Saturday, January 3, 2009

Closer to the flame

Father Angelo Mary Geiger, a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, writing about's interview with me, builds upon my observation that Mary is wrongly feared by some who think her purity makes her unapproachable:

Those who do not understand purity feel judged by it because its practice is so “daunting” and “unreachable.” But chastity is not to be feared. It is a fire that burns, but it also purifies and inflames with true love.

The way to promote it is not merely to articulate a high moral standard in a way that is intellectually compelling, but to show the beauty of purity. ...
[Read the full post.]
Reading Father Angelo's commentary, I remembered that the insights I voiced which inspired him were themselves inspired by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's The World's First Love.

Several times in the book, Sheen emphasizes Mary's historic role as "Refuge of Sinners." He writes that her experience of losing Jesus when He was twelve, and then, after three days of searching, finding Him in the Temple, gave her empathy for all who are separated from Him:
Marcel Proust says that when he was a young man he went to his mother and recollected many of the evil things which he had done in his ignorance and passion, and which his own mother could not understand, but to which she listened without understanding. He said that somehow or other she lessened their importance with a gentleness and compassion and lifted the weight of his conscience. But how can Mary know what the un-Christed suffer, or sympathize with the bleeding soul-wounds of the sinners? As the pure lily rests immaculate on a foul pond, so Mary came to know what sin is in a moment which matched, in her love's capacity as a creature, what Our Lord felt on the Cross.

What is sin? Sin is separation from God and an alienation from love. But Mary lost God, too! She lost him not morally but physically, during those seemingly endless three days when Her Divine Son was only twelve years of age. Searching, questioning, knocking from door to door, pleading and begging, Mary came to know something of the despairing emptiness of those who have not yet found Christ. This was the moment of her widowhood of the soul, when Mary came to know how every sinner feels—not because she sinned, but because she felt the effect of sin, namely, the loss of God and the loneliness of the soul. To every soul who is lost, she can still truly address the same words: "Son, we have sought thee sorrowing."
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In the same post where he writes about my interview, Father Angelo makes some excellent points about how the act of giving someone the Miraculous Medal can be more powerful than preaching to him or her about the faith. I have experienced that at times like when I gave a Miraculous Medal to Jane Fonda, or when I gave one to a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner as she wrote out prescriptions for the morning-after pill at the University of Illinois' "Sex Out Loud" fair. A person whose ears are closed to arguments may yet be touched by a fellow human being's making eye contact and offering a free gift.