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“The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.”
— His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI (11 May 2005)
Rot and Redemption
published 22 March 2011 by Guest Author

The following is a guest submission by Chiara Rioley.

The extremely straight, perfectly polished teeth of the hygienist provided a gleaming visual aid to the Dentistry for Dummies lecture: “Brush your teeth twice a day. It is less expensive to prevent cavities than to fix them. Floss daily. Use a mouth rinse. Supervise your children when they brush!”

Being on the receiving end of this lecture, I was awash in minty shame. My son’s mouth had become an outer space illustration, with two big black holes in his lower jaw. These rotten teeth would require meticulous oral orbiting, ending with a shiny constellation of silver crowns to fill the cavities.

I was depressed at my negligence and the expense of the necessary repair. I was also annoyed by the dental assistant’s perfect little pearly whites glaring at me while she spoke. Internally, I defended myself against their bright indictment: Well, I had cavities as a child…..they run in the family…..my dentist was scary!!! Or, trying more desperately to justify myself: Well, not all the saints had perfect teeth!!!

I wanted, in a way, my son’s dentist to be scary too. That way I could smugly mutter, “See! Dentists are terrifying!” and carry on my righteous dental defiance. But no. He was a very patient man, treating my son very kindly and speaking a restrained rebuke to me. It took four dental visits to finish the work on restoring John’s teeth and just as many for me to unclench my jaw, open wide and be truly grateful.

So, here is a little Lenten meditation. During this season of repentance and renewal, can we bring ourselves to face the unhealthy things growing in our souls? Can we identify the rot and find redemption?

Let us pray for the humility to see the truth of our condition, no matter how painful; for daily diligence in living our faith and for the wisdom to appreciate (and not resent!) the perfections of others. Perhaps the saints did have imperfect teeth, but there were certainly no holes in their holiness. May we, like them, gain an imperishable crown!

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