Category Archives: Virtue

Know Thyself – γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Know Thyself


-by Jason Craig

Often, the difference between a man that believes in virtue and a man who doesn’t comes down to one distinction: is truth true or is truth relative? Most reading this know that “moral relativism” is a plague easily diagnosed and dismissed by sane men, but not truly believing in truth has more manifestations than we might think. Many of us are relativists by a different name by our attempt to create false images of ourselves and ask the world to believe in what we have created. Our screen time fuels this error.

Descartes is famous for saying, “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito ergo sum.Cartesian thought stems from stripping all other forms of knowledge away, being instinctively skeptical of all received so-called “truths” and being sure only of one’s own thinking. All knowledge in this mode comes from what can be proven by empirical evidence, but really what we end up with is just thinking that whatever we think is right. “I think, therefore whatever I think is what is.” Moral relativism flows easily from here, since morality needs philosophy and theology, not just empiricism.

Mix relativism with a little narcissism, and it’s not hard to picture the thousands of uploaded images, comments, etc. that we post on the internet and hear ourselves say clearly – by our actions – “I post, therefore I am.” We think what we slap on the wall is what we are, because we don’t actually care to know what we are. That can be ugly and hard.

Few of us want to do the work of really knowing ourselves, yet this is the true path to virtue and wisdom. Socrates expanded the Greek maxim “know thyself” saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Gazing at ourselves online – adoring what we have marketed – is not self-examination. It’s looking at the self as we have created it, not as God has. Holiness, which is the graced reality of virtue, must be found in asking God to show us to ourselves. Few of us have the courage and humility to see our self as it is, let alone the courage to persevere in correcting its faults. Seeing and correcting the faults of others is much easier, especially done through our created persona. To understand the self, we have to look away from it, especially by looking away from our screens, and look to God:

“We shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle)”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Vice is the opiate of masses…

-by Dr. Matthew Tan, The Divine Wedgie

“A diagnosis that is common to the thought of Nietzsche and Marx concerns the pacifying strength of fantasies.

At the risk of oversimplification, we can say that for Marx, the fantasy concerns the artificial worth injected into things by capitalist modes of production, which for him religion played a part by redirecting the vision of the have-nots to a realm beyond things. For Nietzsche, meanwhile, the fantasy is one of an artificial morality imposed by the weak on the strong. Regardless of the source, these fantasies acted as a narcotic that was consumed at a societal level, blinding whole communities to the reality of things and preventing the administration of the cure.

If fantasy was the sickness, the cure lay in casting off these fantasies and the structures that sustained them to reveal the reality of the world. For Marx, it was the integral connection between a person’s identity with his dialectic with the world, while for Nietzsche, it was the necessity of the rule by those that are able to embrace the flux of life over those that seek to block that off that flux by hiding behind a veneer of order.

While we can debate over whether these two were correct in their particular diagnoses of the fantasy, the diagnosis of the fantasy itself is something for the Christian to consider seriously. This is because doing so sheds new light on what the vices do as negations of the virtues. The vices are not just bad things that people do.

In in the classical and medieval mind, the virtues were what helped a person attain his or her end as a flourishing being. A person living a life of virtue is one that is able to immerse themselves deeply into the reality of the cosmic order, and in the reality of the supernatural order. In doing so, they were also able to see themselves for what they really were, their abilities, limits, desires and so on. Armed with this knowledge, persons living the life of virtue are able to live in the present.

By contrast, the vices recognize no such order. Instead, the vices are powerful narcotics which produce upon consumption, fantasies about ourselves, our relationship with the world, and ultimately our relationship with God. Rather than receive our status as creatures of God, for instance, we imagine ourselves to be creators over and against God. As R.J. Snell argued in Acedia and Its Discontents, vice is a refusal to accept any limit and to be frustrated by any that come our way.

Importantly, if we are attentive, we find that the limits are those that we face all the time and in the present.

