A Test of the Heart…

angry girl

“More torturous then all else is the human heart, beyond remedy who can understand it?  I the Lord explore the mind and test the heart… (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  The Son of God has a Heart.  His Sacred Heart inflamed with love is also a wounded heart.  His Heart is wounded by sins of ingratitude…sins against faith, hope and love.  Yet His Heart still burns for us…

I once heard a story about Brother Juniper that you can find in the book entitled: The Flowers of St. Francis.  Brother Juniper, in his innocence, at times made people angry.  There was one time at Christmas where a poor woman asked Brother Juniper for alms.  He saw that the cloth on the altar had some costly bells on it.  So, Brother Juniper cut the bells and gave them to the woman in need.  The sacristan in anger took the cloth to the Superior General who then corrected Brother Juniper with severity.  Brother Juniper delighted in being corrected (yes delighted) and wanted to find a remedy for the Superior General’s hoarse voice.  So, he went to town to buy flour and butter to make a pudding to help soothe the Superior’s hoarse voice.  Brother Juniper made the pudding, and upon waking his Superior General at a very late hour he said, “Father, when you reproved me today for my faults, I perceived that your voice grew hoarse, and I thought it was from over-fatigue.  I considered what would be the best remedy and have had this hasty-pudding made for you…I pray you eat of it…for it will do you good.”  After the Superior angrily refused because of the lateness of the hour, Brother Juniper said, “Father, since you will not eat the pudding which was made for you, at least do this for me: hold the candle for me and I will eat it.”  Then the general, seeing the piety of this friar answered, “Well, since you will have it so, you and I will eat together.”

I really like this story.  Brother Juniper was so free…even though people were angry with him and did not understand him, he was so free.  He did not allow the anger of others to take away his peace, nor did he turn in on himself getting discouraged and upset that he made a mistake.  Brother Juniper knew that he had good intentions for why he responded to the woman’s request…and so he was able to be at peace, no matter what the other Brothers, or even the Superior thought of him.  Brother Juniper used this opportunity to love…to really love.

Our hearts are also wounded.  We have had times where we have been hurt…sometimes very hurt.  And what is our reaction on a natural level?  Anger.  Yes anger.  We have all been angry have we not?  We have allowed emotion and passion to get the better of us!  There are times where we have lost our temper, for things small like: who did not pick up their socks?  Who left these dishes in the sink?  We lose our temper over bigger things, like when someone has cut us off from traffic, or when do not get what we want.  We are angry when we lose someone we really care about…and we grieve…and we want to blame someone…sometimes we blame God…sometimes we blame ourselves or others.  When we lose someone we torture ourselves and live in a state of regret and guilt: “If only I would have had the opportunity to tell them how much I cared about them…if only I could have had the courage to say that I was sorry…if only I could have been able to speak the healing word to them…if only I would have thought before I acted…if only I could have just loved that person, for who they are instead of who I wanted them to be…if only I could go back in time, and fix what I have broken…and the list goes on and on and on.  Living in a constant state of regret and guilt is making us look at ourselves…we are not looking at Christ! There is something disordered there…we are afraid to accept our own brokenness and we are afraid to forgive ourselves…and so we get angry.  We are angered when someone offends us very much…when someone says something, or does something that leaves a deep wound…a deep scar, that can only be healed with love and the grace of forgiveness.

For those of us who are perfectionists, we tend to get angry that everything is not perfect…including ourselves!  We tend to get upset that the people around us are not perfect.  We imagine that we ourselves our perfect, and are not able to accept others who do not meet our standards.  What is the cause of our misery?…I hate to break it to you…WE are the cause of our own misery.  We are bringing it on ourselves…we are allowing ourselves to be angry and freely choosing to live in a sea of pain and regret.  What can be done?

Let’s look at the life of Jesus.  He suffered people’s jealousy, ignorance, the pain of not being understood or accepted even in his own country.  Yet, what does Jesus do?  He forgives and He loves them so much that he died for them.  The Son of God would rather die then spend eternity without us.  Is the love I have for those who have hurt me like the love of Christ?

When we are angry, our heart is tested.  The love in our heart is put to the test.  Are we willing and able to feel the injustice and pain of the hurt and still forgive?  Jesus is with us in the pain, and loneliness…Jesus is attracted to brokenness.  In imitation of Christ, we must make reparation for the people who have hurt us.  This means we must be able to offer our prayers, works and sacrifices for people who make us angry or who are angry themselves.  We can only defeat evil through love!

Time to Rise Up!

Cute asian little child girl praying with folded her hand

I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Spoiler alert…there is a moment in the movie when Clarence tells George Bailey, “You really have had a wonderful life.”  The main character George Bailey lived a life, not thinking of himself, but only thinking of others.  By helping others to fulfill their dreams and get through hard times, his own dreams of travelling the world and getting out of Bedford Falls were dashed.  We can say that he lived a life of generosity and self-sacrifice.  However, there was a moment in the movie when George Bailey was wondering about the value of his life…but in the end…spoiler alert…he realizes that his life is beautiful…because he loved.

We know that when we meet the Lord face to face, He will ask us how we have loved.  George Bailey did not sit back and watch people suffering saying, “oh well!  What can I do about it?”  No!  He took action!  He loved the people in the town, and helped them in charity.  What about us?  Our Lord says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

When we think of laziness, we think of having problems getting things done because we just don’t feel like it! Our homework, chores, and other projects are so easy to leave to the last minute and then we end up either panicking or losing out on practicing virtue.  It is also possible to become weary in our spiritual exercises as well since there can be times of darkness and aridity, confusion and desolation.  In the beginning, we are so used to finding happiness and joy in our prayer on an emotional level, but now, spiritual exercises can seem dull and boring.  It is almost equivalent to a child who would prefer candy and chocolate to healthy food like carrots and potatoes.  The candy gives us consolation…we are happy eating candy!  But when we eat too much candy, what happens?  We get sick!  If God constantly gives us consolations, our spiritual life will not grow, our virtue will not grow and our love will not grow…we will be spiritually sick!  When we do not feel the presence of God when we pray, it is time to rise up out of ourselves in trust and faith and see this as an opportunity to grow in love and trust!  The Lord is with you when you pray.  He is always with you!  When we pray, God is speaking to us.  Sometimes He might just want us to listen. Try exercises in listening.  Take heart that God knows our needs even before we ask Him!

