Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Bear Teaches St. Corbinian a Lesson

"Why is there Lent, Father?" The Bear was sitting with St. Corbinian on the sunset side of the abbey. The saint had seldom seen the Bear so low. "Bear has tried, and has listened to Father, but no one can do Lent right. At least no Bear."

St. Corbinian said nothing, and the pair sat in silence as a low, gray, afternoon sky held the threat of flurries, and with them, perhaps, a lukewarm vespers, even in the abbey. Finally, St. Corbinian spoke.

"You know, Bear," he said, "I think you may be onto something."

"Bear said something smart one time?"

"Do not sell yourself short. What I mean is, do not think yourself a dumb beast. You have your own God-given wisdom." Then the saint smiled. "And, you also have a good teacher. You thought you were burdened with that pack? Wait until I pile Latin tenses on top of that furry head of yours! But back to our subject: for once, it is you who has caused me to think."

"What does Father think?" the Bear asked, feeling rather pleased with himself.

"Every Lent is the same," the old man replied. "We decide the particulars of how we are going to observe it, and set out on this great forty-day spiritual adventure of purification. However, we rely on our own determination and emotions. So, not surprisingly, our initial enthusiasm quickly wanes. Soon, not only are we not observing Lent, we struggle with the ordinary practices and dispositions of a Christian. Often, we end up worse than we were at the beginning, just as Our Lord said about a man from whom is cast an unclean spirit. 'Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first.' So perhaps you are right. No one can perfectly observe Lent."

"So why make poor Christians do something that is impossible?"

"Few Christians fail completely, Bear, and that goes for you, too, although you're not quite a Christian. So God is pleased, and men do fast, pray and give alms. But what if the Church really has given us a season of failure on purpose?"

"That would be a stinking trick, Bear thinks, to make Christians be ashamed and discouraged."

"Some lessons are hard. The best lessons are hard, Bear. Perhaps it is not so much that she intends us to fail, but, rather, she just knows her children, and is certain that they will fail. But in her kindness, she allows good to come from our failure. I can think of four such good things.

"One, we are humbled by failure. Humility is the root of virtue. Two, we learn to rely on God, not our own weakness. Three, we are especially aware of our failures, weaknesses, and sins. Four, we learn to seek the medicine of confession and try over and over to do better. So, in other words, our failures teach us that when we are weak, then it is when we are strong in the merciful God and must rely on His grace."

"Bear said all that?" the Bear asked in amazement.

"Indeed you did!" St. Corbinian answered with a laugh. "Tomorrow is a new day! Let us both agree to make the most of this wonderful season of failure, Bear!"

6 comments:

  1. oh please, please, seriously...keep writing these (even beyond Lent) and compile them in a book (for next year?)....it will be a best-seller, and will help countless souls in this time of confusion and darkness. You have been given a charism....use it to the full.

    (btw; one of your previous posts inspired me to finally pick up and begin reading a book that's sat on my bookshelf for too-long a time..."The Noonday Devil". Holy smokes!....a BRILLIANT treatise on acedia. Thank you for the 'push'...it's already begun yielding good fruit).

    God bless you Bear.

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  2. Nicely done! Lent is a time for shining light on our humanity tosee our utter need for God and thereby softening our hearts toward our neighbor.

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  3. Nicely done! Lent is a time for shining light on our humanity tosee our utter need for God and thereby softening our hearts toward our neighbor.

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  4. Thanks Bear--the spiritual adviser. You make an excellent point. The problem is most of us are not humbled by our humiliations so we miss the great opportunity for improvement.

    Building on your idea we could, especially during Lent, just consider it an humiliation every time we screwed up spiritually on a daily or hourly basis. At the end of lent most of us would have an uncountable number of humiliations and an opportunities for humility with the right attitude.

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  5. One question I don't see: how the heck did Catholics do it way back when, when they really fasted: no meat, no dairy, no eggs - fish, veggies, beans, bread, and water. So what did this look like on the ground? Just how did they get through their days like this?

    I suspect they had very different work patterns. Lent comes right in the middle of the time when farming communities have less to do. Most people did not eat 'three squares' every day either. What else was different?

    I'm not trying to get myself off the hook! I am interested in history and don't know much about day to day life back in the day when fasting really meant fasting.

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