Fire is Hot!

fire!

Have you ever heard the expression: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!”  The kitchen can get very hot!  The stove is hot…the barbeque is hot…fire is hot!  Have you ever been camping…or had a bonfire?  There is something so cozy about gathering around the fire in the summer time with your hotdogs and marshmallows and the lake out at the back.  Yes…bonfires are fun…but there are always lots of mosquitoes!  You can even bring a guitar and sing around the bonfire!

Anyone who has been near fire knows that it is hot and it burns!  When we are roasting our hotdogs and marshmallows we need to be super careful because it is easy to get to close to the fire!  We do not want to get burned, yet the fire offers us many wonderful things: heat, light, yummy marshmallows…

God’s fire is a different type of fire!  God’s fire is a fire of love…full of passion.  St. John of the Cross says that “the spiritual inflaming engenders the passion of love.” (Dark Night of the Soul Book 2. Chapter 11. 2). The soul is starting to feel that it is being wounded by a strong divine love and it has a certain feeling and foretaste of God.” (Dark Night of the Soul Book 2. Chapter 11. 1). At this stage of the journey in the dark night of the soul, the soul is being purged out meaning that it’s attachments and passions are all being purged and purified in the flames of God’s divine love.  Union with God means that we need to be purified!  The saints knew this, and they all worked hard to overcome vices, temptations, passions and attachments in order to be in union with God.  The soul is starting to possess something of union with God and it is in this union that the soul will learn to love God so intensely, with all its strength.  This type of love would not be possible if our appetites, passions and emotions are all over the place and scattered.  God allows for this dark night in order to make the soul strong in virtue and in order to break self-will.

So what is God doing?  He is basically gathering all the strength, faculties, appetites of the soul both sensory and spiritual to be employed in his love.  This means that “the soul must be wounded, touched, and impassioned, all its strength and its appetites are recollected in this burning love.” (Book 2. Chapter 11. Par 4.)  The soul will eventually become aware of this fire…this wound…and the soul desires God with a desire so strong that it sighs in darkness and doubt because it realizes that it is not yet filled with this love of union.

St. John of the Cross says, “the soul proclaims this verse: fired ‘with love’s urgent longings.’” (Book 2 Chapter 11: 6).  In everything: his thoughts, and deeds the soul loves in many ways; however, the soul does not feel rest…only anxiety in the burning wound.  However, St. John of the Cross assures us: “nonetheless, in the midst of these dark and loving afflictions, the soul feels the presence of someone and an interior strength which so fortifies and accompanies it…” (Book 2. CH 11. Par 7).  What is this presence?  It is the Holy Spirit!

We want God’s purifying fire to make our hearts pure!  St. John of the Cross makes it very clear that if we do not purify completely in this life, then we will need to be purified in Purgatory after death.  He says, “as the spirits in the other life are purged with a dark material fire, so in this life souls are purged and cleansed with a dark, loving, spiritual fire…Souls are cleansed in the other life by fire, but here on earth they are cleansed and illuminated by love.” (Bk 2. Ch 12. Par 1).  This should not make us afraid…we want to be pure and clean before we meet God.  Purgatory is a mercy from God where we can finally be free of all our disordered passions and attachments and be in union with God.  We must pray for the souls in Purgatory everyday!  Souls in Purgatory know that they are going to heaven once their time of purification is ended.  We must work hard to cooperate with God’s grace to be purified in this life and learn to sacrifice certain attachments and passions for the good of our soul!
As this fire of divine love purifies the soul, the intellect and the will are becoming united as well all for the sake of a deeper contemplation.  St. John of the Cross says, “this enkindling of love and the union of these two faculties, intellect and will, is something immensely rich and delightful for the soul…it is a certain touch of the divinity and already the beginning of perfection of the union of love for which the soul hopes…” (Bk 2. Chapter 12. Par 6)

He offers a further explanation, “when God infuses these spiritual goods the will can very easily love without the intellect understanding, just as the intellect can know without the will loving…” (Bk 2. Chapter 12 par. 7) This means that just as fire gives off light and heat, the light  can sometimes act upon the will leaving the intellect in darkness, or the intellect can have understanding while the will is in dryness.  St. John of the Cross uses this analogy, “All of this is similar to feeling the warmth of the fire without seeing its light, or seeing its light without feeling the fire’s heat.” (Bk 2. Chapter 12. Par 7)

I think that is good for now!  More to come!

