The apostolate of reason is always a necessity: there is always need of those who can explain and defend the faith; state it in terms which can be understood by the contemporary mind; indeed it may be that now more than ever before this necessity weighs upon us. And yet perhaps it is not the supreme task of today. The world gets very tired of argument. It would be more accurate to say that the labors of reason alone are not the supreme task. The world gets very tired of argument which spring only from the head. You need to have a very firm and very clear grasp of the truth, and you need to be able to state it clearly; but if you want people not only to listen politely but to keep your words in their hearts and be changed by them, then you must become, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the sort of person who draws people—disturbs and uproots them without their knowing why. He is what he is. The supreme task of today is a question of being: because it is a question of bringing back to the world the direct experience of the power of love in the world; it is a question of bringing the world face to face with the immensity of the Paraclete, the Strengthener, filling and shining through the bodies of men. When you have been shaken to the roots of your being by the mere presence of someone who stands for a truth, then you are impelled to examine the truth he stands for, and predisposed to apprehend it. “Kindle within them the fire of Thy love”: then “they shall be re-created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth”. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
Father Gerald Vann
…supreme wisdom…is “from above”; it is given to those who have the humility and the docility to receive it; it is given to those who have learned to be as little children. Wisdom is to those who are obedient to Reason; that conformity is not a negation of freedom, a yoke upon the mind, but the liberation of the spirit from darkness into a light; it is the joy and peace and exhilaration of learning from love. It is peace in particular, because it brings with it a security—of the well as well as of the mind—which no acquired wisdom can have. “And when they shall bring you into the synagogues and to magistrates and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what she must say”. You are carefree, you cannot be racked with worry, your mind is at rest, because you have the untroubled vision and the docility of the child. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
St Peter’s Basilica
The gift of fear, the prayer of awe, have their social purpose, too. They will help to restore a world living more and more on the surface of life: you must pray, and pray this prayer of awe, to give back the dimension of depth to life on earth…..those who try to escape from the terrifying reality of God by seeking refuge in the externals of religion: it is only one stage better than trying to forget reality by the endless pursuit of pleasure. Pray the prayer of awe, and living in docility to the Spirit’s gift of loving reverence, and then you will worship in spirit and in truth and help to restore to the world to the wholeness of the life of worship: you will help to teach a world proud and uncaring in its belief in its own maturity and self-sufficiency that there is no real life, and therefore no real happiness, except in poverty of spirit, except in the infinite life of God: and you will teach all this by being yourself a child, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
Perhaps few things are more misunderstood then this idea of detachment. People sometimes think that it means not caring: it does, but, as we have seen, only if you add that it means caring too. The detached man will care more for things then the avaricious and rapacious man; but he will care in a different way. He will not clutch and cling, and self-worship; his possessions, his desires, his attachments, will not fetter his freedom and destroy his power of love, will not forever be an anxiety and an agitation of spirit. His is the prayer of the poet,
Teach us to care and not to care,
Teach us to sit still…
And so he learns to be a peace.
Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
Father Gerald Vann is such a phenomenal spiritual director. I want to post an entire paragraph from his book ‘The Divine Pity’. For myself, he drives away from a focus upon a contemplative approach, hammering away at the intricacies of living an efficacious imitation of Christ. I find I can only take his writing in small doses for the ideas presented take deep consideration, an exploration of why he would write the things he does, playing out examples and situations in my mind. He properly advances spiritual thought from the accumulation of knowledge to the deepening of his reader’s faith. It presents the potential for a penetrating self-examination for those advanced in years and experience pursuing a deeper faith. This paragraph swept me away. Maybe it will mean nothing to you.
…we shall not mediate as we should, we shall not spread the light in the world, unless we have ourselves first seen the light truly, learned the true faith and not a travesty of the faith. We believe not in propositions but in the reality which is expressed by the propositions; we believe, not in a creed, but through a creed. The expression of divine reality in human words is necessarily inadequate; the understanding of the divine reality by the human mind is necessarily groping, and we may well make mistakes. It is possible to accept the formulas of the creeds and still to have a quite wrong idea of the nature of God and of His providence; it is possible to worship God and still to fall into a sort of practical idolatry. If you turn your religion into magic: if you expect an immediate and literal answer to all your prayers, if you expect the grace of God to do for you by miracle what only demands a little hard work, you are misunderstanding the faith. If you think of God in such a way as to project on to Him the human emotions of jealousy, anger, spite, you are misunderstanding the faith. If you allow yourself to accept the assumptions of the pagan environment as far as conduct is concerned, and keep your faith in abstraction from practical affairs, you are betraying it. And you are betraying it, too, if you think of it simply as something received from without, a static deposit, which you have only to accept and guard but without making it your own, without becoming it. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
“My Lord and my God.” The prayer of awe can do two things for us. In the first place it will lay the foundations for our own lives. Learn to live habitually in the thought of the omnipresent Majesty of God, the imminent Transcendent: learn to realize habitually that all you see and touch and handle is God’s handiwork and still more the habitation of His glory: learn to see every event and action in the light of the Eternal present, and every decision you have to make as a decision of love, and the whole tissue of your life as a single prolonged act of worship: learn to say ‘Our Father’ with the thought in your mind that you are a son, a prodigal Son, and then you will be humble and poor in spirit and be living in the Kingdom. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
If you are poor in spirit you learn not to care, in the sense of not endlessly fretting and worrying, even about your own state of soul….a negative view of morality…Morality for the Christian is religion; and religion is love; and love is not a negative but creative thing. To know and love and serve: the moral life is a question first of what we ought to be, and only then, in consequence, of what we ought to do—and only thirdly, by implication, of what we ought not to do.
You have, or will have, your real problems to face; and you must face them squarely, think them out as best you can, pray and take advice, docile to God and His representatives; but then, when a decision is reached, you must rest in God, leave it to Him, refuse to keep going over and over the same ground, refuse to become introspective, and set yourself, instead, to the positive task of Life, the outward turning and love of God and His family, be active and creative in the work He has given you to do. –Father Gerald Vann ‘The Divine Pity’
Father Gerald Vann