Monday, May 31, 2010
Take my hand, Lord, show me all,
Keep not a sight from me.
Be my eyes, Lord, look upon the poor,
That I may know their suffering.
Is it strange to you, dear Jesus,
That I should care for them?
Do you wonder that I consider others,
In so intimate a prayer as this?
Ah! How could it be so,
When you have loved so deeply?
How could you wonder at my heart,
When it is an expression of yours?
Give me a spark of your love,
That I may love as you do.
Give me the sentiment of the Passion,
So I may participate in others’ suffering.
My heart can not ease and be at peace,
While it seems I am alone.
No, I must bring others to you Lord,
As many as will come.
I can not silently be immersed in you,
And forget the faces of my friends.
I pray for them more strongly than myself,
For they mean so much more to me.
All my wondrous dreams are crippled,
If they cannot in some way save.
Nothing I can do means anything,
If it is of no value in their salvation.
Therefore let me be like you,
In the heart of your suffering.
Do not hold me so tight,
I need to give you more.
Make me an instrument of your peace,
An expression of your love.
Teach me wisdom, grace, and meekness,
If only so I may share it.
Make me humble and mild,
Long suffering, docile and pure.
Let me be as a small lamb,
Or a horse perfectly tame.
Let others see you in me,
Let them find joy in my gifts.
But also let it be made possible,
That I be ridiculed and humbled.
Give me no room for pride,
Nor conscientiousness for myself.
Let my intent be always on them,
And my rejoicing in their good.
For in the exposure of my faults,
I find the peace of justice.
In the humbling of my person,
I come nearer to you.
Let me be ready to take charge,
But obey at a moment’s notice.
Let my will be ever strong,
Let easily override it with yours.
Give me the courage of a lion,
To bear the every threat.
Grant me the highest principles,
The deepest sense of honor.
Yet let me heart be soft,
My mind ever patient.
Let me bear the purging patiently,
Let my attention be on you.
Indeed, they may offend me,
But woe if they offend you!
Take no notice when I am threatened,
But have mercy if they harm you!
For indeed my hope for myself,
Is only that I please you.
My greatest ambition apart from you,
Is only to assist them to you.
My hopes for them soar higher,
I long for their happiness and love.
That they may have purpose on earth,
And life in paradise with you.
What is my hope for my friends,
My dreams for my neighbor?
Jesus listen to my words,
Take heed to my loving appeal.
My mind’s eye sees a forest,
Great canopies of green.
Many paths lead forward,
All of them follow the stream.
Some are rocky and travel high,
Others are soft and low.
Some travel coolly in the shade,
Others traverse the sun.
Some are strewn with flowers,
Others with thistles and brush.
Some are circled by pine,
Others surrounded by oaks.
But no matter which path,
No matter what foliage,
The stream is ever clear,
And the water ever cool.
Ah such a beautiful world,
Such an awesome life is this!
And no matter what path,
The stream is ever the same!
The waters lead to a sea,
Greater than the skies.
Their spring is constantly flowing,
Never do the stream beds grow dry.
To the paths there is no end,
They become one with the stream.
The dryness of the land,
Is eternally moistened by the water.
Beauty in the dryness,
Leads to beauty in the moistness.
Perfection on the land,
Leads to perfection in the sea.
That their lives may be full and beautiful,
That their spirits find your Paradise.
That they have you ever by their side,
That they be immersed in you forever!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
My Parish priest described fear as the primary cause of sin. We are afraid for our personal well being, our reputation, those we love... We are afraid we will not be happy, that we will feel pain, that we will experience sadness, that there will come a time when we do not have the things we need to be "well off". Such fears can cause sins of every kind. Perhaps we feel that we can only be happy if we constantly engage in luxurious acts such as drinking or impurity. Perhaps we feel that our good name is threatened and express it in acts of anger and abuse. Perhaps we fear the future and engage in building up our personal resources at the expense of others. When we are afraid we are most at risk for temptation, and the devil uses fear as a tool for estranging us from the will of God.
Even when we have high moral principles and are not subject to petty sins, fear can mislead corrupt us. The vocation God designates is full of suffering and trials, but we must realize that we can never evade suffering and eventual death, and that at least if we follow God's will we remain under His care. All too often we are afraid to make commitments, or to give up our security, for fear that we are making a mistake and regret it later. Any religious or marital vocation requires us to sacrifice this comfort, and to trust God and/or a spouse with ourselves completely. We are called to be courageous and full of faith. If we pray for God's guidance and then make the wrong decision, He will most certainly not betray our trust, and will make things right.
Slaves are people who are pressed into servitude against their will; these are captives. Theoretically, servants are people who choose to serve, and they are free. When we choose to do God's will, we are indeed free. When we choose to embrace suffering, we are courageous. But if we choose not to do the will of God, we are interfering with justice, and will not receive the desired good. If we fear and reject suffering, it will find us and take us by force, in cowardice. Therefore it is better to be good, and virtuous, and seek God where He is to be found than to cower in fear. For by the former actions, we will be granted happiness, consolation, and reward. This is one aspect of the teachings of the beatitudes. We are truly blest if we follow the instruction of the beatitudes, for in doing so we will be friends of God, free and open to His goodness.
Though we may not be conscious of fear, we do not often discover it within ourselves until we are faced with a threatening circumstance. It is one thing to say and believe that we will die for Christ, and another to stand on the edge of a pit into which someone intends to throw us, or look into the eyes of a dangerous animal who's main intent is to tear us to shreds. It is one thing to say and believe that we will live and suffer for Christ, and another to be faced with rigid penance and prayer, dangerous missionary accommodations, or agonizing illness. It is one thing to say and believe that we are willing to give Him our lives, and another to make an ultimate, forever commitment. For this reasons they say that suffering makes the heart wise, and that one who has not been tempted knows little. If we were never to suffer, how would we ever know that we really love Jesus? Words remain words until we are tested, and only then does our soul receive the beautiful enhancement that only fire can cause.
While fear is a perfectly natural response to danger, love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18) If we love Jesus with our whole hearts, minds, strength, and soul we will find peace in the midst of the greatest of trials. God will never abandon us, or give us crosses too heavy to bear. When the burden becomes too much for us, He takes it upon His own shoulders and holds us in His hands until the danger is passed. Then the love and good that He flourishes upon us is far greater than the pain ever was, and its taste is all the more sweetened because we have known what it is to suffer. We are all the more precious to God if we love without feeling His love, and trust while our minds are clouded with doubt, for this is true and unconditional love that is ever divine in character.
Friday, May 28, 2010
I can hear the loud voices of the crows overhead, and the beating of their wings,
I see them as they clutter the sky, and disturb the serenity and beauty of the evening.
