Thursday, November 27, 2008

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Dear readers, please pray for my friend Fallen Sparrow, who is mining the depths of his soul as he discerns his true vocation. (If you haven't been over to his blog yet, take a look around there. He writes with disarming honesty, in a voice that is almost painfully beautiful.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Yes, Brahms is evil . . . "

I've just stumbled upon this with pleasure.

More on Brahms from his contemporaries:

I have played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard!

-- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1886

The real Brahms is nothing more than a sentimental voluptuary... He is the most wanton of composers... Only his wantonness is not vicious; it is that of a great baby... rather tiresomely addicted to dressing himself up as Handel or Beethoven and making a prolonged and intolerable noise.
-- George Bernard Shaw, 1893


Brahms is just like Tennyson, an extraordinary musician, with the brains of a third rate village policeman.
-- George Bernard Shaw, 1893

I guess that's why we love him so much.

As Brahms himself said:

To realize that we are one with the Creator, as Beethoven did, is a wonderful and awe-inspiring experience. Very few human beings ever come into that realization and that is why there are so few great composers or creative geniuses in any line of human endeavor. I always contemplate all this before commencing to compose. This is the first step. When I feel the urge I begin by appealing directly to my Maker and I first ask Him the three most important questions pertaining to our life here in this world--whence, wherefore, whither? I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the spirit illuminating the soul-power within, and in this exalted state, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods; then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did. Above all, I realize at such moments the tremendous significance of Jesus' supreme revelation, "I and my Father are One." Those vibrations assume the forms of distinct mental images, after I have formulated my desire and resolve in regard to what I want--namely, to be inspired so that I can compose something that will uplift and benefit humanity--something of permanent value. Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God . . .

and, on another occasion, upon leaving a dinner party:

If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted tonight, I beg his pardon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Voices That Have Gone, Part 8: By Their Fruits

One day in early July of 2006, Soprannie and I were chatting by long-distance telephone. We both had newborn babies, and the huge energies that had been previously marshalled towards our singing were now being redirected. We spoke about that, and also about a recent recording of Handel arias by the remarkable mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (above). We found out later that she had died just a couple of hours before our phone conversation.

I was privileged to hear this luminous artist live on several memorable ocasions, including her legendary performance of Cantatas BWV 199 and 82 by J.S. Bach, controversially staged by Peter Sellars. Cantata 82, "Ich habe genug," usually performed by a bass soloist, is a gloss on Simeon's joyful utterance of recognition and desire for death at beholding Christ's Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:29-32):

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

In the Sellars staging, Hunt Lieberson appeared on stage in a hospital gown, with a male dancer in black holding the only light source, a bare bulb on a wire, and moving it with her as she traversed the stage. The ends of her once-luxuriant chestnut-brown hair were gathered up in a rubber band, and she was without makeup. She sat cross-legged on the floor to sing the second-movement aria, "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" (Sleep now, you weary eyes), and the voice that Peter Sellars has described as

filling the room and you don’t know where it’s coming from . . . going right to the heart of a suffering person, not to increase the suffering, but to heal it, to release it, to offer some kind of balm . . . shocking in its intensity, and then this incredible balm of compassion and tenderness, of generosity . . . is poured out . . . like a kind of liquid that is there to heal

seemed to well up out of complete stillness. Indeed, her stillness and near-nakedness were even more gripping if you knew that she had been battling breast cancer, the disease to which she would succumb five years later.

Lorraine Hunt had run off a few years earlier with the married composer Peter Lieberson, whom she met when she sang the role of Triraksha in his opera Ashoka's Dream at the Santa Fe Festival in 1997. They married after his divorce from his first wife, and she became, like him, a Tibetan Buddhist in the Shambhala lineage. My sister, a member of the same sect, who shared with Lorraine a spiritual director, told me that their teacher knew when Lorraine was dying, and called her on the phone in her final moments to offer instruction on crossing the bardo.

Even if one knew nothing of her life, one could tell from her singing that Lorraine Hunt Lieberson was an artist who had known deep suffering. This kind of artist, one who has crossed the path of suffering, is vitally important to our age. We need voices like hers to lead us to a recognition of our humanity in all its brokenness, and to give us the hope of heavenly consolation.

One can certainly argue against certain choices she made, and one can worry, and one can pray for the soul of this artist who the British blogger Pliable has called "one of the rare elect." But one might be consoled to recall Christ's words in Matthew 7:16, "By their fruits will you know them."