Many times, we approach prayer and other spiritual exercises in order for us to “get something out of it,” instead of just being with the one who loves us totally and completely.  When we do not sense that we are “getting something out of it,” it is easy to give up on prayer.  One of the hardest things to experience is not being able to see the fruit of our prayers…we question whether they are really being answered?  The truth is God always answers our prayers…the answer might be Yes, No or not yet.  The “Not yet” response can be painful…it is hard to wait on the Lord but God is calling us to persevere in our prayer…if we do wait on the Lord, we will be rewarded for our patience.

It is easy to desire to satisfy our own will rather than the will of God.  As St. John of the Cross says, “Many of the beginners want God to desire what they want, and they become sad if they have to desire God’s will.”  How free we would be if we just desired God’s will…however, our natural tendency is to want to turn away from the Lord in mistrust and sometimes anger.  Sloth causes sadness in spiritual exercises and attacks joy in our souls.  What can we do when we are experiencing spiritual sloth?

  • We can ask the Lord to help us accept and love His will at every moment. PTLA: Praise The Lord Anyway!  If things do go your way, praise the Lord!
  • Try to pray even if you do not feel like it! Even speaking the name of Jesus in reverence and love is a prayer!
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer. It is so important to ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your prayer!
  • Perhaps have a sacred image with you when you pray. Looking at a crucifix or a statue can really help focus your mind and heart better on the Lord. Sometimes looking at an image can really help make your prayer more fruitful.

 

Craving Sweetness…

rosary made of cupcakes

The above is a picture of cupcakes in the shape of a rosary!  I think this is really creative!!

Have you ever had the experience of your stomach growling in public?  Ever notice how it happens in the quietest moments such as in the middle of a meeting at work or in the middle of Mass??  So, what is our body saying to us when our stomach growls?  Stomach growling can be a sign that we are hungry.  It is a sign that our body is in need of nourishment…the stomach is saying, “feed me!”

We all know the feeling of hunger…and we also know the feeling… “I ate too much!!”  When we think of gluttony, we tend to think of overeating or overdrinking in order to satisfy our appetite.  With this said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal!  I am sure that our Blessed Mother fed St. Joseph and Jesus well!  Imagine, St. Joseph working all day in the carpenter shop, and imagine Jesus, a growing boy, how hungry they would be!!  Our Lord enjoyed eating!  We hear about Him eating with His Apostles after His Resurrection…we hear about Him eating at Matthew’s house and the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  Jesus also went to a wedding, where I am sure there was lots of food!  Jesus even turned water into wine!

The problem arises when we use food, money, and other pleasures in order to satisfy our own selves, and not to give glory to God.  We tend to use things in order to satisfy our own selfish pleasures, and as a result, it is easy to overindulge.  Overindulgence can happen in the spiritual life too…something St. John of the Cross calls “spiritual gluttony.”

“Spiritual gluttony expresses itself when we are desiring spiritual gratification rather than trying to conform ourselves to the will of God (c.f. Ralph Martin The Fulfillment of All Desire pg 344-345).” Spiritual Gluttony means to seek sensible devotion more than the praise of God.  We should not love consolations more than the God of consolations.  For example, It is easy to “crave the sweetness” in prayer and in receiving the Sacraments; however, our primary focus needs to be on union with God.  Even if God takes away the sweetness in prayer, we must keep praying!!

St. John of the Cross says, “God often withdraws sensory delight and pleasure so that souls might set the eyes of faith on this [Blessed Sacrament].” (St. John of the Cross Dark Night of the Soul Bk 1 chap 6. No. 5 pg 372) Jesus wants our eyes fixed on Him and so He will allow sensory delights and pleasures to be withdrawn.  This is not a punishment!!!  This is a good thing!!!  It is a step toward maturity in the spiritual life!!

It is possible for us to follow only our own emotions and feelings, which can be very destructive.  For example, remember, for years St. Mother Teresa “lived in darkness” where she did not feel the presence of God with her…there were times that she felt abandoned and forgotten by God.  If St. Mother Teresa would have followed these emotions and feelings that she was having, would she have been able to pray, sacrifice, and love?  Would she have been able to serve the people that she served?  I would argue that if St. Mother Teresa would have only followed her emotions and feelings, she would have been so stuck on herself, her feelings of emptiness and pain.  However, she did NOT follow the darkness of her feelings and emotions, but willfully followed Jesus no matter how she felt!!  She followed Christ…she kept her eyes on Jesus and became a great saint!

So what can be done if we find ourselves only seeking consolations in our spiritual practices?

  • Ask God to purify our motivation for why we are engaging these practices. Make it known in the beginning, “Lord this is for you.”
  • Try to do things in the day that you do not particularly like such as taking out the garbage, or washing the dishes. Offer up these things to the Lord for someone you would like to pray for.  Try to do these things with a smile on your face, saying, “Lord this is for you.”  This will prepare you well when times of dryness and darkness come into your prayer.
  • KEEP PRAYING!!! Don’t stop praying!  Even if you feel darkness creep in.  God wants our love for Him to mature and deepen…He wants our hearts on Him and not on the consolations.  So keep praying and do not lose heart!

So what do we learn from this?  We must not seek to do our spiritual exercises with a view to seeking our own gratification and satisfaction through them.  If we do receive gratification and satisfaction through them, then that itself is a gift from God; however, we are called to seek the Lord first!  If we are seeking the Lord, no matter how we feel, then we are on a good path and we are carrying our crosses with joy!

 

 

Building Up…Not Tearing Down…

orchestra

Here in Canada we get a lot of snow!  I remember making “snow forts” as a child growing up in our backyard.  That was hard work!  There was one year where we made the best “snow-fort” of all time!  It was made out of little snow-balls and we built it so high that it looked like a castle!  Putting one snow-ball on after the other, trying not to tear it down was the biggest challenge!

This concept of building up and not tearing down can also apply to our relationships with others as well.  In our relationships with others, we need to desire to build people up and not tear them down.  When we tear people down we commit a greater tragedy then tearing down a building or a snow-fort!

