• Rob Friedl

Stained Glass Soul

My badass wife, outside Conception Abby, MO

The greatest thing that will happen to this generation, is that they will grow old. And as their bodies follow the over-ripe fruits of their prolonged adolescence, they will finally discover a life beyond the "here and now."

Photos will be plentiful and scars will inspire all sorts of stories, but how unromantic it is to read one's own journals. And while earlier elders of ages past have reveled in the wondering attention of younger ears, the lives that this poor generation has led, too busy to be bothered by babies, will come home to roost on a lonely perch. Perhaps a child would be transfixed with wonder at such lives, if they could but be revived from the red wet bags of the abortionist's disposal bin. Unfortunately, as this generation dismounts their surfboards and motorcycles for the front porch rocking chair, their company will go unattended by curious minds. Records of their adventures, captured in envious detail by way of film and photos alike, will serve their purpose of posterity, but not until history can give this generation the benefit of becoming relevant again, by way of extinction.

When the adrenaline and dopamine wear off, the "here" and "now" will present to the action addict, the most terrifying prospect they've ever faced: that of silence. For silence raises questions, and when health is too frail to fend off the quiet, there will be nothing left to hold back its persistent queries. What will have been so silly for so long a time, will suddenly become unbearably significant: the question of "Why."

Why am I here? Is not so easily answered, when divorced from enjoyment. How satisfied is the materialist to continue his life as "just another mammal," when being a mammal has lost all material satisfaction? The average geezer, wracked with ailments, works hard to remove himself from the "here" and "now," when those things can offer little more than pain and suffering. The past offers lessons and the future, better prospects, but only at the sacrifice of the present. And this is the greatest gift that old age will offer this generation- an eye for the past, and a vision for the future.

The Deadliness of Now

It is an obsession with the present that sterilizes all appreciation for the past, and any potential for the future. History bears meaning only as far as it informs direction, and when immediacy takes primacy in everything, direction becomes irrelevant. Objects of desire, whatever they might be, serve as both goalposts and justification alike. Since "Now" is what's important, it is imperative that the "Now" be valuable, and that cannot happen under the suffocating yoke of sacrifice. At least, not the sacrifice of self. If others should need to be sacrificed for the self, then so be it- the unborn, old aged, and infirm be damned.

It is perhaps, no small coincidence that the widely popular metal band, led by singer Maria Brink, which features occult imagery, explicit sexual tones, and self-promoting lyrics, is named "In This Moment." That might be the most appropriately-named band in history. Because while it might be the devil's greatest trick to have convinced the world that he didn't exist, the most fun he ever had, was rushing an entire generation into a panicked frenzy of instant gratification. I was once cautioned by a girl to not judge too harshly, the practice of satanism, as "all it really is, is being your own god." If the horror of this defense is not laughably obvious to you, then I would encourage you to try taking yourself a little less seriously.

Antidote to Pride

Humility is a gift attained by the recognition of one's limits. A healthy perspective of the self will quickly reveal just how limited it truly is.

In Douglas Adams' brilliant book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of the characters is forced to endure a form of torture, that up to that point, no one had ever survived. It was a machine that showed every person, their place in the universe, illustrating with perfect accuracy, their relative significance in all of creation. It was such a staggeringly humbling perspective, that no one had ever survived the shock. While we Christians endure the understanding of being created through divine love which serves as both our purpose and point of humility, it would seem that the "opiate of the masses," would be a title better prescribed for the arrogance of those who would assert themselves as the center of the universe.

Self-aggrandizement, however, is a privilege unique to those who remain ignorant of others- including those about them, those before them, and those who will follow after (or at least would have followed after, if they'd been afforded the chance to be born). Thus, the best thing we can do to remain humble in stature while yet celebrating our role in creation, is to be continuously celebrating all of those who have gone before us, thanking our Creator, and looking forward to the communion of all holy souls, past, present, and future.

Stained Glass Windows

Thus it is, that our churches are adorned with statues, paintings, and colored-glass images of Jesus, the angels, and saints. These images, whose intricacy and enduring craftsmanship attest to the appreciation of influence left by the subjects portrayed, serve as both a fantastic reminder of our holy heritage and a recognition of God's responsibility for our being. The saints- not worshiped as many an uninformed Protestant insist, are heroes of God's will and demonstrate to us the possibility of realizing the true purpose of our existence. Like the puzzle piece in a larger picture, our story is book-ended by the stories of those before us and the promise of what can be achieved by the conformance of our selves to the will of the one who holds all of creation in existence.

For this reason, and because I share the human nature of longing for beauty, I am always discouraged to see the drab empty halls of many a Protestant place of "worship," where divine affectation is relegated to the impressions of individual interpretation. The real presence of the Eucharist is a thing impossible to either deny or replicate. How many have said, "There's something different about a Catholic church."? Of course, many a "progressive" Catholic has demonstrated the ability to chat and laugh away the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but the Catholic practice of faith is something demonstrably more contemplative and sacramental than the hand-waving songs of Protestant worship services.

But practices aside, the structures of Protestant churches themselves are designed with a grounded relegation to the temporal realm. Just as the Protestant understanding of human nature does not recognize its inherent capacity to discover the divine, their churches seem obstinately intent that God must reach down to them, if a meeting is to occur. But whether their churches be hollowed-out auditoriums or impressive ornate architectural cathedrals, there is always a severe and inescapable emptiness inside. The windows tell no stories, the walls are empty of any heritage, and the altar is replaced by a stage, upon which a mere mortal will present. Of course, the decorations do not make the devotion, but just as salvation cannot be freed from action, neither should appreciation be divorced from adornment.

The "better things" upon which the Protestant has often argued he could spend his dime, are all good things. Certainly we must take care of the poor and unfortunate. But doesn't even the poorest of husbands still manage to dress his lovely wife with something special, even if it's ever-so-small? It is one thing to not be able to afford such things, but any bride would argue strongly against the vice of being celebrated with gifts. At the very least, does not a loving family take pride in the photos and paintings of its many members, both past and present?

Stuck in the Now

Beauty and celebration aside, however, the most striking feature of the utilitarian "worship" space, is the glaring lack of heritage and history. When empty walls or wide open spaces surround your space of worship, then your place of intended sanctity remains uninformed by the roots of its origin. The history of Truth being realized in the world, through God by the saints before you, is left untold to the unhearing eye. And while there is no dishonor in humble stations, there is a risk to the soul when unanchored from Tradition.

As any POW in a cell can attest, there is a casualty of mute surroundings, and that casualty is thoughts beyond the cell. Bare walls remind the prisoner of nothing more than the immediate state. Any thoughts of home must be conjured up from memory, as best as memory can supply, and without inspiration. Any thoughts of what might lie ahead, remain dampened by the unyielding reminder that before a future can be realized, the walls must first be breached. It is the goal of the prisoner's guards, and the devil himself, that the prisoner never escapes his solitude, and thus resigned to the Now, despairs of anything beyond the self.

Look Up

A church, if it is to serve its purpose at all, must lift the heart and mind to God. This is prayer, and it is the central function of the soul, in this life, the next, and by all means, at Mass especially. Therefore, let your church be beautiful, and adorn it with love, as you would celebrate God Himself.

God love you, and don't get dead.

-Rob Friedl

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