 

Lent With Our Mother…

our lady of tenderness

Mary our Mother loves Lent!  Lent is a time where we can offer our prayers and sacrifices to her Son for the Church and for the world.  Lent is a wonderful time in the Church where souls are being transformed by love.  What a beautiful resolution it would be for us to develop our relationship with Mary this Lent.  Mary knows how to love Jesus the best and with her help we will be inspired and encouraged us to make deeper acts of love and penance during this beautiful time!

How can we walk this Lent with Mary?  Perhaps we can resolve to pray the rosary everyday.  The Rosary is basically pondering the life of Jesus in our hearts as Mary did.  The events that we meditate on in the rosary are Mary’s memories of Jesus.  We can also strive to imitate Mary’s patience, sacrifice, generosity and above all- her love.

Pope Pius XI’s Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus says: “the most holy Virgin, united with him (Jesus) by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.” https://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm

We need Mary!  We need her, united with Jesus, to take her Immaculate foot and crush the evil serpent! During temptations and struggles that we may encounter during Lent, we can ask Mary to “crush the evil serpent.”  She will!

Lent is also a wonderful time to talk to Mary all the time!  Even saying her name in reverence and prayer has power!  The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget “that there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid he may be of the love of God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if he invokes her holy name with a determination to repent.” https://www.motherofallpeoples.com/post/st-alphonsus-liguori-on-the-holy-name-of-mary

We need to pray her name many times this Lent!  We can also strive to spend more time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during these days.  We can contemplate the Word of God, just as Mary contemplated the Word in her home.

Please click on the link below and enjoy this beautiful piece of music and make it your prayer today to Mary:

Stella Caeli

God Knows…

math hopscotch

Have you ever had trouble with Math?  Some people are so fascinated by the world of Mathematics…but some find Mathematics difficult.  What is beautiful about Math is that it is so clear and objective.  The answer to 2+2 is always 4…it is never 5 or 6 or 700.  It is always 4.  However, there are things in life that are not as clear to us…there are truths that we may find difficult to understand…

We have been continuing our discussion on the Dark Night of the Spirit and the afflictions of the soul that happen during this Dark Night of the Spirit.  We explained that it is possible for the soul to feel abandoned by God…but there are other signs as well.  A soul may also feel forsaken by friends.  St. John of the Cross quotes Psalm 87:9: “You have withdrawn my friends and acquaintances far from me; they have considered me an abomination.”  The affections and consolations of friendships seems now to be like an emptiness.

We need to remember that Jesus also experienced moments of darkness.  Remember Jesus’ Passion, “Father, let this cup pass from me, not as I will but as you will…My soul is sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Jesus experienced everything we experience but He is without sin.  God knows us…He knows our weaknesses…He knows our struggles and He knows our moments of darkness.  We should take great comfort in this…God knows.

The soul also experiences “humiliation” which is an awareness of its own poverty and misery.  St. John of the Cross reminds us that God is purging “both the sensory and spiritual substance of the soul and its interior and exterior faculties…” (Dark Night of the Soul Bk. 2. Ch 6. Par 4.) In order to be filled with God, our faculties must be emptied of everything else.  In our last post we spoke about the reason for the darkness: the pure light is striking in order to expel the impurities within us.

St. John of the Cross explains: “Since these imperfections are deeply rooted in the substance of the soul, it usually suffers besides this poverty and this natural and spiritual emptiness, an oppressive undoing and an inner torment” (Dark Night of the Soul., Bk 2. Ch 6. Par. 6).  We must have compassion for souls who enter this state!  But the soul must have great hope in what is being accomplished through this dark night.