What do I mean by building people up?  It begins with being grateful for the gifts and joys that each person possesses.  It also means striving not to be super critical of the other.  I was reading an article lately by a sister entitled Experts in Communion by Sr. Marie Laetitia Youchtchenko OP.  She described our relationships with one another as a beautiful symphony where Christ is both the composer and the director.

Sister writes, “Christ is both the composer and the director-even more He is Music personified; each of us plays one’s partition (at His place which belongs to Him); the quality of the ensemble is not only the result of an individual effort but of the love we all have for music, of the desire to follow our Director, aiming at achieving symphonic beauty.”

Sister further writes, “If a musician wants to play louder, or does not listen to the other, if a triangle envies the role of an oboe, if a piano spends more time in criticizing the others instead of playing or if the first violin is convinced to be the director…there is no hope for a successful symphony.”

Keeping this image in mind of a symphony, where Christ is the director and we are the musicians, we can see that it is easy to lose sight of who we are and what a gift we are.  It is easy to look at others and wish that we were just like them.  We see the gifts of that person, we make the mistake of believing that certain persons have more value then we do.  This is a lie!  And what happens…we start to envy.

You might recall in the Gospel when the apostles are arguing with who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  What does Jesus say, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 4).  Jesus is calling us to be humble…like a little child.

Envy according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “refers to sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly” (CCC 2539).  Envy is a refusal of charity, a form of sadness at the good of another (c.f. CCC 2540).  St. John of the Cross also speaks about a type of spiritual envy which is feeling sad because of the spiritual good you see in another.  An example of spiritual envy would be something like sadness over the fact that another person shows more charitable works, they have a more generous disposition, they pray more etc…  The sin of envy happens when you have sadness at seeing the good of another and try to rob him of that good.

There may be times that we feel sad that another person has something that we do not have.  What do we do in those moments?  We need to raise our eyes to God and thank God that this person has such a wonderful gift.  Then we can pray to have that virtue ourselves!  If we see a person being very generous, we can say, “Lord help me to be more generous” or if we see a person who is spending a lot of time in prayer with the Lord and we notice that we are not spending as much time with the Lord as we should we can say, “Lord, help me to spend more time with you…help me to pray better.”

The remedy for spiritual envy is charity.  With charity, we see the power of love in others, and that is something to rejoice about.  We need to always wish each other well.  Even providing an encouraging word to that person can make a huge difference: “That was a really generous thing you did for her!”  or “I was really edified by the fact that you were so patient and gentle with her.”  Giving words of encouragement can really be helpful in taking the eyes off of self and putting our eyes back on God and loving and serving others.

So let’s try to build each other up today!  And always remember to just be you!  Also, be grateful for the gifts and talents you see in others and offer a word of encouragement often.  Be grateful for your gifts and strive as best as you can to put your gifts in service out of love for God and the Church.

In the Center of Your Heart…

woman caught in adultery

She is full of pain and regret…  They found her, they know what she did…what she has been doing for a long time.  They think they know her…but they don’t.  They blow her with accusations and condemnations…she is alone…  They drag her through the streets…a monster…a wretched woman… “a terrible woman this is!…”  They drag her…drag her through the sand and dust…she is full of scratches and bruises…her mind goes to thoughts of her childhood…whatever happened to that innocent child?  Where did she go?   She is now on her way to death…bleeding…embarrassed…condemned.  “I was only looking for someone to love me,” cries that inner child within her… “I just wanted someone to love me!”  She hears the jeering crowd…”Stone her!  Stone the adulteress!”  Her heart beating…sweat pouring down her face…struggles for breath…and then the question: “Master…this woman was caught in adultery…she ought to be stoned according to the law!”  This woman…this woman…they don’t even know her name…a sinner…nameless.

Then, she turns her head to get a glimpse of the man…this man they call “Master”…he bends down…he is writing something…what is he writing?  She listens through her tears and guilt…”will he also condemn me?”  With a voice too beautiful for words…but at the same time with authority, she hears “He who is without sin, cast the first stone!”  “What?  What did He just say?  Is he trying to help me?”  All of a sudden, with thuds almost like thunder, the stones hit the ground…she feels faint…her body is shaking now…she hears the footsteps of the men moving further away…she hears the man walk step by step toward her…tears fall down her face…”why did he help me?  Why didn’t he condemn me, like all the others?”  Then He spoke…and his words were like a sword to her heart: “Where are your accusers?  Has anyone condemned you?”  With tears running down her cheeks…she knew they had all gone…she finds her courage turns her head to look at this man’s face…through a parched throat and barely being able to bring the words to her lips: “No, no one…” then, all at once, she sees her life flash before her eyes…she thought of all her sins, imperfections, mistakes…and she felt the guilt…the shame.  Then, almost as if to stop her from her running thoughts, the man says, “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more…”  His words cut her to the heart…inside the core of her being…like a gentle breeze she hears…”Daughter.”

Jesus…He knows us through and through.  We have all at some point felt like this woman: condemned, abandoned and alone.  We have all at some point given in to temptation of some kind…have we allowed ourselves to look into the eyes of the Saviour and hear the words: “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more?”

I am always fascinated by the fact that Jesus was able to see into the hearts of all people…He knew the weakness there…He knew their goodness.  He saw the desires of those he met: the desire for knowledge and understanding in Nicodemus, the desire for consolation in Mary Magdalene at the tomb, the desire for companionship in His Apostles.  But there is one character in the Gospels that I would like to focus on and that is the woman caught in adultery.  What was her desire?  What was she looking for when she looked into the eyes of the Saviour?  She was looking for love.  Sometimes we look for love in the wrong places…in the wrong ways.  But God in his mercy knows our weakness and our needs and offers us the love that we are looking for…but we need to have the courage to turn our head and look into the eyes of the Saviour… just like the woman caught in adultery did.

Now…we have been talking about the seven deadly sins and how they can appear in our spiritual life.  We have talked about spiritual pride, and spiritual avarice so far…now we are going to take the very delicate topic of spiritual lust.  Keep in mind that we are going through the passive purgations…basically God is taking our weakness at the root…and so he is allowing a purgation to happen…painful but necessary.

