Endorsed by EWTN hosts Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, this do-it-yourself retreat combines the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius with the teachings of Sain... Read more
Photo: Felix Carroll
By Marian Friedrichs (Mar 8, 2010)
The radio and headlines have been abuzz lately about the possibility that an alleged 9/11 mastermind will be tried in New York City. I can't help thinking that bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to civilian trial beneath the phantom shadows of the towers he is charged with destroying seems unapologetically vengeful. Won't any local people involved in the case inevitably act from a gut-level defense of home and hearth, no matter how hard they try to be calm and fair? Even if a dream team of cool and professional judges and prosecutors could be assembled, where on earth would we drum up an impartial jury of peers for Mohammed?
That's what my brain says. In my heart, I am salivating for this trial. I am thirsting for the scent of this man's fear; I want to see him suffer long and acutely. I want him to die.
It's painful to admit that. Before the prospect of this trial hit the news, I never would have imagined that I would feel this way. I am horrified at the bloodlust rising up in me, and the level of my horror reflects the level of my pride: I have flattered myself into believing that a merciful and charitable soul animates my body and controls my thoughts, actions, and emotions. But then something like this happens, and I must stand face-to-face with my own corruption — that tendency to evil that the Catholic Church calls concupiscence.
Last fall, I undertook a 40-day preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary after the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort. In True Devotion to Mary, the book that outlines this consecration, de Montfort advises devotees of the Blessed Mother to ask her, before the reception of Holy Communion, to lend them her heart. That way, when Jesus enters the communicant, He will find not a sinner's heart to welcome Him, but His own Mother's. What a humbling idea. It had been my habit to ask Jesus, as I made my way up the aisle to the altar, to "take away my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh" — His flesh. I still do, but now I do add a request to Mary that while Jesus is working on my heart, she will lend me hers during each communion so that He will find a worthy welcome.
As part of his advice, de Montfort warns readers against deluding themselves that their hearts are pure and holy enough to receive Jesus without cheating Him of some of the glory due to Him. I knew that warning was meant for me. How many times have I received communion in the complacent assurance that my soul was "clean enough" — I had gone to confession recently, committed no mortal sins, and performed some deeds of mercy — to be a worthy throne for the Most High? What staggering presumptuousness. Yet my error, so great and irreverent, is very easy to miss until something like this happens: I become aware of my own capacity to yearn for another human being's head on a platter.
To me, one of the most striking and memorable passages in St. Faustina's Diary is her description of a vision of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus behind the altar during the consecration. Saint Faustina witnesses the Christ Child clutching at His Mother with a look of utter terror on His face. I have often wondered what frightened Jesus so much in that moment: the imminent reliving of His Passion at the hands of the priest, who was preparing to break apart His Body under the guise of bread? No doubt. But I also speculate that perhaps Jesus' tender Heart trembled with fear at the thought of soon being received into lukewarm or unworthy communicants.
In the Eucharist, after all, Jesus gives Himself to us as a Bridegroom to his Bride. How might a husband (or wife) feel if he approached the marriage bed with the knowledge that his wife was often ambivalent about her love for him, that she took his love for granted, and that each day — in ways large or small — she was unfaithful to the promises she had made him? We can imagine the depth of that husband's heartbreak and humiliation, and if we have the courage, we can ask ourselves if Jesus might ever experience such pain when He enters our hearts in Holy Communion.
During Lent, as we look around for poor souls to give alms to, let's not forget ourselves. We must not be ashamed to get in line, hat in hand, to receive the spiritual alms that Jesus invites all sinners to claim from His compassionate Heart. In doing so, we do more than benefit ourselves. We also comfort our suffering Savior, whose Passion we especially remember at this time of year. When we bring our tainted selves to Him, without illusions and without excuses, we admit with St. Faustina, "O my Jesus, You Yourself must help me in everything, because You see how very little I am, and so I depend solely on Your goodness" (Diary, 742). And He smiles.
Marian Tascio Friedrichs is a freelance writer who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.