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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

sin - not just poor marksmanship

There's nothing so humbling or honorable than being a sponsor to a catechumen who desires to enter the church. I've been in this role once before, and I take it rather seriously. I think one of the reasons for that is that I remember how thirsty I was on a "catholic learner's permit" before my conversion, that I literally drank in what the parish clergy, staff and laity were telling me.  Later, I realized that some of my teachers were really right about things and some of my teachers were many clicks off the target.

Suffice it to say, I've been several clicks off target myself when it comes to properly relating sacred truths of the faith.  I'll give you a tidbit. While teaching a group of 2nd graders several years ago about sin, I doggedly went to great pains to describe a metaphor of a bullseye. "So in the middle of the target, boys and girls is the bullseye...this represents perfection or what we aim at" (so far so good).  "Now sometimes we miss the target boys and girls....(no, don't go there)..."and that's called   SIN (too late).  So here, I have just described sin as poor oopsy.  Sort of like stubbing your toe or biting the inside of your cheek.  I'm sure there is a millstone with my name on it someplace. Perhaps I'm being a little hard on myself, after all, they were 7 year-olds.  But still.  Did I get to the crux of the issue?  Do you think I could have bothered to tell them that "sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods"? (CCC1849)  Or did I help to perpetuate the cartoon image of sin as being an "oops, I should have had a V8" moment? 

It is a grace that God's infinite mercy provides many opportunities for "do overs".  As I mentioned, my new catechetical role is one of sponsor to an adult this time, and to my delight, the RCIA application had me answering plenty of really good questions about what I personally believed as a card-carrying Catholic.  Good stuff like: "What is the role of the Magisterium? Describe your views on abortion, homosexuality, pornography, birth control, female priests, etc."  This was no garden variety questionnaire, mind you. This paper interview left no wiggle room for BC folk (Barely Catholic).  The grand finale question worth an infinite number of points in my view asked me to define Satan. This is an important question.  Why?  Because the rest of the world would like you and me to think that Satan is some mythological cartoon made up in the minds of foolish, overzealous, insane religious types. And the more people who believe that drivel, the more the enemy succeeds in winning souls into his eternal classroom. 

To set the record straight once again, Satan is a fallen angel.  Satan had once been God's most glorious and beautiful angel.  His angelic name - Lucifer - actually means "light bearer". He really had it all...heavenly glory, security and kinship with the God of the universe.  For reasons beyond  comprehension, Satan used his gift of free will to radically and irrevocably rejected God and His reign.  He was defeated in an epic battle and was cast out of heaven by one of my heroes: St. Michael the Archangel.  Satan didn't leave alone, he took many other angels (now demons) with him.  He has the power to cast into Gehenna.  He prowls throughout the world "seeking the ruin of souls". He is at war with the Mother of God and in particular, all of her children. He is our nemesis. This is an important answer. If we get this answer wrong, we are liable to be fighting with ourselves, committing more sin. 

We live in a precarious age. When Pope Leo penned the famous St. Michael Prayer, it was after he had fallen into a trance that featured a vision of our world which had lost its was of a future century where Satan would perform some of his most heinous acts.  It is said that one day having celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, the aged Pontiff Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals. Suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side feared that he had already expired, for they could find no trace of his pulse. However, after a short interval the Holy Father rallied, and opening his eyes exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh what a horrible picture I was permitted to see!" He had been shown in spirit the tremendous activities of the evil spirits and their ravings against the Church. But in the midst of this vision of horror he had also beheld consoling visions of the glorious Archangel Michael, who had appeared and cast Satan and his legions back into the abyss of hell. Soon afterward he composed the well-known prayer.

I am convinced that the pontiff was permitted to see our current generation - in particular the horrific acts of violence against children, against the human body, against holy institutions. He brought us a magnificent reminder...The Prayer to St. Michael and elevated it to a place after the Mass where the multitudes could beg intercession for supernatural graces to defeat the wickedness of the enemy.  I suppose that it is not surprising that this prayer practice was discontinued in 1960s...the decade that waged war against Truth. I say we bring it back.  We institute it in our homes. We open our eyes to see not animated cartoon representations of far-fetched fantasy, but the reality that will confront us, sooner than later. 

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

1 comment:

  1. The powerful prayer to St. Michael was said by the priest and people at my parish church this past Friday after glad I am that it is being restored! Each morning we should all say this payer, after invoking the Blessed Virgin in her prayer, "August Queen, Heavenly Soveriegn of the Angels". What our world needs is not a soppy false devotion to the notion of angels as "magical" creatures, but as messengers from God who are sent to us to help us stay away from SIN - there's that unheard-of word again!
    RedCat's Mom