When we think of lust…we often think of a person trying to gratify, or satisfy their sexual desires and drives but in a way that goes totally against God’s will and God’s purposes.  St. John of the Cross points out that it is possible for people growing in the spiritual life to experience a type of spiritual lust in the midst of prayer because “there is a close link between the spiritual and the sensory, joy and delight in the spiritual can trigger sensory activity.” (The Fulfillment of All Desire, Ralph Martin pg. 340).

St. John of the Cross says, “It happens frequently that in a person’s spiritual exercises themselves, without the person being able to avoid it, impure movements will be experienced in the sensory part of the soul, and even sometimes when the spirit is deep in prayer, or when receiving the sacraments of Penance or the Eucharist…while in deep prayer, it will conversely passively experience sensual rebellions, movements and acts in the senses, not without its own great displeasure…Once the sensory part is reformed through the purgation of the dark night, it no longer has these infirmities…” (St. John of the Cross. Dark Night bk 1. Chapter 4 no.1 pg 367).

Basically, St. John of the Cross is saying that it is possible for someone to experience a physical arousal in the midst of spiritual activity.  This is a very painful and difficult purgation which can have three causes:

  • The body and soul has a unity that is so complete that the spirit is delighted and overflows into the sensory part of the soul and thus the individual experiences sexual arousal.
  • The devil puts impure images in the person’s mind in order to arouse the passions in order to disturb the soul and draw them away from prayer…this is when we need to pray that Our Lady steps on the evil serpent! Remember the evil one wants you to stop praying…Don’t stop praying…this is a time for battle!
  • Fear of such temptations can often stir them up due to a repressed sexuality. Someone can actually fear union with another person…or even fear temptations to impurity.

When going through temptations, it is easy to blame ourselves and condemn ourselves and maybe even feel condemned by others just like the woman caught in adultery.  Throw yourself into the arms of the merciful Saviour who loves you more then you know.  When this temptation of spiritual lust happens, God is wanting to elevate the virtue of chastity in the person.  Once the person experiencing these temptations takes the necessary steps toward healing, there will be major transformation in their life!  Relationships and friendships will be more generous and self-giving rather than selfish and greedy.

St. John of the Cross also points out that when people are going through the purgation of spiritual lust, “attractions” to other people, may be a form of lust, not necessarily romantic, or sexual…but “possessive” in nature.  He says, “This lustful origin will be recognized if, on recalling that affection, there is remorse of conscience, not an increase in the remembrance and love of God…The affection is purely spiritual if the love of God grows, when it grows, or if the love of God is remembered as often as the affection is remembered…” St. John of the Cross. Dark night. bk 1. ch. 4 no. 7 pg 369.

It is good to have relationships and friendships.  Some of the greatest saints of all time had great friendships: Francis and Clare, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila…their friendships brought them closer to Christ.  They wanted each other to attain heaven!  And so they helped each other on the way to heaven…that is a good friendship when we can help each other get to heaven.  We must turn to the saints in simplicity and ask for their help.

Sexual temptations and trials such as Spiritual lust are not uncommon in the lives of the saints.  For example, St. Catherine of Sienna comes to mind, who experienced extreme lustful temptations.  She asked our Lord: “Lord where were you when my heart was so tormented?”  He responded: “I was in the center of your heart.”  All people who suffer from lustful temptations, remember that Jesus is in your heart fighting the battle.  He is right there!  Don’t lose heart!  Just keep turning to Jesus and everything will be okay.  I also think of the great St. Augustine who struggled a long time with temptations against purity and chastity.

What can be done if someone finds themselves struggling with spiritual lust:

  • Keep praying! DO NOT stop praying, especially to Mary, St. Joseph and the Saints.
  • Stay close to the Sacraments…bring this temptation to Confession as painful and embarrassing as it feels. It is good to have a frequent Confessor who knows the pain that you are undergoing…and who can provide some wise counsel and advice.
  • Having good and frequent Spiritual Direction can also help assist you through this. Keep in mind that you are worth the time to heal!
  • The worse thing to do is to be afraid. Keep your focus on Jesus in prayer and ignore the arousal.
  • Prayer and fasting go together! With the help of your spiritual director/confessor you can come up with a plan for fasting (what is possible for you keeping in mind your physical, emotional and mental health) from things you desire and crave.  Fasting is an excellent way to let go of the instant desire to satisfy our senses and embrace sacrifice.  Fasting will make you stronger in times of temptation.

There is so much that can be said about living a chaste life that I am really only scratching the surface.  I really hope to have posts in the future taking this topic further.  Expert, I am not (wow I sound like Yoda) but I would like to address topics in the future related to chastity that hopefully will help you in your journey!  Just let me know what you think in the comments box!

So overall…we turn to Mary, the chaste, pure Mother of God and St. Joseph who is the guardian of virgins and guardian of those who are chaste to pray for all people that we will keep our bodies and souls pure as temples of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you for reading such a long post!

 

Blessed are the Pure in Heart…and Mind…and Body

twinhug

“God who created man out of love, also calls him to love-the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.  For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1604).

Love.  Jesus is love….Jesus is mercy.  One of the most beautiful lines in the prophet Isaiah is: “Thus says the Lord, he who created you…he who formed you…Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine (Isaiah 43: 1).  The love we are seeking is in God.  The fulfillment and unity we are seeking is in God.  We belong to God.

If we look around us, there is always signs of God’s love for us.  As I was sorting through our holy cards, I found the above picture in our holy cards bin.  I wondered what their story was.  I learned that the above photo taken is of Kyrie and Brielle Jackson who are twins and were born on October 17th, 1995, a full 12 weeks ahead of their due date.  Kyrie weighed about 2lbs 3 oz and was doing well, while her tiny sister Brielle had breathing and heart rate problems, little weight gain and her oxygen level was low.  In order to reduce the risk of infection, the babies were placed in separate incubators.  A nurse decided to try a new approach!  She put Kyrie in the same incubator as Brielle!  Kyrie put her left arm around her little sister which medical professionals call the “Rescue Hug” and within minutes Brielle’s condition improved drastically!  Her blood oxygen levels improved, her heart rate stabilized, and her temperature rose to normal!  What a miracle!  I read the full article on the Life Institute website:

https://thelifeinstitute.net/learning-centre/life/premature-birth/brielle-kyrie#

This true story reminds me that God is embracing us with His love.  When we allow the Lord to embrace us and love us, we are healed!

