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A Leaven In The World… Seek The Things That Are Above

May 6, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

I was with my parents on a sojourn in Italy when the electricity was cut off to the entire “boot” of the Italian peninsula overnight and into the morning hours of September 29, 2003. The blackout was allegedly in retaliation by Switzerland for unpaid Italian bills.
We were staying in Orvieto and I woke up to find with chagrin there was no coffee available. You see, the Italian coffee bars use electricity while the homes have gas stoves. One knows these things when one has spent time living in Italy as I did. I maintained an apartment on the coast near Cuma while serving as an active duty Navy chaplain in Naples.
It was a Sunday morning and, having time to fast before Mass if I moved with alacrity, I decided to beg. My somewhat bemused parents followed me as I entered into a bit of street theater. I processed through the town and, as windows opened and a few people emerged, I asked each of them for a cup of coffee. All had excuses as to why it was not possible. I was without luck.
I had been hoping the Lord’s lesson on persistence would apply in this case. Alas. He does ask us to pray without ceasing, but a cup of coffee during a power blackout is not necessarily one of those things guaranteed to us. At least not in this case.
Later, in the sacristy of the magnificent Duomo, as I stood vested and waiting for the Mass to begin with the monsignor celebrant, the lights came back on. My earthly needs still unmet and a morning joe still on my mind, I cried out with a loud voice, arms raised and anticipation, “Caffè!” — for all to hear.
Mass began and I understood the monsignor to be preaching about the power outage and its return as a symbol of the flowing of grace. He mentioned me and my reaction to its restoration as the return also of a stimulating and delicious morning ritual. Not for nothing does the word for restaurant come from the same root as “restoration.” Now vested and concelebrating in the magnificent sanctuary of the church, I briefly gave room to wondering with amusement how many of those present recognized me as the one begging in the streets for a drink earlier that morning.
After the Mass the monsignor kindly asked if I needed a coffee. I declined with thanks. Now that the flow of power was restored all the bars were back up in business and I enjoyed a brew with my parents with a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift.
Our days are filled with earthly seeking and we are sometimes frustrated, even for our wants as I experienced being a visitor once again to Italy and no longer with gas power in my apartment. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers.
We cannot have whatever we want of earthly things. We may often have what we need, however. I am sure there was water to drink on that caffeine-deprived morning. I turned my want into a source of amusement as I observed the comical reactions of the locals to my imploring greetings, transforming the lack of a material thing into satisfaction of an immaterial kind.
There is no better backdrop in the world than Italy for street theater.
In these days of privations of all kinds for the sake of a higher good in the protection of vulnerable family members and neighbors, we turn to our Easter lessons to find inspiration. If Christ has been raised, and we live and move and have our being in Him through Baptism, we should see evidence of it.
We are reminded that the highest goods of the spiritual kind can never be taken away. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
One of the goods of our interior lives is prayer without ceasing. Even when we pray in petition for those things we lack, a need is satisfied. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).
I found out in Orvieto that the Lord is not necessarily talking about a morning cappuccino. But He does offer us grace, won in that connection with Him loved out through prayer.
For some years while serving in Florida I worked with a Catholic drug addiction community. The religious who founded it laid down the rule that the members could not buy their food. They must eat only what is donated. “If you want coffee,” she said, “pray for it.”
Electricity and coffee are both helpful symbols of grace. Whether a light in the darkness or the rousing from the somnolence of the dark at the light of dawn, our lives flow on because life is nourished and light is shed within our understanding. Faith must be nourished as must the body.
Prayer must be of the warp and weft of our existence. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
The habit of praying itself is a grace and an answer to prayer. It is the connection of the soul to the source of grace Himself. Christ prayed and left an example for us in doing so. He prayed the Scriptures which we pray with the Church every day in the Breviarium Romanum. Our faith assures us that He can be trusted who commands us to pray in all of our seeking.
“Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:9-11).
I did have my morning coffee on that unforgettable occasion in Orvieto, but it was after I prayed the Sunday morning Mass of the Lord’s Day, begging for that and for so many other needs as always. With the flow once again of the marvel of electricity. And it was good with the goodness of Him who surely gave it.
Thank you for reading and praised be the risen Jesus Christ, now and forever. Until next week you can check in at my blog: APriestLife.blogspot.com.

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