What this causes us to do is to indulge in fantasy, which comes in two forms. The first fantasy, one that was identified by Evagrius of Alexandria in the sixth chapter of his Praktikos, is nostalgia, where we recall blissful moments of the past where those limits were overcome. The other is speculation, where we imagine our lives in states where those limits do not exist (it can be in terms of wealth, sex, status, jobs and so on). In casting our minds to these states, we think of those moments as salvific, which by contrast reframes the present as a state of damnation. We find the present repulsive and even futile, and prefer to indulge in fantasy and speculation – with all the audiovisual aids and substances concocted by pop culture – thinking that our connection with reality lies in those moments, when those are exactly when our connection with reality is eroded.  This is because those moments do not exist. The past can no longer be retrieved, and the future speculation can never arrive. Insofar as we are stuck in either the past or future, we are indulging in fantasy. What does exist, what does connect us to reality, is the present moment we find repulsive on account of their limit, the limit that we find to be a denial of reality and an impediment to God’s providence.

By contrast, as Julian Carron said in “A Leap of Awareness”, limit constitutes the very site of God’s providence. Writing from another angle, Romano Guardini argued in The Living God, that the experience of the overcoming of limit occurs precisely where we are most cognizant of that limit.  This is the present moment that the vices prompt us to find repulsive. As Guardini writes in a chapter entitled “God’s Providence”, “There is a way of coming to experience [Providence] as a reality, and it is a way that is constantly recurring: it is ‘the now’.”

It is the precise moment when we realize that we are not the ones that provide our own providence that the reality of Providence emerges as an experiential reality. Indeed, we find that Providence is the very structure of reality, and the life of virtue is a constant attunement to that reality. If we feel we have missed that moment, do not worry, for as Guardini says, the moment of providence is constantly recurring, and the offer to reconnect with reality is made new every single moment.”

Love & virtue,
Matthew

An Eye for an Eye

Eph 4:26-27

In my experience (others?), patience is THE most vital virtue of adult life, with life, with others, etc. I try my VERY best ALWAYS. However, my experience with people is that sometimes no matter how many times I patiently repeat what it is I mean, intend, desire, the hearing of others is not happening. Then, and only then, do I allow myself some measured, proportionate, thoughtful, intentional, planned, reasoned, customized act that will be remembered, because it will cause an emotional memory in the other person, i.e. SEE = Significant Emotional Event. There is no such thing as a Christian doormat.


-a gift from my deceased sister. Only she could get away with certain things, my second mother. See you soon.

A devout friend of mine, with a wonderful sense of humor, told me, as she tells others, especially priests, “Don’t pray for patience. God will make you practice.” The priests she tells respond by stopping dead in their tracks, and reply, “You know. You’re right!”

-by Vince Freese

“Not long after my divorce was final, my former spouse and I had a rather cutting verbal exchange. It had something to do with the kids or money, I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is sitting in my car afterward with my head dropped down on my chest feeling very defeated. The two years prior to my divorce, and, now, even after my divorce, dealing with my former spouse was always unpleasant. It was like having to have a root canal– EVERY DAY. I remember thinking, “Okay, well, I guess this is just the way my life is always going to be from now on.” I could not imagine my life not being filled with angst and turmoil due to the difficult interactions with my spouse. It was depressing.

Fast forward ten+ years and fortunately things have gotten a lot better. Not perfect, but certainly much more cooperative and flexible. How did this happen? I made a decision to stop fighting and ended the war. It was hard at first because I had to hold my tongue and control my anger when my ex would follow the same old patterns of emotional guerrilla warfare. However, over time, my setting the example of not engaging in the fighting, actually taught my ex to do the same. It didn’t take too many verbal jabs that went without retaliation for my ex to figure out I was no longer going to play that game. I took the high road, and often times it was the hard road, but it made all the difference.”

Love & freedom for excellence to do the right thing/God’s will,
Matthew

Faith is an act of the intellect directed by the will – ST II-II, Q2, A1, ad 3

Often in our 21st century, North American millieu, I think we understand “faith” as an assent but ruled by a requirement of “feel good” rewards for that act of faith,  our requirement for “good feels”.  No “good feels”, no “faith”, right?  This couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Catholic Church defines.  Feelings are highly mutable.  Up one day, down the next.  Happy one hour, angry the next.  One of the qualities of God is “impassibility”, notice the “a”.  This means God does not feel.  Not that He is not compassionate or not merciful or does not love, but that whether we believe or not, we bless or curse Him, He is completely unaffected by His creatures.  God dwells in beyond eternal bliss and unapproachable light from which we would instantly perish seeing it as unpurified mortals.  Think “Indiana Jones:  Raiders of the Lost Ark”, when the Nazis finally open the Ark of the Covenant of God.  Yeah, that one.

