Monday, February 11, 2013


A couple of Saturdays ago I was at morning Mass when I became fixated upon, perhaps more accurately obsessed with, the guy a few pews up. He was sitting with what looked to be his wife and five-or-so-year-old daughter and emblazoned across the back of his hoodie was the slogan: SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE WEAK.

Immediately I launched into a state of high dudgeon. From the weak! St. Paul said, "I BOAST of my weakness, for it is when I am weak that I am strong" [2 Cor. 12:9-10]. From the weak! From the weak!...I looked above the alter to Christ, nailed to his cross. We ARE the weak. We ARE the poor, depending solely on God's love. We're not milquetoasts or doormats; rather, we're in contact with reality, and reality is a harsh and dreadful and awe-inspiring thing that very few have the courage to face...

The Pharisees were strong, I fumed. Christ knew better than anybody that nothing is worse than the "religious" person who claims strength, wields strength, imposes his or her unworked-through rage by intimidation, domination, "intellect"  that is devoid of heart and thus no intellect at all.

I thought of that passage in the Gospels where Christ says, "For I have come to set a man 'against his father, a daughter against her mother," etc. [Mt. 10:35-36]. Does the passage not refer, I mused, to the fact that in the end, it comes down to this fundamental question: Do we stand with the weak, which is to say with ourselves, each other, and the Church, or do we separate ourselves from them? Is it every man for himself or are we all in this together?

Such were my thoughts, all during Mass. They built on themselves, they erected an impregnable fortress, they crowded out all possibility of actually participating, in any meaningful way, in the Sacrament. How sad for the little daughter to have a bully for a father! I thought.

And at the Sign of Peace, this guy who I'd pegged as a fascist turned around and gave me the most beatific, loving smile.


  1. Thank you Heather. Beautiful, as always. What a fine sense of paradox you have.

  2. My guess ... He got the hoodie free from work and didn't bother reading it. It was just free--and warm. :)

  3. Just finished reading Br. Joseph Schmidt's new book on St. Therese and her way on nonviolence this past weekend during the snow storm. Reading that book and your blog post today, Heather, has made me rethink a lot of my own ways of acting and being in the world, and how to live in a more non-violent fashion.

  4. Those who are weakest are those who are "too strong" to ally themselves with God, too proud to submit to his will, or to rely on His grace.

    Those who are strongest are those who can accept God's words to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity"

    And the man with the beatific smile might have had that in mind when he donned the hoodie.

    There's the danger in judging a person's heart. We hardly know our own hearts, how can we judge another's?

  5. Exactly, Robert! I love the idea that the guy probably got the hoodie at work and hadn't even read the damn thing--that is just one small example of the mindless "energy" I've frittered away over the years purporting to "figure" out OTHER people...

  6. "I invite you to a faith that knows how to recognize the wisdom of weakness. In the joys and sufferings of the present time, when the difficulty and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that the kenosis of Christ is already the paschal victory. Precisely in human limits and weakness we are called to live conformation to Christ, in a totalizing tension that anticipates, in the measure possible in time, eschatological perfection (ibid., 16). In the society of effectiveness and success, your life, marked by the humility and weakness of little ones, by empathy with those who do not have a voice, becomes an evangelical sign of contradiction."
    Our Dear weak Holy Father

  7. I have felt weak since my diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. And yet everything I read and feel is that Christ is closest to the weak, the sick. I must consider myself lucky or rather chosen. Is there humility in that? On this feast of our Lady of Lourdes, patroness of the sick, and a historical day with Benedicts announcement, I thought to myself during morning prayer, it sure would be nice to pray the rosary with someone today. I called my sweet daughter to see if I could visit and she said, maybe we could pray the rosary together! I went and we did. It was a very good day. (and I finished Shirt of Flame, a Year with St. Therese and it was beautiful.)

  8. Oh Heather, this made me laugh, especially in light of the fact that I said to myself this morning, "I can't go through another conclave just yet!"

    But this is what we do--it's always about us, isn't it? It's about OUR indignation at the actions or inaction of others. AS IF WE WERE GOD.

    Maybe the guy put little thought into the shirt or maybe he was wearing it ironically. Who cares? My point is this: My shortcomings never fail to show up to work, while my gifts are often taking the day off.

    But it's through my frailties that Christ comes to me and I to Him. I seek Christ only at my bottom; not when I'm riding high.

    PS...thanks for "shout out" the other day!

  9. Aargh! You got me. Hoodies, t-shirts, and sweatshirts at Mass with snarky comments and "advertisements" for sports teams or other secular entities has long been an aggravation for me. Why do choose to focus on THAT instead of the beauty of the Mass and the profound gift of the Eucharist? Yes, there is a place and a time for such attire, but your awareness of the beautiful smile really set me straight. God is full of surprises.

  10. Beautiful. It reminds me of the temptation of today, Ash Wednesday, as we find ourselves cramped , sometimes standing room only, amongst people who may not even come to mass on Christmas and Easter. We can never know their hearts, what has kept them away, or what draws them on this day. Thank you for your honesty; as my Baptist best friend would say, "I was convicted," having been guilty of the same distraction during mass.


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