Let Us Put Our Shoes at the Back

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I’m tired. I can’t think of one area of my life that isn’t taxed nearly to the breaking point. Energy is gone, finances are three days from following suit, and my pool of creativity is being used by some kids on skateboards. As I write, one of my boys is sick on the couch, zoned out on cold medicine and Leap Frog cartoons, and I just received the call that my 2-year-old is still crying at his new day care. I’m behind on everything except my firm commitment to procrastination. Also, though you wouldn’t have known it had I not told you, I was supposed to publish this article two days ago but illness got the best of me.Omsattningskravet ar fortfarande 30 ganger men denna bonus ar lite mer generos i hur mycket de olika spelen raknas i omsattning• 100% – alla Slots, Amerikansk Roulette och alla Sallskapsspel• 50% – alla Bordspoker, Red Dog, alla Roulettes (utom Amerikansk Roulette), Casino War och Sic Bo• 10% – alla Video/Power Poker (utom All Aces Video/Power Poker), alla s (utom Classic ), alla Craps och alla Baccarats• 2% – Classic och Alla Aces Video/Power PokersSpelarna far aven bonuspoang pa all omsattning. To top it all off, I’m secretly loving every, single, yawn-saturated, hypertensive minute of it.

Why? Because of a schmancy thing called the “hermeneutic of the gift”. A key point in the Theology of the Body, this concept of “gift” teaches that since the entirety of the universe, everything from creation to marriage, exists singularly because of God’s sheer goodness and desire to give, then real life consists in participating in that “dimension of gift”, that economy of giving. Much like the laws of nature dictate that a two-minute bike ride with my boy will exhaust me and that OK Computer incites ecstasy in anyone who listens to it, the law of gift determines that the outcome of manipulation and lust is dis-satisfaction, and the outcome of sacrifice and deference will be redemptive satisfaction.

The created order, finding its pinnacle in humanity, lives, moves, and has its being fundamentally through the gift of God alone. No inherent merit demanded creation; it was not needed, it was given, not one string attached. You and I weren’t necessary, we were desired “for our own sake”. As a result, this gifted life thrives, is set ablaze, when it responds in like kind and, consequently, suffers when it grasps in selfishness. That is why no one truly finds beauty in greed, or no one but a few Rand-ians find virtue in selfishness, but most everyone finds beauty in the selflessness of Mother Teresa or the intense sacrifices made by a single parent. We find true, real life when we give of ourselves; and we find discontent and frustration when we take from the world.

It isn’t self-help or wishful thinking, either. Why does it feel rewarding to bring food to a soup kitchen, or even to give small pocket change to a beggar on the street? Some would say that it appeases the guilt that is heaped on us as a result of religion, but those of us who know Christ and live His religion know better (yes, I advocate religious organization, largely because I’ve seen the inside of my backpack and would never want the body of Christ to look like it). We know that there is intrinsic goodness in letting go of our time, treasure, and talent, even if it is only $.43, because the widow who gave her last $.02 was lauded by Jesus and “it is better to give than to receive”.

(The Widow’s Mite)

What cracks me up is that, though we agree there is a goodness, both in the act and the accompanying feelings, to giving to the poor or helping someone with their groceries, we don’t play it out logically. If it feels/is so good to do the small, random acts of kindness, why don’t more of us take the plunge and allow that “posture of giving”, to quote Rev. David Dale (Father-in-law), to be our everyday posture, our minute-by-minute mentality? Why not commit intentional acts of sacrifice as an all-encompassing lifestyle? Instead, most of us stop at the niceties, and even those fall by the wayside when the going gets tough. At least, that’s what is true in my life.