Faith, as defined by St Thomas Aquinas, OP, is an act of the intellect. We decide, by human reason, inspired by divine grace, and we choose to embrace all the implications of that assent, acting through our will to put into motion that faith, that grace inspired decision. Faith is not, by the above, I believe now because I have “good feels”. But, when that’s over, so is my faith. When the party resumes, I’m in. No. 2 Tim 4:7 -“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 1 Cor 9:24.  Kept, fought, finished, run, win being decisions to act, acts of intellect directed by the will. I believe, credo, whether I’m feelin’ it or not. I believe, credo.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – I recollect myself in the presence of God living in my soul, to learn how to seek Him by the light of faith.

MEDITATION

“He that cometh to God, must believe.” (Hebrews 11:6), says St. Paul, and he gives us this definition of faith: “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In heaven, we shall see God by the light of glory, but on earth, we know Him by the light of faith.

We must not base our interior life, our search for God, on sentiment or spiritual consolations, but on an intensive practice of the theological virtues. St. John of the Cross gives this advice to a soul seeking God, “Hear a word full of substance and unapproachable truth: it is that thou seek Him in faith and in love, without desiring to find satisfaction in aught.” (Spiritual Canticle, 1,11). Therefore, we must learn to seek God without any desire for pleasure, consolation, satisfaction, even though it be purely spiritual; we must learn to walk in the path of “naked faith.” Faith, more than any kind of knowledge or of reasoning, puts the soul into direct contact with God. Faith is “the proximate and proportionate means whereby the soul is united with God; for such is the likeness between itself and God, that there is no other difference save that which exists between seeing God and believing in Him” (John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel II, 9,1). Faith places us before God as He is; it does not make us see Him, but it makes us believe in Him, and thus puts our intellect in contact with Him. By means of faith, “God manifests Himself to the soul in divine light which passes all understanding. And therefore, the greater the faith of the soul, the more closely is it united with God” (ibid.). Faith unites the soul with God, even though it experiences no spiritual consolation; on the contrary, God often deprives the soul of all spiritual consolation that it may exercise itself more in faith and grow in it.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, give me a pure, ardent, strong faith to sustain and guide me in my continual search for You, and to make me adhere to You with perfect confidence although You remain hidden from my sight.

Only by faith can my soul adhere to You, as You really are—infinite, omnipotent, and merciful, unity in Trinity: thus faith presents You to my soul. Faith comprehends You as You are, in Your divinity, Your mysteries, and Your works—all of which it proposes to my belief, so that in faith I find You completely, and in the act of faith, even though I do not see You, I possess You truly. If faith holds You hidden and veiled, if it permits me to see You only “through a glass in a dark manner” (1 Corinthians 13:12), I am certain, however, that it does not deceive me; it proposes You to me as You have revealed Yourself. How shall I not believe, Lord, in Your word, since You have spoken to us not only by the mouths of the prophets, but by the mouth of Jesus, Your Incarnate Word? Even if faith presents mysteries and wonders to believe which my poor mind cannot understand, I shall not be bewildered. What mystery is greater than that of Your infinite charity which has loved me from all eternity, created me by an act of love, redeemed me by the Blood of Your Son, and made my poor soul the temple of the Most Holy Trinity? “On Your word alone, I believe with full certitude. I believe everything the Son of God has said; there is nothing more true than the Word of Truth.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, OP).

“O God, far from being astonished by Your works, they are for me but one more reason for praising You. The more difficult they are to understand, the more they arouse devotion in me; and the greater they are, the greater is the devotion…. So the less of a natural foundation these truths of the faith have, the more firmly I hold them and the greater is the devotion they inspire in me. Since You are almighty, I accept all the wondrous works which You have done as most certain, and in this respect I have never harbored a doubt.” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 28 – 19).

I want to seek You, O God, in this ardent faith, and cling to You always, even if such faith is “naked” and stripped of every consolation. “Nothing shall affright me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come, O Jesus, to conceal You from my eyes, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds the sun of Your love is still shining and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single instant.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).”

Love, intellect, will, and faith,
Matthew

Patience 2

I have found this virtue to be supremely necessary in adult life. A dear and pious friend of mine joked with me, “DO NOT ask God for patience!!! He will make you practice!!” I think acts of patience make excellent penances.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, give me greater patience that I may be able to endure more for Your love.