In addition to these aridities, the soul will also feel no consolation from the direction of their spiritual director.  Even though the director tells them that they will receive many graces and blessings through going through this dark night, the soul has difficulty believing the director.  He feels that he is misunderstood and abandoned.  The soul does not realize that God is humbling, softening, purifying the soul so that it becomes delicate, simple, refined, and that it “can be one with the Spirit of God according to the degree of union of love that God, in His mercy, desires to grant.” (Dark Night of the Soul Bk. 2. Ch. 7. Par. 3).

It is also possible for a soul in this state to not be able to lift up their spirit to God in prayer.  St. John of the Cross explains that the reason for this is that God is working in the soul.  He says, “It seems incredible that the brighter and purer the supernatural, divine light is, the darker it is for the soul” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. 2. Ch. 8. Par 2).  In order to prepare the soul for “divine union of love, the soul must be withdrawn from all creature affections and apprehensions.” (Dark Night of the Soul. Bk 2. Ch. 8. Par 2).

So you might be thinking, “this sounds way too hard for me to handle!”  I suppose hearing about these aridities and the darkness that occurs can shake us a bit…but just think about the graces and blessings that will result after you go through it!  It will be wonderful to be in a divine union of love with God.  It will be wonderful!  May that give you the strength to keep going!

Real and Pure…

pure-heart-5-1

“Love until it hurts.  Real love is always painful and it hurts: then it is real and pure” (St. Mother Teresa).  Have you ever looked at a crucifix…really looked at it?  That is loving until it hurts.  Jesus gave everything…everything…for you and me.

Moms and Dads, you know what it means to love until it hurts.  You sacrifice for your children to have a good life, you spend so much time teaching your children, and helping them to be mature, faith-filled adults.  You watch your children make mistakes and like a good parent you correct them…you are proud of them when they succeed, you support them, even if they fail…why?  Why do you do all this for your children?  Because you love.

Spiritual Fathers out there, priests, bishops, you know what it means to love until it hurts.  You bring all of your spiritual children to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Like a good Father, you help feed our souls with the truths about God and ourselves.  You have been consecrated to offer the Mass for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.  You have been consecrated to offer the Sacraments that bring healing and reconciliation and are able to extend God’s blessing on your spiritual children.  Spiritual Fathers…you give so much of yourselves, just as Jesus gave everything for His Bride the Church.  Why?  Because you love.

Spiritual Mothers out there, consecrated women, and single women you know what it means to love until it hurts.  You who are consecrated offer the gift of yourselves laying down your life out of love for God and the Church.  You who are single, you give yourselves with a spirit of modesty and purity ready to serve the Lord in whatever way He calls you.  Women of God, you see Jesus in the eyes of the people you serve.  You bring your spiritual children to the chapel and offer them at Holy Mass.  You offer sacrifices and prayers so that souls may find Christ…you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  Why?  Because you love.

No matter what vocation we have been called to, we come to know something about “real love.”  When we love, it costs something: it is a self-gift.  We can experience this in day-to-day relationships as well.  Relationships are constantly changing: people move away, a loss of a loved one, and this produces pain in our hearts.  But the reason why it is painful, is because the love that you have for that person is real and true.  When our relationships change, it is a reminder that the people we love do not belong to us…they belong to the Lord.

In my experience, I have found that when relationships change that makes room for love to grow deeper and stronger.  I will give you an example.  In Religious Life, the relationship that we have with our families changes, since we join a community and become a Spouse of Christ.  We see our families a few times a year…naturally we love seeing our families.  I have found that the times I do get together with my family are precious times and we take advantage of the moments that we are able to spend together.

Even though relationships will change due to circumstances, choices, events (moving away or death) that does not mean that we stop loving.  In fact, these circumstances can help us to have a deeper love, because we learn to see who that person is in the eyes of God.  Sometimes we do not realize how much we really care about someone until we feel the absence of their presence among us.  But really they are not far away…their memory lives in you…they have become a part of you, they are closer than you think…because you love them.

