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"I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law — many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of."
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516
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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