Monday, February 16, 2009

'I Don't Like Lent'

Mrs. Bradley gathered herself to spring conversationally into the ring and separate the two contestants. But she was not as quick as the priest. To her relief, though, his voice was pleasantly calm and his manner totally unruffled. ...

"The precise point missed by people who failed to understand the saints in this: Saints, perhaps more than other men in the world, understood beauty. They were the great lovers of beauty. They thought the world was all so marvellous that only God deserved to have it for His own.”

"Bosh!" said Dr. Allenby, rudely. And then he had the good grace to laugh at himself. "Sorry, Father. I've been terribly rude. But really, I haven't your gift of playing with words. I'm not a Jesuit."

"Neither am I,” said Father Hall, “and believe me, I'm not playing with words at all. I'm playing with hard facts back of a human phenomenon. I'm talking about the very thing that makes the Christian ascetic—whether a hermit in the desert or a shop-girl giving up a strawberry sundae at noon, or a nun keeping silence from twelve to three o'clock on Good Friday, or a business man refusing to put salt in his soup, though a dash of salt would vastly improve it—different from all the others you talked about. To the Christian, the world is too, too beautiful. It isn‟t evil. It‟s lovely. That is why one has to be careful what one does with it."

"I don‟t understand you at all," said Shirley Green.

"Too deep for me, and I'm supposed to be a Catholic," chimed in Grace Melville, feeling that the priest was talking just a little like the ghost of Chesterton.

He saw he had to explain.

"In the first place, remember that a Christian does not merely renounce unless the thing is wrong or a matter of sin. He renounces in the sense of giving to God. Now, nobody would insult a friend by giving him something that he thought was evil or ugly or that he himself didn‟t like. A lover doesn‟t walk up to his ladylove and say, 'Of course, I know this is a bunch of milkweed, and nettles; but because the horrible bouquet is so hideous, I am giving it to you.' That‟s not a gift or a sacrifice; that‟s an insult. A man doesn‟t say to his friend: 'Here, you take this steak I ordered. The darn thing is tainted and, anyhow, I don‟t like steak.' 'Here‟s my dog. It's got a vicious temper; I suspect it's infected with rabies, and it will probably bite you and the children; but please accept it with my compliments.'

"So the Christian wouldn‟t offer God the sacrifice of something which he regarded as ugly or vicious or worthless or belonging to the devil. No; the Christian ascetic renounces because he realises that the world is so glorious that only God can rightly wear its jewels upon His hand; only God can rightly enjoy the world‟s great music; only God who painted the great landscapes of earth can properly appreciate them."

Daniel A. Lord S.J."I Don't Like Lent" (1938), well worth reading in its entirety.

RELATED: Marcel of Aggie Catholic explains it all for you with his annual Lent FAQ.