MEDITATION

Patience is a virtue of primary importance and daily necessity. As we need bread to live, so every day, even every moment, we need patience, because every day and every moment brings with it its own trial. We become patient by making acts of patience, that is, by accustoming ourselves to accept peacefully all that contradicts us and makes us suffer. If, however, instead of accepting the practice of patience in annoyances, we use every means possible to avoid them, we shall never acquire patience. For example, we may at our work come in contact with someone who clashes with us, or we may be given a difficult or disagreeable task; if under these or similar circumstances we do our utmost to free ourselves as soon as possible, asking for a change, we are depriving ourselves of a precious opportunity prepared for us by God Himself to make us practice the virtue of patience. In certain cases it is lawful and even a duty to represent our problems to our superiors and to ask humbly for a solution, but we should never insist on obtaining one at all costs. On the contrary, we should think that divine Providence has arranged these circumstances to help us acquire the patience we do not yet possess. St. Philip Neri once complained to Our Lord because he had to deal with an extremely insulting, disagreeable person. Our Lord replied to him interiorly, “Philip, you have asked for patience. Here is the means of acquiring it.”

God will surely give us the virtue we ask of Him, but only on condition that we make use of the means He gives us, and apply ourselves to practice that virtue with the help of His grace. Whoever wishes to become a saint will not be anxious to avoid opportunities for practicing patience, but will welcome them, recognizing in them the means offered by God for his sanctification. And how can a mere creature dare wish to make any change in what has been ordered “in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:20) by God’s infinite wisdom?

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, we want to serve and please You, yes, but we do not want to suffer anything. Yet we must be much more pleasing to You when after Your example and out of love for You, we endure suffering in Your service. Suffering is so noble and precious, O eternal Word, that when You were in the bosom of the Father, superabounding in all the riches and delights of Paradise but unadorned with the robe of suffering, You came to earth in order to clothe Yourself with it. You are God and cannot be deceived; since You have chosen stark suffering, I too desire it for love of You. I beseech You, therefore, Lord, to permit me to experience this suffering which is unmixed with any consolation, and by the confidence I have in Your goodness, I trust that You will grant me this grace before I die.

But in order to obtain profit from tribulations, teach me to accept them in total conformity to Your will; otherwise, they will be a great and unbearable burden. When, however, a soul abandons itself entirely in the arms of Your will, then it finds strength in the midst of its sorrows, and even if You leave it in darkness for a time, very quickly will its sadness be changed into joy, so that, for no delight in the world would it exchange this suffering.

O blessed, happy, and glorious is he who suffers for love of You, O eternal Word, for—shall I dare to say it?—as long as we are here below, it is a greater thing to suffer for You than to possess You, because possessing You, we can still lose You, but if we suffer for love of You, it will admit us to eternal life where we can never lose You.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

Love, may God grant each of us His infinite patience,
Matthew

The Adventure of Obedience

Obey & Live; Obey & Be Freed from the Tyranny of Death & Sin, which leads to eternal, the second & final, Death!!

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” —Genesis 2:16,17

“If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” – Job 36:11

“Follow My decrees and be careful to obey My laws, and you will live safely in the land.“ – Lev 25:18

“Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.” – Deut 11:1

“Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine…” – Ex 19:5


-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“God writes the best adventures. From Abraham to the Apostles, God draws unsuspecting men out of their routines and sets them on unexpected journeys. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, but after meeting a burning bush, he eventually found himself leading a whole nation out of slavery. Peter was fishing in a remote corner of the world, but after encountering an exceptional man, he ended his life in Rome, leading God’s people.

These journeys were entirely unexpected, and often undesired, at least at first. Moses said he wasn’t eloquent enough, and Jeremiah objected that he was too young. In each case, God answered their objection and redoubled his offer. He still respected their freedom. They had to take the first step willingly. Thus, the secret ingredient of these adventures was obedience. Their adventures only began when they obeyed, leaving their routine and following God.

Without obedience, there’s no adventure. The Gospel records various would-be followers of Jesus. They try to write their own adventures, but without obedience, their attempts fail. In one case, a man tells Jesus: “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” But Jesus answers: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:61ff.). Or remember the rich man, who refused the adventure of poverty, choosing rather to depart in sadness.