There is also the embrace that occurs in the Sacrament of Matrimony.  When man and woman come together in Marriage they “become on flesh” and the result of that loving embrace is a great gift… another human being with a soul, body and purpose.  The result of the love is another human being, known and loved by God from all eternity!  This is indeed a great gift, that man and woman when they cooperate with the grace of God in love are able to bring life into the world.

The life of chastity is a call to great intimacy and union.  You may ask, how?  When people hear the word “chastity” they think “no intimacy.”  This mindset is not true.  Chastity is intimacy to a very high degree, for it is an embrace that surpasses a physical relationship.  A life of chastity is a life of universal love.  It is a love like the love of Jesus which is warm, intense and universal.  It is a love that embraces all people.  A chaste person has such a big heart which needs to pour itself out in self-less love for God and for others.  Please note that chastity is not a call of a few people…it is the call of all people proper to whatever vocation we are called to.  Since we are temples of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within us, God desires us to have purity and innocence of life.  St. Paul tells us: “Know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?  But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy.  For the temple of God is holy, which you are.” (1 Cor 3:16, 17).  So we are temples of God…and God’s Spirit dwells within us.  We want our bodies and our souls to be beautiful for God to dwell in.

The world speaks the false lie that a life of chastity is a horrible life.  The world says, “How can you live your life without having sex?  That must be a horrible life!”  As a woman who has made the vow of chastity, I know that this is indeed a sacrifice.  What a beautiful gift it is to be married and have children!  What a beautiful gift for a woman to have a life inside of her!  In making this sacrifice, in choosing to live a life of chastity, it strengthens our love all the more.  Love is not a feeling…it is not a physical pleasure…Love is more than words.  Pope Benedict XVI says in His encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “Love becomes concern and care for the other…it seeks the good of the beloved.” Deus Caritas Est 6.  What is the ultimate good that we want for the other?  Heaven.

Adam and Eve were so pure in the beginning.  Yet because of original sin, man and woman suffer temptations of all kinds.  Jesus said, “The things that come forth from the heart…defile a man.  From the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, and adulteries.” (Matthew 15, 18:19)  Jesus further says, “The light of the body is the eye.  If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness…”(Matthew 6:22-23).  What is Jesus challenging us too?  He is challenging us to be prudent and virtuous when it comes to the use of our senses so that we will be chaste in mind, heart, and body.

So basically…we are in a battle.  Our senses are all over the place.  Our passions are at times raging like a storm on the sea…but guess what…we are ALL in a battle!  It is very hard sometimes to keep the senses pure.  Due to fallen human nature, it is easy to fall into sin by looking at images, watching movies, or listening to music that leads soul far away from God!  What do people need to do in order to be pure?  A few things to keep in mind in order to live a chaste life no matter what vocation you are called too:

  • Pray the Rosary everyday!
  • Pray to St. Joseph, who is most chaste! He will protect you and shield you!
  • Pray to your Guardian Angel to defend you when the temptations are strong!
  • Be careful not to look at images that are impure. Ask yourself, “is this bringing me closer to God or further away?”
  • Find relationships that are God-centered, pure and modest.
  • Dress modestly! Cover up!  Remember you are a temple of the Holy Spirit!
  • Peacefully and patiently turn away from impure images in your mind. You cannot stop birds from flying over, but you can stop them from building a nest!  Thoughts are just thoughts.  If you fight them, they might get more intense and severe.  Let them pass, even say a prayer calmly: “Jesus have mercy, Mary help!”
  • Treat each other with respect and honor, for we are all images of God. Ladies, ask yourself, “How would the Blessed Virgin Mary treat this man?”  Or if you are a man ask yourself, “How would St. Joseph treat this woman?”  Keeping this in mind will help you make good decisions on how to act and what to say.

Now…we have been talking about the seven deadly sins and how they can appear in our spiritual life.  We have talked about spiritual pride, and spiritual avarice so far…now we are going to take the very delicate topic of spiritual lust…next week…

I Need…

gift cover

If you go back in the days of your childhood, I am sure you can think of a gift that you received that made you so happy and so full of life!  Maybe it was a doll, a toy train, a book that you really wanted to read.  Perhaps it was a person in your life.  Maybe it was that newborn baby that you and your husband have been praying to have for a long time.  Your husband, wife, children, family are gifts that you have received in your life and I know are very important to you.  Perhaps you have received the gift of Faith, friendship, laughter.  How do we show gratitude for all that we have received?

God gave everything when He gave His Son Jesus.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  Jesus is the greatest gift that we can ever receive.  Jesus in the Eucharist is the greatest gift that we receive today!

You are a gift!  God created you out of love!  He chose you…from all eternity to be His entirely!  He wanted you to have life…He saw you in His plan…and He made you very good.  You are an important piece in this life.  God made you as you are for a reason…your life is a gift!  YOU are a gift!

Because of our wounded state, we forget “gift.”  We sense that there is a void in our heart…an empty space.  We feel the need to have many things, even at times things that are not ours to have, because things make us happy…but only for a time.  Too much of a good thing (money, food, pleasure, social media) is not always a good thing, because it hinders us from seeing everything as a gift and it hinders us from loving the God who has made this world. For example, ice cream is good…but if I want more and more and more ice cream all at once, I am going to get sick and need to go to the hospital!  Having too much of something hinders us from seeing and loving the Giver of every good gift, God Himself.    Sometimes we want things that are not ours to have, (covetousness) in order to satisfy our own selfish desires.  This we can call avarice (greed/covetousness).

Don’t get me wrong!  It is good to want things!  I sincerely believe when we have desires, God is just reminding us of our great desire for heaven!  The problem comes when we want things in a disordered way, when we want what we want for selfish reasons (example: so that we look good in the eyes of others).  The problem also comes with what we desire…sometimes the things we desire are not ours to have.  An attitude of greed says, “It’s all mine!,” when in reality whatever good we have received comes from God and belongs to God.  Also, the problem comes when we are not happy and thankful for what God has given to us.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do anything to get it?  Did you get it?  Did it make you a better person?  Did you grow closer to the Lord in getting that thing?

