Monday, February 25, 2008

The Staretz on Spiritual Warfare

St. Silouan the Staretz speaks much of humility: to humble our souls. Humility is necessary for obedience, for love, and also for combat against evil. It seems so much suffering is brought upon ourselves, from within ourselves, when we become agitated and irritated over daily events and encounters.

Reading the thoughts of St. Silouan bring peace in the reading, and they express beautifully the Way of Christ, His Truth, His Life. Our friend the staretz shares with us how to proceed in God's commandments.

"If you have followed your own will, then you are conquered by the enemy, and despondency will come upon your soul. If you hate your fellow it means that you have fallen away from God, and an evil spirit has taken possession of you.

"But if you do good unto your brother you will gain rest for your conscience. If yuou subdue your own will your enemies will be driven off, and you will receive peace in your soul.

"If you forgive your brother the affronts he puts upon you, and love your enemies, then you will receive forgiveness for your sins, and the Lord will let you come to know the love of the Holy Spirit.

"And when you have humbled yourself entirely, you will find perfect rest in God.

"Let us love our fellows, and the Lord will love us. Think not, O my soul, that the Lord loveth thee if thou look askance upon any man. Rahter is it then that thou art beloved of the devils, in that thou hast become their servant; but be not slow to repent, and ask the Lord for strength to love thy brother, and thou wilt then see that there is peace in thy soul....

"The spiritual fruits of love are plain: peace and joy in the soul, with all men dear to you, and you shed abundant tears for your fellow-man and for every thing taht hath breath and all creation....

"St John the Divine declares that God's commandments are not grievous but a light burden. But they are light only where there is love--where love is not present everything is difficult. Therefore, preserve love and lose it not, for though it is possible to recover love, this can only be at the cost of many tears and prayers, and without love life on earth is hard. To continue in malice is death to the soul, from which may the Lord save us."

These thoughts which emphasize the teachings of Jesus Christ, flesh out for us by another human being, the reality of what Jesus asks of us--and what we MUST DO. In suffering, we must be careful to not suffer that which is a suffering of our own lack of love and forgiveness; this is not suffering brought by God as gift but rather suffering in collusion with the devil. It is evil suffering, hate suffering, self-pitying suffering. As St. Silouan says, it is death to the soul.

Forgiveness, humility, obedience, love--all must be in place as the front guard against the legion of devils which would rather us retain hurt and anger--sufferings of the soul that come from insults, injuries, and even vicious crimes against us. If we do not forgive and love (humble ourselves to do this out of obedience to Jesus Christ who did all this even though He Is God and is Love Incarnate), we are not victim souls of the Sacred Heart of Jesus but rather make ourselves victims souls of Satan. This is so true.

St. Silouan offers a test. One day pray to the Holy Spirit to love all mankind, and go about the day and night in love and forgiveness. The next day, live without love and forgiveness, and we will see the difference. Well, I do not even want to risk that day without love, for I have had them--I have had days of anger, hurt, self-pity, justified agony from grievous injuries--but yet struggle with forgivenss and letting anger breed even more hate. I didn't think I was hating, but to not forgive those who have hurt us most, is the opposite of love. That is hate. How do we forgive? It takes pray, desire to forgive, and practice of the will to forgive. The Holy Spirit will work on our souls, minds, hearts and bodies; one day we will realize we have no hate and only love for that person or situation that was so hurtful.

St. Silouan's patron saint is St. Simeon the Stylite. Simeon was seven years old when Jeuss appeared to him, and the young boy asked Jesus how they crucified Him. Jesus replied, stretching out His arms, "Thus did crucify Me; but it was My desire. And do thou crucify thyself with Me every day."

"Thus must we urge ourselves all our lives to do good, and above all we must forgive others their trespasses, and the Lord will then not be mindful of our own sins, and will give us the grace of the Holy Spirit."

St. Silouan reminds us again to humble ourselves before God and man. He relates the vision of devils assailing him, and of praying to the Lord, and of God telling him: "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not." So from then on, he never forgot what could await his soul, and yet he did not despair but yearned after the Lord all the more, and sought Him in tears, and forgave and loved all God's creation. He pondered his death and the thought of the abode of the dark prison of hell, and all the more he longed for God, for the Lord Who his soul knew and loved.

St.Silouan admonishes souls to repent and then we will perceive the mercy of the Lord. He warns to set aside visions for they are a source of evil pride and sweet vanity. Where there is no lowly spirit of repentance, the trouble lies therein, "for without humility, it is impossible to vanquish the enemy".

What to do if our soul is disquieted and we feel an evil spirit working within us? St. Silouan says, " not quail but confess yourself thoroughly and earnestly, and entreat a lowly spirit of the Lord, and the Lord will give without fail. then, according to the measure of your humility, you will be sensible of grace within you; and when your soul finally humbles herself, then will you attain perfect rest.

"And this is the war man wages his life long.