To us, this connection between adventure and obedience may seem a bit strange. Our culture prizes the former and disdains the latter. Yet the real thrill in an adventure is the unplanned moment or the unscripted wrinkle, even if it is a hardship that must be overcome or simply endured. If we want a truly thrilling adventure, we cannot plan it ourselves. Another author must take up the pen. The better the author, the better the adventure.

What does this look like in our lives? We probably won’t encounter burning bushes or receive angelic visitors. Rather, God often speaks to us in more subtle ways. Sometimes it’s the exceptional moment that inspires us. Or perhaps it’s the everyday obedience to a parent or a spouse, or the obedience in accepting one’s personality or even one’s body, with their limits and weaknesses. With due prudence—and sometimes a helpful friend or spiritual director—we can discern God’s hand in these circumstances.

Obedience doesn’t always feel like an adventure. For the most part, it’s only in the rearview mirror that we glimpse how far God has brought us and the wonders He has done. Remembering these wonders prepares us for the daily adventure of obedience.”

Love, & Freedom for Excellence & Life!!, the love of Him,
Matthew

Jun 7 – Suffering & Abandonment, Bl Marie-Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart (1834-1889), Religious, Foundress, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to suffer with simplicity, without useless concentration on self, but in total abandonment to Your divine will.

MEDITATION

The secret of learning to suffer in a virtuous way consists chiefly in forgetting oneself and one’s sorrows and in abandoning oneself to God.

The soul that is absorbed in its own sufferings and concentrates its whole attention on them, becomes unable to bear them serenely and courageously. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34), said Jesus, thus teaching us to bear calmly, day by day, moment by moment, whatever sorrows and crosses God places in our path, with no thought of what we suffered yesterday, no worry about what we shall have to endure tomorrow. Even when our suffering is intense, let us not exaggerate it, nor attach too much importance to it; let us not foster a morbid tendency to nurture our sorrow, to ponder over it, weighing and analyzing it under every aspect. To act in this way would result in the paralysis of our spirit of sacrifice, of our ability to accept and to act, and would make us useless to ourselves and to others. One who is oversensitive and preoccupied with his own suffering, often becomes insensible and indifferent to the suffering of others.

In order to resist these selfish tendencies which have been rightly defined by Father Faber as “the worm of Christian sorrow,” we must forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the sufferings of others and endeavor to alleviate them. This is a very effective way to regain in times of discouragement the strength to bear our own crosses. We should be mindful of the truth that we are never alone in suffering; that if our sufferings are great, there are always those who suffer incomparably more than we. Our troubles, often enough, are but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus.

Those who are overly concerned with their own troubles eventually become exasperated by them. Drowned in their sorrows, they stifle every impulse to generosity. By contrast, those who know how to forget themselves, maintain their equilibrium, and take greater thought for others than for themselves. They are always open to charity and generosity toward God and their neighbor. These are simple souls who, because they are unmindful of themselves, can bear suffering magnanimously and derive much profit for their own sanctification.


-plaque on the house of Bourges where Marie-Thérèse de Soubiran lived from 1871 to 1874. Please click on the image for greater detail.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, grant that I may never cease to turn to You, and to look only at You. In consolation or desolation I shall run to You, stopping at nothing else; I shall run so quickly that I shall have no time to look at anything, nor to see the things of earth, because my pace will be so rapid. Therefore, out of love for You, I shall spurn pleasure, repose, dependence upon the judgment of men, satisfaction in their approval, dread of physical discomfort, sadness of spirit, and success or failure. In a word, I shall spurn everything that is not God.

I realize that my crosses have been permitted and willed by You, my God, to teach me to trust in You in spite of everything.

O God, be my sole strength in fear, weakness, and distress; be my confidant, or rather my confidence. Divine Guest, dwelling within me, on the throne of my heart, abide with me as my protector; You alone have dominion and power over my whole being; You alone are its love!

Why should I worry or fear? All is Yours, O God, and You will take care of my wants and provide for them. You are infinite Love, and You love the works of Your hands more than they can know and love themselves. Who would dare question Your power, or the loving, providential care You bestow on Your creatures from all eternity, and with the efficacy of Your love?

I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust, and without anxiety, fear, or calculation.” (Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran). Read her story. The order she founded and was calumniously expelled from, Sisters of Marie-Auxiliatrice, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, endures to this day, under the patronage of their foundress, Bl M. Therese Soubiran of the Sacred Heart.

