Glimpses of God

The Earth seen from Apollo 17

The supreme norm of religious life, as of Christian life, is charity, yet how often that is forgotten in the rush to argue, debate and make one’s own opinion triumph over others’. Thankfully, most of the religious I know are too busy trying to love God and their neighbour to want to waste time scoring points or deluding themselves that God sees everything and everyone as they do. Benedictines, in particular, are well aware that it is not only what we say or do but how we say or do it that matters. Again and again, the Rule reminds us of the importance of reverence for other people, of weighing our words, of listening carefully before we speak. I attribute that to Benedict’s concern for the holiness of the community. He didn’t play the numbers game. He didn’t specify a complicated or expensive habit (the clothes of the monastery should fit the wearer, he says, but he leaves the abbot a lot of discretion about what can be had locally). Although he wanted his monks to have everything they needed in the enclosure, that was because he didn’t want them wandering about to the detriment of their souls. It is holiness, closeness to God, that matters to Benedict, as it matters to his followers today.

Most of the time our search for God is carried out in a kind of ‘unknowing’, following the monastic routine with no great highs or lows. We trust the Rule, our superior and our brethren to help us on our way. Just occasionally, we may be allowed a glimpse of God in prayer that transforms everything. Whenever I see any of those beautiful photographs of earth seen from space, I think of Benedict’s vision of the whole world. According to St Gregory, Benedict was allowed to see creation as God sees it. To see as God sees, what could be more wonderful, more humbling, than that? Even the thought of it leaves me at a loss for words — and perhaps that is the point.

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4 thoughts on “Glimpses of God”

  1. Hello there.
    One thing which constantly bothers me, is how we deal with people – say a priest – who, to all intents and purposes, seems to be toxic and spiritually abusive. Should we just accept it? Should we just “Offer it up”, or see it as our cross to bear as “loving” them, despite the fact they’re manipulative, and seem to get a buzz from controlling and hurting others emotionally and spiritually?

    For, as anyone who’s studied abuse knows, abusers sufficiently cover their tracks so, if reported to the bishop, apart from knowing the bishop usually sends the letter to the accused, nothing can be corroborated sufficiently anyway, or they’re so frightened of reprisals, the bishop receives only anonymous letters.

    That is, many seem to imply the Catholic way is to accept abusers as sinners just like ourselves, so should just shut up and accept it for, to do otherwise, is to somehow to lack humility, that abuse is “good for the soul”, in a sort of “Little Flower” sense.

    Should we ignore the secular quest for finding and punishing abusers in the Church, and teach them that is not Christ’s way: as Christ’s way is to always try to love them, so see the best in them?

    • The Church is quite clear: abuse must be reported and dealt with, whatever kind it is. The fact that that has not always been so in the past is matter for deep regret and shame. Reporting criminal behaviour such as sexual abuse in no way detracts from our continuing to love the one guilty of it. But love does not mean condoning what is wrong. Think how God deals with us. He continues to love us even though we sin, but his love and forgiveness should not be taken to mean that we can go on sinning or that he condones our sin. This link may be of use to you: (opens in new tab). Other kinds of abuse, e.g. abuse of power, should be reported to the competent authority, too.

  2. God’s great gift to us all…a beautiful world full of love and peace for everyone. Not too much to ask for, but very difficult to maintain in the face of evil. Seeking Him is a start and by being kind and gentle to everyone.
    God bless you, dear Sister Catherine, for another thoughtful and inspiring piece. Peace and love be with you.

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