The best way to find out if you have achieved interior silence is to take a moment and stop thinking. Now... what are you thinking about? Unless you are a very experienced contemplative, your mind is not empty of thought. However, identifying what we are thinking about in moments of silence will help us to distinguish what it is that is distracting us. Perhaps when I kneel down to pray I am thinking about what I have to do later in the day... in this case I must learn to empty myself and trust in God, giving Him my whole attention. Perhaps when I kneel down to pray I think of a conversation I have, or a mistake I made... I should strive to be less conscientious of my embarrassments or compliments, for this is a sign of pride. Maybe I think about God, or turn Hail Marys over in my mind, if this is the case then at least my focus is correct.
Our focus during meditation is very important for achieving interior silence. For instance, at times it is impossible for me to pray contemplatively until I have first said a rosary and meditated on the mysteries of Christ's life. This prepares my mind to focus on Christ, and generally my "unconscious" thought is still saying the Hail Marys as I pray. At times I adopt the Benedictine style of prayer and choose a spiritual book, or the Bible, to give me something to think about initially. While not always the orthodox method of prayer, when I enter into a lengthy conversation with God, which is intended to end in silence and contemplative "listening", I begin by telling Jesus a story. Usually it has to do with missionaries, or something beautiful and close to my heart. This results in the best form of prayer... because it does not move my focus to a mystery of Jesus, or some interesting piece of information, but rather to Jesus Himself. When I take the time to tell Jesus my story, I am recognizing His presence with me and entering into a deep and personal conversation with Him.
Most people associate darkness with silence. They rely on interior imagining and exterior silence to focus themselves on God. However, this doesn't always work, because the real noise is in ourselves. It is our own thoughts and distracting imaginings, even the sinful imaginings we most avidly avoid, that are the main cause of that noise and unrest we experience during prayer. When I receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, I reserve that time as precious, for me and Jesus alone. Usually I walk back down the isle worrying about how wide I'd opened my mouth to receive the host on my tongue, or still thinking about the priest's face as he said "The Body of Christ", or some other thing that had entered my mind during the communion process. But it only takes me a moment to say "Its alright, Jesus is here now, nothing else matters, this is our time." and begin to pray, always sure to tell Him that I love Him over and over. Sometimes I'll think of beautiful images reflecting the love between Jesus and myself. However, I do not close my eyes. During this deep and personal time with Jesus, in the midst of my most beautiful imaginings, I do not close my eyes.
My statement surprises you, no? When I return to the pew in my new spiritual elation, I choose a spot on a pew in front of me, the wall, the alter... something, and I just stare at it. I don't look at it, however, my mind is entirely focused on Jesus. So why do I not close my eyes and enjoy "closing out" everything else? I discovered some time ago that I experienced Jesus more deeply when my eyes were closed, and that I simply could not experience Him when my eyes were open, and where there was a lot of light. When I would open my eyes after the communion meditation period was over, I would "wake up" and Jesus would be lost to me (not always). I also noticed that I had difficulty praying for long periods of time because I would get very tired, and, with my eyes closed, I'd want to lay down. Because it was my intention to have Jesus ever with me, and always in my thoughts... and I desired to be able to pray for an extended period of time... I practiced keeping my eyes open as I experienced Jesus. I discovered that my ability to focus on Jesus in the midst of interior distractions was tenured and excelled when I learned to focus on Him in the midst of exterior distractions.
So many think that meditation and Holy Hours insinuate rosaries, Bibles, prayer books, and other exterior methods of prayer. Although these forms of prayer are beautiful, the more we immerse ourselves in standard prayer in times of silence the less we will be able to find silence in personal contemplation, and the less we will be able to listen to the voice of God in our hearts. The intimate relationship we have been offered by God is a precious gift, and we need to foster and encourage it. The more silent periods we engage in, the more opportunities we have to identify and root out interior noise. Interior silence provides us with spiritual rest, a deeper perception of the mystery of love, and a priceless perception of God Himself.
I have written a post specifically on the art of listening in discernment. If you find that you have difficulty with this kind of prayer, it may be beneficial to you as well. "Your Answer: How to Listen"
Dear Jesus, prepare my heart to receive your gentle wisdom, and bless me with your presence. Help me to achieve interior silence so that I may better love you, and that I may not be distracted from you during prayer. You are the pearl of my heart and nothing should ever take precedence over you, please teach me how to keep you foremost in my mind. Let me see you everywhere, in everyone and in everything. Let me be constantly reminded that you are the Lord of creation and the King of my heart. Give to me the grace of rest and prayer, so that I may be more pleasing to you.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
This is not the first time I have attempted to write on this subject... but for every time I have made this attempt, I have failed. They say that only one who possesses humility can have a true understanding of it, and I daresay they are right. Nevertheless, in a bold concern for my readers, I will attempt to explain it. To allow this pearl of virtues to remain unsupported here would be a grave injustice.
Various definitions of humility differ greatly, but I have had the blessing to hear it defined in a way that truly satisfies me. Humility is truth, it is seeing ourselves as what we are in the eyes of God. Because God loves us unfathomably, and knows us as well as we can be known, His perspective of us is merciful and beautiful, though the realization of it may be painful at first for us. When we become aware of God's goodness contrasted with our uselessness, and delve into a more full knowledge of ourselves, we acquire that genuine virtuous mindset which is so characteristic of humility.
As with every virtue, Jesus Himself is the perfect example of humility. Whenever we begin to understand a virtue, He should become our role model, our visual and personification of that virtue. It would seem that Jesus' Divine Nature would prevent Him from humility, but on the contrary, it made His humility all the more potent. His deep reverence for the Father, His courageous meekness, and His obedience unto death exemplify the great dignity of humility. His charity towards others is a direct proof of His humility, for He saw worth where there was none and loved those whom He, as King, need not have loved. Finally, the words of Jesus show that He endorsed humility, and pressed it upon His followers; always being the first exhibiting the humility He asked the apostles to observe.
As I mentioned a moment ago, humility is involves true knowledge and perspective of self. Though I have the dignity of being created in the image of God, in the face of His Majesty I am quite useless and full of faults. I recognize and accept these faults, for in doing so I admit my nothingness and God's Mightiness. In addition to this, however, I recognize my talents as God given gifts, and am even more humbled by His bestowing them upon me. I do not reject them but, rather, honor His wisdom and admit my own unworthiness to question by accepting them and using them. I also see, by looking through God's eyes and obtaining some of His knowledge and perspective of myself, the dignity I am given by His love for me. I see that I would be nothing, if He did not love me, but the fact that the Lord of heaven and earth loves me makes me something. The something that I am is beautiful, important, and worthy of protection and spiritual nourishment.