The Sisters of Mary Help of Christians are dedicated to various projects of assistance, especially for the poor, and young women, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

They are present in:

Europe: France , Ireland , Italy , United Kingdom
Africa: Cameroon
Asia: South Korea , Japan , Philippines
Oceania: Micronesia

“Now, in the oblivion, inactivity, the most complete nullity, I shall be passionate about Our Lord Himself.” – Bl M. Therese Soubiran

“Be able to emerge life from death!” -Bl M. Therese Soubiran

Love,
Matthew

Patience 1

Why does the most necessary spiritual reading appear when I need it most? Holy Spirit, help us!!!

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

“Presence of God – O Jesus, meek and divinely patient, teach me the secret of true patience.

MEDITATION

Patience is the virtue which makes us accept for love of God, generously and peacefully, everything that is displeasing to our nature, without allowing ourselves to be depressed by the sadness which easily comes over us when we meet with disagreeable things.

Patience is a special aspect of the virtue of fortitude which prevents our deviating from the right road when we encounter obstacles. It is an illusion to believe in a life without difficulties. These are usually all the greater and the more frequent as our undertakings are more generous. Great works, magnanimous and heroic virtues, always grow in the midst of difficulties. In the presence of these, fortitude has a double function: to face them and to bear them. Many difficulties are surmounted and overcome by an act of courage; others, on the contrary, cannot be mastered. We must learn to bear with them, and this is the role of patience—an arduous task, because it is easier to face obstacles directly, than to support the inevitable oppositions and sufferings of life, which, in time, tend to discourage and sadden us.

Only by fixing our glance on Jesus, the divinely patient One, can we learn to practice patience. When we see Him Who came into the world to save us, living from the first moment of His earthly existence in want, privation, and poverty, and later in the midst of misunderstanding and persecution; when we see Him become the object of the hatred of His own fellow citizens, calumniated, doomed to death, betrayed by a friend, and tried and condemned as a malefactor, our souls are stirred: we realize that we cannot be His disciples unless we follow the same road. If Jesus, the Innocent One par excellence, bore so much for love of us, can we, sinners who are deserving to suffer, not endure something for love of Him? Whatever the total of suffering in our lives, it will always be very small, and even nothing, compared with the infinite sufferings of Jesus; for in His Passion Christ not only endured the suffering of one life or of several human lives, but that of all mankind.

COLLOQUY

O Jesus, for love of You and with Your help, I wish to suffer in peace all the contradictions of my life. “Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways. You offer us a cup so bitter that our feeble nature cannot bear it. But I do not want to draw back my lips from the cup prepared by Your hand. You have taught me the secret of suffering in peace. Peace does not mean joy, at least not sensible joy; to suffer in peace, all I have to do is to will all that You will.

To be Your spouse, I must be like You; and You are all covered with blood and crowned with thorns. You wish to make me like You; then, should I fear that I cannot carry the Cross without weakening? On the way to Calvary, You fell three times; and I, a poor little child, do I not wish to be like You? Should I not wish to fall a hundred times to prove to You my love, rising up again with more strength than before my fall?

It is very consoling for me to remember that You, the God of might, knew our weaknesses, that You shuddered at the sight of the bitter cup which earlier You had so ardently desired to drink.

O Jesus, what it costs to give You what You ask! But what happiness that it does cost! Far from complaining to You of the crosses You send me, I cannot fathom the infinite love which has moved You to treat me so. O Lord, do not let me waste the trial You send me, it is a gold mine I must exploit. I, a little grain of sand, want to set myself to the task, without joy, without courage, without strength, and all these conditions will make the enterprise easier; I want to work for love.

In spite of this trial which robs me of all sense of enjoyment, I can still say: ‘You have given me, O Lord, a delight in Your doings.’ For is there any greater joy than to suffer for Your love, O my God? The more intense and the more hidden the suffering, the more do You value it. And even if, by an impossibility, You should not be aware of my affliction, I should still be happy to bear it, in the hope that by my tears I might prevent or atone for one sin against faith” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letters 63,51,184,59; Story of a Soul 9).””

Love,
Matthew

Supernatural Obedience

When considering religious life, especially in the Order of Preachers, who only take one vow, obedience, it was this vow that freaked me out. It still does. In fact, my fear of this vow, very justifiably so, has gotten worse with thirty years of experience of human beings in organizations.

