Tuesday, June 17, 2008

St. Dorotheos of Gaza on Doing Something According to God

This quote pulls two e-mails and my own current struggles to a good point.

"If a man is doing something good according to God, trial of some kind will come upon him, for trial and temptation either precede or follow all good. Neither is it sure the thing is happening according to God, unless it is proved so by trials and temptations."*

The Lord has brought two e-mails to help me to persevere in something that was painful to have to write out. The Bishop asked, and the confessor said that whenever the Bishop asks, I must do as he asks. Of course, I wanted to, but there were some doubts in this particular request, for it required writing out some aspects of another person's life. Yet, once it was done (and it was not easy to write succinctly about such matters, so it is narrative style to which I gravitate), the Lord blessed me with assurance that I am a huge sinner. It was awful to be judging another person's weaknesses, yet it was of concern and for the greater good.

The Lord then allowed reassurance, through the insights of an e-mail. The person could discern my gross tendency to have doubts--doubts which drain the energy and preclude better focus and work for the Lord in prayer and penance. Yet, the very doubts and second guessings are a form of suffering which must be offered to the Lord--even if one offers them in retrospect! God's time is before, now and beyond, so He can accept offerings from our view of time, which have already occurred. So, Lord, I offer all the time I have wasted in doubting and second-guessing!

I started to doubt if what I was doing, in writing out for the Bishop the weaknesses of this person's dysfunction. It seemed so judgmental, and who was I (a sinner!) to expose another's confidences and also my observations? But, it was to be in obedience, and my own flaws floated low to my soul, as I wrote.

Then came another e-mail, of which I'll share my response, for it seems to speak to my own issues--a pep talk to myself, pumped from what I could share with this other soul who is, by a priest's insights, validated in the vocation as a victim soul of the Sacred Heart. But yet, the person was accepted in a lovely community, to which the priest advised against. Doubts arose in the soul, and bits of confusions in looking back!

How well do I share in this type of suffering of looking back! The neck grows stiff and painful from the strain of looking back! Then energy is used in dealing with the ache! And none of it is all that necessary except, perhaps, to train us to strict obedience and humility. The quote of St. Dorotheos of Gaza, 6th century monk/hermit, reassures us that God's will is proved by trials and temptations, of which doubting and second guessing are soul temptation and trial, both.

So, for the response to this blessed soul:

You must do exactly as Fr. says. Victim souls, when called by the Lord, are often given a priest to guide them. A victim soul is to take the path of greater suffering, as that is our work. It is hard to remember this, though, for pain hurts! Internal pain hurts all the more! Spiritual pain is the highest of sufferings, or so it seems. The victim souls of which I've read who were called by the Lord to be in convents, were not externs, it seems. They seemed to be more hidden.

I tried to get into some religious orders, also. Actually, one priest told me that the life would be too rigorous for my health! He is right! The Lord needs victim souls to suffer, and if we do that which would shorten our lives due to our own wills, we limit the full reign of time for suffering while on earth.
Even the guilt you are sensing is a good suffering to offer.

Someone else just e-mailed me, insightfully detecting that my feelings of guilt over having comforts, books, lovely gardens--is depleting me of energy. This is energy that could be better used for others, for God, for finishing the manual projects so as to have more focus for that guidebook! So, I am going to try to have mastery over those feelings of guilt, and to not doubt. Doubt is a drainer that is not of God. Then, from whence does doubt come? Perhaps from another d-word?

Of course, if you had chosen to follow through with the acceptance at the convent, as an extern, God would have allowed, or so we assume, but with what outcomes? It is true that the Virgin Mary has told saints that graces can be lost. Also, Jesus and the Virgin Mary always told saints to do exactly as their superiors and/or spiritual directors said, even if it went against what they had asked, for obedience is valued highly.

In those cases, in which the saint then did do as the superiors asked, and not what Jesus had asked, Jesus worked it around so that the superior's will became the same as His will. But, the test was Jesus seeing if the victim soul would be obedient to his or her director. If we can be obedient to those who God has sent to guide us and counsel us while on earth, then Jesus is assured we will be obedient to Him--for we are to see Christ in our superiors. It is a means of training in obedience and humility.

The doubts, though, are actually good for us to a point. They cause us to see, hopefully soon, how they drag us down needlessly. If the doubts come from the Holy Spirit, they will register from the conscience, and also our spiritual directors/confessors will advise that our feelings are either simply doubts, or that we must heed them as nudgings from God that we are not doing quite as we ought. In your case, your priest has spoken, and you must obey, and cast the doubts out.

[I, too, must cast out doubts, for my Bishop, spiritual director and confessor have each assured on the seemingly comfortable life, the books, the trees and plants, the furnishings--and now the narration done on a sensitive subject. So I thank you and the other dear soul--both of you who have written in the Lord, as it will cause me to see God's validated good and not drown in doubts.]

Now, if a director is wrong, and is going against God's will for the soul, then it is still a win-win situation for the obedient soul. If God really wants you as an extern in the convent, then eventually He will make sure it happens. But to be obedient first, is always best. These are just my considerations based upon what I've read and how I've experienced situations--and am still learning about obedience, humility, and also about the devilish doubts.

I now notice, upon re-reading St. Dorotheos' maxim, that trial and temptation can precede all good. Not that doubts don't have their place in our soul's development, but if they try to interfere with what is all good, from God, and this has been discerned in prayer and in spiritual counsel, then the doubts must be tossed on the devil's dung heap.

And the photo is of one of the lovely blooms on a branch of one of the more expensive acquisitions in the Mary Gardens: the Stewartia Serrata tree. Without doubt, this tree is gorgeous not only in its vase-like shape but also in the glossy leaves, the summer blooms, as well as the red fruit that turns to seed pod and remains for the bird's delight into winter!

* Wheeler, Eric. Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourse and Sayings. 1977. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications. p. 252-3.


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