“Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.”
Does the onslaught of negativity in the news weigh down upon you? Chesterton shares his secret to remaining joyful in the midst of trials by pointing towards the mystics who showed not only the power of levitation but also exhibited the gift of levity in difficult circumstances.
My favorite example is from St. Teresa of Avila who made her way back home after a stressful journey around Spain implementing reforms in the Carmelite order. As she entered her convent during a fierce rainstorm, she slipped down an embankment and fell squarely into the mud. The irrepressible nun looked up to heaven and admonished her Maker, “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few of them!”
To paraphrase Chesterton, the saints can fly because their humility allows them to take themselves lightly. But in the midst of violence and suffering, our hearts, which are made to sing with gratitude, can become hardened, “Like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
Chesterton escapes this trap: “The swiftest things are the softest things. A bird is active, because a bird is soft. A stone is helpless, because a stone is hard. The stone must by its own nature go downwards, because hardness is weakness. The bird can of its nature go upwards, because fragility is force. In perfect force there is a kind of frivolity, an airiness that can maintain itself in the air.” (Orthodoxy)
In other words, humility frees us from the pride that drags our hearts into a downward spiral of solemnity. As Chesteron explains, “One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”
I pray that our fifteen aspirants who will be entering into novitiate may follow the advice that St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to one of his novices, “Laugh and grow strong, I see you are always laughing, and I am glad of it.”
As we look forward to summer’s slower pace, may your hearts also be lifted by God’s unexpected gifts. In this issue of BlackFriars, we have tried to highlight a few of them: five friars ordained to the priesthood, a medically unexplained healing from cancer through the intercession of a Dominican Servant of God, the healing from Crohn’s disease of the new president of the teaching faculty at our House of Studies, and the canonization—after 700 years—of a Dominican Blessed.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P.
Dominican Friars Foundation
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