As we enter our discussion on the dark night of the spirit, we realize that God is allowing the soul to be purified in order to have perfect union and likeness with Him.  We experience many things at this stage that on a natural level are difficult and painful, yet on a supernatural level are so important and beneficial for us.  The dark night of the spirit “feels” like we have been abandoned by God, however in reality God is very very close to us.  We experience pure and dark contemplation.  We can experience affliction in the soul from feeling abandoned by God.  We can feel rejected from friends and find no consolation in spiritual direction.  We can experience humiliation in our soul because we realize our poverty and misery as sinful creatures.  We experience an inability to pray and lift up our spirits to God.

Some of you might be thinking…what kind of a relationship is that?  It sounds like there is no joy or inner peace…that sounds like misery!”  However, many of the saints including St. John of the Cross would argue that this is actually a grace-filled time!

What does St. John of the Cross say about this stage of the spiritual life?

St. John of the Cross says, “when the divine light of contemplation strikes a soul not yet entirely illumined, it causes spiritual darkness.” (Bk 2. Ch.5. par.3) He gives two reasons why the divine light illuminating the soul gives rise to a dark night: “First because the height of divine wisdom which exceed the capacity of the soul.  Second because of the soul’s baseness and impurity; and on this account it is painful, afflictive, and also dark for the soul.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. par. 2)

Today we will discuss how the soul during this time feels abandoned by God.  St. John of the Cross clearly says, “Because the light of wisdom of this contemplation is very bright and pure, and the soul in which it shines is dark and impure, a person will be deeply afflicted receiving it in himself.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. par. 5).  Let’s apply an example to demonstrate what St. John is saying.  For all of you who are not morning people this example is for you!  Imagine when you were young and were still getting up to go to school.  You are in bed, all cozy and tight when suddenly mom walks in and turns on the light right in your face!  It is painful!!  Why is that painful?  You know the light needs to go on in order for you to get up for school…why is it painful?  Because you just spent 7 or 8 hours in a dark room!  So it is with the soul.  Our souls are affected by original sin…they suffer all kinds of temptations, imperfections and sins.  So, God needs to shine His light on our impure souls.  He must do this in order for us to be cleansed.

St. John of the Cross goes on to say, “When this pure light strikes in order to expel all impurity, a person feels so unclean and wretched that it seems God is against him and that he is against God.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. 2. Ch. 5. Par. 5).

You might be thinking:  “Why God?”  St. John explains what God is doing in these moments: “For the hand of God does not press down or weigh upon the soul, but only touches it; and this mercifully for God’s aim is to grant it favors and not chastise it.” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk 2. Ch. 5. Par 7.)  It is like when your mom takes a splinter out of your finger.  She says, “Honey this is just going to pinch a little.”  And then almost in shock you scream out “AAAHHH.”  But it only hurts for a time…that is the same with the dark night of the spirit, it is only painful for a time, but it is worth it in the end…!”

A Fresh New Start…

forgiveness blog

What is your first reaction when you wake up in the morning? Is it, “Good morning God!” or is it “Good God… it’s morning…five more minutes!”  Either way it’s morning…what matters I suppose is our attitude towards a new day!

But there are many times when we wake up in the morning and all of our cares and trials just zoom into our head like a racecar and we are not sure what to do with them, or where to put them.  A priest once said that we need to jump out of bed…(or roll out!) get on our knees right away, and give our day to God totally and completely!  That means we are giving to Him all our thoughts, words, actions struggles, anxieties, joys, virtues, everything…even our sins.  Yes.  God wants our sins too.  He wants us to look at Him with humble hearts and admit that we “fell in the mud” again!  It is easy for us to get discouraged and to really be hard on ourselves for the mistakes of the past.

This time of COVID has been a trial for many people.  It is forcing us to slow down and look in ourselves and see that our true worth, value and purpose is not in what we do here…it is who we are.  We are children of God…and God loves us.  The lockdown procedures of COVID are also forcing us to really examine our lives, and that can be a cause of joy, but also a cause for anxiety and stress.  We might look at the past and question: “why did I waste so much time worrying about little things?”  “Why did I treat this person that way?”  “Why didn’t I just tell the truth?”  “Why have I taken so much for granted?”…”and the big question… “Have I truly forgiven myself and others for the mistakes of the past?”

