The March of Hope, Part 2
The March of Hope
The March of Joan of Arc
With saintly sister Thérèse
Made its way toward the kingdom
My view was larger than life
The panorama before us was brilliant
The mountains were tall
And the valleys echoed deeply
Far below I could see a garden
As pure as the Virgin Mary
It was youthful and alive
It reminded me of young Thérèse
I saw a beautiful man and woman
They were living in complete freedom
They had only to obey
To keep the fruits and joys in the garden
Many others appeared on the horizon
Joan of Arc showed us time as well as space
The couple’s freedom made everyone happy
The color and joy reminded me again of Thérèse
I saw tears come to Joan of Arc
The beautiful land had lost its color
All the people were sick
The couple was in self-locked chains
The couple had given up their freedom
By stealing from God when he was not looking
They threw away God’s beauty and meaning
They made a poorer world for themselves
Suddenly I was in tears too
My chest was heaving, I hurt
Because I saw my saintly sister Thérèse
The couple’s chains made Thérèse sick, too
Then a glorious light flashed
God loved his people
He promised to save them
Through a new couple, Virgin and Son
Thérèse struggled up to a mountain top
She offered the Son her sickness
As a sacrifice for others
I cried as she mentioned me by name
Joan of Arc whispered to me
“Through the Son, the people are free”
The world was recast in gold and light
Brighter than ever before
And this is why I march
With St. Thérèse and Joan of Arc
Thérèse is my sister dear
Joan of Arc my leader, Daughter of God so near
In light of the previous section, let us now explore how the new world view given to me by Christ in his Eucharist and through his scriptures had an immediate impact on my life. How did my day-to-day living change?
Prior to this, my life was a whirlwind of destruction and complex confusion. I had no interior unity; I “dis-integrated.” In this section, I wish to walk with you to a very special place of “re-integration,” unity, and beauty. This place will please you; however, we must walk carefully, taking a step at a time, being careful that our way is secure and that the ground is solid.
If you have ever had the privilege to stand on a beautiful remote hillside overlooking a field covered in wildflowers and grassland, taking in a view of distant rivers and streams running into fresh lakes that reflect the soft images of the landscape around them, you will understand and master the language of this entire section well.
As we move forward, I would like you to continue painting this scene in your imagination as I do my best to develop imagery for what happened going forward on my March of Hope with Joan of Arc and Thérèse. In effect, I would like for you to take this time to contemplate.
Imagine standing on this hillside, far from the noise and bustle of civilization. It is very early on a cool, summery morning, and a very soft but deep mist covers the beautiful distant hills, the meadows below, the rivers, and the lakes. You see the panorama before you only partially. You slowly absorb the scene into your spiritual being with a great sense of mystery and anticipation. You are happy, even though much remains hidden.
Now let me add a very important condition to this contemplative vision forming in your mind. This condition is that you have never before been here; this is your first time experiencing the place. You crossed over the threshold of a hilltop, and you see for the first time this hidden and mystical landscape. Because you have not been here before or ever seen it fully in the bright sunlight of day, it remains a mystery, a partially observed phenomenon.
In your contemplative musing, imagine that it is completely possible, even natural and intuitive, to have a sense for the greatness beyond. You are astonished by the view but quite unable to peer through to capture the full color and hue, to observe the details of the scenery, or to describe it sufficiently in words. In short, you know it is magnificent even though you cannot see it in its entirety.
As the sun rises, and its brilliant light streaks over the landscape, the mist begins to retreat as if a veil were pulled back, or as if a curtain rose over a great stage. The beautiful scene now becomes even more astonishing. Mystery gives way to a subjective exhilaration driven by the nobleness of the objective beauty before you. Time stands still, and you temporarily break through to eternity before dropping back into the realm of time and space. After taking this in for a few moments, you run down the hillside to tell others.
This imagery best describes The March of Hope. Though my spiritual journey is one that lends itself to the descriptive use of action phrases such as “traveling through” or “crossing over” and so forth, this particular segment has the unique characteristic of also resembling the contemplative stillness of a rising mist over a magnificent landscape as described above. In a significant sense, this is what it is. St. Paul puts this journey into the very same perspective when he writes:
“Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now, I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Coming to the new world view I described in the previous section was like observing a landscape where the mist rose as bright colors and tones filled the shadows. The March of Hope is a journey through time and space, yes, but it is also a mystical journey where the sunlight of God’s revelation burns away the cloudy mist in our souls.