What are you wanting right now?  Do you know, inside of yourself that getting what you want right now is good for you? 

Have I ever thanked God for what I have been given? 

The interesting thing is that we can oftentimes go through avarice when it comes to spiritual things.  St. John of the Cross points out that some people can never get enough of hearing spiritual talks, seeking advice, reading books and as a result are very unhappy if they do not find consolation in these things.  (The Fulfillment of all Desire: Ralph Martin 339).  Wanting to possess spiritual things, simply because they are attractive, beautiful and fashionable to the eyes, does not help in gaining poverty of spirit.  The question is, are they helping us grow in our relationship with God…or are they just pleasing to our senses?  For example, sometimes we get all caught up about possessing spiritual objects such as rosaries, and medals only because they are attractive and pleasing to the eyes. St. John of the Cross says it himself that people weigh themselves down with over decorated images, and rosaries….preferring one cross to another because of elaborateness.  In the case of spiritual talks, or seeking advice, sometimes individuals will find themselves emotionally lifted up…and they want that all the time…the more they go to, the more they will have this emotional happiness, and it is an escape from facing the Crosses that are necessary for our sanctification.  St. John of the Cross makes the point that true devotedness comes from the heart.  However, it is very important to understand that we should want things to be beautiful in order to bring glory to God.  We should want to attend conferences and spiritual talks that lift our minds to God.  That is good!  However avarice takes it to a whole different level because there are times when we use things in order to fill a void in our heart!  Perhaps, we are trying to fill the emptiness that is inside with external things, because it is an escape to what is really going on in the inside.  St. John discourages individuals from having “possessiveness.”  St. John of the Cross explains that possessiveness only brings about loss in the end.  There is a difference between possessiveness and freedom.  Possessiveness says, “Mine!”  Freedom says, “Thank you!”  The Scripture says, “Anything I do not possess before God, I have lost.” (Romans 4:2).  If we have things, but do not wish to give God glory, then we are lost.  Anyone or anything who is outside the presence of God is lost.

What is the cure of this avarice?  Simply, learning to be grateful for the gifts we have received and placing our eyes on Christ.  Be grateful for what has been given whether it is a retreat talk, a good book, a nice rosary.  Perhaps try sharing what you have received with a friend.  Look at how these spiritual things can help us grow in our relationship with God, to true love of God.  Place your eyes on Christ and everything will become rightly ordered!  I once heard a very good priest say, “how long do we spend asking God for things…do we spend the same amount of time thanking God for what He has given and granted to us?”

He Humbles Himself…So Should I…

Christ washing his disciples feet icon (2)

There is something special about teaching kindergarten children.  There is a spark in them of wonder and excitement at the beauty of life!  They always have something to say…and what they have to say is very important!  I remember hearing a talk by a friend of mine Deacon Bob McDonald on one of those Lighthouse Catholic Media Cd’s and he once asked a class of young children a curious question just to see what they would say.  He asked: “How does Jesus get inside the bread?”  One little girl put up her hand and said, “He loves His way in.”

Indeed, Jesus loves His way in.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself, accepting even death, death on a Cross…” (Philippians 2:7-9)  Jesus’ obedience and humility brought our salvation.  Through His humility, we gain eternal life.  Adam disobeyed God, but Jesus in humility empties Himself…for you…and for me.  Jesus is so humble that He, the Son of God washed the feet of His disciples!  Imagine!  The Son of God going down on His knees and washing the stinky, dirty feet of His Apostles!  I love this image at the top of Jesus washing the feet…Peter looks as though He is saying, “Awkward!”  How does Jesus respond?  “You also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14).  Jesus teaches us that humility means being a servant to all.

Jesus gives Himself entirely…and He still gives Himself entirely through the Holy Eucharist!  Jesus, the Son of God, King of the Universe, became one of us and now humbles Himself again so that we can actually receive His Body and Blood everyday in the Holy Eucharist!  In the Eucharist we receive grace, and a heart that is more ready to give love and receive love.  Through receiving the Holy Eucharist with the right dispositions, our hearts are transformed through the Holy Eucharist and we receive grace which is God’s very own life poured into us!  Why is this important?  Simply this…we are made for union with God…and as we grow in the life of grace, we grow closer in union with God.  Grace helps us to live in light, truth, beauty and goodness.  Grace helps us to have the strength to heal, to forgive others and ourselves, and to see the goodness in everyone…including ourselves.

Life is hard.  Humility is hard!  We want to grow in union with God.  We want to live in the light.  We want to be who God is calling us to be…but we struggle…oftentimes struggle can come because of our pride.

Often when we think of pride, we think of someone who is thinking “high and mighty of themselves.”  We might think of someone who only thinks of themselves.  St. John of the Cross points out that even people who have a desire for perfection can have a deep pride that needs to be rooted out.  He claims that sometimes we minimize our faults, and become discouraged because we are not perfect yet.  They become impatient and angry saying: “Oh no!  I am not a saint yet…poor me.”  Sometimes people who are on this path of holiness are very anxious because they want God to immediately remove certain imperfections they have because they just want to be at peace.

As mentioned in earlier posts, there is a time in the dark night of the senses where God can be purging the soul of certain vices in a passive way.  Remember that the passive night of the senses means that God needs to act directly in the soul in order to “burn away” the filthy vice.  Spiritual pride is when there is an excessive obsession with self in accomplishing spiritual tasks such as prayer, penances and good works.

What are some signs of spiritual pride?  St. John of the Cross makes the point that someone with spiritual pride prefers to instruct rather than be instructed.  He has a tendency to want to be heard, especially when it comes to speaking about certain spiritual graces that were received, and they are happy when others notice their spirituality.  They are upset and angry with people who do not approve of their spirit and tend to judge people in a harsh way.  They are easily discouraged when they fall, and approach Confession only to excuse themselves.

Now after hearing this…I know what it rolling in your head because it is also running in my head: “Oh No!  I am proud!”  Calm down.  Recognizing it is already a grace from God!  In order to combat spiritual pride, we need to know the characteristics of a humble person.