Forgiveness…  It is a reality that describes the very heart of God.  How many times in the Gospels have we heard it said: “Your sins are forgiven you.”  Remember the words of Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do.”  Forgiveness is at the core of love.  You know you love when you can honestly say to another person, or even to look in the mirror and say, “I forgive you!”  Forgiveness is not an emotion…it is not a warm and fuzzy feeling we have for ourselves or another person.  Forgiveness, just like love, lies in the will.  We must choose to forgive…even if we still feel angry and hurt…we must choose to forgive.  Why?  We only need to look at a crucifix and see the answer…our Lord forgives me, I must also forgive and love.

When you have love for someone, sometimes it is hard to show it because it means that you are taking a risk.  We are worried about getting hurt…  That is understandable.  When we have been hurt, we want to close in on ourselves and put a guard over our hearts.  Yes, we do that to be safe.  The wounds go deep, but I have learned that one of the greatest ways to show love is through forgiveness.  Wounds go deep, but the merciful waters of forgiveness can cleanse that hurt and begin to heal the wound.

One day, I found the Litany of Forgiveness.  I hope that praying this Litany will help bring healing in your lives, especially during this pandemic time.  We will resume our study of the Dark Night of the Soul next week.  God Bless you and stay strong during this pandemic!!!

Litany of Forgiveness

By: William Rabior, 2001

Excerpted from Prayers for Later Years

Scrupulous Anonymous Vol 56. #2, February 2019.  Viewed this website on January 20th, 2021.

For the times I lacked compassion and concern for

others—forgive me, Lord.

For my failures to pray and take the time to talk to

you—forgive me, Lord.

For not sharing my resources: my time, talent, and

treasure—forgive me, Lord.

For holding grudges and refusing to have a forgiving

heart—forgive me, Lord.

For the times I have criticized and gossiped—forgive

me, Lord.

For not caring for myself physically, emotionally, and

spiritually—forgive me, Lord.

For the ways I misused nature and damaged the

environment—forgive me, Lord.

For my prejudices, biases, and deliberate acts of

discrimination—forgive me, Lord.

For the misuse and abuse of the wonderful gift of

sexuality—forgive me, Lord.

For failing to see your face in the homeless and the

helpless—forgive me, Lord.

For believing I could save myself—forgive me, Lord.

For not living fully for you—forgive me, Lord.

For my lack of faith, hope, and love—forgive me, Lord.

For doubting that you can and will forgive me

unconditionally—forgive me, Lord.

For doubting that you love me with an everlasting

love—forgive me, Lord.

Amen.

Source: Excerpted from Prayers for Later Years by William Rabior (807596). Copyright © 2001, William Rabior. To order, visit Liguori.org or call 800-325-9521

© 2019 Liguori Publications. All rights reserved. Policy on copying or distributing: Individuals may download, print, copy, and/or share issues of Scrupulous Anonymous provided 1) you don’t remove this copying/distributing policy and 2) you don’t seek or accept payment for the copies. Nonprofit organizations may quote SA in publications offered at no cost as long as you identify Scrupulous Anonymous as the source and include the issue number or date and the publisher (Liguori Publications, ScrupulousAnonymous.org). For commercial or other purposes, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of Liguori Publications. Liguori Publications, a nonprofit corporation, is an apostolate of the Redemptorists (Redemptorists.com).

Never Alone…

flower in darkness

Have you ever been in a house…alone??  For some of us, it is a really thrilling experience!  You get to jump on the cozy bed of your parents and they don’t even know.  You can blast the music and sing at the top of your lungs without fear…you can make as much popcorn as you want and eat it all just because you can…(not that I have done any of these things of course!)…yes being home alone can be a thrilling experience.

Being in a house by yourself can also have the opposite effect which I like to call the “spooky effect”…especially if you are in the house at night.  All of a sudden you begin to hear sounds that you never heard before…little “pitter patter” and “creeky” sounds that just make your heart beat out of your chest.  Then your imagination goes wild and you scream, cry or hide… or you do all three.

When we are experiencing a dark night, we have a tendency to think that we are alone.  We are never alone!  We have the whole army of angels helping us…our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.

