Enlightened through love

A thought-provoking day and evening to the end of a week.  I attempted to cross downtown to attend early evening mass with the Mercedarains only to be thwarted by downtown traffic.  I gave myself over an hour, needing to cut through downtown in order to access the drive thru window at the main library, picking up Father Thomas Philippe’s ‘The Fire of Contemplation’ and ‘The Sword and the Cross’, a secular historical book on the life of Charles de Foucauld and Henri Laperrine, an adventure in French colonialism in the Sahara desert brutally dominated by the Tuareg nomads.  I picked up the books, however mass had to be canceled as traffic locked down all movement through downtown.  The intense blockage to passage thoroughly challenged sensibilities regarding city life.  Events amassed to poignancy when I determined to forget mass, opting for early arrival at St Andrews Abbey.  I drove right into another traffic jam on Fifty-Fifth Street, discovering the source of the backup to be three Cleveland police cruisers, colored lights blaring, awkwardly encircling an SUV, matters turned dramatic.  The SUV appeared to have made a frantic U-turn, only to be hemmed in by pursuing officers.  There was an ambiance of excitement wafting about.  When I pulled up to the intersection to make my lefthand turn, a young African-American man bolted from the policemen, only to be roughly tackled and forced harshly facedown upon the concrete by several officers.  I watched, thinking this is crazy.  Finally seated at St Andrews Abbey, I felt exhausted, surprised by the intensity of my depletion.  It was a good week and I was well rested entering adoration.  The choir stall, the private prayer seat amongst the Benedictine community soothed immensely.  The sense of God and a calling overwhelmed.  Interiorly, something is happening.  It cannot be denied.  The first week with my new employer was incredible.  There is no doubt, I am blessed with a quality employer: permanency, respectability, and potentialities presented.  It is evident this is a company one retires from.  Structure, organization, ways-and-means that make sense, a culture of maturity and excellence now enters my life.  There is an older woman, Bonnie, in human resources who astonishes me.  She is a talker, making it her mission to get to know new employees.  I am startled by the number of employees who react negatively toward her.  She is a tough old woman, penetrating with her insight.  She is kind, yet determined to get to know new employees, antagonizing and complimenting, she tests, probes and observes individuals.  She is a people person, loving and desiring to know people, good natured, yet demanding honesty.  There is no bullshitting her.  She has seen it all from employees.  I find I cannot pull myself away from her.  She talks to me about the necessity of people feeling like family at work, telling me about her grandson who is six foot eight and over three hundred and fifty pounds.  Her grandson played football and graduated with a chemical engineering degree, yet is having a difficult time finding work, struggling a bit with depression, and awkwardness because of his size.  She worries a lot about him.  I told her about my son.  During our lengthy talks, her intimacy and gushing nature made the hairs on the back of my neck stand.  I felt immense warmth and comfort.  I am one to keep my distance from fellow employees, however I must admit the cordiality extended by Bonnie caressed with coziness and welcome.  Yet within all the perceived goodness of my new employer, I have to realize the intense weariness I felt sitting in prayer before the Eucharist.  Overwhelmed, I could do nothing except sit in silence.

The powerful force of love makes me turn to the object itself of my love (God/Eucharist) and not to its image; even more, I penetrate into its heart.  This is why, in the case of God, love of Him here below is always superior to knowledge.  Although in faith, God is made known to me through human concepts, by love I can outreach all these concepts and enter in to the very reality of God.  By my act of love, I am adapted, proportioned to the divine object and I model myself on and espouse all his perfections and let him imprint in my heart his secret seal.  I consent freely to His attraction, I am receptive and passive toward Him so that He may fashion and transform me in every way.  Saint Thomas (Aquinas) uses many different terms to express the act of love; he calls it an inclination, an assimilation, an imprint, an adaption.  –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Fire of Contemplation’

Jean Vanier and his spiritual director Père Thomas Philippe. France 1964.

Jean Vanier and his spiritual director Père Thomas Philippe (glasses). France 1964.


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