If I have recognized my inferiority, and known my faults, I will find that the state of my own soul is more clear to me than the states of the souls of others. I also can understand by reason that God loves others, just as He loves me, and has raised them to a high dignity. Therefore my reverence for God can spread to them, but in a somewhat lesser manner. Considering myself their servant, inferior to the dignity of God in them, it is quite natural that I shall love and respect them more than I do myself (I can take no pride for the dignity of God in me without it being an active reverence towards Him). I know that I have reached a blessed excellence in humility if my perception of God in others, in contrast with my useless self, extends to every single person, without exception. Because of this, I can look upon the gravest faults of my neighbor and still see more good in them than I do myself. It is a blessing that God does not ask us to judge each other, or I would face a painful contradiction!
True humility, as I am discussing, infers several other virtues. The knowledge of God's love for us stimulates charity. The preference of the will of God and others to our own caused by realization of our uselessness stimulates obedience. The understanding that we have been created from nothing, and deserve nothing, but for the love of God, stimulates holy poverty. The admittance of our weakness before the Majesty of God stimulates immense gratitude. The renewed belief in true justice stimulates industriousness. In like manner other virtues also appear, giving that blessed character found in those who are humble.
I have not explained the pursuit of humility, or gone into depth about its values, but the purpose of this post has been only to define it. Humility is a pure virtue, sought by those who love truth. This virtue is one of the most admirable we find in the lives of the saints because it seems so distant and difficult to obtain... but the virtue of humility comes from God, and it comes to all who seek it with simple trust. If you stand before Jesus wearing the crown of humility, I doubt that His mercy could sentence you to death; it is far more likely that He will adorn you with love and greater gifts. The last shall be first, the unassuming shall be given possession of the land, and children shall sit in seats of splendor in the presence of God.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
When there are so many things that combine to build our spiritual life, and so much is at stake, it is not surprising that we often worry about our day to day spiritual life and scruple over our many faults. The other day when I was specifically concerned about my shortcomings and the imperfections in my lifestyle, it occurred to me to wonder if it would be better not to worry at all. Well, if we want to be saints, it is going to be a constant struggle... and it is GOOD to recognize our faults. But why, then, does God seem to desire our quietness of soul? This problem persisted in dominating my mind for some time, until various scripture passages I came across helped me to come to a conclusion. For a little respite from my endless "preaching", I will show you these passages and how I came to my final conclusion.
"Remain calm, so that you may be able to pray." (1 Peter 4:7)
The lesson here is obvious. If I am overcome with worry about myself and my affairs, how am I to honor God? If I am caught up in my own hazy solutions, how can I hear His voice giving me an answer? How can I reach silence of the heart, and the blessed state of contemplation, if my mind is ever fostering noise and confusion?
"We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7)
Why worry about what I cannot understand? If there is fault in me, it is better to begin with the obvious faults I can see and work my way inward, rather than putting my hand blindly into the soil to remove the weed from its tiniest root. If I have faith that God will aid me in my spiritual growth, I will be content to revert always to the simple attempts of virtue and trust that He will guide me to deeper spirituality when I am ready. When God orders, I obey... it matters little that I cannot see where I'll end up, so long as I walk by His will.
"Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." (Col 3:12)
What a selfish little thing I am! Here I am busy worrying about my own sanctity and mourning over my many sins, while there is so much charity I could be doing. The time I spend disliking myself is far better spent loving my neighbor. Indeed, the virtues of humility, meekness, and patience are hardly present in me, desiring the top rung of the ladder while I could be toiling faithfully up the path. Is it not better to accept what I am, apologize with tears for my sins, and then strive to redeem myself through virtue? Is it not better to cease to worry about myself, and concern myself with loving and serving others? Only in this way could I reach the goodness that I desire.
"He saved us through Baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." (Ti 3:5)
Ok, well, as much as I worry about what I said yesterday, I'll still have said it. As much as I worry about "all the time I've wasted" or "the lazy way I've been living" I won't get that time back. I can wear out myself easily thinking about what I've done, but thinking about what I'm going to do only invigorates me with a new hope. So... why not start over? Yeah, I do it all the time. Instead of worrying about everything, I say to myself "I am born today" and begin anew. While Jesus may chuckle at how many times I've "been born", I know that He appreciates the renewal of my efforts and my faith in His mercy.
"Whatever you do, you should do for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)
So often my pursuit of holiness is for the "glory of me." It bothers me that there are so many imperfections in me, and so much wrong in what I do. I know that if I were truly good, these would not exist. But if my focus was only on God, and my sorrow at having hurt Him, and my efforts to please Him... then I would not worry so much over my own transformation as I would for bringing Him all glory, love, and honor that is due Him. Indeed, to love Him is all I've ever wanted... and to be lovable to Him has always been my highest personal ambition. In the face of this all important purpose, every worry fades.
As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother."
He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!"
Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him. He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." (Mark 10: 17-21)This was last night's Gospel. If I was not convinced about what I should do after all these Biblical hints, these verses alone are enough of an answer. What can I do? How can I save myself? I'm already trying, and its not working, so what more can I do? Keep the commandments, follow the way of Christ, cling to nothing, but give everything to Him. Alright, I'll do my best.
There is the saying that life is only as complicated as we make it... and this is very nearly right. In faith and obedience to God's will, everything becomes simple. We must repent for our sins and seek to live each day virtuously, full of Charity for God and our neighbor. In doing this the problems in life become clear and distinct, while our spiritual life is unclouded and opened to deeper perception of Jesus. While our faults may hurt us deeply, and our concern for closeness to Christ cause us constant struggle, our love should cast out our fear and confusion. Therefore, do not worry... be still, and know that He is God.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
but because I obeyed the impulses of God.
You ask "do I love you?" and my answer is always yes. You say "tend my sheep" and I am ever willing. No person is not loved by you, likewise there can be no person not loved by me. Whether they be strong and full of hate, or small and meek, I'd love them more than myself, and would give my life to bring them to happiness. Whether they be guilty of the greatest evil, or innocent of any crime, I could never convict them, for such a hard task is left to God alone. Whether they be intelligent, or very dumb, I'd always see them as more than myself. It is because I see you in each of them, and your love for them makes them blessed in my eyes.
My Jesus, make me a good angel to them. Take all that I am, and all that I have, and use me for their benefit. Let my hands move to the impulses of your grace, just as my heart responds to the impulse of your love. Let me speak freely, and with confidence, when you deign to give me a fleeting glimpse of your wisdom. My Lord, do not betray my trust. You see that I speak and act without hesitation when I believe that you have asked something of me, never let my poor judgment and faulty discernment of your voice cause any trouble to others. Use me always to distribute the fruits of your abundance to your children, and allow me to remain the servant of them and you.
So many blessings in life I have received, of which I am unworthy. If it were not for the sake of your divine wisdom which has seen fit to nourish my humble being with this heavenly banquet, I would ask you now to take from me all that you have given, and give it to another. From my childhood I have been given the gift of faith, and openly exposed to the overwhelming strength of your love. You have led the way to a most exalted vocation in the servitude of the cloister, and have given to me limitless support and consolation in all my needs. Never have I suffered, except in loving empathy with the sufferings of others, and you seem to guard me from the greater evils of this world. Ah, I could not bear to accept your goodness if I did not have so complete a trust in your promise that I too may share in your sacrifice. Let me, then, give all good given to me, in me, and proceeding from the work of my hands to you in humble gratitude for the sake of those who I would save by my poverty.