For instance, I have always had the unspoken policy of putting my shoes on the bottom of the rack so that my wife could put hers on the top and reach them easier. It has always been my personal, quiet way of preferring her to myself. However, at one point in our marriage when things had gotten quite tough for us and our relationship was upended, I subtly started placing my shoes on the top of the rack. Now, I don’t think she even noticed it, to be honest, but what it reflected about the state of my heart spoke volumes, and it took me noticing my minuscule moments of selfishness to show me where I was causing the harm in the relationship. The small act was an indicator of the general attitude of grasping I’d begun to hold, both toward my wife and the world. The shoes took an altitude plunge in a hurry, as well as placing my loofah on the back of the rack and my toothpaste in a harder-to-reach place than hers, for good measure.

Mind you, I know very well the hesitancy you might feel when facing the possibility of giving it all away. It’s daunting. After all, you just might find yourself exhausted due to the emotional chaos of the kids you adopted from a tough home and penniless for the same reason. You could end up homeless as you move from one missionary situation to the next. All this and more awaits those who decide to attempt to live gift with each breath, but, I can assure you that real, vibrant, exciting, miraculous life set on fire awaits, as well.

In the book of Judges, we meet a man of insignificant background named Gideon who was asked by God to do the impossible.  When he responded with doubt and claims of ineptitude, God’s response was, “Go fight with the strength you have. I am the one who is sending you. I will be with you.” We are strong, good, and able because of Who gives us strength and goodness, Who sends us and goes with us. We can give everything because we’ve first received everything from the Giver of all good things.

Keep in mind, we don’t have to quantify our success, we just have to live the law of gift, the rest is inconsequential. Just give, dangit! One of my favorite songs of all time, both for the content and the fact that it’s the perfect running tempo for me, is Needtobreathe’s Nothing Left To Lose. One line states, “Love is just like a war you can’t win. You can give, you can give, you can give.” In the dimension of gift, if you give, you’ve won, even if you lose. In the closing minute of the song, Bear Rinehart sings, “When there’s nothing that you can’t afford to sacrifice, there’s no way they can put out your fire.” Whether you see success or not, by living gift, you can let go of fear of the outcome, join with The Killers, and sing, ”From the summit’s edge to the cutting room floor, I will be afraid no more.”

Ladies and Gents, we were made to live lives of transcendent  inexplicable gift, keeping the loosest of holds on that which everyone else holds dear. Each of us had our life simply gifted to us, and we find peace when we give the reins, and ourselves, to God. As soon as we do, we find ourselves able to readily give everything else to others, including, but not limited to, the winning position in a Facebook brawl, adequate sleep, and your preferred iPod playlist.

So, let us stop taking and grasping, and begin giving and receiving. Let us cease taking communion and begin receiving the Eucharist. Let us put our shoes, loofahs, and toothbrushes at the back. Let us make sure each word is a gift to others, not a dagger, knowing that “life and death is in the tongue” (Prov 18:21). May we let the coins of each area of our lives trickle through our fingers with gladness. Let us empty ourselves for all, breathe our life into all, and bleed out for all.

I’d start with the shoes.

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson

Nic Davidson and his wife joined the Church in ’08 after growing up in the Assemblies of God. He was a youth minister in Duluth, MN, spent 3 years working as a missionary on the Caribbean island of Dominica while his wife attended Med School, and just finished writing a 3-year youth ministry curriculum for the Diocese of Duluth, MN. While on-island, he and his wife adopted three wonderful siblings. He has returned to the States and blogs at Death Before Death and keeps you updated on his family at The Dynamic Davidson Duo.

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12 thoughts on “Let Us Put Our Shoes at the Back”

  1. Avatar

    From Mediator Dei of Pius XII:

    “108. Many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman missal even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.”

    This is a lesson I had to learn from loggerheads. Pius XII is quite right; some peoples’ temperaments are such that they are, as they see it, literally unable to pray when they sing, or when a certain decibel level is exceeded by the service. When one of these people expressed this to me, I parried, of course, that all of these actions and songs are themselves prayers, but that’s when they hit me in the gut with it: by “pray,” they had meant nothing less than uniting themselves in inner intention with the Sacrifice, and making that offering of self that they are called upon to make.