Keeping your mind’s eye on this image, I would like to pause temporarily and make a very important point, one that easily might be lost in the land of Catholicism on the other side of the gateway leading into this kingdom. The land here is spiritually powerful and filled with purpose and positive, life affirming structure. However, the one thing that it is not is complicated. This kingdom is quite simple in its substance. Do not mistake richness of color or exhilarating variety for unnecessary complexity.
It is an axiom of the spiritual life that simplicity is the fertile ground for authentic spiritual awareness and growth. The landscape I present to you is just that, simple. However, while simple, it is filled with variety and wonder. There is no better description of what I mean than that given by our powerful little friend St. Thérèse of Lisieux:
“(Jesus) opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower he has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm. I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, Nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would be no longer enameled with their varied flowers.”
“So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases him to create great saints, who may be compared with the lily’s or the rose; but he also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at his feet to delight his eyes when he should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as he wills, the more perfect they are.” (Day 1951)
Thérèse puts it all quite beautifully. I discovered both simplicity and richness in this land. In other words, I found fulfillment.
Let us now return to this beautiful mental image that opens before us as the mist begins to rise and disappear. Is there anything about the gradual enlightenment and forthcoming visual development that speaks to you of complexity or confusion? No. A beautiful landscape filled from the smallest detail at your feet to the most magnificent distant mountains comes to life in all the colors of the rainbow and in a spirit of congruence and integrity. Everything fits together. Unity immersed in individual variety elevates and edifies the panorama. This is Catholic spirituality. The saints, the journeys, the Queen and the King make up that which is hidden to us here on earth as the mist hides the landscape in our contemplation. The journey ever more deeply into the land of Catholic spirituality is like the sunlight gradually breaking forth and dissipating the mist in marvelous wonderment.
I will give you another example to drive home the point I am making here about the simplicity and richness of the Catholic journey. This is from a quite different field of study than that of our saints as just described by the words of Thérèse above. This idea and image comes from the great physicist Albert Einstein.
Nothing in the natural sciences is more beautiful to me than Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as described by the formula E=MC2, or energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. From this theory and its very simple supporting formula, Einstein, with the help of a Jesuit priest, concluded how the universe came into being with the Big Bang and how all the laws of the physical universe, including time itself, came into being with it.
It is the astonishingly simple formula E=MC2 that drove the creation of the universe with all of its complex laws. Look at the incredible variety and beauty of the material universe created by God from that simple concept. Variety and richness driven by a spirit of simplicity in the whole seem to be the foundation for both the physical and the spiritual universes. In other words, Catholic spirituality and material science testify together that there is simple unity amid astonishing individual variety in both the material and spiritual worlds, a unity that only could be inspired by a unified, Creator God, one who as Trinity is both rich in variety and unified in his singular totality. Through the March of Hope with St. Joan of Arc, I found joy emanating from this beautiful richness and serene simplicity.
How can such simplicity of spirit survive this magnificent variety without becoming confusing, complex, or quarrelsome? This all works well while soaking in a beautiful landscape, but what practical value does it bring in our daily living, in a world filled with diverse and competing cultures, races, and customs? How do we build a simple unified kingdom with such richness and variety?
The key to building such a majestic kingdom is to found it on authentic, unifying, objective values. Those civilizations that work, interact, and build the structures of their society from a sense of unified purpose toward something recognized as objectively good in itself elevate and animate themselves through those common values. They enjoy simple living while simultaneously creating marvelous works of art. To be fully and authentically unified across all cultures, that unity must be based on universal and absolute principles honored across all those cultures in their proper and authentic hierarchical order.
I propose that this truly is what Christ did in bringing us his kingdom. The universal unity of humanity he restores to us after the disunity brought about by our first parents is founded on God as God reveals himself to us through Christ. When all humanity accepts the authority of Jesus Christ, then we shall have the foundation for the restoration of true brotherhood and progress. The well-meaning notion that we should just “get along” never seems acceptable or noble enough of an objective. We must look to something above this world to find unity for the whole world. It is on this business of what is “above this world” that humanity cannot agree.
No wonder we never seem to find brotherhood. I will suggest, and defend, that Jesus Christ is the only person to walk the face of the earth to give us that “something” and even give us an institutional structure to support it. The Church still today testifies to this marvelous and lasting work of Jesus Christ. The Church is truly universal from Africa to Asia, from North to South America, and even down-under to Australia. The Church respects local cultures and recognizes their own nobility while at the same time the Church unifies them through Christ. The Church is the living model for brotherhood. Jesus founded his kingdom on the authentic hierarchy of values, and, as a result, it masters simplicity, variety, and unity.