"The soul that has come to know the Lord through the Holy Spirit does not take fright if afterwards she suffer beguilement, but remembering the love of God, and knowing that conflict with the enemy is loosed on her because of vanity and pride, humbles herself and begs the Lord for healing, and the Lord heals--sometimes swiftly, sometimes slowly and gradually....

"Prayer to be clear and unsullied requires inner peace; but peace cannot exist in the soul without obedience and temperance.

"The holy Fathers ranked obedience above fasting and prayer since a man who knows not obedience may think of himself as a spiritual wrestler and man of prayer, whereas he who has excised his self-will and put himself under obedience in all things [to his confessor and spiritual director] serene in mind.

"The soul's war with the enemy lasts until death. And, whereas in ordinary warfare only the body suffers, in our war, which is harder and more dangerous, the soul may perish....

"By the grace of God I have come to know that the Lord mercifully watches over us, and not one prayer nor a single good thought is lost with God. The Lord often seems not to hear us; but that is only because we are proud, and what we ask would not be for our good. Pride is difficult to detect in oneself, but the Lord leaves the proud to be tormented by their impotence until they humble themselves. But when the soul humbles herself, the enemy in vanquished, and teh soul finds deep rest in God.

"Who is there who can realize what paradise is? He who bears within him the Holy spirit can realize it in part, since paradise is the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spriit both in heaven and on earth is one and the same.

"To overcome self-love we need to be for ever humbling ourselves. This is a mighty science not quickly to be mastered. One must reckon oneself the worst of men, and condemn onself to hell. In this way i sth esoul humbled, and the tears of repentance are made to flow which give birth to joy. It is well to school the soul to think, 'I am going to burn in the fires of hell.' But, alas, few understand this. Many there are who despair and fall by the wayside. Their souls sink into a wild state, and then they have no desire to pray or to read or even to think on God.

"Man must condemn himself in his soul but not despair fo the compassiona dn love of God. He must acquire a lowly and contrite spirit, and then all intrusive thoughts will depart, and his mind will be purified. But at the same time he must know his own capacity, so as not to overburden his soul. Learn to know yourself, and see to it that your soul's endeavor is within her strength....Not all souls are equally strong.

"...He who lives according the the commandments is aware every hour and minute of grace in his soul. Yet there are people who do not discern the coming of grace....

"Train yourself to cut off an intrusive thought immediately. And if you are forgetful and fail to chase them away at once, bring God your repentance. Be at pains over this, so that you acquire the habit. the soul is a creature of habit: according t othe habit you have acquired, so will you act all the rest of your life.

"The love of God has various forms. The man who wrestles with wrong thoughts loves God in his way. He who struggles against sin and asks God to give him the strength not to sin, but yet falls into sin again because of his infirmity, and sorrows and repents has grace in the depths of his soul and mind, but his passions are not yet overcome. But the man who has conquered his passions now knows no conflict: all his concern is to watch himself in all things lest he fall into sin. Grace, great and perceptible, is his.

"Thus the soul spend her whole life waging war. But do you not lose heart over the struggle, for the Lord loves a brave fighter."

This is the conclusion of thoughts of St. Silouan to be shared from the book compiled by Sofrony the Archmandrite, the startetz's student and friend. Much to ponder and pray, particularly to obey the commandments, humble oneself, forgive others, and love all peoples--and very much love those who do not love in return.

Pray to the Holy Spirit, and the help and training will come. Pray for each: obedience, humility, forgiveness, love. These graces will be given, sometimes quickly, sometimes over a long period of time. Another spiritual writer explained that the spiritual climb is not like the earthly journey. There can be no stopping to rest in the spiritual climb! One falls and loses grace if one stops for a moment!

Friday, February 22, 2008

St. Silouan Suffered Terrible Headaches

St. Silouan shares about the will of God and freedom. We are free when we are fully in the will of God. He said when he was more in the world he relied on his own understanding, and when by the Holy Spirit he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord's love for all of us, his soul submitted to God. Then he accepted every affliction that came to him and would say:

The Lord looks down on me. What is there to fear?

"Life is much easier for the man who is given over to the will of God, since in illness, in poverty, in persecution, he reflects thus: Such is God's pleasure, and I must endure on account of my sins.'"

"Thus for many years have I suffered violent headaches, which are hard to bear but salutary because the soul is humbled through sickness. My soul longs to pray nd keep vigil, but sickness hinders me because of my body's demand for rest and quiet; and I besought the Lord to heal me, and the Lord hearkeneed not unto me. So, therefore, it would not have been salutary for me to have been cured."

Yet in another example, St. Silouan shares how one time a fishbone was caught in his throat. No one could dislodge it, not even the doctor. But then God told him interiorly what to do to dislodge the fishbone, step by step. St. Silouan did exactly as God told him, and the fishbone came out. He then said, "...I understood that if the Lord does not cure me of my headaches it is because they are good for my soul."

