The Way of Trust and Love – A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux , Fr. Jacques Philippe
It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.
The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
That is God’s promise for the end times. And we are there. … Marthe Robin, a great French mystic, announced a Pentecost of love and mercy on the whole world. It has already begun.
Of course we should not start speculating about when the world will end; that is always very dangerous. The Church may last a long time yet, but we can feel an undeniable spiritual urgency. The world is suffering at many levels.
The economic crises we are currently going through are only one tiny symptom; there are other, much more painful aspects. So many young people are lost, with no meaning for their lives. They follow the vilest and most destructive ways of life and enslave themselves to the stupidest fashions and worst addictions.
St. Teresa of Avila said: The world is burning; now is not the time to be talking of unimportant things.
Faced with all this, however, we should not get anxious. On the contrary, we should be more and more trusting and childlike and peaceful. Mary is the Queen of Peace, and the more crisis-stricken the world is, the more we must be at peace and receive God’s peace, for we can be certain of his love and faithfulness.
While we need to be clear and realistic about the present state of the world, I have no wish at all to use melodramatic terms to stir up fear. Fear is one of our worst enemies. Do not be afraid! Fear not! This is what Jesus tells us constantly. Paul asks, “If God is for us, who is against us?” And God is for us: he has shown that by giving us his Son who died for us while we were still sinners, as St. Paul says in the same letter to the Romans.
So we should not be anxious, but full of trust and peace. To do so, however, we need to be firmly rooted in God, to live by his love, his word, and let him reveal his face to us as our Father, so that we can enter into the true freedom of God’s children.
Our prayer life is of capital importance from this point of view. What the Church needs most is prayer, adoration. I know it isn’t always easy, with the pace of life today as it is, but we have to find time for prayer. We have to make time for a heart-to-heart conversation with God.
There need to be places with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, where we can spend time in adoration. Today, thank God, there are churches that have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament twenty-four hours a day. God does not ask everyone for the same thing, but everyone does need a minimum of faithfulness in prayer.
We should devote more time to prayer, to adoration, when we have the opportunity. That is not a waste of time—just the opposite, it’s a breath of fresh air for the world. There is nothing more ecological than prayer! It’s not only nature that needs saving.
The main endangered species today is not the polar bear but the human race. Yes, people should try to save the polar bears. They are created by God and beautiful, and the little bear cubs are delightful. But the most important task of all is to save mankind, and mankind will be saved by prayer. The works of apostolate and charity must be the result of prayer and contemplation.
Not everyone can spend hours in church, but each of us must do the little he or she can. If there were a little less television and a little more prayer in our lives, we would be more at peace. For each hour of television news, I think, one needs at least an hour of adoration to be able to digest all that news—not always good news—that floods us. Let’s each of us do what God asks in this.
I know it isn’t easy. Faithfulness to prayer requires a lot of effort, but it is worthwhile. To be faithful to prayer, you need to establish a rhythm, since our lives are made up of rhythms and we need good habits, including established times when we pray, and that’s all there is to it. No questioning it: this is a firm decision we’ve made. It requires a struggle at the start, but afterwards it brings us great joy.
There’s a common difficulty, though. When we regularly spend time in prayer, it goes very well sometimes but not always. A half hour before the Blessed Sacrament may be a time of beauty and gentleness during which we may experience great happiness, a happiness not of this world.
But we may also find it tedious and boring, and think the time goes very slowly. Our times of prayer may be times of poverty and distraction; when we are alone in silence before God, all our problems come crowding into our minds! Regrets for the past, fears about the future, all the things that aren’t going well, whatever causes us anxiety: all this comes to the surface. It isn’t at all pleasant, but we must persevere.
And if we do, sooner or later something wonderful will happen. Prayer follows laws that are flexible and unpredictable, but what I’m going to sketch now remains basically valid.
If we are faithful to our times of prayer, little by little we will be given peace. For God is an ocean of peace, and he will grant it to us. God will give us the grace to accept all those defects of which we become aware. Being reconciled with ourselves requires some hard work but that is one of the fruits of prayer.
When a person is faithful to his or her times of prayer, day after day, week after week, it’s like someone with a well in the garden that’s choked with rubbish—branches, leaves, stones, mud—but underneath is water, clean and pure. In spending time in prayer, you’re setting to work patiently to unblock the well. What comes up at the start is the mud and dirt: our wretchedness, worries, fears, guilt, self-blame—the things we normally avoid. Plenty of people run away from themselves.
There’s a real fear of silence today! But those who have the courage to go forward into the desert end up finding an oasis. Let’s stay with the image of the well. We start digging, and at first it’s not very pleasant, because we come face-to-face with our limitations and human deficiencies. But if we persevere, we’ll end by finding the wellspring.
We discover, to our joy, that at the bottom of our hearts flows a pure spring of water, the presence of God dwelling within us. Even if we are poor sinners, by going to the depths of our hearts in prayer we find pure, clear water.
But only prayer grants us access to the bottom of our hearts. Therapy, even psychoanalysis, can only stay on the surface. Sometimes it’s necessary; it can be useful in clearing stuff away.
But the only things that gives us access to the depths of our hearts, to our deepest identity, to the child of God that each of us is, are faith and prayer.
Parents, through their offspring, have a grand opportunity to spread the faith. They are real missionaries in their own home. They can say at the end of their lives as Christ said of His Apostles: “Those whom Thou hast given Me, I guarded; and not one of them perished.” (John 17 :12) -Fr. George Kelly, Catholic Family Handbook https://amzn.to/2PusNvq (afflink)
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“It often struck me that if cleanliness is next to godliness, cheerfulness is a near relation. The cheerful are truly benefactors of the world in which we move…” – Fr. John Carr, C.SS.R.
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