An excellent profile of Lorraine is here. And, if you want a taste of the infinite stillness -- and the bending of time -- that was a part of her art, go here. The song is "Unbewegte laue Luft" (Motionless warm air) from the op. 57 group of Lieder by Brahms (Brahms didn't really write song cycles per se, like Schubert and Schumann did, but there's some evidence that he intended the songs he wrote under the same opus number to be performed together). The poem is by Georg Friedrich Daumer, and here is my translation (though I suspect that my friend Otepoti could write a better one):

Motionless warm air,
Nature in deep repose.
Through the still garden at night
Only the plashing of the fountain is heard.
But in my heart there well up hot desires;
But in my veins there swells
Life, and the longing for life.
Should your breast not also
Heave with more passionate longing?
Should the cry of my soul
Not also echo deeply in yours?
Softly, on ethereal feet,
Do not delay to float down to me here!
Come, oh come, that we might
Give each other heavenly satiety!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feast of Saint Cecilia

Hymn to St. Cecilia

In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean's margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.
Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited,
Moved to delight by the melody,
White as an orchid she rode quite naked
In an oyster shell on top of the sea;
At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing
Came out of their trance into time again,
And around the wicked in Hell's abysses
The huge flame flickered and eased their pain.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

I cannot grow;
I have no shadow
To run away from,
I only play.
I cannot err;
There is no creature
Whom I belong to,
Whom I could wrong.
I am defeat
When it knows it
Can now do nothing
By suffering.
All you lived through,
Dancing because you
No longer need it
For any deed.
I shall never be Different. Love me.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall,
O calm of spaces unafraid of weight,
Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all
The gaucheness of her adolescent state,
Where Hope within the altogether strange
From every outworn image is released,
And Dread born whole and normal like a beast
Into a world of truths that never change:
Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange.
O dear white children casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages,
So small beside their large confusing words,
So gay against the greater silences
Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head,
Impetuous child with the tremendous brain,
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain,
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead,
Weep for the lives your wishes never led.
O cry created as the bow of sin Is drawn across our trembling violin.
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain.
O law drummed out by hearts against the still
Long winter of our intellectual will.
That what has been may never be again.
O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath
Of convalescents on the shores of death.
O bless the freedom that you never chose.
O trumpets that unguarded children blow
About the fortress of their inner foe.
O wear your tribulation like a rose.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

-- W.H. Auden
(Benjamin Britten's setting of Auden's text can be heard here.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Ambiguous Virtue of Thrift

My friend Mrs. T at Fine Old Famly has indulged me by writing a post on one of my favorite topics, bargain-shopping at the grocery store. I've found since moving that, now that we're out of the orbit of the greater New York metropolitan area, we have also been freed from the grip of the Gotham Dairy Cartel. For reasons I could never fathom, dairy products are amazingly expensive in New York City. I never bought Land-O-Lakes butter in New York, for instance, although it's my favorite butter, because it cost $5.99 a pound in the local supermarket. Here, it's $2.99, so I buy two pounds at a time.

I've always found bargain-hunting, whether for groceries or anything else, to be a fun and exciting adventure. Most of my fabulous college teaching wardrobe was culled from thrift stores, as were many of my recital gowns, including the one I wore at my dissertation recital last spring, a vintage Pauline Trigère evening dress from the 1960s. I even bought my wedding dress at a thrift shop, a strange and remarkable experience which must be saved for another telling, for $200. (It happened to be the shop in the basement of Fallen Sparrow's favorite haunt for weekday Mass, a Church that I believe is redolent with graces.) That's me in the dress, above.

So I thought nothing of walking over to the local Catholic Charities thrift shop the other day, with my two-year-old in the stroller, to get a few shirts for his new two-mornings-a-week nursery school. When we got there, the place was packed, which seemed unusual, but I found some very nice things for him in good condition. I got onto a long line to pay, and when I got to the counter, the volunteer staff lady asked for my paperwork. I didn't understand, and she explained that Wednesday was "voucher day"; apparently certain social service programs here include a clothing allotment, which Catholic Charities offers to provide. She let me pay, since I had exact change, but I left feeling like I had done the wrong thing. Maybe getting the nicest possible thing for the least amount of money is no virtue if others need it more than you. I felt like I was taking something that belonged to someone else. It made me wonder if thrift really is a virtue, or just a perversion of Yankee individualism.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God's Nightingale [UPDATED]

Today is the feast day of Saint Mechthild of Hackeborn (1241-1298), shown above at left with her sister Gertrude; both women were Cistercians in the renowned Saxon abbey of Helfta, which was also the home of Saints Gertrude the Great, who shares her feast day, and Mechthild of Magdeburg, whose feast is November 19. Mechthild of Hackeborn was the abbey's choirmistress, and her beautiful singing voice earned her the sobriquet "God's Nightingale."