"The most precious thing in the world is to know God and understand His will, even if only in part. The soul that has come to know God should in all things submit to His will, and live before Him in awe and love: in love, because the Lord is love; in awe, because we must go in fear of grieving God by some evil thought."

O Lord, by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, vouchsafe that we may live according to Thy holy will.

"How are you to know ifyou are living according to the will of God?

"Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God's will, although it may seem to you that you live according to his will. He who lives according to God's will has no cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God; and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted."

"The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing: neither thunder nor thieves nor any other thing. Whatever may come, 'Such is God's pleasure,' she says. If she falls sick, she thinks, "'this means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it.' And in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body."

In surrendering to God's will, the Staretz alludes to Scripture: Jesus says we will not be given more than we can bear and that the Lord loves us very much and watches over our souls. We must also, pray always for peace of soul and that we may better and more easily live the Lord's commandments. "...for the Lord loves those who strive to do His will, and thus they attain profound peace in God."

"He who does the Lord's will is content with all things, though he be poor or sick and suffering, because the grace of God gladdens his heart. But the man who is discontented with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offence, should realize that his spirit is in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.

"But if it be so with you, do not lose heart, but try to trust firmly in the Lord and ask Him for a humble spirit; and when the lowly spirit of God comes to you, you will then love Him and be at rest in spite of all tribulations."

"No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great, men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord himself guides with HIs grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God, Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever."

The Staretz then shares of the Blessed Mother's being in the will of God and of suffering well the greatest of sorrows. Later, she had strength to give comfort to all God's distressed people.

So it is that we, too, can suffer in this state of love and trust in God, in faithful surrender to His will, knowing that "all things are then dear to the soul, for all things are of God. We will develop into useful victims of His love. If it is God's will and to the degree of whatever sufferings, we can make our submission and offer our oblation in union with Christ who willed to suffer and die out of unfathomable love for us.

One time a priest had come to visit when I was having a tremendous suffering. He asked me, "Why suffering?" I was not up to many words, but what came to me as the answer blurted out:
Because it works! I suppose that's what is called "the bottom line."

I have considered, now, that the Lord sent me this sinus infection because He knows it is salutory for my soul. Some may find this ridiculous, given the fact that we know so much about germs and medications. St. Silouan was not out of touch with the growing wealth of medical knowledge in the early 1900's, either. Yet, he knew much about God and the spiritual realm, and in that he sets out Christ's teachings and the truth of being in the will of God. I do not doubt.

Yes, I can see much good in this sinus problem. I have had to humbly reach out to some people for advice, go to the doctor (which I rarely do given no health insurance--which also is the will of God and has had innumerable blessings over the past 21 years), patiently endure the daily home remedies, blow my nose interminably, and have this heighten the other pain problems. Also, I have gained an empathy for people with sinus problems and allergies, from infants to the elderly. I have accepted that there may be some allergy--perhaps to the old Catholic books I've gratefully and lovingly collected and slowly read and share, perhaps to the orchids' potting medium. Already wheat, milk products and sugars have been mostly eliminated from the diet. Maybe it is a well-entrenched virus that may not completely leave.

Regardless, this is an offering to be made in gratitude and thanks to God, for it is an affliction (minor though it may be, but yucky!) to be suffered lovingly as from the loving hand of God. In other words, God has a good reason for this fall-winter-long sinus problem--that hinders my functioning and is teaching me many goods--not the least of which is to learn to say with genuine truth: Such is God's pleasure.

I will strive as a Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to appreciate more the gifts from God that come daily in small inconveniences, aches and pains, emotional pangs, and tiny slights and mundane duties. When I realize that God brings them to me for my soul's good, the whole perspective alters to an excitement in the discovery: What gift has God wrapped in this package?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

O Good Cross

A friend e-mailed another short excerpt from St. Francis de Sales' Letters to Persons in the World. It makes me consider my sinus problems of late, and the little daily issues we have with others, with offering opinions when it would be better not, and then of fussing about having done so. I had demonic dreams early morning, and even those could be aggravations; but St. Francis de Sales gives the following holy advice.

"O good Cross, so loved by my

"...we shall know that we are wrong when we call our little
mishaps by the names of afflictions, pains, and
contradictions; and we shall see that we are wrong in
desiring patience for such trifles, since a single little
drop of modesty is enough for bearing these things well..."

I looked up the word "modesty," for it seems quite a powerful
aquisition if one drop is enough to bear the aggravations we
encounter daily. Mishaps? Yes, they seem to be plentiful
except when we offer them to God after having placed a drop
of modesty on them.

Modest means "keeping due measure." In usage, we find it
expressing moderation in dress, attempting to not stand out or
draw attention to ourselves; it expresses not displaying beyond
a limited degree, our talents and gifts. Modesty is quite akin
to humility. The word originated in the mid-1500's, so it was
fresh and popular in St. Francis de Sale's life time. It derives
from French and Latin.