Happy New Year to all of you and welcome back to our 2021 Blog posts.  For those of you who are new to the blog welcome, and for those of you who have been reading you are awesome and keep reading!  We are going to continue the study of the Dark Night of the Soul getting into our explanation of the Dark Night of the Spirit…so fasten your seatbelt…get cozy… and here we go!!

The purpose of the dark nights as we previously spoke about is really to purify our love and to help us have purity of soul ready for union with God. St. Therese says, “I know that He is better pleased to see you stumbling in the night upon a stony road, than walking in full light if day upon a path carpeted with flowers because these flowers might hinder your advance.”  She makes a good point…when everything is sunshine and daisies, it is harder to grow in virtue…but when the way is paved with stones and thorns…that is when we learn how to love…really love.   The dark nights are a mercy…God is permitting those who travel through the dark night to have their purgatory here on earth, so that we can be running into the arms of God when our time here has come to an end.

So now that we have spoken in detail about the night of the senses let us now talk about the night of the spirit!  Are you ready?

St. John of the Cross points out in Book II of the Dark Night of the Soul that the soul does not go into the dark night of the spirit immediately after the aridities and trials of the first purgation.  He describes the new state the soul is in as “proficient” (illuminative way) and it seems that in this new state, “the soul is liberated from a cramped prison cell, the soul goes about the things of God with much more freedom and satisfaction…” (Dark Night of the Soul. Bk II chapter 1. Par.1.). He goes on to say that at this stage, the soul readily finds in its  a very serene and loving contemplation and spiritual delight.  However, since the purgation of the soul is not complete yet, the soul still experiences certain aridities, darknesses, and conflicts.

So the senses are more purified at this stage, and prayer is simple, infused and consoling.  There is occasional dryness and other weaknesses in the soul.  At this stage there are other imperfections that need to be spoken of in the state of “proficient.”  The imperfections are both habitual and actual.

The habitual imperfections are “imperfect affections and habits still remaining like roots in the spirit…” (Bk II Ch.2 par 1).  The sensory purgation (night of the senses) could not reach the spirit and so, St. John of the Cross describes the differences of each purgation by saying that the difference between purgation of the senses and purgation of the spirit: it is like the difference between pulling up roots (purgation of the spirit) and cutting off a branch (purgation of the senses). (Bk II Ch.2 par 1).   Have any of you ever planted a garden?  I remember we were pulling up weeds in the garden and there was this one really hard weed to get out of the ground…I tried with all I had to get it out… and my whole body just flew back (you are probably hearing the Chariots of Fire music in your head right now…don’t worry it is in my head too!)  It was pretty epic!

Roots are hard to pull out!  St. John of the Cross describes the purgation of the senses as the gateway to the purgation of the spirit…meaning the purgation of the senses is like digging in the ground for the roots…  (Bk II ch.2. par 1.).  Yet, when the roots come out, that weed is gone and something new can be planted…something beautiful like roses…I love roses!

Now, let us talk about the actual imperfections.  This is the time (do not be afraid) but this is a time where the devil can impress upon souls apprehensions and feelings where the soul needs to stand their ground and defend themselves through faith!  There are times where the devil can tempt the soul to lose holy fear in God, be drawn by vanity arrogance, feeling too secure in oneself due to spiritual feelings… (Dark Night of the Soul Bk II. Ch 2. par.3) Just ask our Blessed Mother Mary to crush his head…she will!!

In order to reach union, the soul must enter the dark night of the spirit.  In this night, the sensory and spiritual parts of soul are despoiled of all delights and the soul is made to walk in dark and pure faith which is the means to divine union…

Beauty is Lovely…

'ADORATION OF THE MAGI'

Happy New Year Everyone!!  The SOLI Sisters pray and hope that God will bestow upon you many graces and blessings in this new year!

As our Sisters were driving around looking at the Christmas lights and seeing the beautiful snow covering the fields, I was thinking about the beauty of God.  God is beautiful!  Imagine, the three wise men gazing upon the beauty and innocence of Jesus Christ as a little baby!  Imagine their joy and astonishment at looking into the face of God…what a sight!!