    There’s just no way around something like that, particularly when the Church has historically bent over backwards to accommodate such temperaments in worship. I’m sure the rosary lady has been taught to say the responses and sing the songs over and over again by the well-meaning. And in her heart of hearts she has decided that this is a better way for her to participate, as an individual.

    1. Avatar

      Forgive me if I’m reading it wrong, but I think what Pius XII is saying is that every person should enter into the Liturgy, and if that is difficult for them than they should work to find a way to enter into the Liturgy. My argument was that the common person would benefit much more from paying attention to the words and the prayers of Mass, not of saying their own private prayers and withdrawing in that way from the prayers of the community, the Church, in the Liturgy.

  2. Avatar

    If you read Frank Sheed and others during the pre-Vatican II period who were writing about the more practical/sociological aspects of ‘the faithful’, you’d see this was almost a norm before Vatican II, particularly in Ireland, as was milling around doing devotions ‘to statues’ (they actually did the devotion to the statue, not what it represented, because they didn’t understand that). Their actual formation under ‘the nuns with rulers’ made the sort of drivel taught in the 60s after VII look like a new spring of orthodoxy). They had catechesis by chinese whispers (what Americans call ‘telephone’?), which was handed on within families, so superstition after superstition (and the lingering Jansenism), was gradually added in which became part of the collective consciousness. It was literally hocus pocus.

    For example, being in England, we sometimes see ‘Travellers’ or what are sometimes called ‘Irish Tinkers’ – who are the nomadic Irish folk who lead a sort of semi-Amish existence – attend Mass. They do all sorts of wierd stuff, like touching the feet of our Lady and wiping their faces with that hand, mumble all sorts of ‘incantations’, and walk about. They bring bouquets of flowers and place them before the Statue of our Lady, light candles, and make all sorts of prominent gestures – even during the consecration, and often leave around the time of the Agnus Dei – or they go forward to receive and throw themselves on the ground before receiving. If you didn’t know otherwise, you’d think they were nutters with some sort of religious mania.
    – This coincides more with the sociological evidence from the inter-conciliar period.

    ‘Traditionalists’ often look to that period between Vatican I and Vatican II as some sort of ‘Golden Age’, because all they (want to) see are characters like Pius X, Pius XII, Newman and Chesterton, not the pews. They are either in denial about it, or simply ignorant of, the reality.

    1. Avatar

      My formative years were in pre-Vatican II Ireland, and praying the rosary during Mass was a common practice. I can remember a priest telling us that we shouldn’t pray the lesser prayer during the greater prayer. That never stopped my father from doing it.

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    Hi Jason: It has always been acceptable to pray the Rosary during Mass. The Mass makes us present at the foot of the Cross. In one sense, the Rosary remains un-tampered with and keeps us closer to God than the whims of some priests today, especially with the watered down New Mass. The little lady at your church knows what she’s doing and it’s the right thing to do!

    1. Avatar

      That comment just makes me sad! We don’t like how Holy Mass is said now and so therefore the Body, Blood, Flesh, and Divinity of Christ before are watered down down and them becoming present isn’t enough to draw us into mystery but we need something else? I just can’t see it.

      Thanks for reading, and I don’t want to come across hostile at all as I am sure you have a deep love for the Lord, but it just makes me sad when I hear things like that.

  4. Avatar

    I pray some/part of the rosary at every Mass I attend. Your assumption that the rosary prayer isn’t fully participating is way off base. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the offering of Christ and the uniting ourselves to that offering – the rosary is very useful for faithful wishing to more closely unite themselves to this Offering. Way, way out of touch. Give it a try sometime. Start with the Sorrowful Mysteries. In fact, pray the Agony in the Garden before Mass has begun and then continue. You might be surprised that you have something to learn from the dear old lady in front of you.

