Monday, September 10, 2012

The Most Powerful Weapon in the World

G.K. Chesterton, an English writer who lived from 1874 to 1936, was one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.  He was a late convert in life to Catholicism, although he wrote about and defended Catholicism long before he converted.  He had an amazing way of stating the truth in seemingly contradictory terms that gave us the most simple and yet profound insights.   An example is this quote from him about humility:
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32
It seems that every thing in our world today has been turned upside down and inside out.  Nothing is as it seems, and it all seems to lead us to despair and destruction.  Every time we try to fix a problem, it only gets worse.  This is especially true when it comes to government.  An example is the war on poverty, which started during the LBJ Administration in 1964.  19% of the population lived below the poverty line at that time.  Almost 50 years and over $13 trillion later, the poverty level is over 15% and increasing.  One must take into consideration as well that there were 191 million people in the US in 1964, and there are now over 311 million people in our country, so even though the percentage might be slightly lower, there are in actual fact many more millions of people living in poverty.  The lowest the poverty level has ever gotten was in 1973 when it was about 11%.

So what's my point?  It is that the answers we all seek are not to be found even in the greatest minds of men.  Human power and ingenuity, apart from God, lead nowhere.  If we are apart from God, that means we are being guided by the one who wishes to destroy us, our adversary the devil.   There is no other choice.  We are either following God or we are following the devil.  Is there any doubt which camp our government is in, this government which has legalized the killing of unborn children, has engaged in wars around the globe, has legalized euthanasia in certain states, has legalized same sex marriage in other states and is slowly moving to legalize it nationally? 

How do we know if we are following our Creator or the one who wishes to destroy us?  One unmistakable feature of a truly spiritual mind is humility, the definition of which we received from GK Chesterton.  Humility is the mind that always doubts itself but never doubts Divine Truth.  One of the very greatest examples of humility and love in our modern world was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  Everything in her life was about giving to others, and always she gave the credit to our Lord, never pointing to herself.  She would literally go into the garbage dumps of India and drag out the people who were living there, wash off  the dirt and vermin, and give them a clean bed and a clean place in which to live, and for many, in which to die. 



Mother Teresa was 4'10" tall and weighed around 100 pounds.  She was not a great intellect, she held no positions of power, she had no money of her own.  Her education consisted of little more than some home schooling.  She certainly was no physical beauty.  Yet, she is one of the most powerful figures of the last century and is revered and admired by hundreds of millions of people.  You will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not know of Mother Teresa.  Her name has become almost the definition of what it means to truly love our fellow man.

It seems to me that if the US Government was sincere about wanting to help the poor and eradicate poverty, they would do well to look to the little, uneducated sister from Calcutta. 



This is all leading up to a reading from last week's Magnificat, which was taken from the writings of Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J., who lived from 1675 to 1751.  According to Wikipedia, he was a Jesuit priest and writer known for his work Abandonment to Divine Providence (also translated as The Sacrament of the Present Moment) and his work with Nuns of the Visitation in Nancy, France.  Father de Caussade tells us in this short meditation that the most effective weapons we have in fighting our opponents are "fidelity, gentleness and humility." 

A simple soul is more fully enlightened by a grain of pure faith than Lucifer by all his intelligence. The knowledge possessed by a soul faithful to its obligations, quietly submissive to the intimate orders of grace, gentle and humble towards all, is worth more than the most profound penetration of mysteries . . .
What is there among creatures that can resist the force of a faithful, gentle and humble soul? If we would infallibly conquer our enemies we must oppose them with no other arms than fidelity, gentleness and humility. Jesus Christ has put these in our hands for our defense; there is nothing to fear when we know how to use them. We should not be cowardly but generous, for this is the only disposition in which we can use these divine instruments. All that God does is sublime and marvelous and never can individual action at war with God resist one who is united to the divine action by gentleness and humility.
What is Lucifer? He is a brilliant intelligence, the most enlightened of all, but an intelligence discontented with God and his order. The mystery of iniquity is nothing but the result of his discontent manifested in as many ways as possible. Lucifer, as far as lies in his power, wishes to leave nothing in the state in which God has ordained and placed it. Wherever he penetrates, you will always find the work of God disfigured. The more lights, knowledge and general capacity a person has the more he is to be feared, if he has not the foundation of piety which consists in contentment with God and his will. It is the regulation of the heart that places us in union with the divine will; without that union, everything is but pure nature, and, usually, pure opposition to the divine order; God has not, properly speaking any instruments but humble souls.



* * *
Of course there is no greater symbol for humility than our Blessed Mother.  Our Lady recited what is now called the "Magnificat" at the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel, in which Mary was told that she was chosen to be the Mother of God.  Her immediate reaction was to give glory to God, referring to herself as a lowly handmaiden of the Lord.  It is recited every day in the Breviary:
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
And his mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Dirty Harry told us the most powerful handgun in the world is a .357 Magnum.  That may be true, but if you wish to defeat the enemies in your life, use the same weapon used by Our Blessed Mother and Mother Teresa and all of the great saints:  humility - recognizing your weakness and total dependence upon God.  Give God the glory, not yourself or any other human being.  Our Blessed Mother is the one who crushed all heresies, and she accomplished this great feat through humility and love of God.   There is no other way.


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