Monday, December 04, 2006

Retreat: From the writings of the founder

Turns out we have a four day mini-retreat this week, focusing on the writings of the Founder. We've been asked to minimized distractions such as TV and the Internet during the retreat hours, so I won't be blogging till Thursday, except to share some excerpts from what we're reading from Hecker.
The two poles of the Paulist character are: first, personal perfection. He must respond to the principles of perfection as laid down by spiritual writers. The backbone of a religious community is the desire for personal perfection actuating its members. The desire for personal perfection is the foundation stone of a religious community; when this fails, it crumbles to pieces; when this ceases to be the dominant desire, the community is tottering. ...

The main purpose of each Paulist must be the attainment of personal perfection by the practice of those virtues without which it cannot be secured -- mortification, self-denial, detachment, and the like. By the use of these means the grace of God makes the soul perfect. The perfect soul is one which is guided instinctively by the indwelling Holy Spirit. To attain this is the end always to be aimed at in the practice of the virtues just named.
This part just leapt out at me. For the past weeks I've been reading selections from Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons (highly recommended!), where one of his central themes is that the religious life demands a total surrender, a complete submission to the will of God. Oh boy. He means it! But is this tin soldier (see that wonderful chapter in C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity to understand the metaphor) entirely sure he wants to become human? Sure, he says he wants to ... but can he follow where the path leads? All this stuff has been bouncing about my head ... maybe God is trying to say something ... :)

Second, zeal for souls: to labor for the conversion of the country to the Catholic faith by apostolic work. Parish work is a part, an integral part, of Paulist work but not its principal or chief work; and parish work should be done so as to form a part of hte main aim, the conversion of the non-Catholic people of the country. In this manner we can labor to raise the standard of Catholic life here and throughout the world as a means of the general triumph of the Catholic faith.

I do not thing that the principal characteristic of our Fathers and of our life should be poverty or obedience or any other special and secondary virtue, or even a cardinal virtue, but zeal for apostolic works. Our vocation is apostolic: conversion of souls to the faith, of sinners to repentance, giving missions, defense of the Christian religion by conferences, lectures, sermons, the pen, the press, and the like works; and in the interior, to propogate among men a higher and more spiritual life.

Our power will be in presenting the same old truths in new forms, fresh new tone and air and spirit.


Heather said...

I have a, perhaps silly, question. Mortification as one of your virtues ... does that mean you are supposed to enjoy being embarrassed or does it have something to do with death? I hope you are striving for neither.

Gashwin said...

Hey Heather: this is what Webster says about mortification:

1 : the subjection and denial of bodily passions and appetites by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort

It's something that generally goes against our modern sensibilities, but Fr. Hecker (like so many of the saints) belived it to be of spiritual benefit. The Church continues to teach that (distinguishing it from actions that stem from psychological disorders). This is indeed what the fasting of Lent is about, for instance.

Mortification is a kind of ascetical practice, and Christian asceticism has a long and distinguished history.

More at the Catholic Encyclopedia article online (which, FYI, is the 1913 edition. There are newer editions, but are not available online.)

pritcher said...

I might also humbly add that, yes, it does have to do with death: our death to sin (and of all that we love more than we love God) as a necessary precursor to our rising in Christ.