To remain humble, then, in our on-going irritations and
challenges, and humble in a measured degree, is the drop of
powerful antidote.

The title of the letter intrigues me: O good Cross, so loved by
my Savior. Our Bishop was preaching similar yesterday at noon
Mass. He reminds us to offer our small and daily sufferings in
union with Jesus, on His Cross. He spoke of the great love of
Jesus--and of the humility of suffering; for the Gospel reading
shared Jesus' explanation to His disciples (disgruntled that
James and John's mom had asked for her sons to have prefer-
ential place in Jesus' Kingdom) that only the Father determines
who will be at the right and left, but that they consider yet from
the view of the world. Are they ready to drink the Cup that He
will drink?

Jesus drinks the Cup of Suffering with perfect love.

That is yet another consideration: to pray for perfect love.
A drop of modesty allows us to bear our mishaps in life; perfect
love allows us to die to self and unite in God's will, to love in
union with His love, and to go beyond accepting the Cross--but
to love the good Cross, to consider it a good.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Red Rose of Suffering

In a package of a book ordered (hardbound of Scupoli's The Spiritual Combat), was tucked a small surprise gift from Owen Kubik, proprietor of Kubik's Fine Books. How did he remember that I am interested in victim souls? The kindness radiates blessings! Two small booklets revealed these titles: Why Do I Have to Suffer? and The Red Rose of Suffering.

A few days ago, I'd prayed for what victim soul might be read next. With the other books lined up, the prayer was for a something not too long and involved. The Red Rose of Suffering seemed perfect! What a gift!

The pamphlet revealed the story of a victim soul, unknown to many these days, but known in the Catholic world of 1949 through means of the Co-Missionary Apostolate. This was an idea developed sparked from the earlier fire of the Victim Souls of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Also, the example of St. Therese of Liseiux lent credibility to this apostolate started just ten years after her canonization.

A young woman, recently sent back to a sanitarium for tuberculosis treatment, was sent a magazine. In it, she read about how to become a co-missionary, to offer all of her thoughts, prayers, acts and sufferings one day a week, for a missionary priest to whom she'd be assigned. As it turned out, the young woman offered her very life, day and night.

The booklet includes her diary while in the sanitarium. It shows the progression of a frightened, angry, upset girl of 20 or 21, up to the last day she could write in her journal at nearly age 24.

Her missionary priest ended up being one who worked at the mission congregation's foundation in Illinois, but the woman referred to as "Gertrude" did not mind. In fact, her missionary priest was able to visit her two or three times, and encouraged her valiant efforts in prayer and suffering: as she was a true victim soul--a victim of love.

I was drawn into this young woman's humble suffering and plight. And when she transformed into a virtual saint, and her sufferings were faced with tremendous courage and love of God, with faith that Jesus was utilizing her very immolation of body as a means to strengthen the missionary priest--the effect was soul-binding! I have thought of this young woman since yesterday afternoon, and included asking her to bless me with her prayers this morning, at Mass.

It is strange how these acquaintances and then friendships come along and develop. The young woman's actual name is Margaret. She was one of a large family and had lived on a farm, was born in 1915 and died at age 24 and nearly four months, on Jan. 4, 1940. What she endured is written simply, and not at length, in the booklet. Not sure what has happened with the Co-Missionary Apostolate, but a little research will answer the question. Not all co-missionaries, of course, had tremendous sufferings to offer, but it is a beautiful reality that one can be spiritually linked and offer even a minute of our lives, to God, for the strengthening of another. The Co-Missionaries signed up to offer a day of the week. Margaret offered her life.

This morning, in confession while mentioning pride, at the conclusion the confessor was told of two experiences this past week. One included the deep sense of offering again to suffer and die for the Catholic Church: to be an immolation. This occurred on Sunday, and was part of something written and offered, said was a desire of the soul. The motive and intent of the desire and offering were scrutinized for a day, and then sent off. That noon, it was expressed to the person who would receive the writing, that it had come from the soul, and was meant sincerely. Yet, it seems odd in a way, to have the desire well up from time to time, and then the offering made, and then later to wonder why one would have such a desire, knowing that it would be the most difficult to endure--more and more suffering. Yet, it was out there, and offered, again. And reading unexpected gift, The Red Rose of Suffering, the day after, seemed odd, as well. Yet it wasn't too surprising. God does give us many signal graces.

So the soul expressed this renewed, fearsome desire--to suffer and die for the Catholic Church--to the confessor and asked, "Is it pride to have such feelings and make such offerings?"

He looked up and said with immediacy: "No. It is vocation."

Leaving the confessional to pray the penance before the Tabernacle, the soul had another little shiver of the strangeness of this vocation, and how it is not being refuted. And yet time extends like a rosary, with nights linking the days, and there is suffering on-going, but what will God do with these renewed offerings, if anything? There is no need to ask or be curious; just keep learning to love and wait in love.