A humble person is someone who thinks about themselves less.  They would prefer to learn from others rather than be the teacher themselves.  They want to do their good works in hiding so that the praise will go to God and not themselves.  They are eager to manifest their faults…especially in Confession.  They think that others are better than they are, while not losing sight of the fact that they are a child of God who has value, dignity and worth.

So to be a humble person is hard.  Humility means becoming a person of service, but it also means being a person of silence, both on the interior and exterior.  I sincerely believe as we learn how to pray in sincerity and truth, we will think of ourselves less because our eyes are on Jesus.  We read a really good book for table reading during meal times called the Power of Silence by Cardinal Robert Sarah.  It is a fantastic read!  I really hope that I can have a few blog posts in the future to talk about silence and how essential and crucial that is in growth of the spiritual life…but I am going to use Cardinal Sarah’s Book on the Power of Silence.  Another really good book that we are reading now is called: The Day is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah.  That is another fantastic read…you will find it very fruitful!

On that note…I will be quiet now.

Lean On Me…When You’re Not Strong

Healing blind man

I like music!  There are some songs that just stick in your head.  Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi, Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams, Everything is Awesome by those guys in the Lego Movie, The Song That Never Ends by those kids in the commercial riding in the back of their parents car…are just a few examples of songs that come into your head when your washing dishes, doing the laundry.  It is fun in the convent!  Sometimes you sing one line of a song and all the other Sisters start singing with you!  That’s pretty awesome!  I know that you have heard the famous song “Lean on me.”  It is one of those songs that sticks in your head forever…sorry about that!  I like the lyrics of that song: “lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend…I’ll help you carry on…”

To have a good friend is a special gift…someone that you can share your likes, dislikes, what you hope for, what you are upset about.  I have always found it a comfort to say to people, “can you please pray for this situation or this person.”  When the Cross is heavy, somehow God gives tremendous strength to carry it, provided we cooperate with His grace.  Sometimes that strength comes from sending a friend.  By having that friend, God is revealing to us more of His mercy…that He is with us through that person.  There is something special about sharing a burden with someone…it helps us grow in trust.  There is something special when that friend takes your hand, or puts their hand on your shoulder making sure that you know they are there for you through it all.  Treasure the people that come into your life!  Thank God for them everyday.  How do you know when you have found a good friend?  When they challenge you to be a better you!  When they challenge you to grow in holiness both by their words and actions.  When they look at you and you know that no matter what you have done or said in your life, they love you, because you are you.  Then you know you have found a treasure!

God permitted our Lord to be helped by Simon when Jesus carried His Cross.  We all need Simon in our life…and we need to be Simon to others as well.  By now in our journey of the spiritual life, I think we are beginning to see that we desperately need to rely on the grace of God.    I heard one priest say over and over in his homilies: “We need God’s help!”  That is a good ejaculatory prayer: “Lord help me” or “Jesus have Mercy, Mary help!”  Don’t be afraid to make “help” prayers to the Lord.  Remember in the Gospel when the blind man cried out to Jesus.  He cried, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38).  What did Jesus do?  He asked the blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)  After asking Jesus that he may see, Jesus responds, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 18:42).  With prayer like that, God always sends help!  Going into the dark night does not mean that we are losing our sight, rather it means that Jesus is helping us to come out of the darkness and to be able to see.  When we are experiencing a dark night, it is actually the Lord saying to us, “Receive your sight!”  Let’s not let the dark night make us afraid, but let us see it as a healing from darkness to light.

In order for us to heal and to be who God is calling us to be, God needs to correct things in a passive manner.  This is a point in our spiritual journey when we really need to lean on the Lord when we are not strong.  In the active night, we strive to do our part in being purified, but “despite all our efforts, which are only possible through God’s grace, we will fall short unless the Lord Himself acts deeply within us” (The Fulfillment of all Desire Ralph Martin pg. 337).  Passive purgations go to the depths of our body, soul and spirit.  Our spirit is perfected, and so is our senses.  We desperately need to lean on the Lord!

There are two phases of the passive dark night.  The night of the senses where God heals the disorders which are still present in the senses which we may not even be conscious of.  The night of the spirit is when God reaches into our intellect, memory and will and purifies them in order to come closer to that full and complete union with God.  We will begin with the passive dark night of the senses.

Basically the dark night of the senses is a time where there is aridity (dryness) that puts the soul in a painful state with severe tests of perseverance on the journey towards sanctity.  Many people stop advancing at this point unfortunately because souls are afraid.  In one’s prayer life during this period, God is weaning the soul away from milk, and beginning to give solid food. This means that God is instructing the soul to pray in a new way.  The dark night of the senses is caused by infused contemplation where God is communicating his grace directly to it by passing the sense faculties.

St. John of the Cross points out in his writings that a soul who has entered the dark night is usually someone who is detached or detaching from venial sin, has built up a life of virtue, and is also practiced in meditation and affective prayer.  This is a person who is striving to control their imagination, who practices penances and is striving to overcome self-love.

The soul enters this dark night because there is a need to purge unconscious attachments, even the delights that come from one’s spiritual life.  St. John of the Cross also explains that God is granting infused prayer and the soul is not accustomed to it, so the person experiences a dark night.  In other words, if a soul is attached to consolations in prayer, underneath this practice of prayer is a hidden self-love and this needs to be purged!  God is bringing light into darkness, and the soul realizes that it cannot rely on the things of this world.  The soul knows that only God is their salvation through this time of darkness.  God is communicating to the soul but in a different way…he is giving great spiritual grace that the soul is not accustomed to.  This is the point where the capital sins resurge!  We will begin going through these in the next few posts.

So this is a point where we really need to lean on the Lord because we are not strong…the song is still in my head!!

 

Step By Step…

jesus taking steps

 

First Steps of Our Saviour

Watching a baby learn how to walk is one of the most beautiful and funny things I have ever seen!  The parents are standing behind the child holding their hands guiding them one step at a time.  The child’s legs feel like jelly…this is something new…they seem to be getting the hang of it!!  Then…the moment happens!  Mom and Dad let go of the child’s hands.  The child lets out a high-pitched cry of distress and if they could talk it would be something like this: “Mom and Dad!  Come back!”  Mom and Dad move to the other side of the room… the child sees this and again if they could talk they would say: “I’m here!  I’m coming!”  The child musters all the strength that they have…they rise… and step by step they go, with legs that move like jelly and big eyes…they continue forward.  Mission baby: fall into the arms of Mom and Dad.  Mom and Dad are saying with the most beautiful high-pitched tone of voice: “Come on honey!  Come to Mom and Dad!”   Mom and Dad catch their little one with great joy! They finally made their first steps!!