In light of thinking about beauty, I thought that you all might be interested to hear this very beautiful piece of music!  We are still within the Christmas Season and contemplating the Incarnation!!  Please listen to the Carol below by clicking on the link entitled “Chesterton Carol.”  I hope that you enjoy it!!

Chesterton Carol

Piece By Piece…

pieces

This year, we have been talking a lot about the spiritual life!!  We have looked at St. John of the Cross in detail…and it is not over yet!! So, once we have made it through our discussions on the Dark Night of the Soul and the Living Flame of Love…we will discuss…well I am not sure yet…I am taking suggestions if you would like to leave them in the comments box…it will be a surprise for me too!!

I want to leave you with this wonderful dialogue written by John Roedel (thank you Mr. John!)  I think that there is a message in this for everyone, and especially since we are discussing the Dark Night of the Soul, there may be some interesting insights to take into the New Year.

The dialogue below is by John Roedel, author of Hey God. Hey John.  Here is a link to his book and Facebook page.

Me: Hi God.

God: Hello…

Me: I’m falling apart.  Can you put me back together?

God: I would rather not.

Me: Why?

God: Because you aren’t a puzzle.

Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down into the ground?

God: Let them stay there for a while.  They fell off for a reason.  Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.

Me: You don’t understand!  I am breaking down!

God: No- You don’t understand.  You are breaking through.  What you are feeling are just growing pains.  You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back.  You aren’t falling apart.  You are falling into place.  Relax.  Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don’t need anymore to fall off of you.  Quit holding onto pieces that don’t fit you anymore.  Let them fall off.  Let them go.

Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?

God: Only the very best pieces of you.

Me: I’m scared of changing.

God: I keep telling you…you aren’t changing!  You are BECOMING!

Me: Becoming who?

God: Becoming who I created you to be!  A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion.  I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear.  Let those things fall off of you.  I love you!  Don’t change!…Become!  Become! Become who I made you to be.  I’m going to keep telling you this until you remember it.

Me: There goes another piece.

God: Yes.  Let it be.

Me: So…I’m not broken?

God: Of course not!-but you are breaking like the dawn.  It’s a new day.  Become!!!

Author: John Roedel

 

Pull Up Our Socks…Time to Get Into Shape!!

pull-yr-socks-up

I heard a really beautiful story recently about a five year old girl who went with her family to see a relative who is a Nun in the Cloister.  The family was speaking to the Sister and to their amazement the five year old girl started to climb up the grill, and she asked “How do you get in there?”  The Nun replied with a smile, “You have to want to get in!”

I suppose this is similar to our Spiritual lives.  In order to be in union with God, we need to want it!  God will provide everything we need to be in union with Him, and God is ultimately in control.  All we need to do is say “yes” and cooperate with His grace and God will send us everything we need in order to be united to him.

We have been talking about various aspects of the dark night of the senses.  People can have various experiences with the dark night.  It may depend on the degree of love that God wishes that person to have.  It could also depend on what sins and imperfections we have had in our life.  It may even depend on a person’s strength of soul. I found a quote by St. John of the Cross who says, “God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.”

The information that I will be providing in this post is from a course I took entitled Introduction to Christian Asceticism in St. John of the Cross.  The professor based the course off of St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul and has given me permission to use the information from the course pack that was provided and I am very happy to share it with you!

The more strong a soul is, the more quickly they will be brought to perfection in their life experience.  Strong souls will undergo clear and pronounced dark nights that they receive with gratitude and peace of heart.  They know that plunging through this dark night will bring them to God and this is very consoling.  Strong souls will also experience trials that are typically more severe.  For example: severe temptations against chastity, and other purging of the senses.  They may even suffer severe scruples and interior trials.  They might experience external trials of misjudgment by people they love, persecution for doing good and physical trials.

Weaker souls are brought more slowly to perfection through their experience of the dark night.  They experience the dark night for a longer period of time, but every once in a while God will bestow consolations on them.  Their perfection will come at the end of life.  We need to persevere!!  We need to persevere and not turn back!!  It might be in the end that we reach perfection!  Do not lack courage!!