Divine Master, let me be your instrument. Free me from the bonds of reputation and comfort, so that I may at my own expense achieve for others peace and joy. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. Let my every effort be to console, rather than be consoled. To understand, rather than to be understood. To love, rather than to be loved. (St. Francis) For of myself, I am nothing. Only your love for me, and my love for you and others, makes me something.
If my life should bring more pain and sorrow to the world than good... If my faults should cause others to suffer... If my own comfort should cause others any disturbance... then I freely relinquish all claim to life or comfort or anything good. I freely accept my imperfections, all that may beset me to cause me unhappiness, and the humble admittance of my every fault. I do this in the silent hope that, in doing so, you will give to others what was meant for me, and even more in your mercy. I harbor no ill feeling, not even for the hopeless criminal who firmly denies the merit of my death, for even then there is no loss, but only gain in the chance that has been given him.
Yes Jesus, make me a good angel. Give me the grace to be for you what you would have me be, and to be for others what they need me to be. Give me the grace to do what you would have me do, and to fly to any opportunity to help them find you. I shall cradle the infant in the womb within my heart, so that my caring may be a guardian of his life. I shall feel a motherly compassion for the lonely child in school, so that my tenderness in prayer may bring him consolation. I shall accept the trials and temptations of the wayward teen, so that perhaps the good things that are given to me will be given also to him. I shall face the mystery of the confused seminarian, so that through my prayerful assistance he may see clearly. I shall cry the tears of a fearful mother, so that perhaps she shall receive courage from the merciful God. I shall do penance for the sinner behind bars, so that his way will be open to that love for which we are all destined... Let not a moment of my life be wasted while there is a chance that what I do could bring another closer to the eternal paradise.
I ask you now, oh Almighty Lord, to give me the grace to live for you alone. Give me the gift of discerning your will, and the knowledge of your heavenly hand. Let your wisdom fill my mind, and your desires fill my heart. For in thus letting me be a share of you, I can show my love through faithful labor. I have no intention but to bring you pleasure, and no wish but to love you and bring others to love you.
Where is the dark, the silence of the night?
To where shall I go for rest?
Who shall lead me to the soft green moss,
Where shall I make my bed?
See Jesus, I come to you,
I find in you my rest.
Reclining upon your chest,
My worries are eased.
What do I seek, if I seek not peace?
For what do I live, if not for silence?
It is for you I long, for you I live,
My heart seeks your warm embrace.
“Be still, know that I am God.”
Sweet Jesus you are my consolation,
My constant and my home.
Never need I fear.
My security rests in you, who are eternal,
My peace is in your hands.
My love has never drifted from you,
Nor has it been lost.
Here in the warm shadows of night,
My eyes are caressed, my ears eased.
My mouth need not speak the words,
Already my heart is silently expressed.
I visited the palace of my soul,
I passed within the Church.
Candlelight fire lit the way,
And filled my soul with warmth.
There you were, through the midst,
Waiting for me in a flowing canopy.
I saw your eyes, gentle and bright,
Gazing your undying affection.
By the light of purity I was consoled,
The palaces immaculately gleamed.
Precious gems were on every side,
Emeralds more wonderful than gold.
This was my home, I was not afraid,
The gates were locked against the storm.
My barricades were wooden crosses,
I knew that none could enter.
Clothed in armor stronger than steel,
I was still soft and light.
You smiled on my flowing gowns,
My colors glittering bright.
To admit I was once afraid,
Would surely break the spell.
The past remained long gone,
The future unanticipated.
The blanket of peace draped over me,
As I knelt humbly down before You.
I gazed with love upon your face,
Basking satisfied in your beauty.
There I knelt, as you were before me,
I heard the angels’ smooth melody.
The childlike saints laid flowers before you,
And smiled sweetly down at me.
Hours passed, who shall know,
There was time without an end.
My peace endured, you remained,
Who can disrupt contemplation?
My Jesus, don’t speak,
I am not ready to listen.
Your voice is utterly sweet,
The noise is not cleared.
My Jesus, don’t speak,
I cannot bear your love.
Let me live in peace,
Speak only with your eyes.
Beloved, be silent,
My words fall on deaf ears.
Do not break my ecstasy,
Let our union be forever.
Beloved, be silent,
See my greatest wish.
Allow me to remain,
If only for love’s sake.
“My bride, hear my voice,
For love is not in death.
If peace were only in the dark,
Heaven would not exist.
My bride, hear my voice,
You do not know your heart.
Who shall grow old in sleep,
While a thousand years shall pass?
My love, be at peace,
Speak not to me of love.
I know your heart entirely,
I share your every thought.
My love, be at peace,
Heaven never ceases.
My blessing is upon you,
Live for love’s sake.”
You surround me with light,
You fill my soul with sanctity.
It seems you send me away,
I stay with you forever.
Lord, how shall my peace remain?
Your heavenly waters overflow.
“I am your peace, your refuge,
I am forever, I’ll always be.”
Friday, May 21, 2010
While most of us are not unfamiliar with the call to carry our cross, there are some misconceptions where the nature of that cross is concerned. We call every little ailment or discomfort our cross to bear, and sometimes become overwhelmed when ailment piles upon ailment. We reach a point where we begin to ask "why has Jesus allowed me to carry so many burdens? Why has God given me so much to suffer?" However, we make so much of our various sufferings and trials that we forget the nature of Christ's Passion.
Jesus was scourged almost beyond recognition. His flesh was torn to shreds and He was fast losing blood. I imagine that He had a headache, He was probably ill, and the gospel doesn't mention anything about His stomach being full as He carried His heavy wooden cross. He was tired and sustained several injuries, like the one to His shoulder where the cross pressed. If this were not enough, He suffered gravely in spirit. He felt alone, abandoned by everyone, including God, and was exposed to the deepest humiliation. Further, He knew us, how we would betray His love, and how hopeless His sacrifice would be for some.
When we carry our crosses, we tend to expect to be in perfect health as we are carrying them. We simply assume that we would be perfectly happy without the crosses, and every discomfort is our cross. A headache AND too much to do AND spiritual crisis seems far too much for us to bear, let alone to be expected to then embrace a cross. We get upset with Jesus because we ourselves are far from perfect health when our burdens are laid upon us. "Why do you trust me to endure so much, Lord?" Our natural impulse is to approach God and say that it has become too much when we really begin to suffer. We forget that our human nature is fallen, and that we only reach perfect happiness in heaven. God does not ask us to carry a million and one crosses, the health of our spirit is already disrupted by sin and, in this state, we should embrace the cross that God does ask us to bear for our own good, for love of Him, and for the good of the world.
