despise their body, their looks, their talents, their imperfections weighing heavily upon them; sloth and disease dominating. Physically, life is a ruthless struggle for a multitude. I have a niece who breaks my heart with her morbid obesity. My love, concern, and prayers are immense for the condition of her body and soul. Today supplying food for the after-mass birthday party, I felt splendid giving. Serving others is an excellent way of caring for the body. Now it is on to a cookout and horse riding with basketball buddies. That is proper caring for the body. Yet above the body hovers the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. My prayer life remains hidden, my contemplative efforts reserved for intimates. It is the private passion ruling my life, my golden hidden secret. I am not hiding my pearls from swine, for there were good people at the birthday party and there will be good people at the basketball cookout. However my interior life is a personal relationship with the saints and Mary, while striving for Trinitarian unification. I must be careful, diligent in maintaining integrity, understanding good intentions do not create holy consequences. As my spiritual director stresses I must always protect my enlightened self, trusting in God. I marvel at the fact he supports me in confrontation, believing it is vital for me to learn to stand up for myself, confident in my trusting of God. He supports my spiritual life, instilling the affirmation that confidence is something I lack. A true hopeful sense of independence is a psychic change. To be independent does not demand complete and absolute silent solitary rebellion, a war onto myself. When I told him I confronted a long-timer from the AA program for badgering me with his insistence to take command of my thoughts, recovery efforts, and spiritual life, my therapist responded with an immediate and resounding ‘good for you’. When I broke from my spiritual partner, he answered, ‘finally, it’s about time, she never properly cared for you’. The effort lifted my spirits. God willing deeper relationships will evolve. I am so grateful for St Paul’s Shrine. It is my spiritual home. The extern Sister Clare Marie upon my arrival today handed me a novena for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is absolutely dominating my spiritual life. I would like to point out that during mass I suffered a crushing moment as I realized my blogging effort yesterday witnessed me identify the feast of the Assumption as today’s liturgical celebration. Of course, it is the feast of the Ascension honored today. I was right in thought, yet wrong in words. I concluded I was pleased with my mistake. My error was made during an inspired moment. In truth, I benefit most efficaciously when I am wrong, able to identify and accept my mistakes. Perfectionism is a curse, taking myself too serious is decrepit. Someone once told me ‘every word out of my mouth was nothing but crap’. I laugh every time I think about that. Such words are conducive to spiritual maturity.
Holy Spirit prayer:
O Holy Spirit, I come before you, I offer my soul and body to You. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully God grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. I implore You, Adorable Spirit, my Helper, and my strength, to fill me with Your heavenly gifts of peace, patience, perseverance, forgiveness and love, that I may see You in all Your creatures. Amen.
The Body. Medieval Catholic liturgy condemning a leper to ostracization, life amongst the leper colony, taken from Man Tower fiction.
My brother, dear poor little man of God, by means of great sadness and tribulation, of sickness, of leprosy, and of many other miseries, one gains the kingdom of heaven, where there is no sickness or sorrow, and all is pure and white, without stain, more brilliant than the sun. You will go there, if it pleases God. In the meantime, be a good Christian, bear with patience the adversity, and God will be merciful to you.
Sprinkled with Holy Water, in the strength of the Most High, the one spoken to stood, the leper, before the priest. The leper would enter San Lazzaro d’Arce. Dedicated to St. Lazarus, the hospital housed a large community of pitiful men and women condemned to suffer amongst one another, lepers never able to be a part of the world again. Here is my perpetual resting place. Here I shall live. This is my vow.
For the time being, Alberto gathered himself, a time of stillness and internal healing at hand. A time of waiting at Lazzaro d’Arce, the leper hospital dedicated to St. Lazarus, watching his mother die, provided the environment to stay within himself. It confirmed his conviction to have nothing to do with the coming civil war. In his heart, he chose nothing over everything. The lepers broke that heart. “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” He did what he could while spending time with his mother. He built refuge shelters, fire pits, water crafts for leisure, carts the lepers could tote each other around in, conveniences the lepers could utilize, able to spend time away from the dismal hospital. Alberto, a capable craftsman, even furthered his abilities with the assistance of Ricco.
The condition of the lepers was appalling; the horrendous physical suffering equaled by the mental torment. Demented and enraged, the majority of the lepers existed completely insane. His mother appeared beyond recognition, for no one can lay another foundation, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus. In fact, it could have been another for all the familiarity physical detail provided. Her body was ravaged. She recognized him; however he did not recognize her, praise comes not from mortals but from God. In his heart, mind to God, he instinctually knew it was her. The exuded love could not be mistaken. Her leprosy attacked her vocal chords, disabling her ability to speak, yet absent words, she spoke with her heart. The woman he knew as a child was not the woman inside the leper’s grey robe. During the ecclesiastical rite introducing her to the life of a leper, to the death of her former self, do not possess gold or silver or money or carry on their journey a wallet or a sack, nor bread, nor a staff, nor to have shoes, nor two tunics, she was disheartened, yet he recognized her. His mother dying to her former self was the orphaning of himself. He recalled the time clearly when all she was left with was the promise of the Kingdom of God and penance.
“May the Lord give you peace.”
“It is good you came. There are too many who hate peace here. Mariabella, your mother, is going to pass away any day now. With the Lord’s help, you children of peace can revive her soul a bit before her passing.”
That is what a leper spoke to Alberto when he arrived with Ricco at the leper colony. The man took up with his mother. The man would pass away weeks after their arrival. His mother kept going for three years. She could not speak, yet Alberto saw a new hope within her the more she spent time with him.
She loved to watch Ricco being trained; he played to her; bowing, waving, smiling and winking at her. Mariabella would wave back, exerting as much of an effort as she could to let him know she was watching. Gesticulating, she told Alberto he was just like him when he was young. Alberto disagreed, shaking his head and grunting.
Mariabella celebrated in thought, ‘My delegation of peace has arrived.’ The presence of her son and this charming boy elevated her leper spirits. ‘This man is truly from God.’ Her mind became clear, thoughts and memories replacing insanity, hopelessness. She found herself praying again, to sell all. Previous, it was difficult. She tried to maintain a prayer life at the leper hospital, yet the task became fruitless, impossible. Weariness beyond the physical and a murkiness, an absolute slothfulness, of the mind that descended into severe depression would not allow the proper formulation. As the ostracized confinement endured, Mariabella forsook prayer. It’s elimination a part of an overall acquiescing to despondency.
Accepting her illness, death itself, the arrival of her son and the lovable street urchin transformed her dismal state, providing purpose. Happiness touched her life. It was a joy only the Holy Spirit could provide. Her namesake the Virgin Mary became a presence once again. She was able to pray to her, able to feel her within her heart and mind, rejoiced with great joy. A mother knew the heart of a mother. She would wake in the morning excited to see her son, to watch Ricco receive guidance, marveling at what it must have been like for the Virgin Mary to wake days knowing there was her Jesus to instruct, play, and enjoy life with. She missed her voice for she felt like singing, recalling something she was told as a little girl. A nun provided her with the wonderful fantasy that upon death she would hear the luscious voice of Our Blessed Mother singing praises to God. The nun assured her there was no voice sweeter.