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      The rosary is extremely useful, I agree-just not when it takes our minds from what is happening and onto our own prayers. The Liturgy is the prayer of the Church, not just the priest, and that’s why we need to be attentive and offer our hearts in Mass!

  5. Avatar

    Jason, I totally agree with you. I often pray the rosary before or after mass but not during mass. On a Sunday we have 23 hours of the day in which we can pray the rosary and only one hour for Holy Mass.

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    Lisa Klinsky Knutson

    The Liturgy of the Church is the work of the people – sure, you’ve heard that before! But since the work of the people is the work of Christ’s Bride, the Church, the Liturgy is, and always will be, “done” by the Church, not individuals. Therefore, the individual “attention” as you say, ultimately doesn’t really matter. The work is done through Her ministers; and ultimately, the one WORK of Christ’s death on the Cross has been done one time, never to be “done” again. Our job is to humbly accept this reality and respond in the 4 ends: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Reparation, and Prayer of Supplication.

    The requirement on the part of the faithful is that they participate actually – that oh-so-quoted Vatican II phrase “actuosa participatio”. Actual participation, as someone here already said, is meditating on the mysteries of the work of redemption, namely, the Paschal Mysteries. The idea that one has to “understand” every word, action, etc. is a false concept from those who relish in post-Vatican II “spirit of rupture” and abide in a strictly vernacular, must-sing everything, Father better preach a homily, and my “feeling” better be right by Communion kind of approach to a self-centered or rather, human-centered Liturgy. We will never fully understand the mysteries! This is why sometimes the ability to meditate in silence (with a Silent Canon, for instance), embraces the mystery a even better.

    The notion that the only way to fully participate is by “doing something” is one that is allowing entertainment-driven songs into the Holy Mass, for one thing. As a sacred musician, the mentality which you just described is entirely important to our young generation. The Church has always taught that “Gregorian chant should be held in principle/first/pride of place”. Think of how meditative the chant is, and why that is so. In Latin, and in Beauty, it shrouds the holy Liturgy in mystery, which also free from emotional characteristics, properly forms the heart. I think your spirituality would be aided by attending a few Extraordinary Form Masses for that mutual enrichment that is so needed in our day of constant business. I’m not reprimanding you for your thoughts or writings here: you “probably are doing what you have been taught to do.”

    As is the problem with us all – especially in our internet culture – we all tend to be little experts, and yet we have so much to learn. I would suggest you read “The Organic Development of the Liturgy” by Dom Alcuin Reid, with a forward by Pope Benedict XVI. http://www.ignatius.com/Products/ODL-P/the-organic-development-of-the-liturgy.aspx
    Or “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Pope Benedict XVI.

    May we all learn from Our Blessed Mother, Mother of the Eucharist, who “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
    Lisa Knutson

    1. Avatar

      As for your original point, the Liturgy is the work of the Church, and no it doesn’t need us, but we need it!

      I know you didn’t mean to reprimand, and I appreciate the thoughts. I have read Benedict XVI and have attended many Extraordinary Form Masses. I see the beauty, but am grateful for the mystery and the beauty of a Mass where I am able to lift my heart and know what is being said.

      I think the beauty of chant is that the words allow us to meditate, and when it is done best it allows the participation of the people, not the acceptance of the people without knowledge of what is being said. That is why chant is accepted and taught by the Church! I do not believe that we can only participate by doing something, but my thought is that doing something else other than what is going on is quite the opposite of participating.

      I appreciate the suggestions to keep learning, and I promise I am always doing that. God bless!

  7. Avatar

    also dont forget that when the mass was originally in latin, because people could not understand what was being said…they would simply pray the rosary to prepare to recieve their god and savior, Jesus the Christ. I guess they are just use to praying the rosary when the mass was in latin and they never stopped or they saw their parrents praying the rosarydurring the mass and did what their parrents did because they think that is what to do at mass. I highly doubt that Jesus would ever mind that one is praying to his mother for intercession in his home.

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