Last night at work I had a pounding headache and I clearly remember thinking to myself "so this is what it is like to die..." All too often we expect to die on our crosses, and even secretly wish to die on them. It is far easier to die for God than to live for Him; far more dramatic and far more over with. Under the image of heroism, we hide a cowardly heart that is more afraid of living and doing than facing the mystery of death. St. Therese said that "she always knew that she would die young, but she never asked to; that would be the act of a coward." God does not call us always to martyrdom in the finality of death, but instead to a living martyrdom in separation from Him, so that we can continue to show our love.
In addition to these common responses to sufferings, we are also often tempted to "play the martyr" alone. God gives us many comforts in our trials, and is ever with us in our suffering. He also gives us the blessings of friends who support and help us in our troubles, and who we should support. To settle comfortably in our discomfort of pain and destitution is not actively receiving and carrying our cross, but allowing it to oppress and overcome us. It is important to remember that God desires our happiness and our love... He wants what is best for us and does not cruelly wish our agony. Therefore, He will be far happier if we accept both trials and consolation with a smile than if we subject ourselves to relentless pain, refusing to be consoled.
When embracing our crosses we give to God, as Jesus did, an immense declaration of love. Let us not allow ourselves to become depressed and despairing, but ever prepared to say "Jesus, this and more..." Whoever feels himself overly burdened by God does God an extreme injustice, for God not only asks of us only what we can bear, but considers our many frailties and upholds us on the way of the Cross. He never calls us to suffer what He has not first suffered Himself. We must never fall into the habit of self pity, but rather remember the sufferings of Jesus whenever we feel oppressed, and receive the consolation of freely bearing our burden.
God, Who is Love, and Who desires love for us, is ever calling us to love Him. He is not satisfied with our lesser affections, however, or a few small devotions. God wishes to have all our love, and to unite us in the love of the Holy Trinity. In His great work of love on earth, Jesus has earned our every affection and has prompted the deepest love in us through the Holy Eucharist. He tells us that as the Father loves Him, so He loves us (John 15:9). Thus we are the recipients of an immense and intimate love as strong as that which binds the Most Holy Trinity! Further, God Himself places in us the capacity to reciprocate this love, and desires that we love Him and each other as He loves. What a magnificent calling!
While Charity is understood to be a virtue, the greatest of virtues, there are many things that can confuse the understanding of it. One of the greatest misunderstandings was addressed by Jesus Himself "Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you..." (Luke 6:27). Charity is not constricted to those we love as friends, but belongs to our enemies as well. While Charity has sometimes been described as love of God alone, the two great commandments given to us by Christ both address Charity and indicate that we must also love our neighbor. So how are we to understand this particular virtue?
Every in simple need of the practical, I am in the habit of making a large distinction between the words "love" and "Charity"; while in definition they may be used interchangeably. Therefore, before I begin to explain some aspects of Charity, I will present my definitions. Love is the natural affection of one person for another. It is the special, friendly affection we have for family, friends, and even Jesus Himself... whoever we naturally prefer to someone else. When Jesus said "What good is it to only love those who love you? Even the pagans do this." (Matthew 5:47) it is my guess that Jesus was referring to the natural impulse of love that every person has. But Charity, on the other hand, is God's love. Even when Charity is in us, and we offer it to God and others, it does not originate in us, but in God. Charity is the love of the Holy Trinity, and the love of the Trinity for mankind. When the Holy Spirit ignites our hearts with Holy Charity, we are prompted to a love of the same nature as that of the Trinity, though of course less in strength. Therefore Charity is always a gift from God.
The title of this post says "universal" Charity... Charity is, by nature, universal. God offers His whole and entire love to every person, as is necessary by the merits of the unity of the Holy Trinity, to which Charity unites us in a way. Charity is first of all love for Christ. It is the whole and undivided love belonging to God alone. But because Christ has given life to humanity, loves us, and gave His own life for us... He has shown that this love for God should be directed also to the children of God--to Christ in them, and for the sake of Christ's love for them. Therefore Charity is not restricted to certain people, nor even people in our own lives, for God knows and loves all people past, present, and future.
Charity is not the emotional feeling, or movement of the heart, known as love. Although love often goes hand in hand with Charity, Charity itself is a decision of the will to love without condition. Because it is not a love that originates in us, or a love that belongs to us, we cannot claim to have Charity unless we first choose to love as God loves. Therefore we choose to love those who God loves, just as we choose to love God, and our love is expressing in prayer, deed, and the development of true human affection. Because of the nature of Charity, one who possesses this virtue has a powerful claim to most other virtues. Further, since Charity is reciprocating the powerful love of God for us, it places us, in a sense, in heaven, in the presence of God; as well as obtaining the presence of God in us. It is no mystery that Charity is called the greatest of virtues!
God's love is infinite, and our perception of His love is like a drop of water into an ocean as immense as all the universe. But through the mystery of our love returned to Him, through the high calling He has give us to be one with Him in love, our small persons can give God a love great enough to satisfy His eternal desire for love. God, great far beyond our imagination, and so good as to far surpass our reality, has called us to a deep union with the Trinity through this wonderful gift of Charity. If we can do nothing else, we can love. If we could never find a way to holiness, we can reach it through love. If we can never approach the great I AM, if we can never come close enough to God to develop even the smallest personal relationship with Him, if we could never set foot into the palaces of His Majesty, we can do all this through love. If God is so great that He is above all things, if God is so great that He remains in the greatest perfection of bliss, if God could never have a need... Love is greater than all this, and for love God would set aside the claim to His kingdom to come and be with us, to lead us by the hand so we may be with Him, and to open the heavenly gates through a sacrifice equal to, indeed an expression of, the infinite and everlasting love of the Blessed Trinity.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I cried in the night, my Jesus,
Didn’t you see my tears?
My heart shattered, my love tore,
Could you not feel my pain?
I lived in darkness and in fear.
The world spun,
There was pain in my head,
I was so cold!
I cried in the night, my Jesus,
And I did not know why.
That horrible unknown pain,
Became slave master of my life.
I was hungry and confused,
I didn’t know where to go.
Did you not know I was lost?
Did you not see my need?
I cried in the night, my Jesus,
I was so alone!
Outside it was all noise,
Only my own voice was within.
Where were you, my Jesus?
I thought you said you’d be with me,
I thought my burden would be light.
I was oppressed, unable to move!
They laughed, they scorned,
But my motives were pure!
They joked, the shook their heads,
But my actions were wise and good!
What was I to do, should I have so much strength?
When all failed me, when my mind was beaten,
Should I have won the fight?
What was I to do, where were you?
Ah, such lies!
Such evil enticements,
Such glamorous waste!
Such inviting wolves!
Why did I fall into their trap?
