A little story…Hubby was filling up his truck one day, it was early and cold and he was off to work….a job that was hard and required much physical labor.
A priest (and friend) was at the gas station also. He said hello to my husband and then asked him how he was?
Vincent answered, “Fantastic!”
The dear priest said to him, “That’s nice. Why are you fantastic?”
Vincent’s answer “Well, because I am alive, I have my health, I have many blessings, it is a beautiful day and I am a Roman Catholic!”
The priest smiled, “Yes, if you look at it that way….”
We are in control of our own thoughts, reactions and attitudes, as Fr. Philippe points out in the following story….
A story from Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe:
A witness for our times: Etty Hillesum
I want to cite briefly a recent testimony to interior freedom, one both very different from and very close to St. Thérèse’s. It moved me deeply. It is the testimony of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz in November 1943, and whose diary was published in 1981.
Her “story of a soul” unfolded in the Netherlands at a time when the Nazis’ persecution of Jews was intensifying.
When Etty began to write her journal, her moral life was far from edifying. She was emotionally vulnerable, had no fixed moral guidelines, and had had several lovers. She was, however, driven by a powerful craving for the truth about herself.
Thanks to a friend of hers, a psychologist and also a Jew, she discovered (without ever becoming explicitly Christian) some of the values that lie at the heart of Christianity: prayer, the presence of God within herself, and the evangelical invitation to abandon herself trustingly to Providence.
Before she was finally deported to Auschwitz, while a prisoner in a Dutch transit camp, she showed a faith in God, courage in suffering, and a devotion to neighbor that demonstrated the reality of her spirituality despite the dark areas in her life.
It is astonishing to read how this young woman devoted herself to living by the Gospel values she was discovering little by little. Just when all her exterior freedoms were being progressively taken away, she discovered within herself a happiness and interior freedom that no one could steal from her from then on.
There is a very significant passage in her spiritual experience:
This morning I cycled along the Station Quay enjoying the broad sweep of the sky at the edge of the city, breathing in the fresh, unrationed air. And everywhere signs barring Jews from the paths and the open country. But above the one narrow path still left to us stretches the sky, intact.
They can’t do anything to us, they really can’t. They can harass us, they can rob us of our material goods, of our freedom of movement, but we ourselves forfeit our greatest assets by our misguided compliance. By our feelings of being persecuted, humiliated, oppressed. By our own hatred. By our swagger, which hides our fear.
We may of course be sad and depressed by what has been done to us; that is only human and understandable. However, our greatest injury is one we inflict upon ourselves.
I find life beautiful, and I feel free. The sky within me is as wide as the one stretching above my head. I believe in God and I believe in man, and I say so without embarrassment.
Life is hard, but that is no bad thing. If one starts by taking one’s own importance seriously, the rest follows.
It is not morbid individualism to work on oneself. True peace will come only when every individual finds peace within himself; when we have all vanquished and transformed our hatred for our fellow human beings of whatever race—even into love one day, although perhaps that is asking too much.
It is, however, the only solution. I am a happy person and I hold life dear indeed, in this year of Our Lord 1942, the umpteenth year of the war.
Interior freedom: Freedom to believe, hope, and love
The life experiences of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Etty Hillesum indicate the next point we need to consider. True freedom, the sovereign liberty of Christians, resides in the possibility of believing, hoping, and loving in all circumstances, thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit who “helps us in our weakness.”
Nobody can ever prevent us. “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No circumstance in the world can ever prevent us from believing in God, from placing all our trust in Him, from loving Him with our whole heart, or from loving our neighbor.
Faith, hope, and charity are absolutely free, because if they are rooted in us deeply enough, they are able to draw strength from whatever opposes them!
If someone sought to prevent us from believing by persecuting us, we always would retain the option of forgiving our enemies and transforming the situation of oppression into one of greater love.
If someone tried to silence our faith by killing us, our deaths would be the best possible proclamation of our faith! Love, and only love, can overcome evil by good and draw good out of evil.
Growth in faith, hope, and love is the only pathway to freedom.
The mother is the real homemaker. It is in her hands, that the tender life is laid for its first impressions. In all its education and culture, she has the main part. Her spirit makes the home atmosphere. The law of God makes the father the head of the household, and devolves upon him as such—the responsibility for the up building of his house, the training of his children, the care of all the sacred interests of his family. -J.R. Miller
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