It is lovely to have Margaret as yet another friend in Heaven.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Cold

Even being on antibiotics and taking cold medications, another cold or sinus infection either started or just got worse. Since shortly after The Great Peace in October, it has seemed more sinus and cold problems with only a short break between.

So it helps one to consider people suffering from asthma, allergies (which may be some of the problem here), various forms of arthritis, and other long-term or permanent afflictions, even cancer. Just because a person is used to one form of suffering, it is good to experience a variety so that compassion and understanding remain vibrant!

St. Francis de Sales and all of the saints advise to embrace all for the love of Christ. This means sinus infections and common colds. Probably Jesus' nose was broken from all the beating he underwent. Hard to imagine the pain upon pain that he endured--probably every pain that any human could possible suffer. One can unite the stuffy head and aching teeth, the burning upper respiratory tract--unite these minor areas of discomfort with Jesus' massive sufferings.

And, as the victim souls of the Sacred Heart of Jesus teach us from their experiences and private revelations, Jesus suffers yet in the timelessness of God, in the spiritual love and union with beloved souls; and He accepts our small offerings with our loving motives, our trust that He can use these aches and discomforts for the reparation of the sins of the world!

Now, that is truly amazing! Think how something ordinary like a sinus infection or cold can be used by the Lord to help ameliorate the spiritual consequences of some soul who perhaps has murdered or cheated some consumer or dabbled with the occult.

While in a short while I'll call the doctor's office and ask for a different antibiotic, and this morning tossed out the mug of coffee and decided to switch to tea (after some research that the coffee just might be inhibiting iron and zinc absorption), if the sinus problems linger, and as other bodily sufferings come along (like headaches from detoxing from coffee!), these ordinary pains of an ordinary life can be transformed by Jesus into extraordinary love for souls He knows are in need.

Then, He will also use the intentions and motives of love of Him and gratitude for a small share in His Holy Work, to purify this soul in need. This soul needs perpeatual humility and great love for all souls no matter who. Is it possible that this on-going cold and the weariness with it, are a type of enemy to be loved?

Well, some may think that is a ridiculous stretch. But in the discussion by the Carthusian as to why our souls are created (to glorify God), he points out that all experiences--good and not good--are means for us to glorify God. If one loves all experiences and discovers the benefits to all aspects of creation, then we learn to love our enemies, which glorifies God for it is his commandment.

Yes, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Often, our neighbors have chosen us as their enemies. Or, there are people in our families or circles of friends who irritate or annoy, and we are tempted to react, as in creating a kind of enmity. We think of attacking an illness, but perhaps if we find the good in it, the good in the spiritual aspects and lessons and also perhaps changes in our diet, for the better, then we gently bring the illness into a loving conformity.

At some point, our bodies will have illnesses or injuries that become the loving vehicle to help our souls depart the body and enter the other world.

So today I will not fuss against this sinus infection but will simply seek help in gentle means, and to be patient in hosting it for awhile more, as one would a guest who is somewhat wearing and annoying. With each cough or blowing of the nose, with whatever money spent on more antibiotics, and in the small change in diet, I offer all to Jesus for souls. I thank Him for the added joy of realizing my body is vulnerable to all that is human, and to ponder the creation of germs, and to consider the many who died from colds (like St. Francis de Sales' 14-year-old little sister, Jeanne), and those in the world today who do not have a doctor or money for antibiotics. And, of course, there are many who cannot afford the luxury of coffee to give up or tea to take on, or vitamins and over-the-counter helps.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Carthusian: Why We Must Suffer

Perhaps it seems boring to any one soul or other out there who might stumble across this blog and read it--boring that I quote some of the deceased-but-spiritually-eternal souls that I come across in reading.

Have I shared my little rule within the Nine S' of my Rule of Life? It is that I do not read living authors (other than the Pope!), for all of us alive are in formation, and there have been too many instances of souls led astray. This may seem rude or mistrusting, but let the living authors die, their writings settle for a few decades, and be good for later generations. For me, I read the ones already proven by God, by the Church, by time and treasure. This proves efficient to me, for I can benefit from the souls who have succeeded in reaching the summit of the holy mountain.

It isn't that some of our contemporary writers won't become the spiritual classic authors of the next centuries. It is just that we do not know yet, for sure. Some may be solid today, but slip-slidy tomorrow. Those brilliant scholars who do know for sure, are not me. I have been misled by one such author, as I was reading along, trusting the writer's vein of thought, only to find myself up-ended in the worst sin of my pathetic life. So, it seemed best to not risk that again. Yes, I may be passing up some excellent living saints; but there are plenty who are already canonized who have written tomes for my study and edification.

People like me would have been saved the tricks of the devil, at least in some instances, had the Church retained what I have since learned was a list of condemned books. The current imprimateur helps, but it is not a surety in this contemporary Catholic field studded with literary landmines.