Like Saint Augustine,
Mechthild experienced a heightened sense of hearing, which afforded her the grace of auditory visions. In one, Christ proffered a harp drawn out of His Sacred Heart, explaining that the harp was Himself, and the strings were “all chosen souls which are all one in God through love”; then He, who Mechthild described as the “high chanter of all chanters,” struck the harp and led “all the angels with delectable sound” as they sang the hymn Regem regum Dominum: "O come, let us worship the Lord, the King of kings, Who is himself the Crown of all the Saints." Her visions were transcribed and published in the fourteenth century as the Liber specialis gratiae, which was translated into middle English as The Booke of Ghostlye Grace. The Liber also became popular in Florence as La Laude di donna Matelda. Indeed, some scholars have suggested that the beautiful lady who Dante hears singing "Venite, benedicti patris mei" on a riverbank in Canto XXVIII of Purgatorio, and who is later identified as Matilda, is in fact Saint Mechthild.

May Saint Mechthild of Hackeborn pray for us, that our ears and voices may be opened to hear and proclaim the truth.

UPDATE: After looking more closely at the image above, I'm starting to doubt whether the figure on the left is really Mechthild of Hackeborn. As a fully-professed Cistercian nun, she would be wearing the same habit as her sister, Gertrude (known as Gertrude of Helfta to distinguish her from Saint Gertrude the Great), shown on the right. I'm wondering now if the figure on the left is actually Saint Mechthild of Magdeburg, who had been a Beguine -- a woman living in a lay community of the faithful -- before joining the abbey at Helfta; as such, she would have worn a different dress and habit before profession. There is indeed some confusion in the biographical records of these saintly women, owing perhaps to the remarkable plethora of mystical Mechthilds and Gertrudes all in Helfta at the same time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Arthur McBride"

I've been trying to post this video, but have been encountering some problems, so you'll need go to Youtube to view it. It's a performance of the beautiful song "Arthur McBride," masterfully played and lyrically sung by Paul Brady in a 1977 live performance.

It's a strange irony that the most beautiful Irish songs are also often the most explicitly, even violently, political ones, including this one, about the failed 1798 uprising (also the subject of the wonderful historical novel The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan, Caitlin's dad).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Music and Morals, Part 6: Augustine of Hippo

Today is the birthday of Saint Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church, who was born in 354 in what is now Algeria. Augustine's conversion from Manicheanism to Christianity was accomplished through the sense of hearing; as he wept in a garden in Milan, unable through the action of his will to free himself from his slavery to sexual sin, he heard the voice of a child repeating, "Pick up and read, pick up and read [tolle legge]." He picked up a Bible that was at hand, opened it, and read Saint Paul's instruction to the Romans:

Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in lusts
(Romans 13:13-14)

and his conversion was complete.

Augustine, who had written the treatise De Musica before his conversion, struggled mightily afterward to define an appropriate Christian response to the sensual pleasures that music confers. In Book 10 of Confessions, he writes with palpable anxiety of the urge to

[have] the melody of all the sweet songs with which David's Psalter is commonly sung . . . banished not only from my own ears, but from the Church's as well.

He was ultimately able to reconcile his love of music with the hatred of the memory of sin that it evoked by rationalizing that it was not the singing that moved him, but rather the content of what was sung. Indeed, he frequently refers to his own conversion using the language of music, and, specifically, of singing. In Book 9 of Confessions, for instance, he writes of the desire to praise God for granting him the gift of faith by singing a song (invoking Psalm 26) from the very depths of his being:

[Converts wish] to sing from the marrow of our bones, "My heart has said to you, I have sought your face, your face [O Lord] I will require.

And in his Commentary on Psalm 32, Augustine glosses that Psalm's famous opening verse:

The old song belongs to our old selves, the new song is proper to persons made new . . . Brothers, sing well.

The liturgical music performed at his baptism seem to have entered as deepy into Augustine's physical body as into his soul, inpiring the cleansing tears that reflect the ritual water of baptism itself. Augustine describes it in Book 9:

I wept at your hymns and canticles, moved deeply by the sweetly-sounding voices of your church. The voices flooded into my ears, trut seeped into my heart, and . . . tears streamed down, and to me it seemed they were good.

