instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, November 24, 2003

A time to sear

In an essay in this month's First Things, Sr. Mary Catherine, O.P., writes:
It is commonly thought that a call to the monastic life requires that one be especially holy, already a "saint." In fact, the truth is just the opposite. One of the first searing, even excruciating truths I learned in the monastery is how deeply sinful I am.
Which makes me wonder, how do we in the world learn how deeply sinful we are? More to the point, how do we learn this as a searing, even excruciating, truth?

Because, you see, I know I am deeply sinful. But so what? Nobody makes me feel bad about it, and God is merciful.

It's an odd fact (or so it seems to me) that not being seared by my sinfulness is fundamentally an act of blasphemy. If my sinfulness -- and it's sinfulness here that counts, I think, rather than the discrete sins circumstances afford me -- isn't really all that big of a deal, then neither is God's mercy toward me. If His mercy isn't that big of a deal, then God Himself isn't that big of a deal, at least as lawgiver and judge, and Christ Crucified is something of a show-off.

Maybe that nightly examination of conscience is worth losing sleep over after all.

(Sr. Mary Catherine, by the way, would seem to be the author of Amata Means Beloved, a novel about cloistered Dominican nuns which can be browsed or bough here.)