I sometimes wonder what it was like for the Mother of God and St. Joseph to see the Son of God take His first steps on earth.  I am sure that it was a moment fixated in the mind of Mary in which she pondered often.  The feet that he took His first steps with would be the feet kissed by the sinful woman in whom our Lord would forgive.  Those were the same feet which would travel miles and miles in order to do the will of the Father.  Those were the same feet which would travel up to Calvary, and the same feet which would be nailed to the Cross for our salvation.  And those are the same feet that we all fall down before in our brokenness and weakness and in a spirit of contrition.

Taking those first few steps is one example of “letting go.”  It was a moment in which we needed to let go of the hands of our parents.  However, there are moments in life where letting go is very hard to do.  When someone we love dies, or is separated from us for long periods of time, we experience grief and struggle.  When someone does something to us that hurts us, it makes it very difficult to move on because of the pain, we have a hard time forgiving and letting go.  Jesus tells us “Come to me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Letting go takes time, patience, faith and great love.  We cannot do it on our own, especially if it is a matter of love. Letting go does not mean that we stop loving, but it means that we love in a deeper way.  When we are attached to creatures, it means that our love is disordered in some way.  Attachment is not love.  Attachments do not bring us closer to God.  Love brings us closer to God.  The dark night is meant to help us break the attachments so that we can really love.  This means maintaining healthy boundaries with those we love and care for, and have everything in our lives properly ordered. God must help us and by His grace we are able to do it!  Letting go involves making sacrifices and knowing that God is in control.  Letting go means giving God control, surrendering to Him and His plan, and then cooperating with His grace.  It calls to mind the story of Abraham when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac…this was a test of his faith.  God gave this painful task to Abraham; however (spoiler alert!) God was only testing Abraham and so Abraham did not kill His son!  Abraham’s story can teach us so many lessons, but one big lesson that it teaches me is learning to let go of my own will in order to follow God’s will.  Other saints had to experience this process of “letting go.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe comes to mind because he was willing to sacrifice his own life so another man would live.  St. Augustine had to let go of his life of impurity in order say “yes” to God.  St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi chose to let go of their lives of luxury in order to follow the Gospel.  Sacrifice is hard.  Letting go is hard, but if we see with the eyes of faith…once we let go we know through faith that we receive everything in return…because God is everything.

How do the things I love in this world bring me closer to God?

Are the relationships that I am in currently helping me to grow closer to God or further away?

What or who am I attached to?  How can I maintain healthy boundaries?

Is there a little sacrifice that I can make today out of love for God?

Going through the dark night means being ready to let go!  I already spoke about attachments in a previous blog post, however, more can be said in this regard.  God is outside of creation…yet He became one of us in order to love us and save us.  He transcends everything.  All wisdom and power is contained in God. God shares His goodness through creation and He calls man to be holy.  We realize through Jesus that holiness is a supernatural gift.  Man cannot be holy on his own; God is holy, therefore it is by God’s grace and our cooperation with Him that we become holy too.

St. John of the Cross tells us that God is All and creatures are nothing (nada).  Creatures are something in so far as they are made by God, but in the light of eternity, how do creatures compare to almighty God?  The creatures of the world are things that we need to detach ourselves from.  In order to ascend to God, we must be detached.  This does not mean that we cannot enjoy God’s creation.  God made creatures out of His great love, and He wants us to enjoy them and give thanks to God for them.  However, creatures are finite which means they are not everlasting.  What are finite things compared to the infinite God?

So overall, two contrary points cannot exist in one person.  St. John of the Cross points out that to live in the darkness means to be attached to creatures.  To live in the light means to be attached to God.  If you have a love for higher things, you enhance your dignity and you become more of who God is calling you to be.  If we are attached to creatures, we become slaves of the world, carrying within ourselves a heart of a slave rather than a heart of a son or a daughter of God.  When we are in union with the Lord we lose nothing, but gain everything!

Have you ever been hungry?  Like really hungry?  They say never go shopping when you are hungry!!  I know from experience that this is very wise advice.  Our appetites can sometimes be intense!  What we crave can take hold of us!  In the dark night, God wants to purify our desires for things.  He wants to help us order our passions and appetites so that they will give glory to God and not to ourselves.  St. John of the Cross makes a good point: behind every appetite there is a desire for God.  We might have appetites for friendship, union with a spouse, food, sports, etc…  If we take our appetite for friendship as an example, behind that desire for friendship is a desire for union with God.  My professor of the course that I took on Christian Asceticism of St. John of the Cross told us that “creatures are meant to wet our appetite for God.”  He told us that creatures are meant to awaken our desire to see that which is to be revealed.  Appetites are not bad things…but too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.  Our appetites need to be mortified and disciplined, since their purpose is only to draw us closer to God.  If our appetites are ordered and detached, the proper object that we attain is union with God who is our infinite good.  However, if our appetites are not properly ordered, we attain a vicious cycle of disobedience and discontentment and so the object we attain is self.  Happiness is a state of being where we are in communion with God.  Our appetites need to be ordered upward to God through Faith, and so we must put them under the rule of Faith and thus we will be happy.

So you see now the necessity of the dark night.  Creatures cannot totally satisfy us.  Our selfishness cannot satisfy us.  Power, success, money, and pleasure cannot fully satisfy us.  Thus God needs to purify and strengthen us to see that all our desires point to the fact that we are thirsting for God, and in order to be in union with God which is our ultimate purpose, that means we need to learn how to let go of all our attachments.

The next post we will begin to discuss the dark night of the senses, specifically the passive purgations and what that means.  We have already spoken a lot about the active night, but we are now going to discuss the passive night.  We will go through each of the seven deadly sins in detail such as spiritual pride, spiritual avarice, spiritual lust, spiritual anger, spiritual gluttony, spiritual envy, spiritual sloth.  Then we will discuss signs of discerning the dark night which will hopefully be very beneficial to all of you as it has been for me!