Let me be clear, if you think this vow, obedience, at the end of the day, is taken in any metaphorical sense by the Dominicans or any other Catholic religious order, allow me to disabuse you in kindness and Christian charity of that delusion. They do not. They do not.

Everything else is generally light and happiness, but this moment is most solemn, most solemn. And, in the time one spends in religious life, in general, by the default of time elapsed, disqualifies one from a career external to religious life, so the sacrifice is real and permanent as time progresses. It is. No do-overs. They play for keeps.

Catholicism, I have found, in general, if taken seriously, disqualifies you somewhat from many practical careers, by definition. Or, at least it makes them harder to practice in the way they are secularly practiced. Deo gratias!!! And, a decade or more of religious life, means mainly Church employment, or entry level roles if not.

Religious superiors are human, too. They have all the foibles, temptations, errors any of us do. And, so my apprehension not only remains after thirty years, it has become worse.

Ego N. spondeo obtemperat praecipienti Deo et beatae virgini, et beato Dominico et tibi famulam tuam N., et ad posteros, secundum Regulam Sancti Augustini ordo et institutum, usque ad mortem.

I, N., pledge obedience to God, the Blessed Virgin, to Blessed Dominic, and to you, N., and your successors, according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, and the institute of the order, until death.

This isn’t why I left. As I mentioned in prior posts, “God spoke to me” in my sleep Holy Thursday evening, the anniversary of the priesthood, and awoke with conviction, unreasoned, Good Friday morning. Who says God does not an ironic sense of timing?

Even as a Lay Dominican, the errors of human superiors is too painfully evident, and I don’t play well with such. I just don’t. This would be a cross had I pursued religious life. But, crosses, as Christians, are to be embraced through supernatural grace, never our own efforts. It is impossible, impossible.

It is not possible, as well, in reality, now, I realize to revisit this moment now in life. His will has been done. And, I am sanguine, and grateful. May it always be so, Lord. May it always be so, regardless of events, regardless. However, I sometimes now consider how I might approach this moment given thirty years of experience. Being young, and all the limitations lack of experience provides, I was decidedly and only relying on my own powers, quite understandably so. And, knowing myself to the extent, not incorrectly, as I did, my fears were reasonable and correct. It is ONLY through supernatural grace, never, never, our own efforts is this commitment possible to be lived out.

Marriage has its own vow/form of obedience, in love. It is not the fear of the reality and pain being subject to human superiors in religious life or even marriage, rather it is the love of Christ, intense enough, relying enough upon Him alone, His grace, His will, our total, complete surrender to Him, through Him & His supernatural grace, that permits living these faithfully.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, teach me to see only You in my superiors.

MEDITATION

An excellent instruction from St. John of the Cross says: “Never look upon your superior, whoever he may be, with less regard than upon God Himself” (Precautions). If we do not have this supernatural spirit which makes us see God in the person of our superior, our obedience cannot be supernatural. It is necessary to be a soul animated by this motive alone: I obey because my superior represents God for me and speaks to me in His Name; my superior is another Christ to me: Hic est Christus mens. This is my Christ.

We should not obey through the motive of human confidence in the person of our superior: because he is intelligent, prudent, capable, because he understands or likes you, and so forth. That is human obedience, the fruit of human prudence—a good act in itself but not supernatural. Neither should we obey because what we are told to do is the most perfect; again this is not the real reason for obedience. We must obey only because God wills whatever our superior commands. The one exception is an order involving sin, which of course God cannot want, or a command not conformable to the Rule or Constitutions which we have embraced. In either case, obedience would be unlawful. Apart from these exceptions no limit should be put to our obedience. We need not hesitate through fear that the superior is asking something less perfect. Even if he commands what is objectively less perfect than its alternative (for instance, to take some rest instead of working), it would nevertheless be the more perfect thing for us. By the simple fact that the superior has expressed an order, it is clearly the fulfillment of that, and not something else, that God wants from us at the moment. It could very well be that in the abstract we see the possibility of performing an action more perfect than what we have been told to do, and that our idea is better than our superior’s. But in reality there is no doubt about it: nothing can be more perfect for us than what God commands by means of our superior.