Souls who never reach perfection in this life are souls who occasionally receive the night of the senses in order to remain humble.  They rarely or never receive infused contemplation.  God will grant them Divine consolations so as to prevent them from returning to the world.

I really recommend speaking through these trials with a spiritual director because the trials we are experiencing do have spiritual elements to them, but they could also be a result of an emotional, mental, or psychological difficulty that needs to be addressed by professionals.  Sometimes our trials can be the result of experiences in the past that we need healing from.  Do not automatically assume that it is just a spiritual trial you are having.  Speak with a spiritual director and they will help you discern the next steps!

I know you are reading this and probably thinking: WHAT??  Why can’t the road be easier??  Why can’t God just zap me and make me a saint right now!  The truth is God can zap you and make you a saint right now if He wanted to.  However, this is typically not the way it works!  God chose the way of the Cross in order to redeem us…so we also have a “way of the Cross” to help us on our way to the kingdom of heaven!

Think of it this way: let’s say you are preparing to run a marathon.  You know you need to exercise and “get into shape” in order to run it successfully.  Otherwise you would be huffing and puffing and you will feel like you are going to die!  Exercising and stretching…that all takes work and self- discipline too!!  You might need to eat more healthy (goodbye chocolate chip cookies… hello vegetables!!), you might have to get better rest…all of these things are difficult and hard.  It is going to test everything you have!  But in the end (spoiler alert!!) it is going to make you a stronger person…because it is not only about the running!  The preparation will teach you discipline, perseverance and how to give your all!  This preparation can teach you life-lessons about commitment, respect and how not to give up on God, yourself, or others.  And…the bonus…you will be in shape!!

You may say “I don’t feel like exercising, and stretching…and I hate green food…but I still want to run the marathon.”  You need someone to say to you: “Honey, stop crying…pull up your socks… and do whatever it takes to prepare well…it is worth it in the end!!”  In the end, you will be so happy that God permitted you to endure what you did.  Had you not endured it, you would not be the person you are today.  You would not have grown stronger…you would have stayed swimming in a sea of pride and arrogance.  This can be a hard lesson, especially in times when the suffering is very great.  But if we make the decision to trust in faith then we will move forward with confidence and trust in God.

The saints knew that their suffering was not a waste…that it was actually strengthening them in virtue!  Let’s not waste our suffering…let’s offer it humbly to God for our own growth in holiness and for the holiness of others.  Any suffering born patiently and out of love is worth more than we can ever imagine!  Suffering can be a proof of love.  We can learn so much about ourselves and others when we suffer.  When I was a teenager, I was at the “cool stage, and at the “cool stage” it is easy to be arrogant and rude.  I remember a few times my mom telling me: “I carried you in my belly for nine months!  Don’t forget that!”  Our mothers have done so much for us!  When we were babies and crying at night, they were the ones getting up and feeding us.  Our moms changed our diapers…yes…it was nasty…. and they did it!! It caused them pain…but because they love us, it was worth it!  Thank you mom!

Jesus Himself said: “Greater love hath no man than this, then to lay down his life for a friend.”  St. John of Cross says, “The road is narrow. He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly be resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”

Suffering actually purifies our love for God, for others and even for ourselves.  Suffering can help our love to become more like Christ’s love.  I think it is equally important to realize that you are not alone in your suffering.  God is present entirely!  He is holding you and embracing you like a good father.  We can get angry and tell Him to go away…but he won’t because He knows that His place is right there with you.

So what do we do when we are experiencing the dark night of the senses?

  • Complete and loving submission to the will of God, accepting with patience and resignation the painful trial of the dark night for as long as God decrees i.e. the soul abstains from seeking consolations.
  • Perseverance in prayer in spite of all the difficulty purely out of imitation of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane with absolute trust in God.
  • In prayer, the soul must remain in peace and quiet, content simply with a loving gaze on God, without any particular consideration and without any desire for delight or sensation.
  • Docility to a prudent and experienced director if available, if not, God will use other means to guide the soul.

If you are going through a dark night, do not be afraid.  Jesus is with you.  He has your name in His Sacred Heart, and He is carrying you through!