This you ask me, gentle Jesus,
Your voice sweet, but in such pain.
I can hardly bear your gaze.
See, I cry to you for mercy,
For I am so little and weak.
See, how vast are my imperfections,
How was I to know?
I thought they were so pretty,
I thought they were so good!
I liked when they looked at me,
I liked when I was one of them.
My fancies were swooned by them,
While you were just a dream.
They took me by the hand,
I went freely, Lord.
You look on them in anger,
But it is I who deserve your wrath.
How can you bear to love me?
When I so hated you?
Yes, I grew in evil, hardly knowing why.
But now I see my fault,
My tears show my sorrow,
I run to you in love.
Master, I have been humbled,
Love, my heart is changed.
I know now what I am,
And I long for You alone!
Pity me Jesus, in this my grave disease,
Have compassion on my suffering.
I lay my cheek on your feet, I trust you,
Jesus, what will you do with me?
I fall again, and who will catch me?
The cross is a heavy burden!
My wounds are burning, my hands are sore,
I’m growing very ill.
Don’t you see I follow you?
I embraced your cross!
Did you not hear me call to you?
I freely tread the thorns!
Don’t you remember what I said to you?
Remember when I offered my life,
Just because I loved them?
Did you not know it was all because of you?
Look at them, they are falling,
Their faces are drenched in tears.
To what avail is my sacrifice,
When they are not relieved?
I persevered, I walked so far,
So their steps would be lessened.
I watched you, I saw the nails,
And still my courage reigned.
Day by day, night by night,
The way was never shortened.
Eternity you offered me,
Eternity I vowed to you!
I did not flinch beneath the scourge,
I never guessed your back received the stripes.
I did not die beneath the cross,
I never knew your shoulder touched the wood.
Ah, the nuisance of love,
Love makes a fool of me!
How rage the red fires,
That seemed a pretty flame!
I am not afraid, nor has my mind changed.
I’ll give it all for you, and for them.
What matter if I die? Love has no end.
My smile shows my joy.
Shall I go on when I am so small,
Shall I face the incoming hordes?
Where did I learn to question!
Who told me death was certain?
Jesus, see, I embrace your cross.
Jesus, see, I freely tread the thorns.
Jesus, see that I love them!
Jesus, know that I love you.
When did I begin to rest,
Where did I find your shoulder?
How is it that you’re here now,
When I was just dying?
You console me, you stroke my hair,
How lovely you are!
Your voice is peace, it speaks to me,
My pounding heart has calmed.
Yet still my eyes behold the scourge,
I still see the dark and fear.
I am alone, yet you are here?
I am dying, yet we laugh?
I’m clothed all in white,
My hair is crowned with roses.
My face is clean and sparkling,
You look at me so pleased…
Yet still my guilt holds me,
I’m in the midst of sin!
My soul is still so blackened,
And I am still so dreadful?
My trial is beginning,
Yet you crown me with mercy?
All that I feared is coming,
Yet I am not running?
There is no fear, there is no dark,
You are here beside me.
Where you are, there also is love,
Love casts out all fear.
My cross becomes my joy,
My pain my greatest comfort.
My failures pierce your heart,
My heritage lies within the wound.
For some time now I have been turning around in my head the idea of writing a book on prayer. One of the reasons is because I feel that some of my posts grow rather dry after a time, and fail to express my own love for Jesus and all of you. If I am to write a book on prayer, however, the book itself must be a prayer. Like my journal entries, this prayer must be directed to Jesus in an expression of love. Otherwise, the words are empty and do not speak the real, more important prayer that is rooted in the heart. Therefore I do not intend to offer instructions on prayer, or even a progressing journey of prayer, but rather a simple conversation between myself and Jesus in several parts. Because this book on prayer is written primarily for Jesus, this image of Him will proceed every posting of this book.
At last it has begun, I am with you now.
How my heart has longed for you,
How often my soul has whispered,
Your love to my tender heart.
How I have longed to say 'I love you',
And run to your embrace.
How I have waited for your kiss,
Your peace within my heart.
Jesus, your name falls from my lips like a song,
Jesus, even your name is an echo of love.
Jesus, how was I ever without your embrace?
Jesus, I love you, my heart need say no more.
I hear your words inside my heart,
I know when my Love is near.
I feel the trembling of your soul,
As you gather me into your hands.
This is our good morning,
This is our good night.
This is how we say hello,
This our mutual love.
How mighty you are, how beautiful,
I can hardly bear the light.
I look on your face with great joy,
I gaze on your perfection.
Ah, you are perfect indeed!
Your reign is never ending!
Your love is immensely pure,
Forever I sing your goodness.
See, I tremble in your sight,
For you are great indeed!
Wondrous are you in very essence,
You who are eternity.
Far above my imaginings are your deeds!
Your goodness surpasses my mind.
How much you have done for me,
Oh Lord how I bless you!
Blessed are you, indeed, in all you do,
Blessed are you in all that exists.
Blessed are you in the energy of love,
Blessed are you, Who are all light.
My heart sings your praise without relief,
Your love drives my soul untiringly.
My reach is high into the heavens, your abode,
You yourself support my frailty.
Ah, here I kneel in your mighty palace,
Comfortable at your feet.
I see through your eyes your kingdom,
I marvel at your kingly magnificence.
You see, Jesus, I am waiting.
But you have waited forever.
No words are necessary,
Your Person speaks to me.
See, I have found you,
I looked for you everywhere.
But see, I have found you,
You were every place I looked.
I walked in the mountains,
Shhh, I put my finger to your lips,
Let me tell my story,
I searched for you everywhere.
I walked through the desert, and saw many things.
I swam through the sea, and met all the fishes.
I gazed into the rustling of the trees,
I glided through the clouds on the wing of a bird.
I walked through life, passed out of time,
And then I walked through death.
I looked for you in the world,
Then I searched in eternity.
Everywhere I gazed, everywhere I walked,
There you were!
Is nothing apart from you?
Or perhaps you live in me.
Ah, I have seen your children,
They have many names.
Yes, I've met your people,
But YOU were in their eyes!
Listen, my Jesus, to my story,
Please be attentive to what I say.
I remember that I worked, I played.
I remember a long time, you must hear.
I started walking over a mountain,
Then I began to run!
I felt the wind in my hair, my eyes stung with chill.
I heard the whistling of the birds, and I sang along!
I reached the edge, and then I flew,
I see it perfectly now.
I stars were close, the sun made colors,
The world gleamed in the light.
There I saw it, and my face fell.
My heart lost all its strength.
I walked as one dead,
I saw nothing around me.
Ah, I could perceive myself clearly.
I was dirty and tired from my journey.
I could feel the moister of my breath,
The earth was real, I was too.
But I moved nearer, for I saw it,
And I reached it's side.
What was it Jesus? Can you guess?
It was my pearl!
Yes, so bright was my pearl, that all other brightness faded.