In 1838, Franz Liszt wrote to his friend Joseph-Louis d'Ortigue about Raphael's painting of Saint Cecilia in ecstasy surrounded by SS. Paul, John the Evangelist, Augustine, and Mary Magdalene (top; the second image is Botticelli's rendering of Augustine), which he had seen on a trip to Bologna. The painting impressed him deeply, and he interpreted it as an allegory of the artist's ability to perceive and propagate the divine truths revealed through the sort of heightened sense of hearing that had brought about Augustine's conversion itself. Liszt considered Cecilia, "that virgin, ecstatically transported above reality," to be the exemplar of the artist, who translates divine sounds in such a way that they can be understood by the masses, and he saw the three saints who flank her as representing varying degrees of comprehension of music. As he described Raphael's rendering of Augustine (second from right):

His face is serious and grieved . . . . Having waged a constant war against his senses, he is still fearful of the fleshly snares hidden in the appearance of a celestial vision . . . as one who had been seduced and transported far from God's way by the lure of paganism, he is asking himself . . . whether these harmonies that seeem to descend from heaven are not actually deceptive voices -- a contrivance of the devil, whose power he knows only too well.

May Saint Augustine intercede for us, that we may be given true hearing and be able to discern between the two.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Freedom danced on blood roses . . . "

On the battle-field of Marengo reflections come flying around in such flocks that one can almost believe that they are the same which many travelers have suddenly abandoned there in a hurry, and which now go sweeping about. I love battle-fields; for, terrible as war is, it still sets forth the spiritual greatness of man, who has gone so far as to defy his mightiest hereditary enemy Death. And just so with this battle plain, where Freedom danced on blood roses her wanton bridal measures. For, in those days, France was a bridegroom who had invited all the world to a wedding, and then, as the song says,

"Hurrah! upon the bridal eve,
Instead of pots, they broke
Aristocratic heads."

But, alas! every inch which humanity advances costs streams of blood, and is not that paying rather dear? Is not the life of the individual worth as much as that of the entire race? For every single man is a world which is born and which dies with him; beneath every gravestone lies a world's history. "Be silent," Death would say, "as to those who lie here," but we still live, and will fight on in the holy battle for the freedom of humanity.

-- Heinrich Heine, Journey to Italy (1831)

"Barack and Me"

A wonderful post by my friend Tertium Quid.

Happy Birthday (Re-post from November 8, 2008)

. . . to Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897-1980), shown above at Mass with César Chávez and Coretta Scott King.

In her own words:

"'[P]hysical sensations' allured me. I lived a social-activist Bohemian lifestyle in Greenwich Village, New York City. I think back and remember myself, hurrying along from party to party, and all the friends, and the drinking, and the talk, and the crushes, and falling in love. I fell in love with a newspaperman named Lionel Moise. I got pregnant. He said that if I had the baby, he would leave me. I wanted the baby but I wanted Lionel more. So I had the abortion and I lost them both. . . .

I hobbled down the darkened stairwell of the Upper East Side flat in New York City. My steps were unsteady. My left arm held the banister tightly. My right arm clutched my abdomen. It was burning in pain. I walked out onto the street alone in the dark. It was in September of 1919. I was twenty-one years old and I had just aborted my baby.

. . . . Lionel, my boyfriend, promised to pick me up at the flat after it was all over. I waited in pain from nine a.m. to ten p.m. but he never came. When I got home to his apartment I found only a note. He said he had left for a new job and, regarding my abortion, that I 'was only one of God knows how many millions of women who go through the same thing. Don’t build up any hopes. It is best, in fact, that you forget me.'

. . . . I always had a great regret for my abortion. In fact, I tried to cover it up and to destroy as many copies of The Eleventh Virgin [her 1924 autobiographical novel, in which she wrote about the abortion] as I could find. But my priest chided me and said, 'You can’t have much faith in God if you’re taking the life given to you and using it that way. God is the one who forgives us if we ask, and it sounds like you don’t even want forgiveness — just to get rid of the books.' I never forgot what the priest pointed out — the vanity or pride at work in my heart. Since that time I wasn’t as worried as I had been. If you believe in the mission of Jesus Christ, then you’re bound to try to let go of your past, in the sense that you are entitled to His forgiveness. To keep regretting what was, is to deny God’s grace."

(See "Dorothy Day's Pro-Life Memories" by Dan Lynch.)

John Cardinal O'Connor, the late Archbishop of New York who opened her cause for canonization, said of Day:

"[A]fter becoming a Catholic, she learned the love and mercy of the Lord, and knew she never had to worry about His forgiveness. (This is why I have never condemned a woman who has had an abortion; I weep with her and ask her to remember Dorothy Day's sorrow but to know always God's loving mercy and forgiveness.) She had died before I became Archbishop of New York, or I would have called on her immediately upon my arrival. Few people have had such an impact on my life, even though we never met."

Servant of God Dorothy Day, pray for us all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

If You're Lucky

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
and she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.