COLLOQUY

O Lord, increase my spirit of faith, so that I will see You in the soul of my superior. May I repeat, spontaneously and sincerely, in his presence, Hic est Christus mens! Only by this way of obedience will a life of continual contact and uninterrupted for “Supernatural Obedience” postintimacy with You be possible. If I find You present and living in the Sacrament of the Altar under the veil of the Eucharistic species, always ready to welcome and nourish my soul, I can also, but in a different way, find You hidden in the person of my superior, through whom You speak to me, always ready to disperse my doubts, to manifest Your holy will, and to direct and guide me along the road You have chosen from all eternity for my sanctification.

O Lord, why should I stop at the human appearances of my superiors? Such an attitude will only serve to keep me from finding You in them and recognizing Your will in theirs. Help me, O God, to pass over all the human aspects of obedience and to put myself in contact with You and Your divine will. Just as in the Eucharist I do not halt at the created species of bread and wine, so I ought not in obeying to consider the person of my superior, but only Your will, which reaches me under the appearance of a human order or command. O Jesus, what a great mystery! The Eucharist gives me Your Body, Your Blood, Your divinity—such is the power of the Sacrament which You have instituted. Obedience gives me Your will and makes me communicate with it—such is the power of the authority which You have established.

Once I have understood this profound truth, how can I still dare to argue or hesitate at the commands of my superiors? “It would be a terrible thing if God were to be telling us plainly to go about His business in some way, and we would not do it but stood looking at Him because that gave us greater pleasure. A fine way it is of advancing in the love of God to tie His hands by thinking that there is only one way in which He can benefit us” (Teresa of Jesus Foundations, 5). No, Lord, grant that I may never act thus. I shall follow You wherever You lead me by means of holy obedience.”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Alter Christus

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, deign to imprint Your likeness on my poor soul, so that my life may be a reflection of Yours.

MEDITATION

The imitation of Christ should not be limited to some particular aspect of His life; it means living Christ and becoming completely assimilated to Him. The life-giving principle of our resemblance to Christ is grace: the more grace we possess, the greater our resemblance to Him. The principal characteristic of Christ’s soul is the unlimited charity which urges Him to give Himself entirely for the glory of His Father and the salvation of souls. This same charity increases in our souls in the measure in which we grow in grace and live under the influence of Jesus, who is the source of grace, and to the degree in which our souls are directed by the same divine Spirit that directed the soul of Jesus. Each one of us will be an alter Christus (another Christ) in the measure in which he receives Christ’s influence, His grace, His virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and, above all, the motion of the Holy Spirit, which urges us to make a complete gift of self for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. However, in order to accomplish this fully, we must continually die to ourselves, “always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest … in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). Jesus lived a life of total abnegation in order to save us; we too must follow in His footsteps that He may live in us and we in Him. “For to me, to live is Christ.” (cf Philippians 1:21) is the cry of the Apostle who had so lived Christ that He was able to say, “I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20).

COLLOQUY

“O my Christ, Whom I love! Crucified for love! I long to be the bride of Your heart! I long to cover You with glory and love You … even until I die of love! Yet I realize my weakness and beg You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your own. Immerse me in Yourself; possess me wholly; substitute Yourself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Your life. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend upon me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word; that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He may renew all His mystery!” (St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Elevation to the Most Holy Trinity).

O my Jesus, this is my great desire: to be an extension of Your humanity, so that You can use me with the same freedom with which You used the humanity that You assumed on earth. Now in Your glory in heaven, You continue to adore the Father, implore Him on our behalf, give grace to our souls; You continue to love us and offer the merits of Your passion for us; but You can no longer suffer. Suffering is the only thing that is impossible for You, who are glorious and omnipotent, the only thing which You do not have and which I can give You. O Jesus, I offer You my poor humanity, that You may continue Your passion in me for the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind. Yes, Jesus, renew in me the mystery of Your love and suffering; continue to live in me by Your grace, by Your charity, by Your Spirit. I want my humble life to be a reflection of Yours, to send forth the perfume of Your virtues, and above all the sweetness of Your charity.

You know O Jesus, that the world needs saints to convert it—saints in whom it will be able to recognize and experience Your love and infinite goodness, saints in whom it will find You again. O Lord, although I am so miserable, I also want to be of the number of these Your faithful followers in order that through me You may continue to win souls for the glory of the Blessed Trinity. O Jesus, give us many saints and grant that many priests may be counted among them.”

Love,
Matthew