So real and near was my pearl, that nothing else existed,
Nothing else existed except for me, I was really there.
Jesus, my pearl was you!
You've heard my story, Love,
Now tell me yours.
Speak to my heart,
I am listening.
I listen, my Jesus, I hear you in my heart.
You tell me to draw near, I am near.
You insist mercilessly that you love me,
To hear it again must cause my heart to die!
"In the beginning, I was, but where were you?
I knew that I loved you, so I made the earth.
Where I was, there you should be also.
A long time passed by, but I did not grow impatient,
I knew what would be for all eternity.
True, you did not exist, but you existed in my mind.
I entered time, I became man.
No longer were you only like me,
I am like you!
I wanted to give you a gift, I wanted you near me.
My daughter, you brought tears to my eyes.
What I did, I did for you, and I gazed on you in my pain.
I knew when you were born, I was watching.
I saw where you went, and what you did, and I waited.
I waited for you to come around to me.
You met me, but you walked away, so I followed.
I called you, I know you wanted to come, but how long it took!
But now, now that I see you, I do not regret."
Now I cry to you in my love,
I listened to your sweet voice,
I heard you in my heart.
I won't walk away again.
Yes, I am here with you to pray.
I've told you how I love you, how I've found you,
And I listened to your song.
No, I will not leave, I'm here with you to pray.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
When I was first introduced to the saints, I viewed them as elevated beings. I felt that I too had to be elevated in order to be a saint... that I had to be naturally above normal. Now, if I had not been such an ambitious person by nature, this could have been really detrimental to my progression of sanctity. If I had said "I am far too below these blessed ones to consider sainthood, I do not have this strength, nor this capacity for virtue..." I probably would not have pursued it and found, in doing so, that holiness is for everyone.
Although a cloistered religious is given special graces through the merit of her vocation, she is not free of feelings and faults and needs. Although a cloistered religious is chosen by God for this particular path, it does not mean she could not be happy and successful in the world. Although God provides the means for a woman to become a religious, it does not mean there were not major road blocks. Although God calls a cloistered religious to a higher and tougher way of life, it does not mean she does not experience depression and spiritual difficulties. Although God calls a cloistered religious to a commitment to pursue perfection, it does not mean she is not full of faults. If you think that a religious is an elevated human being, who has reached heights that aren't available to you, you are wrong.
Why do I speak of this when religious are so often saints? Why do I say this when humility is a virtue, and we should naturally recognize the sanctity of others? So many people have a religious vocation and are afraid to follow it. So many people think that this way of life is above them. So many people see other paths open to them... such as marriage, success in studies, and talents... and think that because these paths are open, the cloister is wasting God-given talents. But the cloister is not for those who have nothing to give, it is for those who have much to give. What is our sacrifice if we leave nothing behind us when we go?
In my life, this understanding has been very important. As a little girl I aspired to be a singer, but asked God to take away my gift for singing because I longed for something more, the gift of humility; He heard my prayer. When I was a preteen I was highly gifted in taking care of animals. I learned quickly and handled, raised, bought, showed, birthed, etc. a variety of animals. But I knew that the convent was yet a greater achievement, and gave this too up in order to attend college and thus be prepared for the cloister early. Although my academic education was severely lacking, as I was not serious about it until 10th grade, I scored high A's in my high school and college courses. I love to study, and this showed me very obviously that I could be successful in higher education. But as soon as I realized I was called to a Poor Clare Community, when I realized that my greatest wish had been granted, I knew that I had great pride in my unusual academic success and that I would need to put it aside to grasp for that which I have been begging Jesus for such a long time.
Since then, I have realized that the goal which I am pursuing is the only goal in which I will never be able to take any pride. I am reaching for that thing which I can never grasp on my own, and which only submission and humility can obtain. Only by admitting my imperfections and faults, only by showing myself if all my weakness and suffering, only by literally putting myself in the hands of God to lift me up to my goal, can I achieve this greater gift I desire. I am attempting to do that only thing which I cannot do on my own, and that is obtaining holiness.
Why do I tell you this? I do not say this to boast on my own spiritual revelations, or to give a sermon on those things I have learned, I say this to show you that seeking the love of Christ is worth everything. Pursuing a religious vocation, when one has been granted that gift, is the greatest ambition... and it is worth giving everything else we have to obtain. We go to the cloister to find that pearl in the field... and it is worth giving all we have, and all we are, to find. If you have gifts, which I know you must, know that this is not necessarily a sign that you are called to pursue all those things that you can do. Whatever our gifts, we should give them heartily into the hands of God, if He will accept them as a dowry for His Son.
But circumstances don't only include what we are, and our capabilities. What about the situations of our lives? My life has been very easy... my parents totally support my vocation and, though some whom I tell are sorry to see me "waste my life", I have never received anything but kindness and respect concerning my vocation. What of those who are discouraged, and who's families are opposed to their decision? Is this a sign that they are not called to a religious vocation? Certainly not. While support is nice, it isn't necessary. Often God allows people to endure this persecution for their own benefit, to purify their motives and detach them from all things that keep them from God. I am grateful that God has granted me so much love from others, and I am grateful for the patience of those who's lives I have been a part of, but I often wish that God would grant me this particular trial, and oftentimes He hears my prayer.
We are all called to be saints, to a deeper spirituality, and a greater capacity for receiving Christ into our hearts. Many of us are called to this great experience of heaven on earth that is found in the cloisters, and to the precious gifts of love and suffering that only the spouse of Christ can receive. God gives us our persons, our talents, our needs, our situations... and He tells us to do with them as we wish, while secretly He desires us for Himself. Don't be afraid that He does not want you, He always wants you. Don't feel that because you are materially gifted, or non-gifted, that you are restricted to the material. Jesus makes Himself available to you, and He is worth seeking!
Monday, May 17, 2010
It was Ascension Thursday morning, and the rays of the sun glittered in the blue sky like many clear pearls. The clouds drifted serenely on their distant travels, seemingly carrying the birds in their soft embrace. Yes, it was beautiful, and it was quiet. Looking out over the cliff, James viewed the world. There were the trees, the mountains, the rivers, the ocean; there were the towns, the horses, the deer, the children... ah yes, this was the world. This is what creation looked like, felt like, smelled like... this is what it meant to be. James sat down softly on his heels, just enjoying the quiet.
In a moment James could perceive a man sitting next to him. He opened his eyes, alarmed at first, then realized it was only aurorem, the name he had chosen for his guardian angel. Unperturbed, he stared out at the expanse of creation before him and asked: "is this it?" Aurorem had a peaceful look, and a gentle smile, that was never contorted by anger. He smiled at James now and set his hand on his shoulder. James held his hands out, palms upward, and stared at them: "when I die, will I no longer have hands?" Sighing, Aurorem took James by the hand and they walked down the mountain together.