In fact, yesterday mention was made of a current living person or two, who two persons in my recent experience have mentioned in specific writings, and of which they are being influenced by either in Lent or in one case, using the ideas in homilies. My Bishop cringed. I would hope so, for one who is being espoused elsewhere is a known dissenter in the Church; the other has written much, is deceased, and yet the writings need filtering for they waft off into the hinterlands of questionable theology. Nothing to be preaching about quite yet, for already there has been a misleading of souls.

Now, some may find this approach to be narrow; but I make no apologies for desiring to be safe rather than sorry (again). I do not have the luxury of time, and I trust Jesus when He says the path is narrow and few are they who are on it. I want to be on that path, and I have spent far too much time in the past, exploring the brush to right and left. Give me the bedside book of St. Teresa of Avila, the book St. Francis de Sales kept with him for 18 years, the guides of any of the saints--and the Guide of all: Scripture. That ought to be good enough for the likes of me. Yes, add some poetry, lives of saints, writings of the best of (dead) spiritual directors (like A. Tanquerey and his outstanding bibliography): holy, holy, holy.

This Carthusian quoted, in the following, is already weighed in Mother Church's scale of time and thought, and assured a berth in orthodoxy. He writes yet more on suffering, and in this reflection: the why of suffering. Other holy souls have written about suffering, and to read the various thoughts creates a panorama.

In the Divine Plan, there is but one Man--'Ecce Homo'; but one truth, one way, one life. 'Ego sum via, veritas et viat...I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.' Everyman, loved by God, must become one with that Man, know that Truth, follow that Way, and enter into that Life.

To give that supreme grace to each one of us, God stops at nothing. There are times when He will turn the whole world upside-down if thereby one single soul may come to resemble His divine Son more. That is all He wants, that is all He can want: the whole plan of divine Providence is directed to that end. All that happens to us must be regarded in the great light of this final end. That is why we all suffer--to become 'other Christs'; to be Jesus over again, and, like Him, misunderstood, persecuted, and made to bear our cross. Looked at from any other point of view, suffering would be incomprehensible and intolerable. On the other hand, when we contemplate our divine Example--He, the Truth and the Life--suffering assumes a beauty which is the loveliest thing God has permitted here below, just as death is the most living of the realities of this life.

To find joy in sorrow, life in death--that is the great secret by which our wounds are healed...but you won't find it in any of your text-books!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Carthusian's Look at Suffering: Again

There is a suffering in the yearning for God. What this Carthusian wrote regarding suffering is a different "take". It vibrates with the faith deep inside on this evening prior to be shriven for Lent, for the rest of life, as lent to us by God.

Our suffering ought not really to upset us. It is a state almost necessary for those souls for whom this world is too small. they need breathing space, and this world stifles them. Suffering betrays that longing for God in every part of us that remains unsatisfied with itself. So don't mind suffering greatly from this very suffering: God will never lay it to our charge. Try to remain calm, and very still. For this God for Whom we are longing in our hearts has loved us from the beginning, and will love us to the end. There is nothing He wants more than to give Himself to us, and the greatest joy we can give Him is to believe this.

Deep in our hearts we believe this, but we are too anxious to feel and enjoy this faith. There is the danger; nay, indeed, it is the mistake we make. To believe in God is one thing; to 'taste and see how sweet' He is, is quite another. God never refuses the former to us if our will is good, but the latter depends entirely upon His good will and pelasure. The one is the gift we make to Him of our mind, the other is a communication of His own joy which He makes to us.

Now we should--and can--make this gift of our mind to His Mind; but to share in His joy in this life as we would like to, is not within our power. The most we can do is to be thankful for the temporary first-fruits and foretastes that He is pleased to give us from time to time, as and when He wills. We must accept this divine plan, which reserves for another world the final and full possession of the object of our love. This world, is, and always will be, a place of exile and pilgrimage; a desert to be crossed, where for a moment we pitch our tent, soon to strike it again and continue our journey. We so quickly forget this, and as we make our way we do not keep our eyes fixed sufficiently on that Promised Land, where our true happiness lies.

Today I ran an errand. It went on for some time, and I purchased something I didn't need. I don't need anything, truly. One Lent I simply used up all the food in the cupboards as a form of giving up: giving up going to the store. It seems a good thing to do always.

As for being still when one suffers, this is good advice. Suffering is truly rooted in the longing for God, and it is best to long for God without struggling. Perhaps it is the longing for God that makes one purchase an item or two, or more. One thinks it can fill oneself and be satiated.

The spiritual da wrote that he promises to waste less time during Lent. I considered the time wasted today on the errand. Yes, there were some human contacts that may have been good; but there was a lack of discipline in dallying in the store. It is not easy to give one's mind to God's Mind, in a store.

It is easier to give one's mind to God in the dark, in silence, at Mass or in the middle of the night when the suffering keeps one still, in bed. A bed makes a good tent--whether or not it is a bed of straw or the floor, or a mattress on a frame. Mass makes even a better tent, probably the best we'll have in this world, for it opens up this world into the other world where God will grant us the fulfillment of His love, for which we yearn and suffer, now, in this world.

