Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some Midweek Ruminationish Thoughts

     I know, I know: You expect this sort of thing to be reserved to Sundays. Well, usually my musings on faith and the spirit do appear on Sunday, but I write them when they occur to me – and recently, they’ve been spaced far less regularly than before I retired. So please bear with me, Gentle Reader, especially if you’re one for whom Christianity is “not your thing.”

     In the first segment of his Meditations Before Mass, Monsignor Romano Guardini recommends the practice of personal stillness – silence plus motionlessness plus inner quietude – as a proper preparatory step for Mass. In my experience, the first of those three conditions is relatively easy to achieve. The second is more difficult. The third is downright impossible...mainly because of the first two.

     Enforcing silence upon oneself opens the ears. Add motionlessness and every smallest aspect of one’s surroundings jumps into high relief. I see what there is to see, hear what there is to hear, feel whatever is in contact with my flesh, even if it’s only the air and the clothes I’m wearing...and there follows an intense awareness of those things that refuses to be dispelled.

     An individual can silence himself and restrict his movements. He cannot do those things for the world around him. Even when he’s alone, the continuing flow of time, with all the changes it brings, will assault his consciousness, making it effectively impossible to think of nothing.

     But perhaps that’s not what “inner quietude” is all about. What it is about continues to elude me. Thoughts, anyone?

     Daily Mass is one of the great blessings of my retirement. Yet like anything repeated regularly, it can become a matter of rote, a ritual with which one is unengaged. It takes a conscious effort to connect oneself to the full significance of the Mass: the re-enactment of the Last Supper, which culminates with the Transubstantiation.

     Yet there I am, every weekday morning and every Sunday. I sometimes wonder if I’ve reduced this highest of all Catholic rites to a meaningless repetition of a ritual without content. And I look around me at my fellow parishioners, nearly all of whom are as regular as I about their attendance, and I think This can’t be for nothing. There are too many good and decent people here.

     It’s been said that to be a Christian is to be a member of a congregation – that without such membership, one is not truly a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. I’m unsure about that. I believe in Divine justice. Surely a just God would not exclude a sincere yet solitary believer from His embrace.

     But membership in a congregation surely does help. It provides the very same reassurance – i.e., You are not alone in believing this – that arises from membership in any other sort of group centered on an idea.

     I admire the fortitude of the Stylites and Anchorites: those who live apart from the world, yet manage to devote themselves unstintingly to Christ and His New Covenant. But I wouldn’t want to be one of them. Life is quite difficult enough.

     My fiction readers’ favorite among my characters is Louis Redmond, protagonist of Chosen One and On Broken Wings. Even though I’ve fictionally killed him off, I continue to get requests for more material about him. I try to gratify such requests without unduly warping or distorting the stories I mean to tell about other important figures in the Onteora Canon.

     Among the questions I’ve been asked about those books is why, in Chosen One, Louis doesn’t get to be the viewpoint character until the very last scene. I’ve mostly slid around that question, deflecting it or changing the subject if possible. That’s not because I don’t know the answer, but because I do.

     It’s simply that Louis is a much better person than I am. One of my other characters said it for me:

     Tanya slipped her arm around Conway's waist and pulled him tight against her.
     “Kevin,” she murmured, “what is he?”
     Conway’s neck muscles clenched and relaxed. He spoke in a voice barely audible, yet thick with longing.
     “What I want to be when I grow up.”

     I created Louis for a purpose: to be a fitting guardian and mentor to a supernatural creature – Christine D’Alessandro – whose mission it would be to expunge another such creature, Tiran, the Essence of envy and discord, from the mortal world. I was able to conceive of such a champion, and to write him as he needed to be written...but I wasn’t able to be him, which inhibited me from narrating from his viewpoint until On Broken Wings, when even as his death approached, he consciously subordinated his personal concerns to his guardianship of Christine.

     It’s more than a little humbling to recognize extreme goodness yet be forced to admit, if only to oneself, how far short of that standard one falls.

     With the conclusion of that little departure from the sociopolitical tirades that are so much more frequent (and more popular) here at Liberty’s Torch, we now return you to your regularly scheduled Web surfing. May God bless and keep you all.


Unknown said...

Ruminationish? C’mon, Fran. You knew I couldn’t resist that one. I should have known you were setting a snare. So, since I have not read any of your books yet you think you have to resort to such tactics? Will I find more home-made words in your works? So tell me where to order, and the order in which I should read them, and I will take one a week. Normally, I would just go Amazoning, and Kindlize. (Hah!) Perhaps it could be considered an additional donation, but I like to hold a book. Yes, it is important and useful to congregate with like believers, but it’s faith that pleases Him. Meditation is like tuning a radio; you eventually find the resonance that amplifies Him only. Resonance is the key to finding that “inner quietude” you mentioned. Sorry, I should stop the boring blather…

Francis W. Porretto said...

-- Meditation is like tuning a radio; you eventually find the resonance that amplifies Him only. Resonance is the key to finding that “inner quietude” you mentioned. --

Well, yes. At least, I agree in principle. It might just be that I'm not good at it.

Unknown said...

Well, perhaps I should have said "...might be the key to finding..." instead of making it sound as I had all the answers, or any answers at all. Good? A robot can be 'good.' Possibly a much stronger approach would be mere willingness, because "intent" is all wrapped up in that. By the way, I Kindlized 'Hope' and 'Scion' and I can see I will enjoy some long reading sessions. When I have questions I will bug you with comments thru your fiction section.

Weetabix said...

I'm not good at inner quiet, either. But sometimes if I concentrate on feeling my breathing and visualizing the breath going in and out.

Jack Imel - Make sure you read On Broken Wings and Chosen One, too.

Unknown said...

Weetabix, thanks for the advisory. I plan to read all of them, so when I get to those you mentioned, I might ask why you suggested them specifically, in case there is grist for discussion. I am a slow reader so it might be a while...

Weetabix said...

Jack Imel - Because Louis is who I, also, want to be when I grow up. He would be great to have as a friend, though his excellent qualities might make him a bit intimidating by comparison.