Monthly Archives: July 2016

Balance: work and the religious life

I have been struggling with balance and work. Allowing God to guide into greater understanding, ‘Vainity of vanities’  the first Scriptural reading from Mass arises appropriate–a deeper understanding regarding trust, obedience, and hope amidst a life of toil. The contrasting also of a life of idliness, a life of sloth and delusion, a dillitant effort of doing one’s own thing under the guise of freedom, a wanton exercise of intellectual foolishness. The foregoing of a life of toil in order to pursue pleasure, self-glorifying through an attachment to one’s creative efforts. It is the curse and addiction of many artist. Unable to commit to a life of humble brotherhood and servitude, unable to detach from one’s illusion of being gifted–a source and fountain of God’s wisdom, the solitary idle life of an artist perverts and impedes, demonic in formation as practice and years advance. I think of a clownish friend whose words and unemployed ways alight tainted anymore. Cleverness and brilliance appearing purely vain, in essence an avoiding of a simple, humble, authentic life. To toil is to avoid the excess of living solely for one’s glory. Regarding the opposite extreme, to toil too much, to be overwhelmed by work, exercising work weeks seven days in length, is an exhausting austere vanity depleting mind, body, and spirit of the energy necessary for a healthy spiritual life, as well as a peaceful personal life. Let’s explore thoughts of Father Marie-Dominique Philippe on the mystery of St Joseph and life as a worker.

By not wasting time, by remaining focused on his (St Joseph’s) work, by not being excitable or chatty, nor proud or possessive, Joseph performed his work with love . He thus shows us that the Church began with the sanctification of work.

Saint Joseph is not a saint because he was a good worker who knew how to work well with matter. He is the patron saint of workers because he knew how to rise above not only the concern for efficiency and the need to dominate the matter we work with but also above the joy of a job well done, in order to offer it to God.

He did not work in order to become a specialist, or to win a prize, or again for human glory. He worked for the sole reason that God asked him to; he worked in order to fulfill His will. Obedience to God, and the fact of being predominantly concerned with doing His will, gives gentleness to our work.

We do not waste time, and we work without stress or fuss. We work ardently (with the ardor that comes from adoration) yet without agitation, and joyfully — with the joy of giving all our time to God.

As a “just and God-fearing man,” Joseph knew that, since the Fall, God has asked man to work “by the sweat of [his] brow” for six days of the week, and that work is done in obedience to God, to do His will, to become ever more docile to His Spirit, always accepting that we do not “possess” our work. We are always tempted, in fact, to seek visible success; we are tempted by the human glory of having others look at us and be interested in us, of being famous. However, if we seek the glory that comes from men, then true prayer is completely lost; adoration and contemplation are completely lost. Saint Joseph helps us not to give into the temptation of human glory and any form of worldly Messianism.

This is vital, for herein lies a major obstacle to the beatitude of the poor. “Fear of the Lord is the root of wisdom”; in other words, poverty is that without which there is no contemplation. And without interior poverty there is no longer any real divine hope. We can be certain that Saint Joseph never wasted time and that he detested dilettantism. Wherever we find dilettantism, even in a pious, “baptized”form, there is no place there for Saint Joseph. He himself worked too seriously to fall into that trap. He had the seriousness of a true worker. But the seriousness of a true worker is not the same as a bad mood! On the contrary, the more serious we are about our work the more we are in a good mood. Working seriously puts all our grumpiness to flight. Work, in its realism, and in the intention with which we do it (namely, for God and in order to be united to Him by doing the will of the Father), purifies us. Let us not forget that Jesus did not come to free us from work. Work purifies us: it purifies the intelligence from all that is imaginary, which encumbers us, and it also contributes to the purification of our hearts from the imaginary, and from romanticism. It allows fraternal charity to be incarnated… He who claims to love and does not work does not really love: he remains a dilettante, a romantic. Romantic love is never incarnated —it doesn’t need to be, since it is romantic! Realistic love, on the other hand, needs to be incarnated in some form of work.  –Father Marie-Dominique Philippe ‘The Mystery of St Joseph’


Joseph and Mary in love

This is the radical purification
God demands of Joseph’s heart.
His love for Mary
Must be offered to the Father
Only to be fulfilled in accordance with God’s will.

Surely this is what God demands of every human love: that it be supernaturalized through charity, and radically so. However, in Joseph’s case, that which ordinarily is radical and fundamental becomes explicit and present “in act.”In order for him to espouse Mary in truth, he has to live in his heart what she herself lives in relation to her God: the offering of one’s entire life in total surrender.  –Father Marie-Dominique Philippe ‘The Mystery of St Joseph’



Mary Be still

A return to bedside vigils, a Rosary prayed in community, two gathered. Witnessing, the passing of a life, the ceasing of a heartbeat. God is good and all giving.

Thy kingdom come.” That is to say: May you reign in our souls by your grace, during life, so that after death we may be found worthy to reign with thee in thy kingdom, in perfect and unending bliss; that we firmly believe in this happiness to come; we hope for it and we expect it, because God the Father has promised it in his great goodness, and because it was purchased for us by the merits of God the Son; and it has been made known to us by the light of the Holy Ghost. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As Tertullian says, this sentence does not mean in the least that we are afraid of people thwarting God’s designs, because nothing whatsoever can happen without divine Providence having foreseen it and having made it fit into his plans beforehand. No obstruction in the whole world can possibly prevent the will of God from being carried out. Rather, when we say these words, we ask God to make us humbly resigned to all that he has seen fit to send us in this life. We also ask him to help us to do, in all things and at all times, his holy will, made known to us by the commandments, promptly, lovingly and faithfully, as the angels and the blessed do in heaven.  —St Louis de Montfort ‘Secrets of the Rosary’. 

Mary pierced

Mary pierced


A madman rants

At that moment the two wakes were fairly crossed, and instantly, then, in accordance with their singular ways, shoals of small harmless fish, that for some days before had been placidly swimming by our side, darted away with what seemed shuddering fins, and ranged themselves fore and aft with the stranger’s flanks. Though in the course of his continual voyagings Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, to any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry meanings.

“Swim away from me, do ye?” murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water. There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced. But turning to the steersman, who thus far had been holding the ship in the wind to diminish her headway, he cried out in his old lion voice,-“Up helm! Keep her off round the world!” Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of the demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed. –Herman Mellville ‘Moby Dick’



Passion Prayer

The Jesuit brother, Alphonsus Rodriguez, used to say his Rosary with such fervour that he often saw a red rose come out of his mouth at each Our Father, and a white rose at each Hail Mary, both equal in beauty and differing only in colour.  —St Louis de Montfort ‘Secrets of the Rosary’

St Alphonso Rodriguez

St Alphonso Rodriguez



Fundamental grounding

Herald of the Rosary

 …Our Lady revealed that after she appeared to Saint Dominic, her Blessed Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to him and said, ‘Dominic, I rejoice to see that you are not relying on your own wisdom and that, rather than seek the empty praise of men, you are working with great humility for the salvation of souls. “‘But many priests want to preach thunderously against the worst kinds of sin at the very outset, failing to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine, he needs to be prepared by being put into the right frame of mind to really benefit by it. “‘That is why, before doing anything else, priests should try to kindle a love of prayer in people’s hearts and especially a love of my Angelic Psalter. If only they would all start saying it and would really persevere, God in his mercy could hardly refuse to give them his grace. So I want you to preach my Rosary.”  —St Louis de Montfort ‘Secrets of the Rosary’