The Great Ebb

The body and soul ebb. It is the Great Ebb, and one wonders how quiet the ebbing.

The da has been ebbing 88 years. St. Francis de Sales ebbed 55. The last month of his life flowed out to sea in detailed sacrifices, such as not asking for anything yet not refusing. He did not ask for more comfortable accommodations; he did not refuse requests on his time and energy. The last three days of his life ebbed in crucifixion-style, inhumanely with the treatment of those times: blister beetle plasters on his bald head, then removed and fire-hot iron welded down into the bloody, raw flesh of his scalp. Nothing brought him out of the stroke God wiilled for the final ebb.
Even the burial was a slow ebbing, for the ground froze to shovel blades; a month later his body entered the Visitation convent at Annecy, to be entombed.

Lent begins in less than 14 hours. Lent is the Great Ebbing of our souls, in focused ebb of 40 days and nights. The waves of Lent remain a mystery to unfold.

Has this been shared from a Carthusian? More thoughts on suffering? Very well.

It is not a question of loving what is evil or painful, but of suffering it in order either to set it right or bring it to an end. That is God's way. He doesn't love evil, but He permits it for the sake of the good He draws out of it. Evil, like all reality, is a marvellous instrument in the hands of divine Providence. We shall be amazed one day--in the next world--to see what suffering will have accomplished in courageous souls, who know how to accept it and bear it out of love. It is the deepest source of true peace.

No one wants us to suffer, but we should love suffering as God loves it--that is, as something uplifting and a harbinger of peace. The world is made according to a plan which we cannot alter: it is the Master's plan. We are only servants, and we must take life as He has planned it, and bring our wills and efforts into conformity with His designs.

Now suffering falls within this plan. It is the way to joy, just as death--or mortification, which is death to self--is the way to life. 'He that shall lose his life...shall find it.' We are tiny seeds cast into the ground, and we must die if we would live anew in God. There are some verses in the 125th* Psalm which give a wonderful picture of this divine plan; but it is not enough merely to submit to it as to something inevitable; we must love it as an expression of divine love.

For that we must be strong. But being strong does not mean resisting what is wounding us to rid ourselves of it. There is another, and much higher, kind of strength. It is that strength which accepts what it cannot get rid of, remaining all the while smiling under the cross. It is not to the cross we smile, but to Him Who carried it before us and for us, and Who carries it with us still.

*Psalm 126

"When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted.
Then was our mouth filled with gladness; and our tongue with joy.
Then shall they say among the Gentiles: the Lord hath done great things for them.
The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful.
Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
But coming they sahll come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves."

Yesterday, the soul found itself offering once more to suffer anything for the reparation of the sorrows of this world. It seemed as if there was nothing in this life that mattered so much as to have even one aspect of the world uplifted to the Lord, and in love a suffering would make one goodness.

Today, the body shivers, returned to bed, then up to write, praying for a priest in Wien, Austria, busy with his priestly duties, preparing little children for their first Holy Communion, studying for a degree in Sociology, preparing his homilies, and all else. The soul ponders a time in the past when the admonition came from within: Be an immolation.

Now it seems truly the Great Ebb is that of immolation, of gradual and gentle suffering as a stream in the south. Going out and weeping, casting the seeds of small prayers; yet some time after the ebbing, of coming with joyfulness, carrying the fruit of the work of suffering.

Lent: going they went and wept, casting their seeds.
Easter: coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.
Death to Life: going and coming, going and coming, going and coming.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Little Girl at Store

When shopping at a small discount grocery, the berating voice of a heavy mother could be heard from one side to the other. She shouted and shouted and shouted, repeated what would be taken away from the child when they got home. The list was long. One wondered what the child would have left, except to sit in a house of angry tension, breathing in second-hand cigarette smoke.

It was the child's attitude that the mother did not like. Where do children get attitudes?

Later, the cousin related a similar situation of a mother berating her children in that same store, and then following over into the other store, repeating the same, abusive treatment.

These are mothers who are poor, by their appearance, manner, and vocalizations used.

There was the man in twenties, walking across the street, on the sidewalk across the street from the Cathedral. He was shouting loudly into his cell phone, yelling, "Stop yelling at me! Stop yelling, [expletive, Lord's name in vain, expletive]!" Then with full force of a bulky body, he motioned as if slamming down the cell phone: snapped shut. One could hear him 100 yards away, through closed car windows. He stomped a few feet, then pulled himself up and stalked on, still angry. Such hate and vehemence came from his lungs, and words from his mind, emotion from his heart. Had he spoken like that to his wife? Girlfriend? Co-worker? What kind of day would the other person have, after that outburst? What kind of day would the man have? It took several miles of driving for the effects to wear off, just from witnessing the hate.

