Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

That with Thy saints I may be praising Thee, forever and ever

THE SAINTS. I have always loved them. I remember as a young boy kneeling by my bedside praying a prayer to Saint Aloysius out of my prayerbook. Moonlight illumined his picture on the opposite page. But we have canonized so many nuns, religious order priests, bishops, popes and consecrated virgins, I can't envision heaven as a place of great fun.

To tell you the truth, I get annoyed or uneasy when I hear there's going to be more canonizations in Rome. I automatically expect it will be  another round of celibate, 19th century religious order founders and foundresses.

I hope for a truly Catholic Church that canonizes a married Haitian man and his wife who came to Brooklyn after their lives were reduced to rubble in the earthquake. He's a livery cabdriver working long hours and she's a mom, who takes the subway into Manhattan to work in an office. They work hard to pay their rent for an extremely modest apartment. He's got to secure his own insurance because he's free-lancing, and yet they put aside some money each month to send back to Haiti to help their large families, struggling to get back on their feet. They're God-loving people who keep the faith and love their neighbors. They thoroughly enjoy making a baby. They're hospitable, generous with the poor,  honest as the day is long, patient,  kind and merciful. They worship and pray, and for heaven's sake, they know how to laugh and laugh. I want to spend eternity with folks like them.

...I may be praising Thee forever and ever. What do these words, praising Thee, mean? That we be singing Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, eternally? That we be posing eternally for a great saint, photo-shoot, like we see painted on the ceilings of churches - everyone posed looking at God, holding the symbols of their martyrdom? Does praising Thee mean having become an angel and  sitting on a cloud with an instrument? Many people don't think beyond these kinds of images or they are comforted by them or totally okay with them. But I don't think it will be like that at all.

I awoke the other morning and this line from seminary came to mind: Saint Irenaeus wrote,  "The glory of God is a human being fully alive, and to be alive consists in beholding God." Now we must know that people behold God who don't believe in what we believe.

There's a  little joke about a man who died and when he went to heaven Saint Peter met him at the gate, and after welcoming him, took him on a tour of heaven. The man was utterly impressed. Along the way they passed a very high wall with sounds of fabulous partying coming out over the wall. The man asked, "Who's that, so happy on the other side of the wall?" And Saint Peter answered, "Oh, it's the Catholics; they think they're the only ones here."

Now of course we could use the name of any group in place of Catholics. It's: the Greek Orthodox, the Hasidim, the Southern Baptists, the Muslims... Notice too that Saint Irenaeus doesn't say, "The glory of God is an orthodox Roman Catholic whose life is lived in Full Communion with the magisterium."

When I did a bit of research to see if I had the Irenaeus quote correct in my memory, I immediately found web pages that went to some lengths to be sure we all understood that "human being fully alive" didn't mean any of the new-age, self-actualization, fully realized, psychologically well adjusted stuff we hear so much of today. I think these people are afraid of what it might mean to be a real human being, fully alive. Jesus, of course is the human being fully alive.

I suppose that's where we get the term Alter Christus, which means that we are to be another Christ. Most often that term refers to priests, but by baptism we're all supposed to be other Christ's. And what does that mean? Carl Jung asks the question: "What does it meant to be another Christ?" And then answers: "Does it mean to ape his stigmata? No, but rather that I should live my own unique self as truthfully and as beautifully as Christ lived his." I can't think of another way of living. And to live this kind of life, in a world often gone ugly and weary with selfishness, violence, lies and earth-bound greed,  requires a tremendous awareness and resolve.

Forever and ever. Like the word Alleluia, it's almost baby talk. "And they lived happily ever after." Or with a kiss a mother will say to her little child at bedtime, or newlyweds will whisper on wedding night:  "I'll love you forever and ever." It's a lovely way of wrapping up the things of love.


  1. I am sad to see this series of posts come to an end. I will keep these thoughts in mind whenever I hear the Anima Christi. And I will look forward to reading more from you. Thanks for providing a new perspective for. I have heard the Anima Christi many times but like many prayers just say it without thinking about it.

  2. I am happy I came across this. At mass Sunday at Christ in the Hills was the first time ever I prayed the Animal Christi out loud with a group. This is my go to prayer for years. My father in law prayed it after communion and I got a copy of it many years ago. To have this unwrapped like this is amazing. Thank you.

  3. To Fr. Stephen,
    This is Mrs. B's class again and you said we could make suggestions for your blog if we thought of things. We like how you broke down this prayer like this and explained the lines. We learned this prayer and then looked at what you wrote about them and now we get what it is all about. At least when we pray and know some stuff to think about, it makes a lot of sense and we can remember why we say it. So if you have other prayers that you can do this with I think it would be a help. Even prayers that we know by heart don't mean so much. It could be your Spark Notes for Prayers.
    From, James

    1. Spark Notes for Prayers: Brilliant! And I'm glad your class has learned the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ) Prayer. It's good to know some prayers by heart because sometimes we don't know what to do or say when he want to pray. Having a memorized prayer is like jumper cables for a dead battery. Just a beautiful way to begin. I might use a prayer I've memorized, pray it slowly and carefully and then (like closing a book) I just sit quietly. And after I've received Holy Communion I sit like that and then after awhile I say the Anima Christi. The silence is very important. Thanks for this good suggestion.