St. Mariam Baouardy, the "little Arab", had a mystical vision as to why God often favors the most prodigal. Though she lived a remarkably pure life, dying young in a Carmelite cloister, she wrote:
"In Heaven, the most beautiful souls are those that have sinned the most and repented. But they made use of their miseries like manure around the base of the tree." Those are scandalous words to so many good Christians, and yet we remember Jesus' words to Dismas, the Good Thief: "This day you will be with me in paradise." St. Faustina Kowalska adds her own startling claim: "the more miserable the sinner, the greater claim they have to [His] mercy." Roy Schoeman explored this idea when he hosted me on his radio show. St. Paul alludes to this in Romans V: "Where sin has abounded, grace has abounded the more."
|St. Mariam Baouardy, one of God's simple souls|
On a recent episode of The Journey Home, Jeff Gardner describes the seminal moment of his conversion. He was an arrogant academic living in Paris doing research with medieval manuscripts. On his way to a Paris library early in the morning, he passed a homeless man slumped in a subway gutter. He could tell the man wasn't merely asleep or drunk, but was in dire need of medical help. But Jeff pressed on, convinced that his career and his manuscripts were more pressing than the person of the bum. But God wasn't having it. St. Francis appeared to him in a vision. Francis was beaten, bloodied and poor. He was wholly united with his crucified savior, the God who loves the poor. St. Francis gave the academic a level gaze and warned,
"Remember, God created the world to protect the simple, and to torment the arrogant."
Needless to say, that got his attention. I'm sure he has since burned to be among the simple. But some of us are burdened with arrogance, our "thorn in the flesh".
Thanksgiving for Chris
I can't overestimate my gratitude for the gifts of Chris and Meagan to this apostolate. Whereas God used me to break up the soil, plodding along in prayer and recollection, I was still too ensconced in my interior garden. Then Chris came along with the idea of bearing gifts as a way to initiate conversations. We handed out gatorade and prayer cards, then hand and foot warmers for the Winter, and finally rosaries and miraculous medals. Chris and Meagan have the zeal of new converts which refreshens my spirit, the new wine mixed with the old. We have become bold in starting conversations, though always friendly and cheerful, respectful of the openings God gives us (and doesn't). Chris's words to me have often originated in the Holy Spirit, whether as suggestions for the apostolate or in leading me out of bad habits of thought. I believe God can easily speak through Chris because he has a simple heart. I have been gratified to witness him ascend the "mountain of the Lord" at a deft pace.
About six months ago Chris had a remarkable experience which echoes some of the central themes I have written about on this blog. It was a "waking vision" in the twilight of morning. Chris arose in the half- fog of sleep, and knelt on some pillows on the floor to pray. As he prostrated his forehead to the floor, his mind was narrowed to an interior vision. He saw before him a clearing in a mountain pass. He saw a woman seated on a bench with her head bowed. He knew it was Mary, the mother of our savior, and he saw that tears were falling down her face. Blessed Mary's posture and dress were the same as her appearance to the shepherd children at La Salette in the French Alps.
|Our Lady of La Salette|
Chris tentatively approached and gently asked, "How can I help you?" Mary looked up at him and asked, "Will you drink the chalice of suffering?" Chris instinctively withdrew, protesting, "I'm too little." Then the vision ended.