"Lucky" by Tony Hoagland from Donkey Gospel. © Graywolf Press, 1998.


May we be lucky enough to have our hearts broken open by love for our enemies, whoever they are.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Just to Clarify

As some of my readers know, I've been in the midst of a novena to the Holy Spirit to direct me in how I should vote this election -- or, to be specific, whether I should sit this one out, as I have often done in the past, or swallow hard and vote for McCain. As my friends and intimates are aware, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I find Obama an appealing figure, but, because of his extreme anti-life policies, I have never intended to vote for him. That post, in which I mulled over my interior dilemma, seems to have sown the seeds of what would become a full-blown denunciation by a former close friend of mine, as well as by a commenter whom I don't know personally, perhaps because I tried to rationalize the pro-choice position (which is one that I used to hold) without attempting, however, to justify it. A later post, in which I described a dream I had in which I was instructed by the Holy Spirit to vote for Obama, inpired a full-scale condemnation of me, one that employed half-truths, exaggerations, and hurtful falsehoods. I have no counter-condemnation to inflict on my detractors here, however; only prayers for those who -- like the pro-choice politicians and rank-and-file whom I sought to explicate, if not to justify, in my earlier post -- undoubtedly believed that they were doing the right thing.

So, just to be clear here, in case I haven't been in my comments box: I'm voting for McCain. I disagree with virtually all of his positions, and I have found his campaign divisive and disturbing at best, but I've reached the point where I believe that my faith requires a discipline and obedience that, while the execution of it is personally quite umpleasant for me and my pride, compel me to take a stand for the most helpless members of our society. Though, as I've expressed previously, I am somewhat jaundiced about the ability of presidents and the desire of Supreme Court justices to change abortion politics in this country, I feel like it's a necessary act of hope for me to cast this vote, and to do so for those weak and voiceless ones whom we cannot see. (I sincerely hope that no one from my family of origin is reading this post, because I have yet to come out to them, and I'm not quite ready for that. You may call me a coward; it wouldn't be the worst thing I've been called in the past few days).

I am truly sorry if my musing about my inner political and familial conflict gave scandal to anyone. It was not at all my intention to do so. I suppose that I shouldn't have posted about my dream to begin with; in all honesty, I thought it was a silly and ironic dream, not, as I believe I've made clear, any sort of true instruction from the Holy Spirit. I believe, however, that the decision I've come to, which I began to approach after reading Fallen Sparrow's blog post on voting, is in fact the fruit of my novena.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On Dreams and Evil

Lately I've earned some detractors on this blog, who have asserted that I'm in league with the devil because I dreamt that the Holy Spirit instructed me to vote for Obama. In case anyone missed it, let me say it again: this was a dream. I.e., it was nighttime, and I was asleep. We don't control the content of our unconscious lives, as was well known not only to Freud, but also to the Fathers of the Church. Nonetheless, some commenters believe that even posting about such a dream proves that I am cooperating with evil, in spite of the fact that I have no intention of voting for Obama, regardless of who's telling me to.

I think an important point that's been lost on my detractors (it amazes me that I have them, because certainly neither my blog nor I is important enough to have earned them) is that evil is nefariously subtle. If evil looked hideous and wore a big sign around its neck that said "evil," most people -- yes, even me -- would run from the chance to cozy up to it. The reason evil has such a foothold in us and in our world is that it disguises itself as goodness, truth, righteousness, and beauty. For instance, if my dream were in fact inspired by the devil, he could certainly SAY he was the Holy Spirit and appear to be LIKE the Holy Spirit. The ability of the enemy to disguise himself as the very Author of Goodness has been well documented, which is undoubtedly the reason that when Saint Faustina (above) told her confessor that Jesus had been appearing to her, he advised her to ask the apparition what she had said in her last confession. When she did so, Our Lord told her that He had forgotten - which was proof that He was Christ: the enemy would no doubt have ticked off a list, but, as God told Jeremiah, "I will forgive their sins and remember them no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).

And, because Mercy is so hard for us to understand, the words of Christ to Saint Faustina bear repeating here. Some quotes taken from her Diary:

"I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force me to do so; my hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy. " (1588)

"I am giving mankind the last hope of salvation; that is, recourse to my mercy." (998)


"Let the greatest sinners place their trust in my mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of my mercy. My daughter, write about my mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to my compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in my unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as just Judge, I first open wide the door of my mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of my mercy must pass through the door of my justice." (1146 [39])

It certainly is confounding that the greatest sinners have the most right to God's mercy. But let's not forget that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (Luke 15:7). May we all appeal to the Abyss of Mercy, and seek to pass it on to others.