The next moment, James realized that he was having a vision. He saw a group of men staring at the sky, where the unmistakable Body of Our Savior was ascending. In a moment Jesus, and the vision, faded away.. but that moment was enough for James to realize that His Body was not left behind. Then Aurorem said:
"The blessing of humanity will not pass away. It is for heaven that you were born, and it is for heaven that you will die. But you will not really die, for you will still have your whole person. You will think, you will feel, you will be. You will know, and you will love. When the Blessed One of heaven came down to earth, He made humanity sacred by donning flesh and blood Himself. He died, but when He rose it was not only in spirit, but in body as well. He is not a ghost to you, but He is perfect humanity. You too shall live with all your humanity after those final days... all that will be missing is evil. It will be the fullness of humanity without the negation of corruption. The He has shown you by dying and rising from the dead, and now ascending body and soul to the right hand of the Father, to prepare a place for you."
God has granted us this life on earth in which to serve Him. You may recognize this quote from the bottom of my blog: "Yes, our life is in truth a field of battle. We lament on the banks of the rivers of Babylon. "How can we sing the song of the Lord on alien soil?" Yet sing we must. Our life must be a continual melody. At my death, when I shall see the good God who will shower upon me the tenderest love for all eternity, and when I shall never more be able to give Him proof of mine by sacrifices, this will be impossible for me to bear, if on earth I shall not have done all I could to give Him pleasure." St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Because earth is our method of serving God, and is not all there is, it should ever be treated as just a temporary home. While those things in this world that are forever, the souls of others and the better gifts of God, should always be a priority. Jesus left us an earthly commission to love Him, and bring others to love Him. The importance of love in life is keenly necessary, for this lasts into eternity. While we live on earth as sons and daughters of God, we also live a portion of our heaven... for our immortal souls are just as immortal now as they will be in the life to come.
The life of a religious prophesies eternity. She embraces a mystical marriage with the King of kings, a marriage that embraces all people in the same love that will be present in the next life. She frees herself of attachments to earthly things, attaching herself first to God and then taking simple delight in the things of this world which He has given to her. She does not allow herself to be ruled by the bodily passions that detract from the dignity of her soul, but rather disciplines herself so that her soul may be free to be royal in heaven. While she gives her time to labors and pleasures... she does not allow herself to become so immersed in the materiality and nothingness of world without spirit that the life within her, that life which will bring her through eternity, wilts and dies. Rather, she gives much of her time to prayer and holy things, and lives the rest of the time with holy purpose.
It has been said that love casts out all fear (John 4), and when love is combined to the heavenly life, this must be true. Whatever sufferings we endure, and whatever evil besets us, we know will pass away. While we may be afraid in our guilt, or we may be afraid in our pain, if we love then our guilt is replaced by mercy and our pain ceases to be oppression, but rather a burden freely born. Perhaps we doubt eternity, we doubt that everything is anything, and are afraid of nothingness... but if there is love, then there is a substantial pedestal great enough for everything to stand on, for God is love. We should not be afraid of poverty, for if we love, we possess God, Who is everything. Where there is love, there will always be joy, even in the deepest sorrows.
Remember as you seek your vocation, remember when you find yourself impatient and afraid, remember when you are beset by doubts and temptations that this life is short and heaven is already at hand. Whenever we love, and act in this love, we are already living our eternity with Christ. For this is the little bit of heaven that we bring with us, and this is the little bit of Divinity that has been given to us. We are not doomed to emptiness during our lives, but instead we are already partaking of fullness. All we must do is identify where this fullness is found, and seek it with our lives. The road to sainthood is clearly shown by one great landmark, and that landmark is love. The world we live in and the person we are have been made sacred by the hands of God, and shall not pass away, but will accompany us to the sanctity and perfections of heaven at the end of time and the beginning of eternity.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Few go through life without taking everything for granted, and these few are, no doubt, either the very poor or the very saintly. We are born expecting to be taken care of, and continue to have a high sense of self-justice and what we deserve as long as we live. Therefore, when we are hungry, we expect to eat. When we are tired, we expect there to be someplace warm and dry to sleep. Those who know what it is like to be without these things have some idea of the gratitude one has when he receives these necessities after being without... but even those people would no doubt believe that they have a right to them. Imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to be naturally thankful for everything... as if we deserved nothing, and every little thing we received was a gift.
St. Francis discovered a very wonderful thing about poverty. The less he expected to receive, the less he claimed ownership of, the more he seemed to have for which to be grateful. One who is starving, without any hope for receiving bread, considers himself very fortunate indeed to receive even a few homely crumbs. One who thirsts, and does not expect to be satisfied, is jubilant over the sight of even a murky spring. One who does not assume he has the right to the warmth of the sun, the shade of the trees, or the song of the birds must be ever filled with an immense gratitude! Francis had already discovered the secret when he showed us that he who has nothing, possesses everything. He who claims to deserve nothing always has far more that he expects.
Gratitude can have an immense effect on our lives. If we truly understand that we deserve nothing, and thank God heartily for the everything He has bestowed upon us, we shall find ourselves very happy indeed! We will be moved to the greatest love for God and our fellow man simply because they have been so gracious to us, and we will desire to offer love unconditionally, without asking return, because the return we have already received is greater than we hoped. Is this such an unattainable goal? Sit quietly and think for a moment... God created us from nothing, presented us with this wonderful world, and loves us immensely... we did nothing to earn this. He gave us two hands with which to work, five senses to perceive the world around us, and an awesome mind and soul that make us a person. Everything we have and are has been presented to us so that we may use it to live and know, love, and serve God.
To be thankful is to possess some measure of humility. The more grateful we are for all that we have, the more we insist that God is very good in all He does for us, the more humble we are becoming. We stimulate God's pity for His "poor one" because we are always so satisfied, even with the bad things. Yes, we can be thankful even for suffering and imperfections in ourselves, because everything, when used to serve God, brings us closer to Him. We know that Jesus loved children... but why? Perhaps it was because they were so little and weak, and admitted this to be so. They are without arrogance and find the greatest pleasure in the little things of this new world they are discovering. Perhaps it is because they love for the sake of loving, and have not learned to have higher agendas for reward for their love. Many meditations on the humility and holy poverty of a child (at least a theoretical "child") will spring up if we spend a few moments thinking about it.
In the beatitudes Jesus makes an attempt to express this form of gratitude, among other things. Blessed are the poor, the meek, the peacemakers... not those who fly after things for themselves, but those who have little and admit their poverty before God. Not those who fight for what they deserve, but those who make peace and take nothing more than the share given to them. Not those who take for granted the things they have, but those who must be courageous and work for the very necessities of life... for these understand even more greatly their dependence on God.
To be thankful is not to make a half-heart cry of thanksgiving for something we already believe we should have... but to express the sincerest gratitude because we and all our efforts are nothing and everything we receive is a gift.