"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Road to Damascus

The Conversion of St. Paul
, 1767 by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie

Saint Paul is no ordinary saint. Unlike much of the New Testament which was passed on through oral tradition by the apostles before being written down, we know with complete certainty that Paul's epistles were written during his life by his own hand--the same hand which had formerly whipped and shackled Christians. Aside from the divine figures of the Holy Family, Paul is arguably the most important figure in all of Christianity. As a convert, the Prolix Patriot has a special fondness for Paul's story because he shows us that it is never too late and no sin is too great when we come to that place on the road to Damascus in our own lives.

It is fitting then that in addition to the Feat of the Conversion of Saint Paul, today is also the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and many of the Prolix Patriot's dear friends will be there braving the bitter cold as witnesses to Jesus' triumph over death. The most heartbreaking and yet awe-inspiring point in the March for Life is always the women who have had abortions, but have since then come to regret that "choice" as it is so often euphemized. Like Paul, they have been stopped dead in their tracks and blinded by God's awesome love. Like Paul, these women have realized that even they can find forgiveness and hope. Their courage to speak out against abortion from personal experience is a testament to the eternal power of life over death and the victory of love over sin--and this testament must also stop us dead in our tracks as well.

Relatedly, in our national discourse we are called to consider the essence of womanhood by the Obama Administration's recent decision to allow women to serve in combat duty. Women have been endowed with the incredible power to participate in the creation of life. Just as we pray for conversion of those who have had abortions or are contemplating one, we also must pray that women can always be protectors of life--and perhaps even in the heat of in battle as medics or corpsmen--but should never be destroyers of life. It is bad enough when mothers must bury their sons as casualties of war, but a son should never have to bury his mother because of the enemy's bullet.

We live in times of persecution for people of faith, but Paul reminds us that even the persecutors themselves are nevertheless called by God's infinite love to righteousness just as the most devout believers are called to continuing conversion of heart to more fully emulate Jesus and to spread the Gospel. We must remember that Jesus in all of his dreadful power was born of a woman just like the rest of us. As a consequence, a proper respect for the protective and live-giving qualities of womanhood is essential if we seek to know the heart of Jesus.

As Goethe wrote and Mahler so powerfully set to music describing the epic final scene of Faust's redemption and ascent to Heaven:

Alles Vergängliche
Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Das Unzulängliche,
Hier wird’s Ereignis;
Das Unbeschreibliche.
Hier ist's getan;
Das Ewig Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan.
All that is transitory
Is but an image;
The inadequacy of earth
Here finds fulfillment;
The ineffable
Here is accomplished;
The eternal feminine
leads us upwards.

Even though Dr. Faust is a fictional character, we know from the example of Saint Paul that even a man who sold his soul to the Devil would still be able to repent and seek God's eternal mercy. Like Saint Paul, we are all living in blindness, but no matter how great our small our sins, we are all on the road to Damascus and Jesus is calling us.

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