Friday, October 31, 2014

The Quest to be Interesting on the Path to Heaven

When I was a wee child, I remember how excited I would get upon going to dollar stores. The toys would excite me; they looked really cool, flashy, and they were only a dollar! Sometimes, I would get a toy, but a day later, it would either be broken, or I would completely have lost my interest (side note: I’m not trying to knock dollar stores here. I’ve gotten some awesome things from those places). I’ve been thinking about how evil works in a similar way. It may appear really cool, interesting, and enticing at first, but then may lose our interest and will definitely cause some kind of destruction in our spiritual lives, and perhaps in the lives of those around us.

I’ve heard lots of people argue before that “the best characters are the villains, because the villains are interesting and complex.” While it’s true that villains are complex, and it’s interesting to see how they work, at the end of the day, the evil that they live is quite boring. Continually acting on concupiscent impulses, being a slave to sin and Satan, day after day after day. The truly virtuous character, on the other hand, is constantly striving for good and holiness, trying to resist evil, seeking true justice and dignity for all people.

Earlier this week, Matt Fradd gave a talk about the lies of pornography, and he mentioned that when women leave the porn industry and strive for virtue, they automatically become more interesting people. No longer are they living in the lies of sin and evil, but they are striving for goodness. I was talking with my husband about this the other day at lunch, and he phrased it quite well: at first, evil may seem really interesting, but that interest doesn’t last. Soon, it becomes boring. However, good is interesting at first, and it will continually become more interesting in the long run.

Yes, evil may appear glamorous. It makes me think of those Halloween costumes I saw trick-or-treaters wearing last night—glitzy, red sequined devil costumes, the epitome of glamor.
 (side note: I really wanted to walk up to the parents of those kids and say, ‘excuse me? Do you know that your child is dressed up like the DEVIL??? You know, the Father of Lies, the one that is trying to draw you away from God, that guy who wants you to be in hell forever. The same guy who really doesn’t care about you, and just wants your eternal suffering!’)
 Cheating, porn, the occult, stealing, witchcraft, lying, fornication, gossiping, etc. etc. can all seem to have a certain “glamor” at first. We probably wouldn’t choose sin if it didn’t appear to have a certain fascination about it.  But trust me; the glamor and interesting-ness will be as flimsy as those dollar store toys. They won’t last.

The most interesting people I know are the saints, and the saints-in-the-making here on Earth. Why? Because it’s fascinating that no matter what kind of suffering befalls them, they try to use everything to become closer to God (and bring others closer to Him, too)! Instead of falling into the impulses of Historical Man (concupiscence-which isn’t something gained, but a loss of grace), they live as Redeemed Man—the one who has been given grace and strength and redemption by God. Yes, they fall into sin, but that sin doesn’t hold any kind of goodness or fascination for them. They want to be holy. People will say, “Oh, I’m only human, so it’s whatever if I sin. I can’t really help it, I’m concupiscent.” I get it, you’re only human—so out of all of creation, you have been redeemed by God, you have been given loads of grace, you have been given the sacraments, and you are loved by Love Himself!!!! Yes, we all sin, I’ll be the first to admit that I am definitely a sinner. But I can’t really make excuses for myself. God doesn’t want me to sin, and I really don’t want to either. There are times where I look at sin’s glamor, and choose it, but it’s really lame. God gives us so many ways to live a redeemed life—how will we respond to that grace? Will we ignore it, and fall into sin—or will we act on it, and live as a redeemed people?

“In fact, already in the context of the same Yahwist text of Genesis 2 and 3, we witness the moment in which man, male and female, after having broken the original covenant with his Creator, receives the first promise of redemption in the words of the so-called Protoevangelium in Gen 3:15 and begins to live in the theological perspective of redemption. Thus “historical” man—both Christ’s interlocutors then, about whom Matthew 19 speaks, and human beings today—participates in this perspective. He participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, as a hereditary, and at the same time personal and unrepeatable, subject of this history, but he also participates in the history of salvation, here too as its subject and co-creator. He is thus not merely shut out from original innocence due to his sinfulness, but also at the same time open to the mystery of the redemption realized in Christ and through Christ.”
~St. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (4:3)

Virtuous people are the most interesting. Let’s look at St. Francis of Assisi, my awesome patron saint. I love this guy. When I was a kid, I liked him, but I was accustomed to the whole birdbath/hippie St. Francis. And while St. Francis birdbaths are awesome (and one totally sat underneath my bedroom window outside the house before I got married and moved away), the real guy was so much more than that. When he had thoughts struggling with his vow of celibacy on one particular occasion, do you know what he did? He made a snow-family, and said (paraphrased) “this is my wife! These are my children!” and realizes the anxieties that would come if he left the vocation that God called him to. Isn’t that interesting? I agree! This is the same man who decided to go through many dangers in order to try and convert a Muslim sultan, and would’ve have been fine with martyrdom. However, the sultan was so fascinated by St. Francis, that he was filled with admiration for him! Yet even though St. Francis’ life was filled with much suffering, he lived in joy—every day, he chose to accept with peace and patience all that God put in his life, giving him true joy, faith, and acceptance of God’s will.

Photo  courtesy of 
And then there’s St. Catherine of Bologna. She was born on September 8 (the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary!) 1413 in Bologna, Italy. Her dad was a diplomat (her family was aristocratic) and sent eleven-year-old Catherine to the court of Marquis of Ferrara, so she could be a companion to the princess. When she was fourteen, Catherine became a Franciscan Tertiary (Franciscan lay woman), and a few years after that, became a Poor Clare. Catherine strove for humility and holiness in all things, serving the convent through the smallest tasks. She also continued to be very artistic (when she was a companion to the princess, she learned many things about painting and playing the viola). “With her the monastery became an increasingly prayerful place of self-giving, of silence, of endeavour and of joy,” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Catherine had some mystical experiences, like a vision of the Last Judgment, and she offered her work and life as penance for souls. Catherine was sent to Boogna to found a new monastery there. On March 9, 1463, she died. Her body buried without a coffin. Eighteen days later, her body was dug up again, because there was a sweet scent coming from the grave. Catherine was found to be incorrupt and flexible. Her body is now seated in a chair, and while her skin has turned dark because of the candles that surrounded her body, her body is still very much intact.

 “She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.” ~Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

So yes, I would say that the virtuous people are indeed the most interesting people out there. And there are other perks to the virtuous life, too! Like when we choose to live for God, we will someday live with Him forever!  Heaven isn’t some boring place, as Huck Finn was led to believe. Heaven is the most interesting, most joy-filled, most incredible place ever—because that is where we will live in the eternal gaze of God. And what could be more incredible than that?

“I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”
“Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is much larger than the outside.”
Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange; she knew them all.
“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”
“Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” 

~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

1 comment:

  1. Aaahhhh! You just quoted one of my favorite parts of The Last Battle!"