Brookline Carmel Bulletin
April 16, 1961
How we used to resent it, in our youth, when our parents would interfere in our choice of friends and companions. It seems they would always object to our keeping company with the most daring, adventurous and fascinating crowd. At the time we did not fully understand the reason, but we do now. When we identify ourselves with a given group it isn’t long before we begin to resemble them in our tastes, desires, outlook, mentality, in a word, moral conduct. It is not only true that “birds of a feather flock together,” but also, as far as we human ‘birds’ are concerned, that those who flock together soon become ‘of a feather’. Like everything else authored by God, this fact of human psychology is good in itself, or at least indifferent. It can be put either to good or to bad use. Because, in point of fact, it has been responsible for the corruption of many innocent persons, it can also be turned to the edification of many.
No one who has taken seriously his obligation of tending to personal sanctification is ignorant of the great difficulties involved. We have to struggle manfully, sometimes painfully, for every inch of progress we make. We are likely to feel that we are rowing against a very strong current. If we could only identify ourselves with a group of people, a society, which is holy in itself and growing in holiness! Then we could just let ourselves go and be swept along with the crowd! Actually, that is an exaggeration; but this much is true: we would derive considerable help in our struggle for spiritual perfection. At the very least we would experience a gentle pressure urging us in the right direction. We would imbibe the spirit of the society, and acquire its characteristic outlook, mentality and morality.
Now such societies do exist. It was for the very advantages we are referring to that the religious orders and congregations came into being. By leading the common life, their members enjoy one of the greatest aids to sanctification that can be had. Pooling their efforts they are able to create and maintain the atmosphere most conducive to the realization of their common ideals. They can institute a way of life designed to provide a maximum of mutual support and assistance. They achieve together what singly would have been impossible. It goes without saying however, that not everyone is called to a religious institute. Why, some laymen are too busy fulfilling their ordinary obligations to even think of joining one of the many pious organizations that offer similar advantages. Nevertheless, each and every Christian can and should take advantage of the society given us by God Himself. For there is one, holy in itself and growing in holiness, a society without peer, to which we already belong. It is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. By making ourselves one with her, by entering into her life of prayer and worship, by embracing her ascetical and moral disciplines, our hearts begin to beat in sympathy with her. St. Paul has said: “Lt this mind (mentality) be in you which was in Christ Jesus…” Well, the mind of Jesus and the mind of the Church are one. To be at one with her in sentiment is to be made over interiorly into Christ. This is the essential element of all holiness.
In his treatise on Spiritual theology (which we have been following in a general way), Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., sets forth very beautifully his idea of Christianity and the Church. He says: “Christianity is not only a concept of life… a way of considering the whole of humanity in its origin, mission and destiny. It is this, but it is also much more. Christianity is an act of God in the world, a saving and sanctifying action by which God comes to meet man to help him live and prepare for his eternal happiness…”
“This divine action is not something of the past; it is always of the present… It reached its peak with the coming into the world of the Incarnate Word, Who…regained for humanity the life of grace, by which we’re able to live well and attain final beatitude. But this grace which was won for the world twenty centuries ago is dispensed in the here and now of each succeeding generation; and, in particular, this dispensation takes place through the Church’s Liturgical activity, which is seen thus to be the true and official participation in the sanctifying action exercised in the world by God and the Incarnate Word…” It follows, then, that we enter the mainstream of the life of the Church by deliberate, intelligent participation in the Liturgy. A spiritual man ought to make it the center and the focus of his spiritual life. For him to neglect it willfully would be outright temerity.
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