One of the countless books we had to read during our four year deacon formation was St. Augustine’s wonderful work: CONFESSIONS. We read and studied the book for two philosophy classes, and for at least one of the theology classes.
Have you read it? I know some people can’t get into it. It’s too, too much for them. Perhaps those filled with great academic (i.e. head) knowledge struggle with Augustine. It may be these folks have never wallowed in Original Sin. Maybe they’ve never had a sin they really loved and didn’t want to let go of.
For the rest of us, Augustine would say something like: “Lord, make me pure, but not yet.” I get that. I still take that sort of proclivity to my sins to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But alas, some just don’t see getting all that worked up about a man who had a mistress. We’re all too used to it now. It’s always been and always will be.
Not so. Not so.
In Confessions, Augustine wrote these words:
“But what do I love when I love God? Not material beauty or beauty of a temporal order; not the brilliance of earthly light, so welcome to our eyes; not the sweet melody of harmony and song; not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes, and spices; not manna or honey; not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God. And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace; but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self, when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space; when it listens to sound that never dies away; when it breathes fragrance that is not borne away on the wind; when it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating; when it clings to an embrace from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire. This is what I love when I love my God.”
What is this about? Surprisingly, it’s about meeting Channing Dale. She is a lovely, young 25 year old lady from Pennsylvania. She is the creator of the This Catholic Life Podcast (http://www.thiscatholiclife.org/ ) where she speaks about knowing and living the Catholic Faith. Channing also blogs from time to time. She’s started a Youtube channel for her evangelization work, and you can also find her giving a special video testimony about an experience she had concerning the Eucharist. She did this for her parish (St. Mary’s Historic Church in Lancaster, PA).
Okay. Bring us on home, Deacon Tom. What does St. Augustine’s writing of CONFESSIONS and the lovely Channing Dale have to do with each other?
Channing Dale and Tom and dear wife Dee have become good e-friends. This happens a lot on the worldwide web. But then, we’ve come to be more than e-friends because Channing surprised perhaps even herself and the Foxes by deciding to come to Arizona for a visit. We hosted the majority of her time in this state. It was our first time meeting Channing in person. As our Canadian and Irish relatives would say, “It was a grand visit.”
But something else happened in addition to meeting the physically attractive young woman. We were given a chance to look through our human eyes (which can be flawed or viewed through rose-colored lens, I’ll admit) and to see another kind of loveliness: a soul in love with God. A soul consumed by the desire for total union and prostration before the One she loves.
That was what it was like to spend days with Channing Dale. The attentive observer begins to fall in love with, not her physical persona - but the beauty of her soul. There are some things you begin to notice. Small things: she wears a veil when she attends Mass; she bows very low when double-genuflecting before the exposed Blessed Sacrament; she well knows her way around the Liturgy of the Hours - the daily prayer of the Church. She admits to trying to get a rosary in every day. She seems totally faithful to the teaching Magisterium of the Church.
And noticeably more important - Channing has just committed to becoming a cloistered, discalced Carmelite nun in July of this year. God willing. Please God -- willing.
Among many other little tip-offs about the ‘soul’ we were in the presence of, we invited some families with young teens and pre-teens to come to our house and meet Channing. For over an hour, Channing held us spellbound as she shared her faith walk from high school, through college and on into the working world. There was the suggestion of some ‘like-Augustine’ experiences in her earlier life. And then -- and then there was her falling in love with with Christ... with His Church... with the Sacraments. With TRUTH.
And what happened at least to me was that I wasn’t looking at her physically so much any more. I was seeing a vision of her soul. And it made me want to love and act as Augustine did. Like Channing is doing.
I don’t in any way believe she is a saint (yet). Like most of us trying to be good Catholics - Channing is a work in progress. But the results thus far are amazing. It is a joy to see the glow on her face when she speaks of her journey to becoming a cloistered nun.
Channing: we thank you for entering our lives. We offer you our prayers. We too will be behind a grill of separation - unable to hug you and to rekindle the joy of your physical presence in our lives. :-(
Copyright 2013 Deacon Tom Fox
About the Author
Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee are co-hosts of the CATHOLIC VITAMINS Podcast for over 6 1/2 years. Tom has also been a member of the Catholic Mom columnists team for eight years, and was a regular contributor to the Catholic Moments Podcast for three years. Most recently, Deacon Tom has been leading a project to bring Catholic radio to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. Blessings!