It is interesting that Christendom in the Middle Ages was not at all concerned with race, tongue or nation, for the nation states began to take shape only after the Crusades. Continuity of faith and obedience to the Church brought unity between the individual kingdoms. When the Crusaders fought to defend their great land and culture from the threat of the newly emerging and aggressive Mohammedans, they came together as one group speaking every kind of tongue that existed in the land. They were unified in their variety. We tend to think in our world today that the United States is the greatest historical example of a unified melting pot. This is not necessarily so when compared to Christendom, and Christendom lasted for roughly one thousand years before the Protestant Revolution shattered that civilization to pieces.
We arrive here to a very important insight on the March of Hope. The world desperately seeks unity. However, at the same time, the world demands a radical, prideful individualism that sweeps God and religion to the side so that man may worship himself and seek his own truth.
Our modern culture rejects that there is an authentic order to values in our universe, such as the notion that there is an objective, personal, Creator God who should be first worshiped and his laws first obeyed. This is precisely what drives more and more disunity. Without any sort of moral objectivity as a foundation, the modern culture forces a false dehumanizing unity on humanity through political correctness whereby no one may dare say anything is right or wrong at all. In other words, the world seeks to reduce mankind to the lowest common denominator of spiritual life, to shade the panoramic landscape in only a dull grey, much the way the old Soviet communism reduced its citizens’ material life to the lowest common denominator while simultaneously handing them grey peasant suits so that they may be “unified.”
Not so in Christ’s kingdom. His kingdom brings freedom, variety, creativity, and all of the beauty we perceive from that mystical landscape in our minds; for, the simple notion that God, as he reveals himself through his only son Jesus Christ, is to be first worshiped unifies everyone. This is not true in the kingdom of the world, where the interest group with the most power dictates to the rest in a bickering pluralism. First one group forces its agenda, then another tomorrow. The only way to find unity is to reduce everyone to the form of spiritual communism described above where everyone professes the dictator’s creed that “No truth is objective; no one can say what is right and wrong for anyone else; God is only a subjective experience,” which is a good description of the Western world’s creed today.
The great twentieth century theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand spoke poignantly of the negative impact on humanity brought about by this confusion and disunity found in the modern culture:
“The Gospel intends us to attain to true simplicity: simplicity in the sense of an inward unity of life. Such a simplicity contrasts, in the first place, with the disunity in the soul of those whose lives are filled, now by one thing, now by another; who lose themselves in the motley variegation of life, who do not seek for an integration of their actions and conduct by one dominant principle…a person of this kind is said to be split; his life lacks inward unity.” (Hildebrand 1948)
In stark opposition to this situation, the citizens in the kingdom of God have this inward unity and therefore are outwardly united by one dominant principle, and it is the truly authentic one. Everyone there worships the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one who revealed himself as I AM.
One of the great blessings the March of Hope bestowed on me came from this understanding of unity in purpose amid celebration of individual variety. I quickly sensed the need to simplify my interior life in subjugation to the dominant principle who is Jesus Christ and to eliminate from it the disintegrated confusion of the angry world.
First and foremost, I took television, movies, and modern music out of my life as much as is possible in this media addicted society. There can be no doubt that the entertainment industry is in the hands of the evil dictator. Everything that spews forth from that industry is geared to disrupt the simplicity and quiet serenity of your spiritual life. You simply cannot develop an authentic interior life that leads to union with Jesus Christ while absorbing the twenty-four-hour noise and blasphemous philosophies of the entertainment industry. The business of that culture comes straight from Hell. If you do not break free from it, you will never find the kingdom of which I speak. Be careful about striking a deal with the modern culture on your journey in the faith. “But since you are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
Simplicity, grounded in worshiping God first and excluding the noise of the vulgar world, was the prerequisite for moving forward on my journey and that which allowed the mist to rise over the great panoramic landscape. The view of the land I received from our Lord and Our Lady in return was of such wonder and joy! When you give up the world for Christ, you not only receive the blessing of simplicity, beauty, and unity in a kingdom far nobler than anything previously imagined, you receive a hundredfold in return!
“Jesus said, ‘In truth I tell you, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – and persecutions too – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
The unifying person of Jesus Christ who is the summation of all proper principles and values is the secret to the serene simplicity of the kingdom. The only authentic principle around which to be unified is Jesus Christ in his objective, resurrected truth. This is how the beautiful landscape that is the kingdom of heaven exists in such panoramic beauty.
With this bold, courageous step forward into the simplicity, richness, and unity of an authentic, dominant principle, namely, the person of Jesus Christ as true God and true man, let us continue now with the story of how I received from him my hundredfold return of brothers and sisters in exchange for giving up the world.