The little girl at the grocery remain yet this morning. And the thoughts filtered in of a cousin, now adult, who as a boy and then a teen, was too roughly punished by his father, who had been too roughly punished by his father, before.

The sinus infection is offered for good use. The back pain is offered for good use. Please, Lord, take the weepiness of these physical sufferings for the good use You can make of them, for the horrors of the emotional sufferings of abused children, abused people, to assuage the angers roiling all about.

The doorbell rings at Agnus Dei. I am in my pajamas but dare to answer. A neatly dressed young man wants to talk about the state of the world. He has some Jehovah Witness tracts. As he asks if I take time to consider the world and all that is happening, I share that I am a Catholic hermit, and that I was just now praying and writing about children abused by angry adults, and angry adults abusing others in such hate--so yes, and would he please pray for the anger of the world to abate?

The man quickly recovers himself and returns to his mental script: Would I be willing to read the magazines he has? I explain that I have read the tracts and am familiar with the Jehovah Witness beliefs, and that as a Catholic, would he be willing to receive some materials about the Cathoic Church, and a Bible that I could give him? Would he read these?

Again, he recovers himself well, and returns to his mental script. He says if I would come to his door, he would take what I offer and talk with me, but he is the one who has come to my door--

And where does he live? I do not ask. I should have. It is cold. I am not dressed. I do not ask. May the Lord forgive me for not asking.

So I again suggest that we unite our prayers to God for the whole world, for peace and the love of Christ to be in people's hearts.

I return to writing. He walks on to the next house, the neighbors who perhaps are yet angry.

There is much to pray about, and one wonders about St. Francis de Sales, tromping into the Calvinist territory after the Protestant reformation, risking harm or even death. What do I do for the Catholic faith? How much more ought I beg to weep for the world, to be willing to suffer anything for souls? For God to use me in any small or large, joyful or sorrowing way to bring souls, in love, to love, to Christ and His Church?

A victim soul, existing in relative hiddenness, ought pray all the more, in faith. One must have great faith in prayer, for there is a Jehovah Witness walking the streets, knocking on doors, and there is a Catholic hermit victim soul remaining inside, suffering, praying, writing.

At noon Mass, I will present this young witness of Jehovah, to Jesus on the altar of His Sacrifice.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Advice from St. Francis de Sales, on Suffering

My friend who is reading the letters of St. Francis de Sales, to persons in the world, sent this excerpt today. I thought of the victim souls of the Sacred Heart. There is one person who I wished was still reading these, as this might mean very much to the person who has suffered and yet seems unable to absorb the suffering in the meaningful aspects of victim soulhood. However, what SFDS writes is quite meaningful to me, and even in suffering a sinus infection and cold, it is worth heeding the saint's advice.

After all, Christianity is about suffering, and love, and love, and suffering. Christ lived this out for us to learn from Him.

To a woman suffering great physical pain
"You are being crowned with His crown of thorns."

"...To love God in sugar--little children would do as much.
But to love Him in wormwood, that is the test of our
amorous fidelity. To say VIVE JESUS on the mountain of
Tabor, St. Peter, while still carnal, has courage enough;
but to say VIVE JESUS on Mount Calvary--this belongs only
to the Mother, and to the beloved disciple who was left to
her as her son.

So then, my daughter, behold I commend you to God, to
obtain for you that sacred patience...

...But you will say, you can hardly keep your thoughts on
the pains our Lord has suffered for you, while your own
pangs oppress you. Well, my dearest child, you are not
obliged to do so, provided that you quite simply offer up
your heart as frequently as you are able to this Savior,
and make the following acts:

First, accept the pain from His hand, as if you see Him
Himself putting and pressing it on your head.

Second, offer yourself to suffer more.

Third, beg our Savior by the merit of His torments to
accept these little distresses in union with the pains He
suffered on the Cross.

Next, protest that you wish not only to suffer, but to love
and cherish these sufferings since they are sent from so
good and so sweet a hand.

Lastly, invoke the martyrs and the many servants of God,
who enjoy Heaven as a result of their having been afflicted
in this world.

It is not dangerous to desire a cure. Indeed you must
carefully seek one; for God, who has given you the evil, is
also author of its cure..."
I find the step-by-step recommendations to be very good. It is as well to simply try to do as St. Francis de Sales recommends, in that order. Why not? Suffering works. And the suffering can be as slight as a head cold or as slight as a personal "slight" from a friend, or even from one who has decided to make one into his or her enemy! It is of benefit to ponder just why God has sent certain sufferings, and to note when He sends them, and to detect even a kind of "theme" of the sufferings--for there always seems to be a theme of lessons He is teaching us in these sufferings (besides the on-going them of love!).

Sometimes He wants us to slow down so we have time to ponder. Sometimes He seems to want us to consider someone we need to forgive, or to forgive ourselves, or to understand a theological and Scriptural truth. Sometimes He wants us to rest in Him.